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.

Crash

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

Thursday Reader: 94-year-old Former Nazi SS Officer Charged with Over 3,681 Murders at Auschwitz

A man identified as Hubert Z has been charged over thousands of murders at Auschwitz. Combined images courtesy of German Nazi Hunters and the Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum.

A man identified as Hubert Z has been charged over thousands of murders at Auschwitz.
Combined images courtesy of German Nazi Hunters and the Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum.

A 94-YEAR-OLD man has been charged over the murders of 3,681 people at the Auschwitz extermination camp during the Second World War.

Identified only as Hubert Z., a photo of him in his Nazi S.S. uniform – emblazoned with the death’s head skull and double-lightning insignia of the feared military group – emerged today.

According to prosecutors in the city of Schwerin, north Germany, the now elderly man was a medical officer at Auschwitz. He has been charged with complicity in the murders of 3,681 people with officials confident of a successful prosecution.

He is believed to have been an S.S. Unterscharfuehrer (junior squad leader) at the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland where at least 1.1 million people, most of them Jewish, were systematically murdered during the Second World War.

The indictment against Hubert Z., who lives in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – the home state of Chancellor Angela Merkel – runs to 83 pages.

It is understood he was tracked down with the aid of the Simon Wiesenthal Nazi hunting agency in Israel and the Central Authority for the Prosecution of Nazi War Crimes in Germany.

“It is our contention that he underwrote the mass murder program while in Auschwitz,” said a prosecutor.

It is known that the accused was born in the state where he lives and learned agriculture at college before he joined the S.S. in 1940.

He served as a medical orderly in the concentration camps of Sachsenhausen and Neuengamme in Germany before being sent to Auschwitz where his service records show that he commanded the S.S. medical service between 15 August and 14 September 1944. After that he worked in a sub-camp of the vast complex.

The man is believed to have been an S.S. Unterscharfuehrer (junior squad leader) Photo credit: German Nazi Hunters

The man is believed to have been an S.S. Unterscharfuehrer (junior squad leader)
Photo credit: German Nazi Hunters

He was sentenced by a Polish court in 1948 to four years imprisonment for his activities in the neighboring camp.

His lawyer, once the interior minister for former East Germany, Peter-Michael Diestel, said: “We have seen the files and can see no concrete evidence of criminal wrongdoing by our client.”

It is not clear whether he is thought to have been involved in the ghastly medical experiments that were conducted on defenseless and conscious people in Auschwitz led by Nazi ‘Angel of Death’, the camp doctor Josef Mengele.

Christoph Heubner, executive vice president of the International Auschwitz Committee, said: “For the survivors of Auschwitz this is all about justice, not revenge.  Justice has had to wait decades.”

He added: “Those perpetrators who ensured, as members of the S.S., that the Auschwitz-Birkenau death factory worked smoothly, and that the Jewish families of Europe disappeared into the gas chambers, have developed no sense of awareness of wrongdoing over the years.

“Therefore these legal processes are first and foremost an inquiry to the Germans: who actually owns your compassion?”

Last week, a 93-year-old former Auschwitz guard was charged with 170,000 murders. German officials initially turned up some 30 former Auschwitz guards, three of them women, and intended to prosecute them all. However, most have been told they can die in their beds because of their illnesses.

One who will stand trial is Oskar Groening, known as The Bookkeeper, who is now 93 and who worked at Auschwitz sorting the possessions of the doomed to send back to his S.S. masters in Germany.

He is charged with complicity in the murders of 300,000 people.

On the Web: Auschwitz suspect: 94-year-old man charged with 3,681 counts of accessory to murder over allegations he served as death camp medic

Related on the Web: A Mini Auschwitz Display at a U.K. Kids’ Attraction Has Been Slammed as ‘Bizarre’

Crash

Germany: Auschwitz SS Guard Charged with Accessory to 300,000 Murders

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Oskar Groening, who was a guard at Auschwitz, has been charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. Photo: Crash MacDuff

Prosecutors say Oskar Groening, now 93, dealt with belongings and counted money of Hungarian Jews sent to their deaths.

Prosecutors in Germany have charged a 93-year-old man with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for serving as an SS guard at the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp.

Groening is accused of helping operate the death camp in occupied Poland between May and June 1944, when 425,000 Jews from Hungary were brought there and at least 300,000 almost immediately gassed to death.

In his job dealing with the belongings stolen from camp victims, prosecutors said among other things he was charged with helping collect and tally money that was found.

“He helped the Nazi regime benefit economically, and supported the systematic killings,” state prosecutors in the city of Hannover said in a statement.

Groening’s attorney, Hans Holtermann, declined to comment on the charges.

Groening has openly talked about his time as a guard and said while he witnessed horrific atrocities, he didn’t commit any crimes himself.

In 2005 he told Der Spiegel magazine he recalled one incident on “ramp duty” when he heard a baby crying. “I saw another SS soldier grab the baby by the legs,” he said. “He smashed the baby’s head against the iron side of a truck until it was silent.”

Groening, who lives in the Hannover area, is one of about 30 former Auschwitz guards who federal investigators last year said state prosecutors should pursue under a new precedent in German law.

Groening is the fourth case investigated by Hannover: two have been shelved because the suspects have been deemed unfit for trial and one was closed when the suspect died.

Thomas Walther, who represents 20 Auschwitz victims and their families as co-plaintiffs in the case against Groening as allowed under German law, said it was their last chance “to participate in bringing justice to one of the SS men who had a part in the murder of their closest relatives”.

“Many of the co-plaintiffs are among the last survivors of Auschwitz,” he told the Associated Press.

Photo: Crash MacDuff

Photo: Crash MacDuff

The case against Oskar Gröning highlights Germany judiciary’s Holocaust problem. With only 50 out of 6,500 SS guards at Auschwitz convicted, critics say German law has been too slow to seek justice.

He was once called “the accountant of Auschwitz,” but he is also one of the few former Nazi death camp guards to speak out against Holocaust deniers. Now, at the age of 93, he is to face trial in Germany, and his case has highlighted what some historians see as the failure of the German judiciary to bring Holocaust perpetrators to justice.

From 1942 to 1944, Oskar Gröning counted money taken from the luggage of murdered Jews and sent it back to SS headquarters in Berlin. He also stood guard as the transports of human beings entered the camp.

That much has long been known, not least because he himself described his experiences to the media, but it has taken a new investigation, carried out by Germany’s central office for the investigation of Nazi crimes in Ludwigsburg, for charges to be brought against him. In February this year, the office searched the homes of several former members of the SS across Germany. Of these, Gröning is the only one to have been pronounced fit enough to stand trial.

For what state prosecutors called “legal and evidence reasons”, Gröning’s formal charges relate only to two months of his time at the camp – 16 May to 11 July 1944, the time of the so-called Hungary Operation, when “around 425,000 people from Hungary arrived at the camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau”, of whom “at least 300,000 found their deaths in the gas chambers”. Gröning has therefore been charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder.

Gröning caught public attention in 2005 when he appeared in the BBC documentary Auschwitz: The Nazis and the ‘Final Solution’, in which he described how being confronted by Holocaust deniers had led to him to speak out. “I see it as my task now, at my age, to face up to these things that I experienced, and to oppose the Holocaust deniers who claim that Auschwitz never happened,” he said. “I saw the crematoria, I saw the burning pits.”

But Gröning also denied his culpability, telling Der Spiegel magazine in the same year: “Accomplice would almost be too much for me. I would describe my role as a small cog in the gears. If you can describe that as guilt, then I am guilty, but not voluntarily. Legally speaking, I am innocent.”

Auschwitz-Birkenau survivors when the camp was liberated by Russian troops in 1945. Photo courtesy of Simon Wiesenthal Center. Used by permission.

Auschwitz-Birkenau survivors when the camp was liberated by Russian troops in 1945. Photo courtesy of Simon Wiesenthal Center. Used by permission.

State prosecutors disagree – but only now. Despite high-profile trials in Nuremberg just after the war, and Frankfurt in 1964, the German judiciary has been notoriously sluggish about punishing those directly involved in the Holocaust. A previous case against Gröning himself was dropped for lack of evidence by Frankfurt prosecutors in 1985. The historian Andreas Eichmüller once calculated that of the 6,500 SS members who worked at Auschwitz and survived the war, only 49 had ever been convicted.

Jörg Friedrich, a historian and author of Acquittal for Nazi Justice: The Sentencing of National Socialist Judges since 1948, challenges the view that the German judiciary dragged its heels. “There were hundreds of thousands of investigations, kilometres of investigation documents,” he told the Guardian. “I don’t know of any state that did the same … A compromise had to be drawn between assimilation and prosecution, and I think Germany was a success in both cases.” The legal difficulty is in defining individual guilt; attempts to convict other SS members have failed in the past because they could not be linked to specific murders. Ingo Müller, law professor and author of Terrible Lawyers: the Past Our Judiciary Has Not Overcome, thinks this is a historical failure. “Just participating in the Holocaust doesn’t count.”

On the Web: Official site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau (German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp) Memorial and State Museum.

Crash

#WarriorWednesday: The Story of Bf 109 pilot Franz Stigler and B-17 pilot Charlie Brown

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1943. A badly damaged B-17 was spared by German Luftwaffe pilot Franz Stigler.

The forgotten story of the German pilot who saved the Allied B-17 crew: The amazing story of enemies who became brothers 47 years later. Charlie Brown & Franz Stigler.

Christmas 1943 : Allied bombing campaign in Germany was going at full tilt. Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown was a freshly minted bomber pilot, and he and his crew were about to embark upon their first mission — to hit an aircraft factory in northern Germany. Brown’s B-17F Flying Fortress, dubbed Ye Olde Pub, was typical of American heavy bombers of the time. Along with an 8,000-pound bomb capacity, the four-engine plane was armed with 11 machine guns and strategically placed armor plating. B-17s cruised at about 27,000 feet, but weren’t pressurized. At that altitude, the air is thin and cold — 60 degrees below zero. Pilots and crew relied upon an onboard oxygen system and really warm flight suits with heated shoes.

Stigler kept his distance, careful to keep flying out of the line of fire of the two remaining machine guns still in service, but managed to side-slip to within 20 feet of the bullet riddled B-17, where he tried to contact pilot Brown with hand signals. His message was simple..land your plane in Germany and surrender or fly to Sweden..!

Stigler kept his distance, careful to keep flying out of the line of fire of the two remaining machine guns still in service, but managed to side-slip to within 20 feet of the bullet riddled B-17, where he tried to contact pilot Brown with hand signals. His message was simple..land your plane in Germany and surrender or fly to Sweden..!

As Ye Olde Pub approached Bremen, Germany, German anti-aircraft batteries opened up on the formation. Unfortunately for the pilots and crew of Ye Olde Pub, one of the anti-aircraft rounds exploded right in front of their plane, destroying the number two engine and damaging number four. Missing one engine and with another throttled back due to damage, Ye Olde Pub could no longer keep up with the formation. B-17s were known for being able to soak up a lot of bullets and anti-aircraft flak and still make it home, but that came at a cost. The armor plating protecting crew and vital areas of the plane was heavy and affected cruise speed.

Things went from bad to worse for Brown and his crew. Falling behind the formation, Ye Olde Pub weathered merciless attacks from 13 German fighters. The damage they sustained was immense. The tail gunner was killed and four were injured, including Brown, who caught a bullet fragment in his right shoulder. The only defensive guns left in service were the top turret and the nose gun, and the bomber’s hydraulics and oxygen systems had also been knocked out. The plane went into a spiral, plummeting earthward. On the way out to the sea, Ye Olde Pub passed a German airfield. Lt. Franz Stigler, a Luftwaffe fighter pilot just in from shooting down three B-17s, saw Ye Olde Pub limp by. Naturally, he scrambled to give chase. With 14 German fighter planes behind them Brown knew that the end was near…

Back in Germany Lt Franz Stigler never spoke of his part in that aerial encounter with ‘Ye Olde Pub’ for fear of a Luftwaffe Court Martial and continued flying in combat until the end of the war in May 1945, becoming one of the world’s first fighter jet pilots flying the Luftwaffe’s incredible ME 262 in combat.

Back in Germany Lt Franz Stigler never spoke of his part in that aerial encounter with ‘Ye Olde Pub’ for fear of a Luftwaffe Court Martial and continued flying in combat until the end of the war in May 1945, becoming one of the world’s first fighter jet pilots flying the Luftwaffe’s incredible ME 262 in combat.

What happened next is according to the memory of Brown, who told interviewers years later that his mind was a bit hazy at the time; his shoulder was bleeding and he needed oxygen. He was surprised when Ye Olde Pub was spared further harassment by enemy fighters except one (Stigler). Somehow, he and the co-pilot managed to get the plane flying level again at about 1,000 feet of elevation. As Stigler told interviewers in 1991, he was aghast at the amount of damage the bomber had sustained. Its nose cone was missing, it had several gaping holes in the fuselage. He could see crew members giving first aid to the wounded, and most of the plane’s guns hung limp, unmanned as they were…

Stigler kept his distance, always staying out of the line of fire of the two guns still in service, but managed to fly within 20 feet of the bullet riddled B-17. He tried to contact Brown with hand signals. His message was simple: Land your plane in Germany and surrender or fly to Sweden. That heap will never make it back to England. A bewildered Brown stared back through his side window, not believing what he was seeing. He had already counted himself as a casualty numerous times. But this strange German pilot kept gesturing at him. There was no way he was going to land the plane, but the Stigler stayed with him, keeping other German attackers off until they reached the North Sea. When it was clear that Brown wasn’t staying in Germany, Stigler saluted, peeled off, and flew out of Ye Olde Pub‘s nightmarish day…

Bf 109 pilot Franz Stigler and B-17 pilot Charlie Brown's first meeting.

Bf 109 pilot Franz Stigler and B-17 pilot Charlie Brown’s first meeting.


The bomber made it back to England, scarcely able to keep 220 feet between itself and the ground by the time it landed in a smoking pile of exhausted men and shredded aluminum. Years later, Brown would say that if Stigler had been able to talk to him, offering the land in Germany or fly to Sweden ultimatum, he probably would have gone to Sweden. But Ye Olde Pub did make it, and Brown got a much needed stiff drink handed to him when he got off the plane. The incredulous debriefing officer(Brass), wowed by Brown’s story, went off to tell the brass what had happened. He recommended Brown’s crew for citation, but the glory was short-lived.

Brass quickly decided that word getting out about a chivalrous German fighter pilot could endanger the lives of other crews if it caused them to let their guard down. All details of Ye Olde Pub‘s first mission were classified Secret. Stigler was never able to speak of his actions that day, as it would have meant certain court martial. He flew many more missions, though, becoming one of the world’s first fighter jet pilots. By the war’s end, he was one of the 1,300 surviving Luftwaffe pilots from some 28,000 that had served…

The crew of ‘Ye Olde Pub’

The crew of ‘Ye Olde Pub’


After the war, Charlie Brown returned home to West Virginia and went to college, returning to the Air Force in 1949 and serving until 1965. Later, as a State Department Foreign Service Officer, he made numerous trips to Laos and Vietnam. But in 1972, he hung up his government service hat and moved to Miami to become an inventor. Stigler finished the war a midst ruin.

Anti-Third Reich post-war authorities in Germany were unimpressed with his exemplary service record, and the economy was wrecked. He subsisted on food stamps and work as a bricklayer’s helper for a while, but moved to Canada in 1953. There, he enjoyed success as a businessman. Many years went by without either man ever thinking much about what had happened on that day in 1943. But in 1986, then retired Colonel Charlie Brown was asked to speak at a big combat pilot reunion event called Gathering of the Eagles.

Someone asked him if he had any memorable missions during World War II. Brown thought a minute, then dredged up the story of Stigler’s salute which had been buried somewhere in the deep corners of his mind for decades. Jaws dropped and story spread like wildfire about an unknown Nazi pilot who saved the allied crew from other German pilots. Brown knew he would have to try to find the man who had spared his life…

Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler became like brothers

Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler became like brothers


After four years of searching vainly for U.S. and West German Air Force records that might shed some light on who the pilot was, Brown hadn’t come up with much. So he wrote a letter in a combat pilot association newsletter. A few months later, Brown received a letter from Canada. It was from Stigler. “I was the one,” it said. When they spoke on the phone, Stigler described his plane, the salute; everything Brown needed to hear to know it wasn’t a hoax.

From 1990 to 2008, Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler became like brothers. Introduced by the bond of that first powerful meeting, their friendship was cemented over the years. The two men remained close throughout the rest of their lives, dying within several months of each other in 2008.

On the Web: Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident on Wikipedia

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1951 : Two F-9F Panther's dump fuel alongside the USS Princeton CV-37 off the Korean coast It was safer and easier to land without the excess fuel - a criteria called "Maximum Landing Weight"

1951 : Two F-9F Panther’s dump fuel alongside the USS Princeton CV-37 off the Korean coast
It was safer and easier to land without the excess fuel – a criteria called “Maximum Landing Weight”

An Irish Guards machine-gun team in 1914 during the beginning of World War 1. Not a single one of these men pictured here survived the war.

An Irish Guards machine-gun team in 1914 during the beginning of World War 1.
Not a single one of these men pictured here survived the war.

Jan 1944 : Portrait of 28 year old Soviet Army tank commander Captain M. S. Smirnov during the Battle of the Korsun After suffering a direct hit by an enemy shell, killing several crewmates, Smirnov was still able to crush three enemy anti-tank guns and kill over 20 German combatants. Cpt. Smirnov would be killed six months later in Latvia during the Battle of Daugavpils on 29 July 1944.

Jan 1944 : Portrait of 28 year old Soviet Army tank commander Captain M. S. Smirnov during the Battle of the Korsun
After suffering a direct hit by an enemy shell, killing several crewmates, Smirnov was still able to crush three enemy anti-tank guns and kill over 20 German combatants.
Cpt. Smirnov would be killed six months later in Latvia during the Battle of Daugavpils on 29 July 1944.

1918 : A wounded AIF soldier receives an affectionate welcome home kiss after WWI, Sydney, Australia

1918 : A wounded AIF soldier receives an affectionate welcome home kiss after WWI, Sydney, Australia

Juana Galán was known for beating Napoleon’s troops out of her village during the Battle of Valdepeñas in June, 1808. There weren’t enough men to defend the village from invading French.  Juana, 21, immediately rallied all of the women in the village. When the French troops marched in, the women dumped boiling oil on top of them. One version has it that she smashed in the heads of the soldiers with her cast-iron stew-pan. The French never returned.

Juana Galán was known for beating Napoleon’s troops out of her village during the Battle of Valdepeñas in June, 1808. There weren’t enough men to defend the village from invading French.
Juana, 21, immediately rallied all of the women in the village. When the French troops marched in, the women dumped boiling oil on top of them. One version has it that she smashed in the heads of the soldiers with her cast-iron stew-pan. The French never returned.

Boston Corbett, the mad hatter.. Thomas P. "Boston" Corbett (1832 – presumed dead 1894) was an American Union Army soldier who shot and killed Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Corbett was born in London, England. His family emigrated to New York City in 1840. He became a hatter in Troy, New York. It has been suggested that the fumes of mercury used in the hatter's trade caused Corbett's later mental problems. Corbett married, but his wife died in childbirth. Following her death, he moved to Boston, and continued working as a hatter. He was confronted by a street preacher one night and his message persuaded him to join the Methodist Episcopal Church, which he did, subsequently changing his name to Boston, the name of the city where he was converted. In an attempt to imitate Jesus, he began to wear his hair very long. On July 16, 1858, in order to avoid the temptation of prostitutes, Corbett castrated himself with a pair of scissors. He then ate a meal and went to a prayer meeting before he sought medical treatment. In April 1861, early in the American Civil War, Corbett enlisted as a private in Company I of the New York Militia.Then on April 24, 1865, he was sent to apprehend John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, who was still at large.  Two days later the regiment surrounded Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, in a tobacco barn on the Virginia farm of Richard Garrett. Herold surrendered, but Booth refused to give himself up. The barn was set on fire in an attempt to force him out into the open, but Booth remained inside. Corbett was positioned near a large crack in the barn wall. Corbett claimed in an 1878 interview that he saw Booth aim his carbine. At that point, Corbett shot Booth with his Colt revolver despite Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton's orders that Booth should be taken alive. Eyewitness Lieutenant Edward Doherty, the officer in charge of the soldiers who captured Booth and Herold, stated that "the bullet struck Booth in the back of the head, about an inch below the spot where his shot had entered the head of Mr. Lincoln." Booth's spinal cord was severed, and he died two hours later. Corbett was immediately arrested for violation of his orders, but Stanton later had the charges dropped. Stanton remarked, "The rebel is dead. The patriot lives." Corbett received his share of the reward money, amounting to $1,653.84 (equivalent to $25,000 in 2014). In his official statement, Corbett claimed he shot Booth because he thought Lincoln's assassin was preparing to use his weapons. This was contradicted by the other witnesses. When asked later why he did it, Corbett answered that "Providence directed me". After his discharge from the army in August 1865, Corbett went back to work as a hatter, first in Boston, later in Connecticut, and by 1870 in New Jersey. His life was marked by increasingly erratic behavior. In 1875, he threatened several men with a pistol at a soldiers' reunion in Caldwell, Ohio. In 1878, he moved to Concordia, Kansas. In 1887, because of his fame as Booth's killer, Corbett was appointed assistant doorkeeper of the Kansas House of Representatives in Topeka. One day he overheard a conversation in which the legislature's opening prayer was mocked. He jumped to his feet and brandished a revolver. No one was hurt, but Corbett was arrested and sent to the Topeka Asylum for the Insane. On May 26, 1888, he escaped from the asylum. He went to Neodesha, Kansas, and stayed briefly with Richard Thatcher, whom he had met when they were both prisoners of war. When he left, he told Thatcher he was going to Mexico. His "madness" may have been the result of exposure to mercury. Rather than going to Mexico, Corbett is believed to have settled in a cabin he built in the forests near Hinckley, in Pine County in eastern Minnesota. He is believed to have died in the Great Hinckley Fire of September 1, 1894. Although there is no proof, the name "Thomas Corbett" does appear on the list of dead and missing.

Boston Corbett, the mad hatter..
Thomas P. “Boston” Corbett (1832 – presumed dead 1894) was an American Union Army soldier who shot and killed Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.
Corbett was born in London, England. His family emigrated to New York City in 1840. He became a hatter in Troy, New York. It has been suggested that the fumes of mercury used in the hatter’s trade caused Corbett’s later mental problems.
Corbett married, but his wife died in childbirth. Following her death, he moved to Boston, and continued working as a hatter. He was confronted by a street preacher one night and his message persuaded him to join the Methodist Episcopal Church, which he did, subsequently changing his name to Boston, the name of the city where he was converted. In an attempt to imitate Jesus, he began to wear his hair very long. On July 16, 1858, in order to avoid the temptation of prostitutes, Corbett castrated himself with a pair of scissors. He then ate a meal and went to a prayer meeting before he sought medical treatment.
In April 1861, early in the American Civil War, Corbett enlisted as a private in Company I of the New York Militia.Then on April 24, 1865, he was sent to apprehend John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, who was still at large.
Two days later the regiment surrounded Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, in a tobacco barn on the Virginia farm of Richard Garrett. Herold surrendered, but Booth refused to give himself up. The barn was set on fire in an attempt to force him out into the open, but Booth remained inside. Corbett was positioned near a large crack in the barn wall. Corbett claimed in an 1878 interview that he saw Booth aim his carbine. At that point, Corbett shot Booth with his Colt revolver despite Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton’s orders that Booth should be taken alive. Eyewitness Lieutenant Edward Doherty, the officer in charge of the soldiers who captured Booth and Herold, stated that “the bullet struck Booth in the back of the head, about an inch below the spot where his shot had entered the head of Mr. Lincoln.” Booth’s spinal cord was severed, and he died two hours later.
Corbett was immediately arrested for violation of his orders, but Stanton later had the charges dropped. Stanton remarked, “The rebel is dead. The patriot lives.” Corbett received his share of the reward money, amounting to $1,653.84 (equivalent to $25,000 in 2014).
In his official statement, Corbett claimed he shot Booth because he thought Lincoln’s assassin was preparing to use his weapons. This was contradicted by the other witnesses. When asked later why he did it, Corbett answered that “Providence directed me”.
After his discharge from the army in August 1865, Corbett went back to work as a hatter, first in Boston, later in Connecticut, and by 1870 in New Jersey. His life was marked by increasingly erratic behavior. In 1875, he threatened several men with a pistol at a soldiers’ reunion in Caldwell, Ohio. In 1878, he moved to Concordia, Kansas.
In 1887, because of his fame as Booth’s killer, Corbett was appointed assistant doorkeeper of the Kansas House of Representatives in Topeka. One day he overheard a conversation in which the legislature’s opening prayer was mocked. He jumped to his feet and brandished a revolver. No one was hurt, but Corbett was arrested and sent to the Topeka Asylum for the Insane. On May 26, 1888, he escaped from the asylum. He went to Neodesha, Kansas, and stayed briefly with Richard Thatcher, whom he had met when they were both prisoners of war. When he left, he told Thatcher he was going to Mexico. His “madness” may have been the result of exposure to mercury.
Rather than going to Mexico, Corbett is believed to have settled in a cabin he built in the forests near Hinckley, in Pine County in eastern Minnesota. He is believed to have died in the Great Hinckley Fire of September 1, 1894. Although there is no proof, the name “Thomas Corbett” does appear on the list of dead and missing.

1940: A Canadian soldier searches for mines during an exercise in England.

1940: A Canadian soldier searches for mines during an exercise in England.

Oct 1944 : The commander of a Soviet infantry battalion, Major Romanenko (seated, center), tells Serbian civilians about the military affairs of a very young scout, 13 year old Corporal Vitya Zhavoronok (left), Vojvodina, Yugoslavia (Serbia) In 1941 Vitya joined a partisan unit. In 1943 he voluntarily entered one of the Red Army units. For participation in the battles with fascists he was awarded the Order of the Red Star.

Oct 1944 : The commander of a Soviet infantry battalion, Major Romanenko (seated, center), tells Serbian civilians about the military affairs of a very young scout, 13 year old Corporal Vitya Zhavoronok (left), Vojvodina, Yugoslavia (Serbia)
In 1941 Vitya joined a partisan unit. In 1943 he voluntarily entered one of the Red Army units. For participation in the battles with fascists he was awarded the Order of the Red Star.

1955 : West Berlin policemen and East German Volkspolizei face each other across the border after a young girl managed to cross the border into West Berlin

1955 : West Berlin policemen and East German Volkspolizei face each other across the border after a young girl managed to cross the border into West Berlin

The only known photograph of a black Union soldier with his family, c. 1863-65.

The only known photograph of a black Union soldier with his family, c. 1863-65.

June 1945 : Brazilian soldiers of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (Força Expedicionária Brasileira, or, FEB) return home aboard the Pedro II following the Allied victory of the Italian Campaign.  The FEB was an expeditionary force of about 25,700 men and women arranged by the Brazilian Army and Air Force to fight alongside the Allied forces in the Mediterranean Theater of the war. Brazil was the only Allied independent South American nation to send troops to fight in the war. The BEF fought in Italy from September 1944 to May 1945

June 1945 : Brazilian soldiers of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (Força Expedicionária Brasileira, or, FEB) return home aboard the Pedro II following the Allied victory of the Italian Campaign.
The FEB was an expeditionary force of about 25,700 men and women arranged by the Brazilian Army and Air Force to fight alongside the Allied forces in the Mediterranean Theater of the war.
Brazil was the only Allied independent South American nation to send troops to fight in the war. The BEF fought in Italy from September 1944 to May 1945

Walter Ernest O'Neil Yeo (20 October 1890 – 1960) was a sailor during World War I, and is thought to be the first person to benefit from advanced plastic surgery, namely a skin flap. Yeo was wounded on 31 May 1916, during the Battle of Jutland, while manning the guns aboard the battleship HMS Warspite. He sustained terrible facial injuries, including the loss of upper and lower eyelids. Walter went through several procedures, which were considered a great success in the pioneering field of what will come to be known as 'plastic surgery'.  Walter married Ada Edwards in 1914 in Plymouth, Devon. They had two daughters: Lilian Evelyn Yeo, born 21 October 1914 in Plymouth, and Doreen Y. Yeo, born in 1919. Walter Yeo died in his birth town, Plymouth, where he had spent the majority of his life, in 1960.

Walter Ernest O’Neil Yeo (20 October 1890 – 1960) was a sailor during World War I, and is thought to be the first person to benefit from advanced plastic surgery, namely a skin flap.
Yeo was wounded on 31 May 1916, during the Battle of Jutland, while manning the guns aboard the battleship HMS Warspite. He sustained terrible facial injuries, including the loss of upper and lower eyelids.
Walter went through several procedures, which were considered a great success in the pioneering field of what will come to be known as ‘plastic surgery’.
Walter married Ada Edwards in 1914 in Plymouth, Devon. They had two daughters: Lilian Evelyn Yeo, born 21 October 1914 in Plymouth, and Doreen Y. Yeo, born in 1919. Walter Yeo died in his birth town, Plymouth, where he had spent the majority of his life, in 1960.

June 1944 : Canadian soldiers storming Juno Beach, Courseulles-sur-Mer, France

June 1944 : Canadian soldiers storming Juno Beach, Courseulles-sur-Mer, France

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