Tiergartenstraße 4

T4

Tiergartenstraße 4, may look like an ordinary German address. But is an address which is synonymous to unspeakable evil.

It was the address of a villa in  the Tiergarten or Zoo district in central Berlin.

T4 Villa

But more then that it was the headquarters of the Nazi “euthanasia” program ,the mass murder of disabled people and others, code named Aktion T4.

An estimated 300,000 people with disabilities were killed as a result of the T4 Aktion program. The definition of disability was very loosely used by the Nazis. Even a political dissident could be marked as disabled.

What often is overlooked is that the authorizing of  the euthanasia program was signed by Adolf Hitler and dated Sept. 1, 1939. The very same day as the Nazi regime invaded Poland.

Officially the program  ended in  August 1941 amid a welter of protests from many quarters of German society. But in reality the killing continued to the end of the war.

 

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Sources

Britannica

gedenkort-t4.eu

All that is interesting.

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Otto and Elise Hampel-Ordinary citizens.

Otto and Elise

Some people think that all Germans subscribed to the Nazi regime’s policies and that there was no resistance. But that is not the case, there were many who did resist the Nazi’s warped ideology. And they often paid dearly for it.

Otto and Elise Hampel were 2 ordinary people.

Otto Hampel  was born 21 June 1897  in Mühlbock, a suburb of Wehrau, now in Poland, but then part of Germany. He served in World War I and was later a factory worker.

Elise Hampel (nee Lemme)  was born 27 October 1903 in the Bismark area of Stendal.  She worked as a domestic worker and was a member of the National Socialist Women’s League.

They married in 1935, and were an ordinary working class couple going about their daily lives until November 1940 when Elise got the news  that her brother had been killed in the invasion of France.This changed , their attitude towards the Nazis in general, and Hitler in particular.

They would leave anonymous hand written postcards in Berlin  with messages encouraging people not to co-operate with the government, to refuse to serve in the German army, and not to donate to Nazi organisations like Winter Relief ,and attacking Hitler.Many of the postcards would have the heading “Free Press”.

free press 2

free press

Over a time span of more then 2 years the couple left more then 200 of these cards all across Berlin.

Although nearly all the postcards were immediately brought to the Gestapo, it took two years for the Gestapo to find the couple.

Eventually, by chance, the couple were caught and arrested in October 1942. Otto Hampel declared to the police police that he was “happy with the idea” of protesting against Hitler and his regime. The Hampels were sentenced to death on January 22, 1943 by the People’s Court for “Wehrkraftzersetzung-undermining military force ” and “preparation for high treason,” and executed on April 8, 1943.

Two ordinary people who displayed extraordinary bravery, because they knew that they could be caught every time they planted a card, and every card carried the death sentence.

memorialTheir Gestapo file was given to German novelist Hans Fallada, and the story of Otto and Elise Hampel  inspired his 1947 novel, translated into English and published in 2009 as Every Man Dies Alone (Alone in Berlin in the UK). The story was filmed in 2016 as Alone in Berlin.

 

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Sources

History.org.uk

The Guardian

World of Wonder

Wikipedia

 

 

Helene Mayer-Caught between a Rock and a hard place.

Helen Mayer

The Olympic Games are the biggest sporting events in the world. But more then a sporting event is is also a political event filled with propaganda. This was never more clear then in 1936 during the Berlin Olympic Games.

1936

On July 26,1935,German sports commissioner Hans von Tschammer und Osten advised that no Jews would represent Germany at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He claimed that Jews had competed in the qualifying events but none made the grade. In November 1935 Germany would make a bit of a u-turn after  mounting international pressure and allow the half-Jewish fencer Helene Mayer onto the team.

In 1936 the Nazi politics which enabled the Holocaust were already in full swing, three years prior the first concentration camp, Dachau, had already gone in operation.

The first Jewish person to die in Dachau was Arthur Kahn, a 21-year-old Jewish German medical student had enrolled in Edinburgh University in Scotland, he had returned to , Germany to pick up his student records at the University of Wurzburg.He was killed on April 12 1933.

In the U.S, there were those who believed that the country should boycott the 1936 Olympics due to Hitler’s stand towards Jewish athletes and his obvious discrimination towards athletes of African-American descent.

Helen Mayer had already  won a gold medal in fencing at the age of 17 at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, representing Germany, winning 18 bouts and losing only 2. She became a national hero in Germany and was celebrated, with her photo plastered everyone. According to a profile in The Guardian, “She was tall, blonde, elegant and vivacious. The fact that she was tall,blonde and blue eyed were taken in consideration to include her in the Olympic squad.

In 1931, her father died of a heart attack. She finished fifth at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, having learned, two hours prior to the match, that her boyfriend had died in a military training exercise in Germany.Two years later Helene Mayer lost her German citizenship. Luckily for her, she managed to enroll into Berkley and to compete for the USC Fencing Club.

In 1936, however, it appeared that the same people who stripped her of citizenship and humiliated her to the point of complete ostracization, wanted her to perform once again for Germany.

Reluctantly she decided to accept the invitation although she was caught between a rock and a hard place between her professional career and her dignity and pride.

Goebbels requested of the press that no comments were to  be made regarding Helene Mayer’s non-Aryan ancestry She won a silver medal in individual women’s foil. She gave a Nazi salute on the podium, and later said it might have protected her family that was still in Germany, in labor camps.

Helen

There are some who have called her a traitor. I don’t describe to that point of view, in fact I think what she did was heroic. She was safe in the USA but yet she decided to represent her country at the major sporting tournament, risking being imprisoned after the tournament and especially if she hadn’t won a medal. Although the politics of her country failed her she still felt German, she had no political agenda. And I believe she competed for Germany in the hope of securing better treatment for her family, who were still living in Germany. It is easy to judge when you are not put in that position.

At the end of the day she was used as a pawn of the Nazi regime and the International Olympic Committee.

After the Olympics, she returned to the United States and became a nine-time U.S. champion. She received citizenship in 1941 but returned to Germany in 1952.Where she married an old friend, Erwin Falkner von Sonnenburg, in a quiet May ceremony in Munich. The couple moved to the hills above Stuttgart before setting in Heidelberg where she died of breast cancer in October 1953, two months before her 43rd birthday.

fENCING

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Sources

The Guardian

Irish Times

Vintage News

Mashable

 

 

Heinz Sommerfeld-Transport Ek no. 1458 (28. 09. 1944, Terezín -> Auschwitz)

Heinz

Around this time of year many 17 year old kids are getting ready for school exams. And although they may think it is unfair that they have to sit for hours and hours, to do their exams(I know I thought it was unfair). They don’t actually realize how lucky they are.

Education, even though it is a basic human right.it is not a certainty and it should be seen as a privilege when it is given to you.

I am sure Heinz Sommerfeld would have loved to have done his exams when he was 17, but he never got the chance. His biggest worry was staying alive, and because of an evil regime he did not succeed in that either.

He was born in Berlin on March 26th, 1927. On January 5th, 1939, aged 11, he  came to the Netherlands as a refugee without his parents on a  Kindertransport. (children’s transport)

Kinder

When he arrived in the Netherlands he was first in an orphanage in Amsterdam, but in November 1939 he was put in foster care with the Lipschits family in Maastricht . However a few months after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands he was moved again to an orphanage, this time in Utrecht.

In February 1942 he was deported to Westerbork. On January 20th, 1944 he was put on the train to Theresienstadt, from where he was deported to Auschwitz on September 28th, 1944 on transport 1458. A total of 2499 persons were registered on that transport. Heinz was one of them.

The train arrived in Auschwitz on September 29th,1944. What happened to the other 2498 I don’t know, but Heinz was murdered in the gas chambers upon arrival.

He was murdered not because he was bad but because he was perceived to be different, He was Jewish that was enough for the Nazis to kill him.

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Alfred-Ingemar Berndt-Writer,Journalist and cold blooded killer.

Alfred 2

If someone told you that you could kill an innocent man and there would be no repercussions or any form of punishment, would you do it?

Any normal person would answer “no” of course.But not Alfred-Ingemar Berndt, he decided to kill a man simply for the reason that he could.

Berndt was a German journalist, writer and was very close to  Joseph Goebbels. Alfred Berndt  wrote an eyewitness account of the 1940 German invasion of the Low Countries and France,  the book he wrote was titled “Tanks Break Through!”

In 1935 Goebbels recruited Berndt as official head of the Reich Press Office in the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. In April 1936, Berndt was appointed head of the press department of the Propaganda Ministry (Division IV).

alfred

Berndt is also believed to have been the creator of the “Desert Fox” myth attached to the German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, when he was working with Rommel.

Berndt wrote about 10 books, all propaganda material for he Nazi regime. He also published several other articles. But I don’t want to go too much into his ‘artistic and journalistic’ career.

Late in the spring of 1944, the Nazi leadership came up with  a plan to lynch captured Allied airmen. Goebbels discussed the matter with Hitler.

In May 1944 , the propaganda minister published an article ,in the Völkischer Beobachter  stating that the government would not act against anyone lynching Allied airmen who had fired on civilians, what he really was saying that lynching any captured airmen was okay.

Goebbels hoped that this article would sparkle  a massive hunt for Allied pilots and deter airmen from flying missions against Germany. It resulted in 350 lynchings of Allied pilots.

Berndt also took part in these murders. On May 24,1944, Berndt stopped his car where a captured US Flight Lieutenant James G. Dennis was being held, and shot him dead.

Below part of the text of the allied report of the murder of Lt Jame G. Dennis.

To
Head of Sipo and SD
B e r l I n

Reference: IV B 1 b – 2731/44 of 2/3/1945
Subject: Shooting of US airman Dennis

1) On 17/6/44 the following letter was addressed to you:
“We received the following report:
On Hamburger Chaussee at place Segeletzt.
On 24/5/44 at 12.30 the US-American 2nd lieutenant James G. Dennis, dog tag number O-816707, parachuted from a shot down aircraft. D. was taken prisoner by forest supervisor Meier from Nachel and handed over to Home Guard men Buenger and Schoenbeck, from Segeletzt, to be delivered to the village mayor.
When being led away, prisoner was overtaken by Brigadeführer Berndt of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, driving in automobile IA 990. B. stopped, alighted from the car and was informed about the nature of the transport. He said: “He’ll be bumped off.” The Home Guard men refused to tolerate that. Bernd went to the car in which a female was sitting, took out his pistol and said: “I am the Brigadeführer of the Security Head Office Berlin and I’m taking responsibility. He called on the Home Guard men to make room, since otherwise they’d be in danger to be shot themselves. The prisoner had both his hands raised.
Berndt brought down the prisoner with three shots, and drove away. The occurrence was observed by civilians and several prisoners of war (Frenchmen, Poles). After a considerable time Sturmbannführer Kunze, Reichssicherheitshauptamt Berlin, arrived and ordered the body to be transported to Segeletzt. At 22 hours, Kunze fetched clothes and private property from village mayor Segeletzt. After establishing the facts of the occurrence Dennis was buried at the Segeletzt cemetery on 26/5/44 by (a) Receiving Detail (from) Fl.H.Kdtr. Neuruppin.”
Since the Protective Power is likely to take measures, this office is in need of an explanation which is hereby requested ahead of time.”
2) 1st reminder sent 21/7/1944
3) 2nd reminder sent 2/9/1944
4) On 3/10/1944:
“There was no reply to the above mentioned letter(s). Early settlement is requested.
Document mentioned above is translated here by Traugott Vitz:

Dennis

Ironically Berndt was killed in air attack by Soviet dive bombers on March 28,1945. I suppose you could call that karma.

 

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Sources

Find a grave

100thbg.com

 

Max Schmeling-defying an evil regime

mAX

Often the psyche of people is that they see what they want  to see. They see a headline or a picture and they will have made up their minds. There is no further need for more details on the background story, they have enough to work with and make up their own story.

For example people will see the picture of Max Schmeling above giving the Nazi salute and they will just assume that Max clearly was a Nazi sympathizer.

Or they see the picture below of Max Shchmeling being warmly received by   Adolf Hitler and immediately they will think that Max was one of Hitler’s best buddies and favourite sports man. But on both occasions they could not be much further from the truth.

Max and AH

Truth is that Max Schmeling also saw things but he did not like what he saw and refused to join the Nazi party, which would have consequences for him. Not only did he not join the Nazi party he also saved a few Jewish boys and refused to fire his Jewish boxing promoter Joe Jacobs.

Max was a world champion heavyweight fighter from Germany whose two fights with Joe Louis transcended boxing and became worldwide political events because of their racial and international significance.

I will not go into Max’s boxing career. I will only focus on 2 matches ,both against the boxing legend Joe Louis.

On Friday 19, June 1936 Max Schmeling beat Joe Louis in the Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York, USA

KO

Less then 2 years later in the same venue on Wednesday 22, June 1938, Joe Louis got his revenge and beat Max Schmeling and took back the World Heavyweight Title. The fight had been  portrayed as the battle of the Aryan versus the Black, a struggle of evil against good .When Louis regained his title, Hitler took Schmeling’s defeat as an embarrassment to the nation.

In an interview in 1975 ,Schmeling remembered the defeat: “Looking back, I’m almost happy I lost that fight. Just imagine if I would have come back to Germany with a victory. I had nothing to do with the Nazis, but they would have given me a medal. After the war I might have been considered a war criminal.”

KO2

During the 1938 November Pogrom-Kristallnacht- Max hid the 2 sons of his Jewish friend David Lewin. He hid the 2 boys ,Henry and Werner, in his apartment at the Excelsior Hotel in Berlin. Schmeling had told the front desk of the Hotel that he was ill and was not to be disturbed.

After things had calmed down Schmeling helped the 2 boys flee the country. The boys escaped to the United States, where Henri got a great career in managing Hotels, including the Hilton in Las Vegas.Henri Lewin was convinced  that he and his brother owe their lives to Schmeling and he sincerely believed that Schmeling himself could have died for saving them.

In 1923 Schmeing had hired Jewish New York born boxing promoter Joe Jacobs. Hitler had demanded that Schmeling would fire Jacobs, Schmeling refused to do so.

Because his refusal of joining the Nazi party ,he was him drafted into the Paratroopers and was sent him on very dangerous missions.He did partake in the Battle of Crete in May 1941, where he was wounded in his right knee by mortar fire shrapnel during the first day of the battle. After recovering, he was dismissed from active service after being deemed medically unfit for duty because of his injury.

Max remained a close friend of Joe Louis and even paid for Joe’s funeral in 1981. and became a successful business man in Germany after the war. He had been hired by Coca Cola to run the company  in Germany, .

He only once gave the Nazi salute and regretted it for the remainder of his life. He died on February 2, 2005.

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The day Roland Freisler received justice.

Freisler

One of the most despicable henchmen of he Nazi regime was Roland Freisler.Te only redeeming factor he had that he also tried high-ranking Nazis . You could be for 90% certain that if you would appear before his court you would be sentenced to death or to life imprisonment.

On 20 August 1942, Hitler appionted  Freisler as president of the People’s Court.This court was instrumental in securing the Nazi stranglehold over Germany

Not only would Freisler sentence defendants.often for no real reason or without any evidence, he would also humiliate them.

One time he yelled at one defendant“You are crying!”  who started to cry in court, “What do you want to tell us with the tears in your eyes?” Freisler  sentenced that man to be hung with a thin rope so that he would, as per Hitler’s orders, suffer a slow death.

However on February 3rd, 1945 Judge Freisler got his comeuppance.USAAF Lt. Colonel Robert Rosenthal led a bombing raid with his B-17 over Berlin.

b 17

Freisler was conducting a Saturday session of the People’s Court at the time and although the air sirens were sounding,Freisler refused to evacuate the building.

He stayed behind to get  files for  the trial of Fabian von Schlabrendorff, one id the  July 20 plot conspirators. Freisler planned to sentence von Schlabrendorff to death that day.

Fabian

However things didn’t turn out the way he planned.A sudden direct hit on the court-building shortly after 11 am caused a partial internal collapse, with Freisler being crushed by a masonry column and killed while still in the courtroom.

Schlabrendorff’s life was spared but ironically Freisler received the swift justice he had been  such a fan of.

court

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Sources

USHMM

Allthatisinteresting.com

Bundes archiv

 

 

Consulting the stars in the Third Reich.

astrology

Cherry-picking is defined in the Cambridge dictionary as- to choose only the best or most suitable from a group of people or things. For example: Policymakers will cherry-pick ideas from the study, and commit to implementing only the easiest and cheapest ones. In other words they pick what suits them best.

The Nazis were very good at this. In 1934 The Nazis officially banned fortune telling. Which made the publication of any almanacs and astrological journals illegal.

But yet along comes Karl Ernst Krafft ,a Swiss astrologer, and he is welcomed with open arms.

karl

On November 2,1939,Krafft wrote a letter to his friend ,Dr Heinrich Fesel, who was an associate of Heinrich Himmler, in the letter Krafft claimed that the Führer’s life would be in danger between 7 and 10 November 1939.Fesel ignored the letter, however  on November 8th, a bomb exploded in a Munich beer hall. Hitler was unharmed, but Fesel contacted Rudolf Hess, who had Krafft arrested.

beer hall

After investigation Krafft was found to be innocent and was released. After his release Joseph Goebbels summoned Krafft to the Reich Propaganda ministry. Goebbels had been intrigued by Nostradamus and brought Krafft into the ministy to decipher Nostradamus’ prophecies.

Krafft strongly believed  that Nostradamus’ prophecies boded well for the Third Reich.  Thousands of pamphlets based upon his interpretations of the quatrains were translated and distributed in six languages,Krafft himself had done the French translation.

It is believed that in spring 1940,Krafft gave a private horoscope reading to Hitler via one Hitler’s aides

Although any form of astrology or fortune telling was banned since 1934 there were many highly places Nazis who believed in the  occult. Rudolf Hess had been a member of the Thule society,an organization dedicated to the occult.

When Rudolf Hess made his astonishing flight to Scotland in 1941. Hitler was furious. Since Hess was the biggest occult supporter of them all. Hitler ordered a purge of astrologers and occultists,including Krafft. This time he spent a year in prison.

Krafft did predict a few more events fairly accurately. One of his predictions after having  seen the charts of both Rommel and Bernard Montgomery, adversaries in the desert war, was: “this man Montgomery’s chart is certainly stronger than Rommel’s”

monty

As the end of the war was drawing nearer he wrote that British bombs would very soon destroy the Propaganda ministry in Berlin. The Gestapo arrested him.

He was incarcerated in foul conditions and eventually contracted typhus.Karl Ernst Krafft died 8 January 1945, en route to Buchenwald concentration camp.

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Execution was not enough

Plotzensee

Many opponents of the Nazi regime found their untimely death in Plotzensee prison. Those executed were German resistance fighter, but also Polish and French forced laborers, and many others.

A great number were executed by guillotine but on September 3 the guillotine was damaged beyond repair after an RAF raid. From then one the methods of executions were hanging or firing squad.

After execution, the bodies were released to Hermann Stieve, an anatomist at the medical college of what is now Humboldt University of Berlin. He and his  assistants dissected the bodies  for research purposes.

Herrman

Stieve had a particular  interest in the effects of stress on the menstrual cycle, and produced  230 papers based on this research, among them one that demonstrated that the rhythm method was not an effective method of preventing conception.

He received prison records which contained  information on how the women had reacted to their death sentences, and also how well they had adjusted to prison life, and the timing of their menstrual cycles.

One of his research subjects was Liane Berkowitz,a German resistance fighter of the Red Orchestra organisation.

Liane

Liane was arrested and sent to  the women’s prison on Barnimstraße, while she was pregnant.Her  daughter Irina was born on 12 April 1943 in prison. The grandmother took care of the child from July 1943.

Liane was executed on 5 August 1943,only 2 days away from her 19th birthday. Her remains were sent to Hermann Stieve.

Liane’s  daughter Irina died on 16 October 1943 in hospital in Eberswalde under suspicious circumstances.

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Captain Macheath- The story behind Mack the Knife.

knife

Mack the Knife is one of my favourite Jazz songs,  I love the Bobby Darin and Louis Armstrong versions equally. It just doesn’t get cooler then that song, sung by those 2 performers, although Sammy Davis Jr, does a pretty cool rendition also.

Even though  I have admired this song for decades. it is only recently I discovered the actual history of the song. I always thought it was written in the 50s.

The song was composed in 1928 in Berlin by Kurt Weil amd Berolt Brecht provided the lyrics.

 

 

Both Weil and Brecht were Jewish and fled Germany in the early 30s for fear of persecution. They both ended up in the US, although Brecht eventually returned to East Berlin after the war.

They had written the music drama called “The Three penny Opera” which premiered in Berlin in 1928. The song Mack the Knife, or “Die Moritat von Mackie Messe” was part if that opera.

The character Mack the Knife is based on , the dashing highwayman Macheath, from John Gay’s   “The Beggar’s Opera ”

beggar

Although Macheath is a fictional character he is believed to be based on, or at least partially based on Jack Sheppard, an English thief and jail breaker, and also enjoyed the affections of a prostitute, but unlike the character in the song he despised violence.

The Macheath in Mack the Knife is compared with a shark, and it  tells tales of his  numerous  crimes like robberies, murders, rapes, and arson.

And the shark, it has teeth,
And it wears them in the face.
And Macheath, he has a knife,
But the knife can’t be seen.

The song was was translated in 1954 by Marc Blizstein. The nuances of Blitzstein’s  translations are different compared to the original.

Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear,
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jack-knife has Macheath, dear
And he keeps it out of sight.

jack knife

Leaving you with Bobby Darin’s version of the song.

 

 

 

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