D-Day at 74: In Their Own Words

Saturday, June 6, is the 71st anniversary of the US, British, Canadian and Australian invasion of Normandy, France.

Wednesday, June 6, is the 74th anniversary of the US, British, Canadian and Australian invasion of Normandy, France.

“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”

— Excerpt from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s message to Normandy invasion troops the night before D-Day.

By sea and by air they descended on a 50-mile stretch of German-fortified French coastline, 74 years ago today.

Wearing the uniforms of a dozen Allied nations, some 175,000 young men risked it all in one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history. That first day alone, an estimated 46,000 would never see home again. But such was the cost of freedom.

World War II veteran Dick Ramsey who was a 19-year-old gunner on the USS Nevada off the shore of Utah beach on D-Day.

World War II veteran Dick Ramsey who was a 19-year-old gunner on the USS Nevada off the shore of Utah beach on D-Day.

The Battle of Normandy would be the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe. On Aug. 25, Paris was liberated. The following spring, Germany surrendered. Eyewitness accounts of D-Day grow ever more precious, with an estimated 500-plus World War II veterans dying every day.

World War II veteran Alexander Eckmann who participated in the D-Day invasion.

World War II veteran Alexander Eckmann who participated in the D-Day invasion.

For the 70th anniversary of the invasion in 2014, writers and historians gathered the memories of 10 men who were there, from bombardiers to seamen to privates trapped on those beaches burnished in memory: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

Here are some of their stories:

‘You were scared stiff to move’ 

A child of the Bronx who joined the National Guard in the fall of 1940, when he was still 15 years old, Martin Painkin landed on Omaha Beach early on the morning of D-Day with the Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion. He received a Silver Star for gallantry for his actions June 6-9 and a Purple Heart for wounds received in action on June 7. Now 89, living in Riviera Beach, he recalled those days with writer Staci Sturrock.

“It was like a slaughter. It really was,” says Martin Painkin from his wheelchair at the VA’s Community Living Center.

‘There were literally thousands of bodies’

A state champion swimmer from Hammond, Ind., Walter Gumula was an 18-year-old Navy frogman among the first waves of troops landing on Omaha Beach on June 6. Now 88, and living in Port Salerno, he recounted his D-Day exploits.

Their mission was secret.

‘Nobody learns anything’

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Lenny Scatturo was a 21-year-old gunner’s mate third class on the USS Ancon, flagship for the forces that landed on Omaha Beach. Today, at 91, he lives in West Palm Beach.

From the deck of his landing craft control boat, Lenny Scatturo watched helplessly as 10 amphibious tanks succumbed to the six-foot swells of the English Channel, long before they neared Omaha Beach.

‘I wonder how those guys lived through D-Day’

A Hoboken, N.J., native, Charlie Meyer was a B-17 bombardier with the 388th Bomb Group. He completed 34 missions over France and Germany in 1944, including two on D-Day. Now 95, and living in Greenacres;

The B-17 crew received strict orders before departing Knettishall, England, in the pre-dawn darkness of D-Day: “No aborts on this mission.”

‘There was a lot of sweat, a lot of cursing’

Dick Ramsey was a 19-year-old Navy seaman on the USS Nevada, which bombarded German installations at Utah beach. Today, the 89-year-old Ramsey lives in Port St. Lucie, where he shared his memories.

Dick Ramsey’s job at Utah beach was delivering hot steel retribution.

‘I was struck by the smell of dead bodies’

Solis ‘Sol’ Kaslow was a 19-year-old from Philadelphia, serving as a quartermaster aboard PT 508 on D-Day. Now 89, and living in Palm Beach Gardens, he talked about his memories.

Hours before their most important mission began, the 13 men aboard PT 508 bowed their heads and talked to God.

‘A shock to see Americans floating face up’

A Long Island native, Alexander “Al” Eckmann was a sergeant in U.S. Army counterintelligence on D-Day. He was assigned to land on Utah Beach with the VII Corps of the Army. Now 89, and living in Juno Beach.

Sgt. Al Eckmann dangles from a rope ladder on the side of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, trying to focus on the spotter’s voice through deafening blasts from the nearby USS Texas.

‘What we saw that day you will never see again’

Kal Lewis was drafted the day he graduated from high school in Passaic, N.J. At 19, he was among the waves of combat engineers who invaded Utah beach. The youngest of 14 children, he was one of five brothers who served in World War II. At 89, he lives in Wellington.:

German shells were exploding overhead as 19-year-old Kal Lewis stepped off the landing craft and into rough water up to his neck.

‘There were bodies floating everywhere’

On D-Day, John Edmunds was 19 years old, a seaman in the Royal Canadian Navy from Burlington, Ontario. His mission: A helmsman on an escort ship leading cargo ships to the Normandy shore of Juno Beach. Today, 89, a retiree in West Palm Beach.

Seaman John Edmunds of the Royal Canadian Navy finds only a cloudless day and clear sea as he stands at the helm of the armored escort ship HMCS Drumheller, his captain barking down orders from the bridge: “Port, two degrees!”

‘It was difficult firing on our country’

Parisian Rene Cerisoles served on a French light cruiser under U.S. command off Omaha Beach. Now 89, and living in Palm Beach Gardens.

As the Montcalm pulled into position off Omaha Beach that June morning in 1944, chief petty officer Rene Cerisoles found himself looking at a familiar shoreline.

Map of the air plan for the Allied landing in Normandy.

Map of the air plan for the Allied landing in Normandy.

74 years ago, more than 150,000 brave men participated in the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy. They were American, they were Canadian, they were British; and they were united under one goal — to save Europe.

Nearly 5,000 men lost their lives that day, their sacrifice helped defeat the Nazis and is seared in the hearts of millions. Now, seven decades later, people will look back at that momentous day that marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

Dday

Thanks to all the Allies, men and women, officer and enlisted, the buried and the survivors. God bless them all.

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Sacred Sunday: 14th Century Cathedral Architecture

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari: Interior begun c. 1330 Photo Campo dei Frari, Venice

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari: Interior
begun c. 1330
Photo
Campo dei Frari, Venice

The great Franciscan church of the Frari was begun in about 1330, replacing the earlier church which stood on the site of the nave of the present one. Its construction took more than a century. The tall campanile, second only to that of San Marco, was completed in 1396. The presbytery, choir, and transepts must have been erected by the 1410s, and the nave was built last after the demolition of the previous church.

The high altar was dedicated in 1469, just after the installation of the ornate wooden choir stalls with their Gothic canopies embellished with perspective intarsia scenery the time that the stone pulpitum was completed by Pietro Lombardo in 1475, the Gothic style had already been superseded by an elegant early Renaissance classicism. Titian’s famous Assumption, executed in 1516-18 for the high altar, provides the final unifying element in this dramatic artistic ensemble. The completed church was consecrated in 1492.

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari: Choir of the friars begun c. 1330 Photo Campo dei Frari, Venice

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari: Choir of the friars
begun c. 1330
Photo
Campo dei Frari, Venice

The picture shows a view of the choir toward the entrance wall.

Palazzo Ariani: Façade 1350-1400 Photo Rio dell'Angelo Raffaele, Venice

Palazzo Ariani: Façade
1350-1400
Photo
Rio dell’Angelo Raffaele, Venice

The palace of the Ariani family was reconstructed during the second half of the 14th century in a unique style. The six-mullioned window, perfectly framed by the indented frieze, is not linked to any architectural sequence, while the section made up of three columns and two pillars and the parapets are part of the Venetian tradition, the innovation lies in the filling of the upper band above the windows. An uncommon feature is the wooden architrave at the corner, creating a low portico held up by columns which look out over the courtyard from which the external two-flight staircase departs.

The design is attributed to a stone-worker architect coming from the outside environment.

The picture shows the Gothic façade on Rio dell’Angelo Raffaele.

Palazzo Priuli all'Osmarin: Façade 1300-10 Photo Fondamenta de l'Osmarin, Venice

Palazzo Priuli all’Osmarin: Façade
1300-10
Photo
Fondamenta de l’Osmarin, Venice

The palace is a typical product of Venetian Gothic art, built at the beginning of the 14th century for the Priuli family which gave three doges and numerous cardinals, magistrates and generals to the city. It faces onto the Osmarin canal, but in the 15th century it was extended along the San Severo canal. The beautiful two-lancet corner windows were constructed during this time.

The façade facing onto the canal was completely covered with frescoes by Palma Vecchio, but unfortunately they have completely disappeared.

The picture shows the palace on Rio dell’Osmarin.

Palazzo Ariani: Façade (detail) 1350-1400 Photo Rio dell'Angelo Raffaele, Venice

Palazzo Ariani: Façade (detail)
1350-1400
Photo
Rio dell’Angelo Raffaele, Venice

Palazzo Dandolo: Façade 14th century Photo Riva dei Schiavoni, Venice

Palazzo Dandolo: Façade
14th century
Photo
Riva dei Schiavoni, Venice

The Palazzo Dandolo was built in the 14th century in Gothic style. In 1822 the palace was purchased by Giuseppe dal Niel, known as Danieli, who transformed it into what is today considered one of the most prestigious hotels in the city, the Hotel Danieli. The interior of the hotel was decorated in neo-medieval style by Tranquillo Orsi.

Palazzo della Fraternità dei Laici 1375-1434 Photo Piazza Grande, Arezzo

Palazzo della Fraternità dei Laici
1375-1434
Photo
Piazza Grande, Arezzo

The Fraternità was endowed in 1262 for the purposes of Christian charity. Its building was planned in 1363, the centenary year of the confraternity. Building work started in 1375 by two Florentine stone-workers, Niccolò di Francesco and Baldino di Cino.

In 1384 the construction came to a stop because of lack of funds. The building of the walls started again in 1434. Bernardo Rossellino continued the façade in a Renaissance style that fits admirably with the Gothic first floor. The gallery was added in 1460 by Giuliano and Algozzo from Settignano. The vaulted campanile, designed by Vasari, was built hundred years later.

The picture shows the façade of the Fraternità (right) and the Palazzo del Tribunale (left).

Interior view c. 1310 Photo Cathedral, Exeter

Interior view
c. 1310
Photo
Cathedral, Exeter

The present building was complete by about 1400, and has several notable features, including an early set of misericords, an astronomical clock and the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England.

During the 14th and 15th centuries Gothic architecture ceased to be international and split into definable regional styles. In England, the first Gothic style (Early English) was succeeded by Decorated and Perpendicular styles. The nave of Exeter Cathedral, shown here, exemplifies the English Decorated style, the piers formed of thick clusters of shafts, the vaulting-ribs multiplied so that eleven spring from one point.

Exterior view 14th century Photo Cathedral, Canterbury

Exterior view
14th century
Photo
Cathedral, Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. Founded in 597, the cathedral was completely rebuilt from 1070 to 1077. The east end was greatly enlarged at the beginning of the twelfth century, and largely rebuilt in the Gothic style following a fire in 1174, with significant eastward extensions to accommodate the flow of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Thomas Becket, the archbishop who was murdered in the cathedral in 1170.

The Norman nave and transepts survived until the late fourteenth century, when they were demolished to make way for the present structures. From the late fourteenth century the nave and transepts were rebuilt, on the Norman foundations in the Perpendicular style under the direction of the noted master mason Henry Yevele.

Exterior view 14th century Photo Cathedral, Canterbury

Exterior view
14th century
Photo
Cathedral, Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. Founded in 597, the cathedral was completely rebuilt from 1070 to 1077. The east end was greatly enlarged at the beginning of the twelfth century, and largely rebuilt in the Gothic style following a fire in 1174, with significant eastward extensions to accommodate the flow of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Thomas Becket, the archbishop who was murdered in the cathedral in 1170.

The Norman nave and transepts survived until the late fourteenth century, when they were demolished to make way for the present structures. From the late fourteenth century the nave and transepts were rebuilt, on the Norman foundations in the Perpendicular style under the direction of the noted master mason Henry Yevele.

Next week, a two-part series begins – 15th Century Architecture.

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Sacred Sunday: 13th Century Italian Cathedral Architecture

Exterior view of the Cathedral 1270s (completed) Photo Duomo, Siena

Exterior view of the Cathedral
1270s (completed)
Photo
Duomo, Siena

The present cathedral replaced two earlier ones, one dating from the 9th or 10th century and a second that was consecrated in 1179. It was built during the first half of the 13th century and completed, with the exception of the façade, in the early 1270s in the early 1270s.

The cathedral is built with two colors of marble, white from Carrara and very dark green from Prato. The elaborate striping of much of the exterior and interior reveals the communal content of this monument in its reference to the black-and-white coat of arms of the Sienese commune.

The lower half of the façade was designed by Giovanni Pisano. The bell tower dates from before 1215 and is the only surviving part of the earlier Cathedral dedicated in 1179.

Interior view of the Cathedral 1270s (completed) Photo Duomo, Siena

Interior view of the Cathedral
1270s (completed)
Photo
Duomo, Siena

The interior shown in the picture was built during the first half of the 13th century and completed in the early 1270s.

Palazzo Pubblico Begun 1298 Photo Piazza del Campo, Siena

Palazzo Pubblico
Begun 1298
Photo
Piazza del Campo, Siena

Unlike the brute stony strength of Florence’s Palazzo della Signoria, in Siena brick walls gently bend to embrace the amphitheatre-shaped Piazza del Campo which it faces. Thin marble columns supporting Gothic arches decorate the windows.

An astonishingly tall bell tower – clearly surpassing the height of the civic tower of their rival city Florence – extends from the left wing of the building. A later chapel beneath the tower extends out into the public square and indicates the fusion of Church and state in this city dedicated to the Virgin.

Exterior view of the Cathedral 1270s (completed) Photo Duomo, Siena

Exterior view of the Cathedral
1270s (completed)
Photo
Duomo, Siena

View of the nave and choir began c. 1246 Photo Santa Maria Novella, Florence

View of the nave and choir
began c. 1246
Photo
Santa Maria Novella, Florence

The very large church of the Santa Maria Novella was the first important and independent church in truly Italian style. Its construction began in about 1246 for the Dominican Order. The exact dates of the various parts of the church are still controversial but it certainly took a very long time to build it. The nave was not begun until 1279, and the façade, began in 1310, was not finished until 1470. Nevertheless, the interior and the plan make it the most important church of its date.

This church is perhaps the best example of the simplicity of plan, organization, and detail that characterizes Italian Gothic architecture. The relatively high side aisles are typically Italian.

The Renaissance façade was designed by Leon Battista Alberti in the 1460s.

Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello: Façade 13th century Photo Campo dei Mori, Venice

Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello: Façade
13th century
Photo
Campo dei Mori, Venice

This palace in the Cannaregio district of Venice owes its name to a relief carving set into the wall of the façade representing a man in oriental dress riding a camel. It is the symbol of the owners, the Mastelli family, who came from the Orient in the 12th century.

The most important features on the façade of the Gothic building are the ogival central gallery on the second floor, enriched with quatrefoils and a dentate frame, the corner two-lancet windows on the second floor, and a squat column, standing in the corner window on the first floor.

The palace was rebuilt in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello: Façade 13th century Photo Campo dei Mori, Venice

Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello: Façade
13th century
Photo
Campo dei Mori, Venice

Palazzo Corner Loredan Piscopia: Façade 13th century Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Corner Loredan Piscopia: Façade
13th century
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This palace located on the Canal Grande just after Rialto bridge is now the site of the Municipio di Venezia. While representing a modification of the sixteenth-century building, it still followed the pattern of the Venetian-Byzantine house-storehouse.

Architectural and decorative elements, such as the five-arch loggia directly over the water, and, on the main floor, the façade completely covered by the many-lancet window with round arches on pilasters mean that the architecture is undoubtedly inspired by the thirteenth-century model.

Palazzo Morosini Sagredo: Façade 13th century Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Morosini Sagredo: Façade
13th century
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This palace was constructed between the 12th and 14th centuries. The four-lancet window on the upper floor is remarkable, framed by an elaborate frieze and adorned with polychrome patera made in precious marbles. The façade was decorated with frescoes. The interior was modernized in the 18th century and richly decorated.

Entrance to the castle 1240 Photo Castel del Monte, Andria

Entrance to the castle
1240
Photo
Castel del Monte, Andria

Castel del Monte (Italian for “Castle of the Mountain”) is a 13th-century citadel and castle situated in Andria in the Apulia region of southeast Italy. It stands on a promontory, where it was constructed during the 1240s by the Emperor Frederick II, who had inherited the lands from his mother Constance of Sicily.

The picture shows the classical entrance in the otherwise purely Gothic castle of Frederick II.

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Sacred Sunday: 11th and 12th Century European Cathedral Architecture

Interior view c. 1050 Photo San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Interior view
c. 1050
Photo
San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Italy remained closest to the classical language of architecture. San Miniato al Monte in Florence uses Corinthian columns and marble veneer.

Exterior view c. 1080 Photo Saint-Nectaire, Puy-de-Dôme

Exterior view
c. 1080
Photo
Saint-Nectaire, Puy-de-Dôme

This Romanesque church was built in the middle of the twelfth century in honor of St. Nectaire by the monks of La Chaise-Dieu. It was built on the site of the shrine erected by Nectaire Auvergne on Mount Cornadore. It features 103 magnificent capitals. In the mid-nineteenth century, the church was still surrounded by walls, a cemetery, a castle and a small chapel. These parts were destroyed shortly after, at a church restoration. Now surrounded by forests, the church was in the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century, at the heart of a densely populated region, where wood was scarce.

The building is a typical church of the Auvergne, with an octagonal crossing tower and a round apse with radiating chapels.

Pantheon of the Kings of León 1063-1100 Photo Royal Basilica of San Isidoro, León

Pantheon of the Kings of León
1063-1100
Photo
Royal Basilica of San Isidoro, León

The Royal Pantheon in the basilica is a funeral chapel of the kings of León. It is one of the examples of surviving Romanesque art in León. The columns are crowned with rare Visigothic capitals (re-used Roman capitals), with floral or historic designs. The 12th century painted murals are in an exceptional state of preservation and consist of an ensemble of New Testament subjects along with scenes of contemporary rural life.

Chapter house c. 1100 Photo Monastery, Osek

Chapter house
c. 1100
Photo
Monastery, Osek

The Cistercian monastery in Osek was the spiritual centre of the region of Northern Bohemia between Decin and Karlovy Vary. It has a history of more than 800-year.

The picture shows the chapter house where the abbot presided. The administrative matters were settled here.

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view 12th century Photo Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

The 12th-century Romanesque church at Conques, in central France, was a stopping-place on the road to Compostela. The church contains the relics of Sainte-Foy, which arrived in Conques through theft in 866.

The original chapel was destroyed in the eleventh century in order to facilitate the creation of a much larger church as the arrival of the relics of St. Foy caused the pilgrimage route to shift from Agen to Conques. The second phase of construction, which was completed by the end of the eleventh-century, included the building of the five radiating chapels, the ambulatory with a lower roof, the choir without the gallery and the nave without the galleries.

The third phase of construction, which was completed early in the twelfth-century, was inspired by the churches of Toulouse and Santiago Compostela. Like most pilgrimage churches Conques is a basilica plan that has been modified into a cruciform plan. Galleries were added over the aisle and the roof was raised over the transept and choir to allow people to circulate at the gallery level.

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view 12th century Photo Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

Abbey of Saint-Gilles: Façade c. 1150 Photo Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, Provence

Abbey of Saint-Gilles: Façade
c. 1150
Photo
Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, Provence

The façade of the church bears witness to the presence of Roman temples in the vicinity.

Interior view 1140s Photo Abbey Church, Saint-Denis

Interior view
1140s
Photo
Abbey Church, Saint-Denis

The picture shows the east end of the abbey church of Saint-Denis. The technique of Gothic architecture allows spaces to flow freely into one another instead of being compartmentalized.

Exterior view 12th century Photo Cathedral, Durham

Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Cathedral, Durham

Durham Cathedral was built between the late 11th and early 12th century to house the bodies of St. Cuthbert (634-687 AD) (the evangelizer of Northumbria) and the Venerable Bede (672/3-735 AD).

It attests to the importance of the early Benedictine monastic community and is the largest and finest example of Norman architecture in England. The innovative audacity of its vaulting foreshadowed Gothic architecture. The Cathedral lies within the precinct of Durham Castle, first constructed in the late eleventh century under the orders of William the Conqueror.

Interior view 1100-20 Photo Cathedral, Durham

Interior view
1100-20
Photo
Cathedral, Durham

Durham Cathedral has thick circular piers with incised (and originally painted) patterns and one of the earliest rib-vaults in Europe.

Exterior view 12th century Photo Cathedral, Ely

Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Cathedral, Ely

Ely Cathedral is the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, England, and is the seat of the Bishop of Ely and a suffragan bishop, the Bishop of Huntingdon. It has a cruciform plan with central crossing tower, and it was likewise one of the largest buildings under construction north of the Alps at the time.

The construction was started in 1081 and was completed in the 1180s. The 66 m high west tower of the cathedral represents the last, profusely ornamented, stage of Romanesque. The porch and upper parts are already Gothic.

Interior view 12th century Photo Cathedral, Ely

Interior view
12th century
Photo
Cathedral, Ely

Exterior view c. 1150 Photo Abbey Church, Maria Laach

Exterior view
c. 1150
Photo
Abbey Church, Maria Laach

Maria Laach Abbey is a Benedictine abbey situated on the southwestern shore of the Laacher See (Lake Laach), in the region of the Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. The church exemplifies a particular German form of Romanesque with apses and round towers at both east and west ends.

Exterior view c. 1160 Photo Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, Toro

Exterior view
c. 1160
Photo
Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, Toro

The Collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor (Church of Saint Mary the Great) is a church in Toro, Spain. It was begun around 1100, and was finished in the mid-13th century. It is one of the most characteristic examples of transitional Romanesque architecture in Spain. The crossing tower is a Spanish specialty – an octagon of repeated arches with four tourelles at the corners.

Refectory 1180-1200 Photo Monastery, Alcobaça

Refectory
1180-1200
Photo
Monastery, Alcobaça

Monasteries were places of peace and order in the disturbed medieval society, organized round a routine of liturgy, work, study, and regular meetings, in which a man could spend his whole life. In the refectory, during meals a monk read from the raised pulpit.

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Crash Course: Little Known History – Albert Göring

Portrait of Albert Goering c.1940. Hero: In stark contrast to his brother, Albert Goering risked his life to save the lives of Jewish people.

Portrait of Albert Goering c.1940. Hero: In stark contrast to his brother, Albert Goering risked his life to save the lives of Jewish people.

Hermann Göring was one of the Nazi party’s most powerful figures and an adamant anti-Semite. But his younger brother Albert worked to save the lives of dozens of Jews. 

In downtown Vienna under the Nazis, two members of the SA had decided to humiliate an old woman. A crowd gathered and jeered as the stormtroopers hung a sign bearing the words “I’m a dirty Jew” around the woman’s neck. Suddenly, a tall man with a high forehead and thick mustache pushed his way angrily through the mob and freed the woman. “There was a scuffle with two stormtroopers, I hit them and was arrested immediately,” the man later said in a matter-of-fact statement.

Despite this open act of rebellion, the man was released immediately. He only had to say his name: Albert Göring, brother of Hermann Göring, the commander of the German air force and Hitler’s closest confidant.

Years later, after the fall of the Third Reich, Albert Göring was arrested once again, this time by Americans. Again he gave his name, but this time it had the opposite effect.

“The results of the interrogation of Albert Göring … constitutes as clever a piece of rationalization and ‘white wash’ as the SAIC (Seventh Army Interrogation Center) has ever seen,” American investigator Paul Kubala wrote on September 19, 1945. “Albert’s lack of subtlety is matched only by the bulk of his obese brother.”

Kubala’s interpreter, Richard Sonnenfeldt, was likewise skeptical. “Albert told a fascinating story, but one I had trouble believing,” he commented.

A Member of the Resistance?

The life of Hermann Göring’s younger brother indeed makes a fascinating story, one that has remained essentially unknown in the nearly seven decades since the end of the Nazi dictatorship. Perhaps it’s because today many have the same reaction that the American investigators had then: Can it really be possible that Hermann Göring’s brother was a member of the resistance? A caring person who saved Jews, helped dozens of persecuted individuals obtain foreign currency and fake papers, and even secured the release of concentration camp prisoners?

“It has been four months now since I was robbed of my freedom, without knowing why,” Albert Göring wrote in September 1945 in a heavy-hearted letter to his wife. He had turned himself over to the Americans voluntarily on May 9, 1945. After spending years trying to thwart his brother’s policies in various small ways, now he felt betrayed.

So he took up a pen and paper and wrote an alphabetical list of 34 names, entitling it “People whose life or existence I put myself at risk (three Gestapo arrest warrants!) to save.”

For decades, that list and the few other existing documents on Albert Göring sat in archives, gathering dust. Hermann Göring’s life was examined down to the last detail, from his morphine addiction and his role as an art thief to his actions as Reichsjägermeister, or official gamekeeper. Albert Göring, meanwhile, sank into oblivion.

In the end, it was journalists rather than noted historians who first introduced the younger brother to a wider public. In 1998, a BBC film crew shot a documentary called “The Real Albert Göring.” In far away Sydney, William Hastings Burke, then 18, stumbled across the film and developed a long-lasting fascination with the story. “The idea that this monster we learn about in history class could have had an Oskar Schindler for a brother seemed absolutely unbelievable,” Burke later wrote.

After completing a university degree in economics, Burke scraped together the money for a ticket to Germany. He found a room in a shared apartment in the university town of Freiburg, got a job in an Irish pub, and otherwise devoted the next three years to searching for Albert Göring, combing through archives and meeting with friends and family members of people Albert Göring was said to have helped. The result was “Thirty Four,” a book named after Albert Göring’s list, published in 2009. The German translation will be released in German on May 21 under the title “Hermanns Bruder: Wer war Albert Göring?” or “Hermann’s Brother: Who was Albert Göring?”

Striking Differences

Burke’s book describes a man who could not have been more different from his infamous brother. “He was always the exact opposite of me,” Hermann said in a statement after the war. “He wasn’t interested in politics or the military, and I was. He was quiet and withdrawn, I loved gatherings and being sociable. He was melancholy and pessimistic, I’m an optimist.”

In appearance as well, the brothers’ differences were so striking that even early in their lives, rumors flew that Albert was in truth the result of an affair on the part of their mother, Franziska. Hermann had blue eyes, Albert had brown. Hermann was stocky and fat, Albert tall and slim. Hermann loved authoritarian, bombastic behavior, while Albert was a bon vivant — musical, cultured and charming. He was also a ladies’ man who married four times and was said to be always up for a fling.

At first, Albert simply tried to keep out of the National Socialists’ way. A mechanical engineer, he chose not to join the Nazi Party, instead moving to Vienna, Austria in 1928 to work as sales manager for a company that made heating boilers. He also took on Austrian citizenship. But the world-power politics Albert so hated, and which his ambitious brother promoted, caught up with him there with the 1938 annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany.

At some point, Albert decided he wanted to help instead of turning a blind eye. For example, he helped Oskar Pilzer, former president of Tobis-Sascha-Filmindustrie, Austria’s largest film production company. Pilzer was Jewish, which gave the Nazis the perfect excuse to ban his studios’ films in Germany — so they could subsequently take over the company when it began to falter. When the Gestapo arrested the toppled film mogul in March 1938, Albert Göring intervened.

Scrubbing the Streets in Solidarity

“Albert Göring used the power of his family name and pulled out all the stops, first to find out where my father was and then to make sure he was released immediately,” Pilzer’s son George later testified.

That was no isolated incident, and many people had similar testimony to present after 1945. Alexandra Otzop, for example, recalled, “My husband and his son from his first marriage were persecuted in the fall of 1939. Mr. Göring managed to get them deported, instead of being sent to a concentration camp.”

It’s said that Albert Göring once even got down on his hands and knees to scrub a street in Vienna, out of solidarity with women who were being bullied by stormtroopers. The women’s tormentors asked his name and were horrified by the answer.

While his brother was hard at work perfecting his air force, Albert obtained fake papers, warned friends of impending arrests and provided refugees with money. Again and again, he deftly used his name to intimidate public officials.

It was a bizarre situation. The overly ambitious Hermann knew about Albert’s activities, yet did nothing to stop him. Albert later testified that his brother had told him it was his “own business” if he wanted to protect Jews, so long as he didn’t get Hermann in “endless trouble.” Albert, meanwhile, had a nearly schizophrenic relationship with Hermann, trying to keep the private person and the politician separate. “As brothers, we were close,” he said.

But as time passed, Albert Göring abandoned the caution his brother had demanded of him. In late 1939, the younger Göring himself took an influential position, becoming export manager for the Skoda automobile factory in the Czech city of Brno. From this position, he also supported the Czech resistance, activists later testified. If their statements are accurate, Albert Göring revealed not only “the exact location of a submarine dockyard” but also the plan to break the non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. This sensitive information, the Czech resistance fighters stated, was successfully passed on to Moscow and London.

Fleeing to Salzburg

But even that isn’t the whole story. Göring is also believed to have saved prisoners from the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1944. “He said, I’m Albert Göring from Skoda. I need workers,” Jacques Benbassat, the son of an associate of Albert’s, later related. “He filled the truck with workers, and the concentration camp director agreed to it, because he was Albert Göring. Then he drove into the woods and released them.”

A number of notes turn up in German files that prove these stories were not simply made up. The Gestapo’s Prague bureau, for example, complained that Göring’s office at the Skoda factory was “a veritable nerve center for ‘poor’ Czechs.” The general of the Prague police, SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Hermann Frank, considered Albert Göring “at the very least, a defeatist of the worst sort” and asked permission to arrest him in 1944 on “profound grounds for suspicion.”

Now the man who had helped others escape became the persecuted one. Multiple times, Hermann Göring had to intervene on Albert’s behalf, all the while warning him that he wouldn’t do so forever — with every German plane shot down, the once untouchable head of the Luftwaffe found his star was on the wane. Shortly before the end of the war, Albert fled to Salzburg, Austria.

These two very different men met just once more in an American detention center in Augsburg. “You will soon be free,” the war criminal Göring is said to have told the younger Göring who saved Jews, on May 13, 1945. “So take care of my wife and my child. Farewell.”

While Hermann Göring, sentenced in Nuremberg, escaped execution by committing suicide in October 1946, the Americans remained suspicious of Albert Göring. His name had become a burden for him. Although the last of a series of caseworkers did recommend his release, Göring was turned over to the Czech Republic and tried in Prague for possible war crimes, because Skoda had also manufactured weapons.

Only after many former Skoda employees testified on Göring’s behalf were the charges dropped, and Göring was acquitted in March 1947. He died in 1966 in a Munich suburb, an impoverished and bitter man. Despite being a highly qualified engineer, he had been unable to find work in postwar Germany. Being Hermann Göring’s brother, a fact that had saved his life in years past, ultimately became a curse.

On the Web: 

Albert Goering – Hitler’s Children

Albert Goering, A Story of Courage

The Good Brother, A True Story of Courage – A very detailed account of Albert Göring’s heroic actions during World War II.

The Holocaust, Crimes, Heroes, and Victims – A site containing detailed information about Albert Göring’s actions and the activities of many other Holocaust Heroes.

‘Thirty Four’ by William Hastings Burke – The latest biography of Albert Göring.

The Warlord and the Renegade by James Wyllie.

References & Sources:

Brandenburg, Erich (1995) [1935]. Die Nachkommen Karls des Grossen (in German). Neustadt an der Aisch; Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Degener.ISBN 3-7686-5102-9. OCLC 34581384.

Bülow, Louis (2007–2009). “The Good Brother, A True Story of Courage”. The Holocaust Project.

Burke, William Hastings (2009). Thirty Four. London: Wolfgeist Ltd. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-9563712-0-1.

Goldgar, Vida (2000-03-10). “The Goering Who Saved Jews”. Jewish Times (Atlanta) (Archive.org). Archived from the original on 2007-09-29

Mosley, Leonard (1974). The Reich Marshal: A biography of Hermann Göring. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-04961-7.

Paul, Wolfgang (1983). Wer war Hermann Göring: Biographie (in German). Esslingen am Neckar: Verlag Bechtle. ISBN 3-7628-0427-3.

Wyllie, James (2006). The Warlord and the Renegade; The Story of Hermann and Albert Goering. Sutton Publishing Limited. p. 7. ISBN 0-7509-4025-5.

“The Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names (DB Search)”. Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority

Crash

Friday Reader: The Real Stalag 13

A US Army M4 Sherman tank of the 47th Tank Battalion, 14th Armored Division, crashes through the fence of Oflag XIII-B, April 6, 1945.

A US Army M4 Sherman tank of the 47th Tank Battalion, 14th Armored Division, crashes through the fence of Oflag XIII-B, April 6, 1945.

Stalag 13 didn’t just exist in the celluloid world of Hogan’s Heroes. There really was a POW camp called Stalag 13 (or Stalag XIII C) on the outskirts of Hammelburg, about 50 miles (80 km) east of Frankfurt.

Oflag XIII-B was a German Army World War II prisoner-of-war camp camp for officers (Offizierlager), originally in the Langwasser district of Nuremberg. In 1943 it was moved to a site 3 km (1.9 mi) south of the town of Hammelburg in Lower Franconia, Bavaria, Germany.

In 1893, the Kaiser created a training camp for German soldiers in a large forested area about 2.5 miles (4 km) south of Hammelburg. This training area was called Lager Hammelburg (or Camp Hammelburg) and it still goes by that name.

Lager Hammelburg and the Town of Hammelburg, 1920's (Truppen-Übungsplatz is the camp)

Lager Hammelburg and the Town of Hammelburg, 1920’s
(Truppen-Übungsplatz is the camp)

During World War I, the camp was used to house Allied prisoners of war and in 1920, a Children’s Home was established on the premises.

The Home for poor children was run by the Benedictine nuns and expanded over the years to take over many of the buildings. When it closed in 1930, over 60,000 children had been cared for there.

Lager Hammelburg in 1916

Lager Hammelburg in 1916

How the camp looked in 1938 when an artillery regiment was stationed there:

Future Stalag 13C (or rather Oflag 13B), 1938

Future Stalag 13C (or rather Oflag 13B), 1938

Lager Hammelburg, 1938

Lager Hammelburg, 1938

An expansion of the camp in 1938 swallowed two nearby villages. The ghost town of Bonnland is still there and is now used for urban warfare training.

The Birth of Stalag 13

In the summer of 1940, the southern end of the camp was prepared for prisoners of war from the enlisted ranks. The camp was called Stammlager XIII C, or Stalag XIII C for short, and wooden barracks were built to house POWs of a variety of nationalities.

The first to arrive were the Dutch, Belgian and French soldiers captured during the Blitzkrieg invasion of France in 1940.

In 1941, Serbian, Polish and Russian soldiers joined them after battles on the eastern front; the Serbians arrived in the spring, and the Russians in the summer.

Some of the British, Australian and other Commonwealth soldiers captured in the fighting in Crete in 1941 also ended up in the camp.

Australian POW's at Stalag 13

Australian POW’s at Stalag 13

The third man from the right, bottom row, is Arthur Hunt, father-in-law of the contributor of the photo. Below is the reverse side of the photo, with the official Stalag XIII C stamp.

Other side of the photo.

Other side of the photo.

Here’s an interesting article about an Australian POW and undercover work at Stalag 13.

After the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, several hundred captured American officers were sent to Oflag 13B. More Americans started arriving from camps in the east as the Russian army advanced.

The Lager held over 30,000 POW’s, with the Russians as the largest group. As required by the Geneva Convention, different nationalities were housed separately.

Junior enlisted prisoners, corporal and below, were required to work. These POW’s were assigned to work units in neighboring factories, farms and forests. They lived outside the camp and were guarded by a battalion of Home Guards (Landschützen).

The real Kommandants of Stalag 13 between 1940 and 1945 were Lieutenant Colonel von Crailsheim, Colonel Franck and Colonel Westmann.

Officer’s Camp

The officers were housed in stone buildings at the northern end of the camp (the Nordlager), separately from the enlisted prisoners, except for a handful of privates and NCO’s who assisted the officers. This camp was called Offizierlager XIII B, or Oflag 13 B.

The officers’ camp was divided into two sections: Serbian and American.

In the spring of 1941, 6,000 Serbian officers arrived, and they witnessed the arrival of the Russian prisoners a few months later.

Judging from the large number of Russians buried at the camp (over 3000), the appalling treatment of Russian POW’s in general, and a report from a Serbian officer at Oflag 13B, it appears the Russian prisoners were treated very poorly and had a very high mortality rate, unlike most of the other nationalities.

Among the Russian officers arriving in Hammelburg in 1941 was the eldest son of Joseph Stalin, Yakov. He only spent a few weeks in Oflag 13 before the SS came and moved him to another camp.

The Germans offered to exchange him for Field Marshall Paulus. Stalin replied, “You have millions of my sons. Free all of them or Yakov will share their fate.” Later, Yakov allegedly committed suicide in Sachsenhausen concentration camp by running into the electrified fence.

In March of 1945, a group of about 400 Americans arrived from Poland after marching hundreds of miles in snow and extreme cold. One of the men was Lieutenant Colonel John K. Waters, the son-in-law of General George Patton.

The 11th Hour Raid

By early April of 1945, the Americans had crossed the Rhine and were within 80 miles of Hammelburg. General Patton ordered a special armored task force to go deep behind the German lines and free the prisoners in Oflag/Stalag 13.

Lieutenant Colonel John Waters, here, seen as a general. He was General Patton's son-in-law.

Lieutenant Colonel John Waters, here, seen as a general. He was General Patton’s son-in-law.

The men of Task Force Baum, as it was called, ran into heavy resistance coming in but they reached the camp on March 24, 1945. The tanks knocked down the fences, but they also started firing at the Serbian officers, mistaking them for Germans. Lieutenant Colonel Waters came out with a white flag, accompanied by a German officer, to contact the Americans and stop the shooting. Waters was shot in the stomach by a German guard and was taken to the camp hospital.

The tanks left, accompanied by many of the able-bodied prisoners, but without Waters. On the way back, the Task Force was ambushed and forced to surrender. Out of the 314 men in the unit, 26 were killed and most of the rest were captured. Most of the POW’s returned to the camp as well. Lt.Col. Waters survived and eventually retired as a four-star general.

For more information, see Task Force Baum , a very interesting website about this event.

After the failed rescue attempt, the Germans moved all of the Western Allied prisoners to other camps, except the ones in the camp hospital.

Stalag 13 Camp Conditions

Life in Oflag and Stalag 13 became grim as the war neared its end. The Germans were running out of food and fuel and having difficulty getting supplies for the prisoners.

A Red Cross report following an inspection of Oflag 13B by the Swiss in March, 1945, revealed dreadful conditions. Daily calories provided by the Germans were 1050 per day, down from 1700 calories earlier. The average temperature in the barracks was 20 degrees F (or -7 degrees C) due to lack of fuel.

Many men were sick and malnourished, and morale and discipline were low. No Red Cross packages had reached the Americans since they started arriving in January. They only reason they didn’t starve was the generosity of the Serbian officers, who shared their packages.

You can read the full report at International Red Cross Report on the Task Force Baum website.

Liberation of Stalag 13

The prisoners are freed.

The prisoners are freed.

The buildings in the above photo still stand. The map below shows where they are now, on the grounds of Lager Hammelburg. They’re inside the restricted area, but can be easily seen from the fence near the main gate. The locations of the first building and the tank from the title photo of this piece are marked, as well the main gate of the camp and a good spot for viewing the remaining buildings. (Thanks to Geoff Walden of thirdreichruins.com in identifying it.)

On April 6, 1945, the US Army’s 47th Tank Battalion liberated Lager Hammelburg without a fight. Lt. Col. Waters was still there, recuperating in the hospital with some other sick or wounded men. Otherwise, the only prisoners left were the Serbian officers and the Polish and Yugoslavian enlisted men.

One of the American prisoners in Stalag XIIIC at the end of the war was Sergeant Bradford Sherry. His son in the past has posted photos and documents related to his father’s captivity.

Several days later, the tank battalion left to rejoin the fighting, leaving a supply unit at the camp. For the next month, no one was in charge of the POW’s and there was widespread looting of the surrounding villages, including Hammelburg.

When peace came with the German surrender on May 8, 1945, the Americans returned to occupy Lager Hammelburg and restored order in the town. The remaining prisoners were sent home.

Stalag 13 After World War II

The Americans continued to occupy the camp until 1956. They renamed it Camp Denny Clark, after a medic who was killed in action.

Barracks housing POWs, photographed in 1948 by ex-POW Lt. Donald Prell when he visited the camp in 1948.

Barracks housing POWs, photographed in 1948 by ex-POW Lt. Donald Prell when he visited the camp in 1948.

The northern part of the Stalag 13 was used to intern former Nazi Party members. The camp also housed large numbers of German refugees who had fled the advancing Russian army in eastern Germany as well as ethnic Germans who had been expelled from areas of Poland and Czechoslovakia.

POW Background Information

P47 Thunderbolt (Kogo, GNU FD license.)

P47 Thunderbolt
(Kogo, GNU FD license.)

One of the American POW’s at Oflag 13 in Hammelburg was Walter Frederick Morrison, the inventor of the frisbee. He was a fighter pilot and was shot down flying a P-47 Thunderbolt. He passed away in 2010 at the age of 90.

There was a real life counterpart to the fictional Colonel Robert Hogan of Hogan’s Heroes of Stalag 13. Lieutenant Robert Hogan was an American bomber pilot shot down and imprisoned in Oflag 13D near Nuremberg.

Although the studio maintains that Colonel Robert Hogan of Hogan’s Heroes was a completely fictional character, there really was a POW in a Stalag 13 named Robert Hogan whose story bears striking similarities to the Hollywood version.

The real Robert Hogan was a pilot flying B24 bombers out of Italy, who was shot down in January of 1945 over Yugoslavia and sent eventually to the Stalag 13 camp outside of Nuremberg (actually the Oflag 13 camp, since he was an officer. Stalags were only for enlisted men.) This camp was adjacent to Stalag 13 D, not the Stalag 13 C camp outside of Hammelburg, but close enough for the producers of the TV show to be interested when Dr. Robert Hogan contacted them. The real Robert Hogan got to meet Bob Crane of Hogan’s Heroes in 1966.

Robert Hogan’s son stated his father didn’t talk much about his POW experiences, but he did mention the following:

The POW’s were reasonably well-treated by the German guards, though they were gradually starving to death. Of course, the German guards were not much better off than the prisoners – food was scarce. A young girl from the nearby village would occasionally throw pieces of fruit over the fences for the prisoners. He said that food was the thing they thought and talked about the most…and also dreamed about.

The prisoners’ rations consisted of only one meal a day: a bowl of “cabbage soup”, which was nothing more than a bowl of warm water with a few cabbage leaves thrown in. Each barracks also shared one loaf of “bread”, baked with a significant amount of sawdust mixed in to stretch it further.

Though there was little similarity between his real-life experience and the Hogan’s Heroes series, there were three significant things that were similar: 1) the commandant wore a monocle like Colonel Klink, 2) there was a big, fat, goofy sergeant like Sergeant Schulz, and 3) the prisoners had a “secret” radio.

As for item #3, that radio was not very “secret”. In fact, the commandant of the Stalag allowed the POW’s to continue to operate their “clandestine” radio because the commandant got more reliable information from that source than he did from the official Nazi propaganda.

For more information about Lt. Robert Hogan (later Dr. Robert Hogan), his life and wartime experiences, see this article from the Jefferson County Historical Association in Alabama.

On the Web:

List of Kriegsgefangenenlager Moosburg Online (in German)

A Brief History of Oflag 64

Oflag XIII-B, Report of the International Red Cross

Task Force Baum and the Hammelburg Raid

Oflag 64 Association

First hand account of Oflag XIII-B by Donald Prell

Patton’s Ill-Fated Raid

Crash

Monday Reader: Reburial of King Richard III

1

A memorable was held Sunday morning marking the beginning of the final journey of the mortal remains of King Richard III.

King Richard III’s remains have arrived at Leicester Cathedral ahead of his reburial. His funeral cortege entered the city at the historic Bow Bridge after touring landmarks in the county. Cannons were fired in a salute to the king at Bosworth, where he died in 1485.

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His coffin was on public view at the cathedral beginning at 09:00 GMT Monday. He will finally be reinterred during a ceremony on Thursday.

Richard’s skeleton was found in 2012, in an old friary beneath a car park.

The former king’s coffin, which is made of English oak from a Duchy of Cornwall plantation, emerged during a ceremony at the University of Leicester.

Archaeologists, academics, researchers and descendants of Richard III’s family, including Michael Ibsen who built the coffin, placed white roses on it during the ceremony.

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The reburial procession began at Fenn Lane Farm, believed to be the closest spot to where the king was killed. Ceremonies were held for the king as his cortege travelled through the county, including those at Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and Bow Bridge.

Ahead of the cortege arriving in Leicester, city mayor Peter Soulsby said: “It was from Leicester in 1485 that Richard rode out to battle and it was to Leicester that he returned, defeated, slung ignominiously across the back of a horse.

“It’s now our opportunity to put it right and to make sure this time that it’s done with dignity and honour.”

However, campaigners who petitioned for Richard III to be reburied in York have described the events in Leicester as a “pantomime”.

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After a service at St Nicholas Church, the coffin was transferred to a horse-drawn hearse before arriving at the cathedral via High Street and Grey Friars. The public will be able to view the coffin at the cathedral from today (Monday) to Wednesday before a reinterment service on Thursday.

A spokesman for Leicester Cathedral has confirmed that the Queen has written a greeting that will appear in the order of service at the reinterment but details of the message’s content will not be released ahead of the event.

The former king’s skeleton was sealed inside a lead-lined inner casket known as an ossuary earlier last week.

Soil from the village where Richard III was born will be placed alongside his remains when he is reburied.

The last Plantagenet king was born at Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, and members of his family were buried at the local parish church. Soil from the castle grounds and two other sites will be laid around his coffin by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on 26 March.

Site owner John Gould said he was “delighted” to have been involved.

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Soil from the castle, a Yorkist palace during the 15th Century, is one of three samples from sites significant in the former king’s life to be sprinkled inside the vault where his coffin will be placed.

Samples from Middleham in Yorkshire, where Richard met future wife Anne, and the site of the Battle of Bosworth, have also been collected.

Some of the soil will be blessed by Bishop of Leicester Tim Stevens at a private ceremony on Sunday and will be put into a wooden casket to be displayed at the Battle of Bosworth Field Centre.

Additional Photos:

21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Photo courtesy of  University of Leicester.

Photo courtesy of
University of Leicester.

On the Web:

King Richard III Gets a Spinal Exam and a New Grave

Saturday Reader: King Richard’s DNA Analysis Raises Questions on Royal Lineage

Friday Reader: Richard III and the Mystery Woman

Crash

Genetic Research Confirms What Most of Us Already Knew

Map of the UK showing clustering of individuals based on genetics, and its striking relationship with geography. Photograph: Stephen Leslie/Nature/EuroGeographics

Map of the UK showing clustering of individuals based on genetics, and its striking relationship with geography. Photograph: Stephen Leslie/Nature/EuroGeographics

Analysis over 20 years reveals heavy Anglo-Saxon influence, with French and Danish DNA coming from earlier migrations than the Normans or Vikings.

The Romans, Vikings and Normans may have ruled or invaded the British for hundreds of years, but they left barely a trace on our DNA, the first detailed study of the genetics of British people has revealed.

The analysis shows that the Anglo-Saxons were the only conquering force, around 400-500 AD, to substantially alter the country’s genetic makeup, with most white British people now owing almost 30% of their DNA to the ancestors of modern-day Germans.

People living in southern and central England today typically share about 40% of their DNA with the French, 11% with the Danes and 9% with the Belgians, the study of more than 2,000 people found. The French contribution was not linked to the Norman invasion of 1066, however, but a previously unknown wave of migration to Britain some time after then end of the last Ice Age nearly 10,000 years ago.

Prof Peter Donnelly, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, who co-led the research, said: “It has long been known that human populations differ genetically, but never before have we been able to observe such exquisite and fascinating detail.”

The study found that people’s ancestral contributions varied considerably across Britain, with people from areas of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland emerging as separate genetic clusters, providing a scientific basis to the idea of regional identity for the first time.

The population of the Orkney Isles was found to be the most genetically distinct, with 25% of DNA coming from Norwegian ancestors who invaded the islands in the 9th century.

The Welsh also showed striking differences to the rest of Britain, and scientists concluded that their DNA most closely resembles that of the earliest hunter-gatherers to have arrived when Britain became habitable again after the Ice Age.

Surprisingly, the study showed no genetic basis for a single “Celtic” group, with people living in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Cornwall being among the most different form each other genetically.

“The Celtic regions one might have expected to be genetically similar, but they’re among the most different in our study,” said Mark Robinson, an archaeologist from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and a co-author. “It’s stressing their genetic difference, it’s not saying there aren’t cultural similarities.”

The study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, is the culmination of 20 years of work. Scientists began collecting DNA samples from people in Orkney in 1994 and gradually worked across most of the British Isles.

The participants were all white British, lived in rural areas and had four grandparents all born within 50 miles (80km) of each other. Since a quarter of our genome comes from each of our grandparents, the scientists were effectively obtaining a snapshot of British genetics at at the beginning of the 20th century.

Sir Walter Bodmer, of the University of Oxford, who conceived the study, said: “We’re reaching back in time to before most of the mixing of the population, which would fog history.”

The team also looked at data from 6,209 individuals from 10 European countries to reconstruct the contributions their ancestors made to the genetic makeup of the British.

The analysis shows that despite the momentous historical impact on British civilisation of the Roman, Viking and Norman invasions, none of these events did much to alter the basic biological makeup of people living here. The findings support records suggesting that few high ranking Roman officials settled in Britain and that they and their families remained largely segregated from the local Celts.

The Danish Vikings, who ruled over large swathes of Britain from 865AD, are known to have inter-married with locals, but the latest study shows that the conquering force, while powerful, must have comprised relatively few fighters.

“There were very large numbers of people – hundreds of thousands – in those parts of Britain, so to have a substantial impact on genetics there would have to be very large numbers of them,” said Robinson. “The fact that we don’t see that reflects the numbers rather than the relative allure or lack thereof of Scandinavian men to British women.”

The analysis also settles a long-running dispute about the nature of the Anglo-Saxon takeover of England following the collapse of the Roman empire. The replacement of the Celtic language by Anglo-Saxon and the complete shift towards North-West German farming and pottery styles has led some to suggest that local populations must have retreated to Wales or even been wiped out in a genocide.

“[Our results] suggest that at least 20% of the genetic makeup in this area is from Anglo-Saxon migrants, and that there was mixing,” said Robinson. “It is not genocide or complete disappearance of Britons.”

The authors suggest that DNA analysis should now be regarded as a powerful historical tool, sometimes providing more impartial information than traditional sources.

“Historical records, archeology, linguistics – all of those records tell us about the elites. It’s said that history is written by the winners,” said Donnelly. “Genetics compliments that and is very different. It tells us what is happening to the masses… the ordinary folk.”

Timeline

9600 BC Last Ice Age ends and land is colonised by hunter-gatherers

2500 BC Influx of settlers from east and western coastal routes

54 BC Julius Caesar invades Britain and defeats the British tribal chief Cassivellaunus

410 AD Collapse of Roman rule in Britain, which descends into the chaos of a failed state

400-500 AD Large influx of Angles and Saxons

600-700 AD Anglo-Saxon rule throughout much of Britain – Welsh kingdoms successfully resist

865 AD Large-scale invasion by Danish Vikings

1066 AD Norman invasion

On the Web: Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Crash

Thursday Reader: Discoveries – Black Plague Skeletons in London, Alexander the Great-Era Treasure in Israel

Recent discoveries of more skeletons and ancient treasure come on the heels of what may describe 2015 as the Year of Archaeology.

These two adult skulls were among thousands uncovered at the Bedlam burial ground, which was used during the Great Plague in 1665. The remains will be removed over the next week by a team of archaeologists. Credit: PA

These two adult skulls were among thousands uncovered at the Bedlam burial ground, which was used during the Great Plague in 1665. The remains will be removed over the next week by a team of archaeologists.
Credit: PA

Archaeologists began excavating 3,000 skeletons from Bedlam Hospital cemetery disturbed by London builders. The skeletons of a mother and her child buried side-by-side are among those which are to be excavated from an ancient burial ground after being disturbed during construction for London’s Crossrail.

Other skeletons at the burial site include that of a mother and her two children (above). Most of the remains are unidentified since the site did not keep its own burial records when it was used between 1569 and 1738. Credit: Reuters

Other skeletons at the burial site include that of a mother and her two children (above). Most of the remains are unidentified since the site did not keep its own burial records when it was used between 1569 and 1738.
Credit: Reuters

Skeletons of a mother and child (this and following image) are among those which are to be excavated from the Bedlam burial ground, which is the site for the new Liverpool Street station that will serve London's Crossrail network Credit: Reuters & PA

Skeletons of a mother and child (this and following image) are among those which are to be excavated from the Bedlam burial ground, which is the site for the new Liverpool Street station that will serve London’s Crossrail network
Credit: Reuters & EPA

london2

Archaeologists have started excavating 3,000 skeletons from Bedlam burial ground, which is at the site of the new Liverpool Street station that will serve the cross-London rail network.

Used from 1569 until at least 1738, including during the Great Plague in 1665, the burial site – also known as Bethlehem and the New Churchyard – was opened after graveyards around London started to overflow.

A team of 60 archaeologists will work in shifts, six days a week, to excavate the skeletons and gather any other remains at the burial site. The skeletons (pictured above) will then be reburied on consecrated ground. Credit: PA

A team of 60 archaeologists will work in shifts, six days a week, to excavate the skeletons and gather any other remains at the burial site. The skeletons (pictured above) will then be reburied on consecrated ground.
Credit: PA

Archaeologists have started excavating 3,000 skeletons (pictured) from the ancient Bedlam burial ground. Credit: PA

Archaeologists have started excavating 3,000 skeletons (pictured) from the ancient Bedlam burial ground.
Credit: PA

It was situated in close proximity to Bethlem Royal Hospital – the first dedicated psychiatric institution in Europe – and was used to bury London’s poor and religious non-conformists as well as inmates from the asylum.

The site, which was uncovered by Crossrail workers who are in the process of building a new ticket hall above the burial ground, is thought to contain the remains of a former lord mayor of London, a notorious criminal and political activists.

The skeletons will be excavated over the next four weeks by a team of 60 archaeologists who will work in shifts, six days a week.

Bones and skeletal remains could be seen at the Bedlam burial site today as workers began excavating them. Credit: Reuters

Bones and skeletal remains could be seen at the Bedlam burial site today as workers began excavating them.
Credit: Reuters

Archaeologists at the new Livepool Street station (pictured) are expected to finish on site in September. Credit: PA

Archaeologists at the new Livepool Street station (pictured) are expected to finish on site in September.
Credit: PA

The remains were uncovered during Crossrail construction work, which is set to be completed by 2019. Credit: Reuters

The remains were uncovered during Crossrail construction work, which is set to be completed by 2019.
Credit: Reuters

They will carefully remove the remains and record evidence for what may prove to be, in archaeological terms, London’s most valuable 16th and 17th Century cemetery site.

After the excavation, the workers will then dig through medieval marsh deposits and Roman remains including a road that runs under the site, which has already yielded several interesting Roman artifacts such as horseshoes and cremation urns. The skeletons will then be reburied on consecrated ground.

Archaeologists are expected to finish on site in September, after which construction will proceed on a new eastern ticket hall by contractor Laing O’Rourke.

“This excavation presents a unique opportunity to understand the lives and deaths of 16th and 17th century Londoners. The Bedlam burial ground spans a fascinating phase of London’s history, including the transition from the Tudor-period city into cosmopolitan early-modern London. This is probably the first time a sample of this size from this time period has been available for archaeologists to study in London. Bedlam was used by a hugely diverse population from right across the social spectrum and from different areas of the city.

– Jay Carver, Crossrail lead archaeologist

The archaeological excavations at Liverpool Street are being undertaken by Museum of London Archaeology on behalf of Crossrail. Scientific analysis of the remains will help provide new insights into the lives and deaths of early modern Londoners.

Bedlam burial ground was established in 1569 to help parishes cope with overcrowding during outbreaks of the plague and other epidemics.  As well as being used to bury those who were struck down with disease, it also became the site for those who passed away at the nearby Bethlem Royal Hospital – which is thought to have been the world’s first mental asylum.

Preliminary excavations at the Liverpool Street station site have already uncovered more than 400 skeletons. Credit: PA

Preliminary excavations at the Liverpool Street station site have already uncovered more than 400 skeletons.
Credit: PA

However, with mental patients showing no physical symptoms of illness, determining which of the remains belonged to those treated at the hospital will be near impossible for experts.

Earlier this year, Crossrail-led research identified the names and backgrounds of more than 5,000 people buried at the site. Names include Sir Ambrose Nicholas, who was lord mayor of London in 1575, and Dr John Lamb (also known as Lam or Lambe), an astrologer and adviser to the First Duke of Buckingham.

Lamb was said to have been stoned to death by an angry mob outside a theatre in 1628 following allegations of rape and black magic. Others identified in the research, carried out by 16 invited volunteers, include victims of riots by ‘Fanatiques’, noted in the diaries of Samuel Pepys in January 1661.

To date, Crossrail has found more than 10,000 artefacts spanning many years of London’s past across more than 40 construction sites. It is the UK’s largest archaeology project. Preliminary excavations at the Liverpool Street site in 2013 and 2014 have already uncovered more than 400 skeletons and numerous artifacts.

Bedlam – Synonym for Chaos

Bethlem Royal Hospital was founded in 1247 and was the first dedicated psychiatric institution in Europe.

Bethlem Royal Hospital was founded in 1247 and was the first dedicated psychiatric institution in Europe.

The Bedlam burial ground, also known as the New Churchyard, was situated near the notorious Bethlem Royal Hospital which opened during London’s response to the plague crisis in the 16th Century.

The burial site was the first in London which was not associated with a parish church and it did not keep its own burial records. Instead, the City’s parish churches recorded which of their parishioners were buried at Bedlam in their own records.

The graveyard, built on Bethlem Hospital’s vegetable patch in the 1560s after churchyards around the city started to overflow, was used to bury London’s poor and religious non-conformists as well as inmates from the asylum.

Bethlem Royal Hospital, which quickly became pronounced ‘Bedlam’ by Londoners, was founded in 1247 and was the first dedicated psychiatric institution in Europe. It was founded by Goffredo de Prefetti, who had been elected Bishop of Bethlehem, and was originally located just outside the London city wall, on the site of what is now Liverpool Street station.

By 1403, the majority of its patients suffered mental health issues. Others suffered from epilepsy, learning disabilities and dementia. Due to the hospital’s reputation as the principle treatment center for the insane, a bastardized version of its name – ‘Bedlam’ – came to signify madness and chaos more generally.

Although it is sometimes thought to have treated its patients cruelly, most were free to walk around the grounds. Inside the single-storey building that housed 12 cells, a kitchen, staff accommodation and an exercise yard, inmates were manacled and chained – and treated as a tourist attraction by Londoners who paid a penny to stare at them.

Patients, usually poor, were given treatments including restraint, dousing with water, beatings and isolation. Conditions inside Bedlam were depicted by William Hogarth in his 18th century drawings A Rake’s Progress, charting the decline of a merchant’s son from wealthy heir to asylum inmate, via debtor’s jail.

In 1674, the hospital’s governors decided that the institution should move a few hundred metres to the west to Moorfields, with the area’s open space thought to be healthier than its original premises.

Bethlem moved again in 1815, to St George’s Fields in Southwark, which is now the site of the Imperial War Museum. A final move came in 1930 when the hospital relocated to the suburb of Bromley. It is now run by the NHS and is considered to be a leading psychiatric hospital.

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Treasures From the Era of Alexander the Great

Included in the 2,300-year-old cache were two coins of Alexander of Macedon, three rings, four bracelets, two decorated earrings, three other earrings and a small stone weight. Credit: CLARA AMIT/ THE ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY

Included in the 2,300-year-old cache were two coins of Alexander of Macedon, three rings, four bracelets, two decorated earrings, three other earrings and a small stone weight.
Credit: CLARA AMIT/ THE ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY

A rare cache of jewelry and silver coins, minted during the reign of Alexander the Great, has been discovered in a stalactite filled cave in northern Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on Monday.

The 2,300-year-old treasure was found by three members of the Israeli Caving Club who wriggled through a narrow passage at the entrance of the stalactite cave and wandered inside for several hours.

The 2,300-year-old treasure was found by three members of the Israeli Caving Club who wriggled through a narrow passage at the entrance of the stalactite cave and wandered inside for several hours. Skeletons Shed Light on Ancient Earthquake in Israel. Credit: SHMUEL MAGAL/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY

The 2,300-year-old treasure was found by three members of the Israeli Caving Club who wriggled through a narrow passage at the entrance of the stalactite cave and wandered inside for several hours. Credit: SHMUEL MAGAL/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY

Stashed inside a niche, one of the spelunkers, Hen Zakai, spotted two ancient silver coins. On one side of the coins was an image of Alexander the Great, while the other side portrayed an arm raised Zeus sitting on his throne.

The archaeologsts believe the coins had been minted in the late fourth century B.C. at beginning of the Hellenistic Period during the reign of Alexander the Great.

Alongside the coins, the spelunkers found the remains of a cloth pouch with three rings, four bracelets, two decorated earrings, three other earrings, probably made of silver, a small stone weight, and a clay oil lamp. Dating from the Hellenistic period, the lamp contained some agate stones that were part of a string of beads.

“The valuables might have been hidden in the cave by local residents who fled there during the period of governmental unrest stemming from the death of Alexander,” the IAA said in a statement.

Stashed inside a niche, one of the spelunkers first spotted two ancient silver coins. On one side of the coins was an image of Alexander the Great, while the other side portrayed Zeus sitting on his throne. The archaeologists believe the coins had been minted in the late fourth century BC at beginning of the Hellenistic Period during the reign of Alexander the Great. Credit: SHMUEL MAGAL/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY

Stashed inside a niche, one of the spelunkers first spotted two ancient silver coins.
On one side of the coins was an image of Alexander the Great, while the other side portrayed Zeus sitting on his throne.
The archaeologists believe the coins had been minted in the late fourth century BC at beginning of the Hellenistic Period during the reign of Alexander the Great.
Credit: SHMUEL MAGAL/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY

At that time, the Wars of the Diadochi broke out in Israel between Alexander the Great’s successors who fought for the control of the king’s empire after his death in 323 B.C.

“Presumably the cache was hidden in the hope of better days, but today we know that whoever buried the treasure never returned to collect it,” the IAA said.

As archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority this week-end entered the cave, they discovered evidence of human habitation that occurred there over extended periods, from the Chalcolithic period 6,000 years ago to the Hellenistic period approximately 2,300 years ago.

Numerous pottery vessels were discovered in the cave and some even merged with the limestone sediments.

“The finds in the cave will allow the researchers –- archaeologists and geologists alike –- to accurately date both the archaeological finds and the process of stalactite development,” the IAA said.

The treasure trove, which promises to shed light on the lives of ordinary people in Israel during the late 4th century BC, follows another significant finding. Last month amateur scuba divers stumbled across a trove of nearly 2,000 gold coins that sat on the bottom of the Roman-era port of Caesareafor about 1,000 years.

“After the gold treasure from Caesarea, this is the second time in the past month that citizens have reported significant archeological finds and we welcome this important trend,” Amir Ganor, director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery in the Israel Antiquities Authority, said.

“Thanks to these citizens’ awareness, researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority will be able to expand the existing archaeological knowledge about the development of society and culture in the Land of Israel in antiquity,” he added.

On the Web:

Sunday Reader: Tomb of Celtic Prince Uncovered in France

Saturday Reader: The Oldest Known Human Fossil Discovered

Friday Reader: Richard III and the Mystery Woman

Thursday Reader: Ancient Skeletons in Paris and a Rare Roman Tombstone in England

#RedFriday: WWII Veterans Receive French Legion of Honor Medals

French Legion of Honor medals. The medal is the highest French distinction.

French Legion of Honor medals. The medal is the highest French distinction.

Six World War II veterans were honored with French Legion of Honor medals. The medal is the highest French distinction.

The medals were bestowed upon the veterans by French Consul General Gregor Trumel. A ceremony was held on Thursday at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

The Legion of Honor Medal was created by Napoleon in 1802 to acknowledge services rendered to France by persons of exceptional merit and accomplishments. French representatives expressed their gratitude and appreciation for their contribution to the liberation of France during World War II.

Medals were bestowed upon:

  • Mr. Ralph J. Bertheaud (Posthumous),
  • Mr. Louis Bradley(Plaquemines Parish, LA),
  • Mr. Aubrey H. Covington (Metairie, LA),
  • Mr. Leonard J. Kuckelman (Atchison County, KS),
  • Mr. Ubert J. Labat Jr (Slidell, LA),
  • and Mr. Lampton C. Terrel (Bush, LA),

The six were named Chevaliers de la Légion d’honneur, Knights in the order of the Legion of Honor.

Last month: Charles Bruns recipient of French Legion of Honor

Charles ‘Chick’ Bruns

Charles ‘Chick’ Bruns

WWII Veteran Charles ‘Chick’ Bruns of Champaign IL was selected and appointed to the rank of Knight of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest distinction. Through this award, the French government pays tribute to the soldiers who did so much for France 70 years ago.

Charles Bruns served with the 3rd Division, 10th Engineer Battalion throughout WWII and was active during the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Southern France. He ended military service in August, 1945 at the rank of Technical Sargent. During his service, Chick kept a diary, took photographs and collected postcards. This along with the letters he wrote home to his parents is being shared in the most complete daily account of a solider during WWII on the Website: 70yearsago.com

Presented by Vincent Floreani, Consul General de France a Chicago, “you gave your youth to France and the French people. Many of your fellow soldiers did not return but they remain in our hearts”. The French National Order of the Legion of Honor is an order of distinction first established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. American recipients include Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Michael Mullen. Today there are approximately 93,000 Legion of Honor recipients.

American veterans like Chick who risked their lives during World War II and who fought on French territory qualify to be decorated as Knights of the Legion of Honor. Veterans must have fought in one of the four main campaigns of the Liberation of France: Normandy, Provence, Ardennes, or Northern France.

Veteran Charles F. wrote a diary during the second world war which is now being published by his son. He served in North Africa and Europe until the war ended.  John Bruns, his son, has re-purposed the diary into a website called http://www.70yearsago.com . The website is updated daily.

He argues that it is his father who is blogging from the past.

Chick Bruns, 94 used to sell clothes at Joseph Kuhn & Co in downtown Champaign before he volunteered to join U.S. Army.

Crash