Saturday Reader: Warsaw Uprising at 71

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Today marks the 71st Anniversary of the World War II Resistance to Nazi Occupation in Poland.

Led by the Polish Home Army, the rebellion was the largest military effort by any European resistance group in World War II. The Nazis ended the uprising after 63 days, killing over 200,000 civilians..

Prompted by the Soviet‬ advance on the Eastern Front, the Home Army ‬Command gave the order to liberate the Polish‬ capital on 1 August 1944 at 5pm. In four days, the insurgents managed to capture most of west-bank Warsaw‬, including a number of key buildings, failing however to capture the bridges over the Vistula‬ river. The arrival of German reinforcements on 5 August, brought a massacre of 50,000 civilians in the western quarters of the city: ‪‎Wola‬ and Ochota‬. Despite ‪‎German‬ advantage in military‬ aircraft and armoured divisions, the Home Army resisted the enemy in the rest of the city, undertaking offensive strikes.

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Despite desperate efforts of the Polish Government-in-Exile, the Uprising received little outside help, limited to ammunition airdrops by the Royal Air Force as well as Polish, South African, and US aircraft. The Allied command refused, however, the deployment of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade which was operationalised in Holland instead. The ‪‎Red Army‬ stalled its advance on the right bank of the Vistula, allowing few volunteers from the Polish First Army to cross the river at their own risk.

The Uprising ended after 63 days. Crushing it, Nazi‬ Germans and their allies destroyed 85% of the city, killed 200,000 civilians, expelled further 700,000, of whom 150,000 were sent to labour camps.

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Little Known History: The Boy Who Didn’t Want To Be Photographed With Hitler

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1936: Gerhard Bartels, age 4, with Hitler.

Gerhard Bartels speaks about being photographed with Hitler, and being used for Nazi propaganda.

With his blue eyes, fair hair and Aryan features Gerhard Bartels was the perfect Nazi poster child. And, because his uncle was a friend of Adolf Hitler, being pictured with the dictator became an annual event for the youngster.

In the years before the outbreak of the Second World War his face appeared on postcards, books and campaigns for the regime.

Eight decades later, Mr Bartels, 83, has spoken for the first time about being used by the Nazi propaganda machine.

He said that in 1936, aged four, his parents told him to put on his best clothes because he was ‘going to meet the Fuhrer’.

‘I was not allowed to play with the other children that day in case I might get my clothes dirty,’ Mr Bartels recalled.

Gerhard Bartels, now 80, with the first of several photos with the German dictator.

Gerhard Bartels, now 80, with the first of several photos with the German dictator.

‘I didn’t like that, I just wanted to be out with the other children.’ Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal photographer, captured the images that were used to promote Nazi campaigns for the adoption of Aryan children.

Hitler was a regular visitor to Weiss’s Bavarian hotel, which was next to the Alpenhof guesthouse owned by Mr Bartels’ parents.

Mr Bartels, who still works in the Alpine hotel, said: ‘Hitler was just a gangster. The Nazis used me for propaganda purposes. I was used to show Hitler loved children.

‘But every dictator did the same, from Mussolini to Stalin. I was also chosen because I obviously fitted what Hitler thought a good Aryan child should look like.’

Mr Bartels said that he defied instructions to greet Hitler with the customary words ‘Heil Mein Fuhrer’. He added: ‘Even at such a young age, deep down I knew I was being manipulated.’

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When Evil Lost: V-E Day at 70 – A Look Back in Photos

Soldiers from the British Women's Royal Army Corps celebrate the end of the war in Europe on May 8, 1945, at Trafalgar Square in London. It is the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, when allied forces defeated Nazi Germany in World War II.  R. J. Salmon, Getty Images

Soldiers from the British Women’s Royal Army Corps celebrate the end of the war in Europe on May 8, 1945, at Trafalgar Square in London. It is the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, when allied forces defeated Nazi Germany in World War II. R. J. Salmon, Getty Images

Parisians march through the Arc de Triomphe jubilantly waving flags of the Allied Nations as they celebrate the end of World War II on May 8, 1945. German military leaders signed an unconditional surrender in Reims, France, on May 7.  Associated Press

Parisians march through the Arc de Triomphe jubilantly waving flags of the Allied Nations as they celebrate the end of World War II on May 8, 1945. German military leaders signed an unconditional surrender in Reims, France, on May 7. Associated Press

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, center, waves to crowds gathered in front of Whitehall in London.  Keystone

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, center, waves to crowds gathered in front of Whitehall in London. Keystone

People ride on a van loaded with beer at Piccadilly Circus in London.  Keystone

People ride on a van loaded with beer at Piccadilly Circus in London. Keystone

People gather around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on VE Day.  AP

People gather around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on VE Day. AP

People celebrate at Times Square and 42nd Street in New York City.  Matty Zimmerman, AP

People celebrate at Times Square and 42nd Street in New York City. Matty Zimmerman, AP

A British sergeant is carried by the crowd as they celebrate the end of World War II in Europe in Moscow.  Keystone

A British sergeant is carried by the crowd as they celebrate the end of World War II in Europe in Moscow. Keystone

People celebrate outside the U.S. and British embassies in Lisbon, Portugal. The jubilant crowds celebrated for two days.  AP

People celebrate outside the U.S. and British embassies in Lisbon, Portugal. The jubilant crowds celebrated for two days. AP

Crowds of civilians, British and Allied troops wave and cheer as Prime Minister Winston Churchill, second balcony from left, and members of the Cabinet appear at Whitehall in London.  AP

Crowds of civilians, British and Allied troops wave and cheer as Prime Minister Winston Churchill, second balcony from left, and members of the Cabinet appear at Whitehall in London. AP

A damaged bust of German dictator Adolf Hitler lies in the ruins of the Chancellery in Berlin.  Reg Speller, Fox Photos, via Getty Images

A damaged bust of German dictator Adolf Hitler lies in the ruins of the Chancellery in Berlin. Reg Speller, Fox Photos, via Getty Images

When the second British Army took the Prison camp at Westertinke near Bremen, which had been the only naval prison camp on May 8, 1945 in Germany, they found that many American and Allied prisoners had been moved in by the retreating Germans form camps farther to the west.   AP

When the second British Army took the Prison camp at Westertinke near Bremen, which had been the only naval prison camp on May 8, 1945 in Germany, they found that many American and Allied prisoners had been moved in by the retreating Germans form camps farther to the west. AP

Happy crowds gather round the Rond-Point on the Champs-Elysees, Paris, on VE Day, May 8, 1945, to celebrate the announcement of Germany's unconditional surrender.  Henry L. Griffin, AP

Happy crowds gather round the Rond-Point on the Champs-Elysees, Paris, on VE Day, May 8, 1945, to celebrate the announcement of Germany’s unconditional surrender. Henry L. Griffin, AP

Enthusiastic Danish crowds greeted the British column on its arrival in Copenhagen, May 8, 1945.  AP

Enthusiastic Danish crowds greeted the British column on its arrival in Copenhagen, May 8, 1945. AP

With the final capitulation of the German armed forces Denmark once again celebrates her freedom. Riding in horse-drawn vehicles, on bicycles and on foot, Nazis filed out of Copenhagen to surrender to the nearest British forces. Here Germans crowd onto a miniature tank carrying a trailer on their way to surrender to British troops, May 8, 1945.   AP

With the final capitulation of the German armed forces Denmark once again celebrates her freedom. Riding in horse-drawn vehicles, on bicycles and on foot, Nazis filed out of Copenhagen to surrender to the nearest British forces. Here Germans crowd onto a miniature tank carrying a trailer on their way to surrender to British troops, May 8, 1945. AP

Video: VE at 70: Picking Up the Pieces –

Even with the defeat of Nazi Germany, there were daunting concerns still facing the world.

Europe was in shambles, it needed to be rebuilt – it needed money, resources, clean water, food, supplies, there were countless German POWs to process before allowing them to return home while also weeding out war criminals (the SS were of major concern), and millions of Nazi camp survivors needed a new start.

Plus there were also the tasks of implementing de-nazification and dividing Germany between America, Britain, France and Russia as agreed on by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at the Yalta conference (sometimes called the Crimea Conference and code-named the Argonaut Conference) held February 4–11, 1945.

There was also Japan.  The war with Imperial Japan still raged on in the Pacific and would continue for another three months.

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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

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Crash Course: Little Known History – Operation Unthinkable

Winston Churchill. Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference in 1945.

Winston Churchill. Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference in 1945.

The big secret behind World War II.

In the closing days of WWII, Winston Churchill came up with an ambitious plan for a joint French-British-American attack on the USSR. When he told the French, they reminded him about the fate of Napoleon’s Grande Armee and the Wehrmacht, the British PM quietly backed off.

March 1945 : When Winston Churchill learned in the spring of 1945 that the Americans were going to halt their advance on Berlin from the west and leave Hitler’s capital to the mercies of the Red Army of the Soviet Union, he was furious. Russian behavior was worsening by the day as Stalin’s all-conquering men rolled up the countries in the east and made them satellites of Moscow, in defiance of agreements made by the heads of state at the Yalta conference only weeks earlier. Many in the Allied ranks even knew that the D-Day was invasion to stop the Soviet influence in continental Europe rather than to defeat Nazi Germany who were at the point on the brink of defeat.

Churchill’s top secret plan to attack the Soviet Union was scheduled for 1 July 1945. British, US, French, Polish and German (Former Wehrmacht) forces were to attempt to liberate East Germany, East Prussia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. After liberating those forces the new allied forces would drive towards Moscow. The War Cabinet listed out the total allied strength in Europe on June 1st, 1945 : 64 American divisions, 35 British and Dominion divisions, 4 Polish divisions, and 10 German divisions.

The German divisions were purely imaginary because after the mauling they received, the surviving soldiers were in no hurry to fight. At most, the allies would have mustered 103 divisions, including 23 armored ones. Against this force were arrayed 264 Soviet divisions, including 36 armored. Moscow commanded 6.5 million troops – a 2:1 advantage – on the German border alone. Overall, it had 11 million men and women in uniform. Captured General Halder warned the Americans that war against Russia was certainly not a walk in the park just like he warned Hitler in 1941.

The Allied War Cabinet said it was beyond the capabilities of the 103 divisions of Allied troops in Europe to do what Napoleon and Hitler had failed to do. As Alan Brooke noted in his diary, “The idea is of course fantastic and the chances of success quite impossible. There is no doubt from now onwards Russia is all-powerful force in the world.”

The British generals were furious when a cable arrived from US President Harry Truman, saying there was no chance the Americans would offer help – let alone lead an attempt – to drive the Russians from Eastern Europe.

The Unthinkable file was closed.

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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

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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’

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Saturday Reader: Black Author Discovers Grandfather Was Nazi Villain of Schindler’s List

Jennifer Teege and Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth in Schindler's List. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Teege and Universal Pictures

Jennifer Teege and Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Teege and Universal Pictures

In 2008, Jennifer Teege was strolling around a library in her native Germany for books on the depression she’d been struggling with when she spotted a cover photograph that looked strangely familiar: her biological mother.

So began a shocking odyssey in which Teege would learn the painful truth: Her maternal grandfather was Amon Goeth, the infamous Nazi war criminal portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film Schindler’s List.

Now Teege, a German-born black woman who was given up for adoption as a child, has chronicled her journey in a memoir due out in the United States in April titled My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past.

“The first shock was the sheer discovery of a book about my mother and my family, which had information about me and my identity that had been kept hidden from me,” Teege, 44, told Israeli newspaper Haaretz in a story featured on NPR.

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#MilitaryMonday: Battle of the Bulge at 70 – Newly Digitized Color Photos

MilitaryMondayHeader

St. Vith, Belgium was the scene of bitter fighting during the opening days of the Battle of the Bulge.  

Although the German assault was delayed by fierce resistance, American defenders were eventually forced to withdraw from the town on December 21, 1944.  A month later, as the Allied counter-attack rolled back German gains, St. Vith was re-liberated on January 23, 1945.

Recently digitized by the National Archives Still Pictures Branch, these color photographs from the U.S. Army Signal Corps show St. Vith and its surroundings in the days following its liberation.

This dug-in mortar emplacement near St. Vith, Belgium is manned by, left to right, Pvt. R.W. Fierde, Wyahoga Falls, Ohio; S/Sgt. Adam J. Celinca, Windsor, Conn., and T/Sgt. W.O. Thomas, Chicago.  24 Jan. 1945.  NARA ID 16730734

This dug-in mortar emplacement near St. Vith, Belgium is manned by, left to right, Pvt. R.W. Fierde, Wyahoga Falls, Ohio; S/Sgt. Adam J. Celinca, Windsor, Conn., and T/Sgt. W.O. Thomas, Chicago. 24 Jan. 1945.
NARA ID 16730734

American soldiers trudge through snow from Hunnange, Belgium to St. Vith. Soldiers are with Co. C., 23rd Armored Bn., of the 7th Armored Division. NARA ID 16730736

American soldiers trudge through snow from Hunnange, Belgium to St. Vith. Soldiers are with Co. C., 23rd Armored Bn., of the 7th Armored Division.
NARA ID 16730736

Snowsuited soldiers walk through the snow-covered streets of St. Vith, Belgium. These men are with Co. C, 48th Bn., 7th Armored Div. 24 Jan. 1945 NARA ID 16730733

Snowsuited soldiers walk through the snow-covered streets of St. Vith, Belgium. These men are with Co. C, 48th Bn., 7th Armored Div. 24 Jan. 1945
NARA ID 16730733

Lined up in a snow-covered field, near St. Vith, Belgium are these M-4 Sherman tanks of the 40th Tank Bn. NARA ID 16730735

Lined up in a snow-covered field, near St. Vith, Belgium are these M-4 Sherman tanks of the 40th Tank Bn.
NARA ID 16730735

A portion of the wreckage in St. Vith, Belgium, after units of the 7th Armored Division, took the town. NARA ID 16730732

A portion of the wreckage in St. Vith, Belgium, after units of the 7th Armored Division, took the town.
NARA ID 16730732

On the Web: The Bloodiest Battle: The Battle of the Bulge Loomed Large 70 Winters Ago (PDF)

Next: for Warrior Wednesday, more photos (black and white) of the Battle of the Bulge at 70

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Suppressed by Nazi’s, Hindenburg’s Will Disavowed Hitler

HandH1

Paul von Hindenburg, left, and Adolf Hitler ride in an open car during a parade in Berlin, Germany, May 1933 (photo credit: unknown/German Federal Archive)

In his will, suppressed by the Nazis, Weimar-era president Hindenburg disavowed the leader he’d appointed, according to a defector’s testimony in newly opened British papers

Declassified British intelligence papers have shed new light on the testimony of a pre-WWII German diplomat who claimed that a single document, that was once in his possession, could have changed the course of history by preventing Adolf Hitler’s consolidation of power.

A London Times report on Friday described the claims of Baron Fritz Günther von Tschirschky und Bögendorff, a confidant of Weimar-era president Paul von Hindenburg. He defected from Nazi Germany to the UK in 1935, and a file of British MI5 papers on him was declassified earlier this month.

Tschirschky claimed he helped to draft Hindenburg’s last will and testament, a document which he said blasted Hitler and called on the German people to embrace democracy.

But Hitler, whom the 84-year-old Hindenburg had begrudgingly appointed chancellor in 1933, got wind of the document upon the president’s death and gave orders to “ensure that this document comes into my possession as soon as possible,” according to the London Times account of Tschirschky’s testimony.

Hindenburg’s son, a loyal Nazi, passed the will to Hitler, who presumably destroyed it.

According to Tschirschky, the will was a powerful attack on Hitler’s ambition.

Adolf Hitler bows and shakes the hand of Paul von Hindenburg, March 21, 1933 (photo credit: Theo Eisenhart/Federal German Archive)

Adolf Hitler bows and shakes the hand of Paul von Hindenburg, March 21, 1933 (photo credit: Theo Eisenhart/Federal German Archive)

In it, Hindenburg wrote that the army should be independent of politics, and he called for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy with clear separation of powers, according to Friday’s report.

In a 1947 interview, defector Tschirschky had reportedly told The Times that the will called for abolishing all racial and religious discrimination.

He insisted that “Hitler would never have come into power, and there would have been no war, if the wishes of Hindenburg had been known to the German people.”

Two drafts of the will survived after Hindenburg’s death, according to the report. One was tracked down by the Nazis in Switzerland and destroyed, and the other was kept by Tschirschky, until he destroyed it — he claimed out of fear — before fleeing Germany.

British authorities never entirely trusted Tschirschky and he reportedly spent most of the war in an internment camp. Questions remain as to why Hindenburg would have waited until his death to launch his most bitter critique of the Nazi leader.

Within hours of Hindenburg’s death, Hitler consolidated the offices of president and chancellor, and thus tightened his grip on power. Several days later, the Nazis announced the discovery of the deceased president’s “political testament,” a possible forgery, which made complimentary references to Hitler.

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