Tag Archives: Third Reich

Heil Hitler Episode 6

Do you remember August Landmesser?

ONE

Do you remember what happened to the mild mannered card carrying Nazi? Well, Romeo, or rather August, found his Juliette, or rather Irma:

irma-ECKLER

Irma was Jewish, but handsome Aryan August proposed to her without hesitation. She accepted without hesitation.

In the summer of that year of 1935, though, disaster befell them. They found out, that Irma, according to the “Nürnberger Gesetze, the Nüremberg Race Laws”, was formally and legally classified as a Jew. August was not a Jew and for this reason, he would not be allowed to marry her.
When his engagement to a Jew was formally discovered, August was immediately expelled from the Nazi Party:

NSDAP_Member_Card_1
Despite this rather unpromising beginning, August and Irma put in an application to marry in their home town of Hamburg. Their application was denied under the Nüremberg Race Laws, which had come into law only a very short time previously.
To cement the couple’s love, however, August and Irma’s first daughter, Ingrid, was born in October of 1935:

little girl

On June 13th 1936, August attended the launching of a new ship at Hamburg in the Blohm und Voss shipyards. He decided not to “Seig Heil!” or “Heil Hitler!” with all the rest, but to keep his arms firmly folded. It could not have been worse timed:

the one one

The ship was a training ship, the Horst Wessel, and was named after the Nazi Party’s greatest ever martyr. Men went into battle everywhere singing his happy song:

Furthermore, it was a naval vessel for the Kriegsmarine, the German Navy:

Kriegsmarine_

The Führer himself was the man smashing the champagne on the bow of the ship just before it slid off down the slipway into the water. Adolf, positioned directly opposite August Landmesser, may actually have seen his defiance. And even if he did not see August, such a high quality photograph could not have hidden August’s defiance in the middle of such a storm of “Seig Heil!” and “Heil Hitler!” salutes.
By 1937, though, August Landmesser had had enough. He attempted to flee northwards to Denmark with his family and leave Germany for ever. At the border, he was quickly arrested and eventually charged with “dishonoring his race,” or “racial infamy”, under the “Nürnberger Gesetze, the Nüremberg Race Laws”, mentioned above:

Landmesser family

Just one year later, in July of 1938, because of an apparent lack of evidence, August was cleared of all crimes, but a suspicious Third Reich ordered him to have no further contact with Irma. In addition, August was given a severe warning that punishment would surely follow if he ever dared repeat any of the offenses.
For August, of course, this was completely impossible. How could he just abandon the love of his life? How could he give up his wife? The mother of his darling little daughter, Ingrid?
August ignored completely the demands of the Nazis.

august-landmesser-uniform
Only a month later, in August of 1938, August was arrested again and put on trial. Not surprisingly, he was found guilty of all charges and received a sentence of hard labour for thirty months in a concentration camp.  August was destined never to see the love of his life ever again. He had seen his darling wife and child for the last time.
It was easy now for the Gestapo to arrest Irma as a new law had been quietly added to the Nazi Statute Book. It required the arrest of all Jewish wives in the case of a man “dishonouring the race,”

Irma was duly imprisoned by the Gestapo who was by now heavily pregnant with a second child. In prison, Irma gave birth to a second daughter, Irene. Irma was then transferred to an all-women’s concentration camp almost straight after the birth. In later months, she was sent to various other prisons and concentration camps,
In 1942, Irma was taken to a euthanasia centre at Bernburg.

bernvburg

During the course of the war, a total of 9,384 sick and handicapped German people were to be murdered there.  Around 5,000 prisoners from concentration camps were also murdered there. The doctors’ method of choice was carbon monoxide poisoning in a gas chamber.
In charge of this sickening establishment was Irmfried Eberl, who masqueraded as “Dr. Schneider” outside the walls. He was so promising as a genocidal monster that he became the first Kommandant at the Treblinka Extermination Camp, and made sure the place was in good working order with no problems. He must have been a little disappointed, though, that Treblinka missed the Million Total, with a mere 900,000 Jews killed there. “Dr. Schneider” was arrested in January 1948, but then hanged himself to avoid coming to trial. It must be said, though, he was a rather unimaginative man:

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When Eberl’s  colleague, Heinrich Bunke, was put on trial, he was initially given four years imprisonment for killing 11,000 people, but this was reduced on appeal to three years as his guilt could only be proved in 9,200 murders.  Both Eberl and Bunke were firm supporters of Joseph Goebbels and his clearly stated attitude towards the treatment of the mentally ill .As he wrote so memorably in his diary:

“Discussed with Bouhler the question of the silent liquidation of the mentally ill. 40,000 are gone, 60,000 must still go.”

In actual fact Dr Goebbels aimed at the round figure of 100,000 killed by 1945, but he only managed a rather poor 70,000. Most of them were Germans. Most of them were children.

One of these victims, sadly, was Irma Eckler. And by the time that she died, August too was dead. He had been due to be released from the concentration camp system in the spring of 1941, but alas, he did not live to see that day.

August and Irma had two daughters, Ingrid and Irene. Both of them survived the Second World War, and outlived the Third Reich, even if, their parents did not.

The younger of the two daughters, Irene, has, in actual fact, documented the story of her family. She published her book in both German and English language versions, and it is now in its second edition. It is called “A Family Torn Apart by “Rassenschande”, and the full author name is Irene Eckler. The ISBN number is ISBN 3-9804993-2-4.

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It is a moral tale worth reading in more detail. And it just goes to prove. Love DOES conquer all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Heil Hitler Episode 5

So far I have written four articles about that famous quotation attributed to Edmund Burke:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

All of the articles revolved, more or less, around the Nazis and their “Heil Hitler” salute which, by the 1930s, had become compulsory for all Germans to show their loyalty to their beloved Führer, the National Socialist Party, and his nation.
The first article mentioned the England football team who did a nice Nazi salute before a friendly game with Germany at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on May 14th 1938. A more sinister aspect came when Hitler annexed Austria and left the Austrian international players with, literally, nothing to play for. Matthias Sindelar decided to take arms against a sea of troubles although despite all his best efforts, he definitely did not end them:

head tennis
The second and third ones talked about the war criminals’ friend, Bishop Alois Hudal, and the very many crazy Nazis that he helped avoid being put on trial for their evil deeds. Article Number 4 had a picture of the German supporters at a football match in London on December 4th 1935.

The enthusiastic German crowd were all Heil Hitlering and Seig Heiling for their beloved Führer. There were though, a number of people who were not joining in with the general joy and merriment. At least half a dozen of them:

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But let’s just look at this photograph. Are you ready for a game of “Spot the One Brave Man”?

big crowd

Did you spot him? Here he is:

ONE

And in close up:

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The brave man was called August Landmesser, and his story is first told on a German website, for, if the first Nazis were Germans, then no country could have worked harder to cleanse and redeem itself than present day Germany.
But this is Fascist Germany in the 1930s. A new warship is being launched in the dockyards of Hamburg. All of the shipyard workers are ecstatic with joy. “Seig Heil!” they shout, and “Heil Hitler!” All except one.
In the early 1930s the German economy was in freefall, and August, watching the irresistible rise of Adolf Hitler, had joined the Nazi Party, the NSDAP, because he thought that having the right connections would help him to find a job in a flat lining economy.

By 1931, August was a loyal, card-carrying Nazi who began slowly to work his way up through the hierarchy of the Party, the only legal political grouping in the Third Reich.
But then, in 1934, the 25 year old August fell madly in love. Not to order. Not a blonde haired, blue eyed Aryan. Not a female member of the Master Race. Just an ordinary woman.

irma-ECKLER

She was three years younger than August. She was called Irma Eckler. She was a Jewish woman and August proposed to her at the beginning of 1935. She loved him too, and she accepted his proposal immediately.

We will see what happens to them next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Hendon Lancaster 137 not out

A few years ago, I drove down with the family to the RAF Museum at Hendon, just to the north of London. I made an immediate bee-line to the Bomber Command section to see their Avro Lancaster. Most of the aircraft here have their original coat of paint from World War II, so, to prevent it fading away completely under the onslaught of bright, harmful sunshine, the lighting is very subdued. That made it rather difficult for me to take photographs of a decent standard. Indeed, for the general view of the aircraft, I have had to use a photograph from the Internet. Here it is, with its capacity to carry up to 14,000 lbs of bombs into Nazi Germany:

HendonLancaster GOOGLE
Here is the front of this mighty bomber. Its huge black tyres are not far short of the height of a man. The yellow tips of the propellers are a safety feature and the yellow letter “S” is the aircraft’s squadron letter as “S-Sugar”:
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This is the rear of the bomber. It has twin tails to give the mid-upper gunner a greater field of fire. You can see the door for the crew, which kept them well away from the four propellers, but it meant a very long and difficult crawl to the front of the aircraft. Its squadron letters are PO-S and its serial number is R5868:P1320297XXX

This particular plane is the oldest surviving Lancaster and the first RAF heavy bomber to complete 100 operations. It eventually went on to fly 137 sorties. R5868 was originally “Q-Queenie” with No. 83 Squadron at RAF Scampton and then became “S-Sugar” with No. 463 and No. 467 Squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force at RAF Waddington. Its very last job came in May 1945, when it was used to transport liberated Allied prisoners of war back home to England.
The four Merlin engines have on them the names of the crew who received decorations. This is the starboard inner engine:
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Here is another name, this time on the port inner engine. You can also see what looks to me to be an 8,000lb bomb underneath the enormous bomb-bay. Such a large bomb was made by merely bolting together two ordinary 4,000lb “Cookies” or Blockbuster bombs:
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I couldn’t resist showing you for a second time, in this second blogpost, the front of “S-Sugar”, which is adorned with the vain boast of Hermann Göring, “No enemy plane will fly over the Reich Territory”.

It is deliberately painted next to the symbols which represent the huge number of raids carried out over Germany by this one particular aircraft. All of the Avro Lancasters added together flew 156,000 missions over Europe as a whole and they dropped 608,612 tons of bombs on the Third Reich. So much for Hermann Müller and his pathetic promises, detailed in that previous post:

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This is a “Grand Slam” bomb. It was designed by Barnes Wallis and weighed 22,000lb, ten tons, more or less, and the specially adapted Lancasters of 617 Squadron who carried it were at their physical limits:
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My Dad said their wings were shaped like giant crescents as they took off. When they were dropped, the bombs broke the sound barrier. At that time they must have been among the fastest objects made by Man. They penetrated deep underground and, when they exploded, they easily proved their nickname of the “Earthquake Bomb”. Unlike the majority of bombs dropped by the Allied Air Forces, they were always used on military sites such as U-Boat pens, gun-batteries or railway bridges.
Here is one being dropped by YZ-C of 617 Squadron:

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I found two films about dropping a “Grand Slam” bomb. In both cases they are being used to destroy railway viaducts, in order to prevent the Nazis from moving troop reinforcements around their fast diminishing country. In this way, these spectacular bombs must have saved the lives of a lot of good men:

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The Cadillac of the Skies

 

On August 17th, 1943 the Eighth Air Force had tried to eliminate the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt, deep inside the German heartland. Flying in daylight, and unescorted for the vast majority of the trip, the raid had been an audacious catastrophe. Some 230 bombers had taken part, and sixty of these were completely destroyed. As well as these sixty B-17s, a further 55-95 bombers were badly damaged. Many of these were too severely damaged ever to be repaired.

Living legends

The Eighth Air Force regained its composure, made good its losses in both men and aircraft, and, on October 14th 1943, they attacked again.  Flying in daylight, and unescorted for the vast majority of the trip, the raid was arguably a bigger disaster than the previous one. Of the 291 B-17s on the mission, 60 were shot down over enemy territory and another 17 damaged so severely that they had to be scrapped. A further 121 aircraft were damaged to a greater or lesser extent. These losses represented more than 26% of the attacking force.

d-13-vs-b-17-24guva vvvvvvvvvvvv

The losses of aircrew were equally devastating. Some 650 well trained and skilful specialists were killed, which constituted some 22% of the 2,900 brave young airmen who went on the raid. The 306th Bomb Group lost 100 men, with 35 either killed in the air or died of wounds and 65 made Prisoners of War. The 305th Bomb Group lost 130 men, which was 87% of their complement.
General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold was later to state that the Black Thursday loss of American bombers in the Schweinfurt raid was “incidental”. Despite this callous dismissal of the lives of well over six hundred of his own men, further unescorted daylight bomber raids deep into Germany were immediately suspended until further notice. Cynics might well ask how many more B-17s  were left after the two disastrous attacks on Schweinfurt? Long distance bombing raids would only recommence in February 1944 with the advent of Operation Argument, a series of missions which would later be more commonly known as “Big Week”.

*****

I live in Sherwood, a suburb in the north of the Nottingham conurbation in England. At the end of our street is “Hucknall Road” which leads the seven or so miles to the much smaller market town of Hucknall.

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Strangely enough, Hucknall has a small grass airfield which is less than six miles from our street. Most days we can hear light planes making an enormous noise as they drone slowly overhead.

Hucknall RunwayxxxxxxDuring the course of April 1942, one man who frequently worked at Hucknall Aerodrome was to come up with an idea which would go a very long way indeed to winning the war in Western Europe. His name was Ronald W. Harker and he was usually known as “Ronnie”. Harker was the senior liaison test pilot with Rolls-Royce. Perhaps with Harker’s employer in their minds as an ulterior motive, the RAF had already invited the experienced test pilot to test fly the North American Mustang Mark 1, an American aircraft which was designed and built in the unbelievably short time of 117 days. This amazing feat was in response to a request by the British Purchasing Commission for an RAF fighter which would be an advance on the Spitfire.

1280px-P-51-October1942

The original North American Mustang was powered by an Allison V-1710 piston engine and Harker was quite impressed with the plane’s handling qualities. Its performance up to 20.000 feet or so was commendable, but any higher, and the aircraft quickly became rather disappointing. Harker concluded that the problem was the inadequate Allison engine which was too low-powered to exploit the plane’s advanced aerodynamic features including a much more fuel efficient laminar flow wing. This innovation cut down the amount of turbulence as the air passed over the wing and would eventually lead to almost phenomenally low fuel consumption.

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Initially though, the new American fighter had an extremely unimpressive maximum range of only 400 miles, and when delivered to the RAF it was quickly relegated to Army co-operation and photographic work.
Ronnie Harker was employed by Rolls-Royce and was therefore presumably somewhat biased, but it was his suggestion to take out the Allison engine and to replace it with the Rolls-Royce Merlin 61, an act which was to transform a rather disappointing aircraft and to turn it into a war winner.
Despite a great deal of initial reluctance, mostly from the British Air Ministry, the first flight of the newly engined Mustang took place at Hucknall Airfield on October 13th 1942 with Captain R.T. Shepherd, the Rolls-Royce chief test pilot, at the controls. The Merlin-Mustang fighter’s performance was spectacular, particularly at high altitude. Thus the greatest fighter of the war was born and Harker acquired for the rest of his life the sobriquet of “the man who put the Merlin in the Mustang.” Harker also got a pay rise of a pound a week (just over one and a half dollars).

mustang cccccc

Some four hundred of the Merlin-Mustangs were ordered for the US Army Air Force as the P-51 and Great Britain wanted more than a thousand, although only 25 were eventually delivered to the RAF because Rolls-Royce’s own Merlin production was already allocated to Spitfires, Lancasters and Mosquitos. In the USA, however, North American, now almost overwhelmed by the orders to be filled, had no such problems, using Packard and Continental versions of the Rolls-Royce engine built under licence. Eventually, more than 15,000 aircraft were to be manufactured.

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The P-51B carried just about the same amount of fuel as the P-47 Thunderbolt, but with its new Merlin engine “got 3.3 miles per gallon while the P-47 got less than 1.8.”. Brigadier General “Tommy” Hayes said that the Merlin-Mustang “had the three qualities you need most if you were going to escort bombers to Berlin – range, range and range.” The latter was extended even further by the carrying of two 512 gallon drop tanks which gave a maximum range of around 2,000 miles. In addition, the aircraft’s top speed increased from 390m.p.h. to 440m.p.h. and in the days after the war had finished there were to be many no doubt apocryphal tales of Mustangs which had exceeded the sound barrier in a steep or even vertical dive. In his memoirs, the P-51 ace Colonel Clarence E. “Bud” Anderson said that the Mustang “went like hell” because “the Merlin had great gobs of power and was equally at home high or low, thanks to its two-stage, two-speed supercharger.”

Mustang-Ferocious-Frankie-01 cvcc

This newly updated Mustang was, of course, exactly the aircraft that the beleaguered bomber crews in the B-17s of the Eighth Air Force had been waiting for. Now, with help of “our little friends” they could go about their business with considerably less apprehension than had previously been the case. The new aircraft is certainly said to have had an impact on Herr Reichsmarschall Göring who “when (he) saw the Mustangs escorting the American air armadas over the capital of the Reich is said to have realised that Germany had lost the war.”

little friends cccccc

The mechanism by which the Third Reich was, along with Göring himself, quite rightly consigned to the rubbish bin of History, was by no means a complex one. The Mustang pilots were quite simply encouraged to engage the Luftwaffe fighters in combat at every opportunity.  Given the quality of the new P-51, especially the P-51D with its superb all round visibility bubble canopy, the Americans duly shot down both the aging Bf109s and the newer Fw190s. Gradually over the months, the Mustangs killed off all the most experienced and most effective pilots in the Luftwaffe. Between January and April 1944, the Germans lost more than 1,000 fighter pilots, of which 28 had more than 30 kills and eight had more than 100. On one mission to Augsburg, much later in the war, Mustangs put a final full stop to the last and greatest German threat, namely the twin-engined fighter armed with multiple rockets. They destroyed 23 of the 77 that came up to oppose them.

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At the same time, as part of the same process, it became increasingly difficult for the Luftwaffe to find calm skies where rookie pilots might practice. And in any case there was soon too great a shortage of fuel for these young replacements to waste on practice flights. The situation swiftly went from bad to worse, and the Mustangs, and many other Allied fighters, all began to enjoy enormous success against increasingly weak opponents. The Germans were never ever throughout the rest of the war to enjoy air superiority.

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Allied bombers began by day and by night to operate with increasing impunity and to have an increasingly greater impact on the overall fighting capabilities of the Third Reich.

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The situation is perhaps best summarised by a joke which remains as yet unverified on Wikipedia. It was supposedly told by Wehrmacht soldiers in the weeks after D-Day:

“If the plane in the sky is silver, it’s American, if it’s blue, it’s British, if it’s invisible, it’s ours.”
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“This all happened because of the Mustang, and the Mustang succeeded because of the Merlin.”

I cannot resist finishing my hymn of praise to the most effective fighter ever by quoting the episode in “Empire of the Sun”, when the “Cadillac of the Skies” makes its appearance, strangely not in Europe but in China. Enjoy.

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