The ‘Captain’-the evil of Willi Herold

Willi

Last week a lady  asked me how was it possible that people committed so may awful atrocities during WWII, did their conscience not bother them. She also thought it must have taken years for people to be indoctrinated in evil thinking.

I told her that it actually takes a very short time for the human psyche to be conditioned to commit evil acts, Experiments like the ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’ and the ‘Third Wave’ has shown it only takes a few days.

The case of Willi Herold shows that people believe authoritative leaders put those leaders in an uniform and the critical thinking gets abandoned, no questions are asked not even a quick check to see if this leader is really who he claims to be.

Willi Herold  was born on 11 September 1925 in Lunzenau, Saxony, the son of a roofer. There is not much more known about Willi as a child, but what he did as a teenager is what makes his story intriguing and disturbing.

Herold

He joined the Wehrmacht on September 30,1943, he had just turned 18.

At the final stages  of World War II, in April 1945,with Germany’s war efforts in chaos, Willi,separated from his comrades,hungry  and desperate  for warmth, comes across an abandoned car with a suitcase that contains an  uniform of a Luftwaffe Captain . He put on this uniform and pretended to be the officer, gathering around him a number of equally lost soldiers. Rather then trying to finish the war somewhere sound and safe Herold becomes a personification of the Nazi regime, upending the German army’s bureaucracy and establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with.

On 11 April 1945, Herold’s group arrived at the Aschendorfermoor prison camp, which housed German army deserters as inmates,

aschen

Herold told the German authorities at the camp that he was acting under the direct orders of Adolf Hitler and he was to take over  command of the camp. Herold and his men then began to murder inmates guilty of any transgression,like trying to escape. Within the followin eight days, Herold had more than 100 camp inmates murdered.

After the camp was hit by an air raid  most of the surviving inmates succeede to escape. Herold and his men left the camp and committed several further war crimes; they hanged a farmer in Leer, East Frisia, who had hoisted the white flag, and also murdered five Dutchmen for alleged espionage.

Retreating from approaching Allied troops, Herold’s group arrived in a town in Lower Saxony ,Aurich, where they were arrested by the local German commander, But Herold was soon released by mistake.

On May 23, 1945 He was arrested by the Royal Navy for stealing a loaf of bread. After an investigation and the questioning of witnesses, Herold was identified as a wanted war criminal. On 1 February 1946, Herold and his men were forced by the British occupying forces to dig up the remains of the inmates they had  murdered at Aschendorfermoor camp ,a total of 195 bodies were excavated. On 29 August 1946, Herold and six other co-defendants were sentenced to death, 5 others were acquitted. On 14 November 1946 Willi Herold was executed by guillotine.

trial

Willi Herold was only 19 when he ordered those men to be murdered.

In 2017 a movie was made about the events,directed by Robert Schwentke,  titled ‘The Captain’ or ‘Der Hauptmann’

captain

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Sources

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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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The empty “noble” gesture of Hugo Boss

Boss

There is a popular misconception that Hugo Boss designed the SS uniforms. This is not true, the uniforms were designed by the  artist and senior SS officer called Karl Diebitsch, in cooperation with a graphic designer called Walter Heck. The uniforms were based on older uniforms with a few alterations.

SS

However it was Hugo Boss who got the lucrative order to produce the uniforms. He had been a member of the Nazi party since 1931.

By 1933, he could  advertise the fact  that he made clothes not only for the SS, but also for the Hitler Youth and the SA.His relationship with the Nazis made him a very wealthy man.

During the war it was difficult to find employees so he decided to start using force labour, it is estimated that he used 140 Polish and 40 French forced laborers.

Even though Boss’s factory wasn’t part of a concentration camp,and his labourers were not considered  prisoners, the conditions were dreadful.

Poster

It would have been relatively easy and cheap for Hugo Boss to make life for his workers more bearable, but he chose not to.

The food was insufficient given the hours they had to work. And during air raids, the workforce was not allowed into shelters, but had to stay in the factory.There were no special treatments for children and pregnant women,

The most poignant story that indicates how desperate the workers felt is that of  Josefa Gisterek, a Polish woman.Sho was sent to work at Boss in October 1941. In December, she ran away . back home to give  her father a helping hand to raise her siblings, but she was captured by the Gestapo and transported to Auschwitz and then to  Buchenwald, where she was beaten.

Hugo Boss found out where she was, and  he used his contacts in the Nazi party to get her returned to Metzingen. Why did he did this is unclear, maybe he felt he had some responsibility for his workforce, but I doubt that.

When Josefa returned, the factory foreman worked her mercilessly, which resulted in her getting a breakdown.

After that Josefa was given three months’ leave, and was allowed to see a doctor, but on 5 July 1943, she committed suicide.Boss who probably felt some guilt : he paid for the funeral expenses, and the travel costs for her family to attend.

funreal

Although this may appear to be some sort of a ‘noble’gesture, if Hugo Boss would have treated his workforce more humanely, Josefa would not have fled in the first place.

Hugo Boss died in 1948 but his company became one of the biggest fashion houses in the world and to this day is still a multi billion dollar company.

This is something I just can’t understand, if you take for example Oskar Schindler, he died a poor man and all that remains of his company is a museum, whereas companies like Boss,VW,C&A and BMW who all had an active part in the atrocities during WWII have become mega companies, how is that even possible?

 

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Source

Zwangsarbeit in Metzingen

 

 

 

 

German and Austrian Suicides

++++++CONTAINS SOME GRAPHIC IMAGES+++++++

mass

 

April and May 1945 marked the final stages and the end of World War II in Europe. It also saw an increase of suicides by civilians in Germany and Austria.

Cyanide had been one of the most common ways how people killed themselves. Members of the Hitler Youth handed out cyanide pills to audience members during the last concert of the Berlin Philharmonic.

COrchestra

There were a variety of reasons why people guilt themselves.

Fear: They knew off the crimes committed by their leaders and were afraid a similar fate would await them, for the German propaganda machine had warned the population on what would happen to them saying they faced the threat of torture, rape, and death by the allies in defeat. Partially this was true because their had been atrocities committed against the Germans by the Red Army but also by other allied forces, but the reports had been exaggerated to increase the fear.

A warped sense of loyalty:Many had been indoctrinated in unquestioning loyalty to the party and with it its cultural ideology of preferring death over living in defeat.They also followed the example of some of their leaders,including the Führer.

And some just killed themselves out of guilt.

Suicide levels reached their peak in Berlin in April 1945 when 3,881 people killed themselves during the Battle of Berlin. In the small town of Demmin close to 1,000 people killed themselves.

The former Nazi mayor of Leipzig, Germany committed suicide with his wife in April 1945. Allied troops found their bodies in this office.

Leipzig

The picture at the start of the blog is a photograph of women in Vienna who committed suicide, there is also the body of what looks like a dead soldier on the ground. The picture below is from the same women but taken from a different angle, it appears the Red Army officers are looking at the dead soldier.Although there were suicides in Austria they were nothing compared to the rates in Germany.

Ref Army

A disillusioned  German soldier decided to take his own life rather than facing life in non-Nazi Germany. the face of the Hitler portrait has been gouged out.

soldie

A woman who killed herself for fear for what the future might bring.

Woman

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When should we stop pursuing justice? NEVER!

jUSTICE

The pursuit for truth and justice for the victims of the Holocaust should never ever stop.Even when perpetrators are brought to justice it is still just a hollow one, because what punishment can possibly cover the vile and sickening crimes committed.

However it is important that these people are pursuit regardless what age they are, or in what health condition they are.

Earlier this month US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents removed Jakiw Palij from his home in Queens, N.Y.  in order to send him back to Germany.

DEPORTATION

Jakiw Palij is a former Nazi guard, who had worked as a guard at the Trawniki Labor Camp.He immigrated to the United States in 1949, he had lied  on his immigration documentation that he claimed he  had been a simple farm-worker on his father’s land during the war. Palij entered the U.S. via Boston and became a US citizen in 1957. He bought a  home in Queens, New York in 1966.

He was Born in a part of Poland that is now modern-day Ukraine. He lived a quiet life as a draftsman in the US. In 2001 an investigator from the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations  showed up at his home  to question him about his wartime activities. Palij  admitted to federal officials  that he had been trained as a Nazi guard in spring 1943.

On November 3, 1943, more than 6,000 men, women and children imprisoned at Trawniki were shot to death in one of the largest single massacres of the Holocaust.

 

By ensuring that no one was able to escape, Jakiw Palij was instrumental in the massacre of the 6000 innocent men,women and children.

camp

Nearly three decades ago  investigators found his name on an old Nazi roster and a fellow former guard spilled the secret that he was “living somewhere in America.” It would take until 2001 before he was found. In 2003 he citizenship was revoked,based on his wartime activities, human rights abuses and immigration fraud. An immigration judge ordered him to be deported in 2004.

protest

But that turned out to be more complicated as was envisaged for neither the Ukraine nor Germany, nor any other country wanted him. he therefore remained in the US until August 21 when he was finally deported to Germany.

His  case will now be part of an investigation at a Nazi crimes investigation unit in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

Himmler

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Sources

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Not all Germans were bad-Defying the Nazi regime.

 

Schindler

There is nothing more despicable than an individual or group of individuals who deny the Holocaust. They have a misguided,evil and twisted mind.

On the other hand there is an increase of individuals who deny the fact that a great  number of Germans made sacrifices to resist the Nazi regime. These individuals say that all Germans were evil and responsible for the death of millions.

This does a great injustice to people like Sophie and Hans Scholl who died resisting the Nazis.

Scholl

Claiming that that all Germans were bad also does a great injustice or the brave women of the Rosenstrasse protest movement, who risked their lives every single day of that protest.

The protest was held between February 27 and March 6. It was a collective street protest on Rosenstraße (“Rose street”) in Berlin This demonstration was the initiative of non-Jewish German wives and relatives of Jewish men they also sustained the protest.The men  had been arrested for deportation. The protests which were  mainly led by women, continued until the men being held were released. It  was the only mass public demonstration by Germans in the Third Reich against the deportation of Jews.

rosen

 

Those who will have seen the movie ‘the Pianist’ will have heard of Captain Wilm Hosenfeld. In the movie he is portrayed as the German officer who saved  Waldislaw Szpilman,but he saved more.Leon Warm managed to escape from a train to Treblinka during the  deportations in 1942  from Warsaw. He made it back into the city, and managed to survive with the help of Hosenfeld who employed him in the sports stadium.

Hosenfeld recorded his disgust of the genocide he witnessed in his diary.

“Innumerable Jews have been killed like that, for no reason, senselessly. It is beyond understanding. Now the last remnants of the Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto are being exterminated. An SS Sturmführer boasted of the way they shot the Jews down as they ran out of the burning buildings. The entire ghetto has been razed by fire. These brutes think we shall win the war that way. But we have lost the war with this appalling mass murder of the Jews. We have brought shame upon ourselves that cannot be wiped out; it is a curse that cannot be lifted. We deserve no mercy; we are all guilty. I am ashamed to walk in the city”

Hosenfeld

Johannes Frömming was a legendary German  harness racing driver and trainer. During World War II he employed three Jewish horsemen on his farm outside Berlin and hid them from the Nazi authorities.

Froming

Friedrich Kellner, a justice inspector,not only kept a diary using it as an eye witness account for future generations.

“I could not fight the Nazis in the present, as they had the power to still my voice, so I decided to fight them in the future. I would give the coming generations a weapon against any resurgence of such evil. My eyewitness account would record the barbarous acts, and also show the way to stop them.”

He also helped Julius and Lucie Abt, and their infant son, John Peter escape

He also recorded the account of others in his diary.  Early in the war already showing that word of atrocities reached the average citizens even in the small towns. The entry below is from October 28, 1941.

“A soldier on vacation here said he was an eyewitness to terrible atrocities in the occupied parts of Poland. He watched as naked Jewish men and women were placed in front of a long deep trench and upon the order of the SS were shot by Ukrainians in the back of their heads and they fell into the ditch. Then the ditch was filled with dirt even as he could hear screams coming from people still alive in the ditch.
These inhuman atrocities were so terrible that some of the Ukrainians, who were used as tools, suffered nervous breakdowns. All the soldiers who had knowledge of these bestial actions of these Nazi sub-humans were of the opinion that the German people should be shaking in their shoes because of the coming retribution.
There is no punishment that would be hard enough to be applied to these Nazi beasts. Of course, when the retribution comes, the innocent will have to suffer along with them. But because ninety-nine percent of the German population is guilty, directly or indirectly, for the present situation, we can only say that those who travel together will hang together”

Keeping a diary like that could have cost him his life, leave alone helping Jews.

Diary

The picture at  the start of this blog is of Oskar Schindler. There is no need for me to outline what he has done for the Jews, because it is widely known.

These people and so many others all defied the Nazi regime and even though some of them may have bought in to the rhetoric and the promises of Hitler at the start of his political rise. They soon acknowledged the real policies Hitler had planned.

 

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Israel and Sara

Israel

Today marks the 80th anniversary where the Jews in Germany even lost control of their own names.

On 17 August 1938, the Nazi regime decreed that by January 1, 1939, Jewish men and women bearing first names of “non-Jewish” origin had to add “Israel” and “Sara,” respectively, to their given names (Namensänderungs verordnung). For their children, only a restricted number of “Jewish” first names were allowed.

name change

The law had already been discussed in 1934. The Nazi lawyer Wilhelm Frick had voiced his concern that the Jews could disguise their identity by changing their names.On July 19 1935 he had introduced a design to Hitler, whereby it was easier to identify Jews by adding something specifically Yiddish to their names.

Frick

Less then 2 years later a decree was passed requiring  Jews bearing first names of “non-Jewish” origin to adopt an additional name: “Israel” for men and “Sara” for women.

Sara

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Sources

USHMM

Wikipedia Germany

 

 

Wilhelm Boger,the tiger of Auschwitz-Auschwitz Political Department

Boger

The Political Department was the representative of the RSHA( Reich Main Security Office)in the camp, and its main objectives  were

  • Identification documentation
  • Keeping files on individual prisoners
  • Investigations
  • Interrogations
  • Intelligence service
  • Surveillance
  • Camp registrar (sometimes in conjunction with supervision of the crematorium)

RECORDS

Wilhelm Friedrich Boger who had the nickname ‘the tiger of Auschwitz’, was an officer of Political Department ,which were a part of the Gestapo. He was notorious for the crimes he committed.

He also invented a torture device called the ‘Boger Swing’

Boger swing

After the war, Boger’s secretary,Frau Braun, gave a vivid description how the Boger Swing was used.

“It was a meter-long iron bar suspended by chains hung from the ceiling(the drawing above is from a different version of the Boger Swing)… A prisoner would be brought in for “questioning,” stripped naked and bent over the bar, wrists manacled to ankles. A guard at one side would shove him—or her—off across the chamber in a long, slow arc, while Boger would ask “questions,” at first quietly, then barking them out, and at the last bellowing. At each return, another guard armed with a crowbar would smash the victim across the buttocks. As the swinging went on and on, and the wailing victim fainted, was revived only to faint howling again, the blows continued—until only a mass of bleeding pulp hung before their eyes. Most perished from the ordeal–some sooner, some later. In the end a sack of bones and flayed flesh and fat was swept along the shambles of that concrete floor to be dragged away”

His evil crimes in the Political Department continued until the evacuation of Auschwitz in January 1945.

After the camp was liberated he went on the run for five months until June 1946.He was eventually caught in Ludwigsburg where his parents lived He was supposed to  have been extradited to Poland for trial but managed to escape later that same year. From 1948 until mid 1949, he managed to get a job as a farm hand in Crailsheim. He then lived with his family under his real name in Hemmingen . He found a job as supervisor of supplies at the Heinkelwerke, an airplane factory in his birthplace Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, where he was arrested in October 1958 at the age of 51. Untill that time he had lived a ‘normal’ live. His neighbours knew he had worked in Auschwitz and when they asked him about his time he replied”er habe sich nichts vorzuwerfen” he had done nothing to feel guilty about.

arrest

He was released shortly afterwards for he passed denazification. The following assessment of Boger was made:

“.He does not leave the impression of a raw, brutal man, but more one of a rational, well-schooled police commissioner and civil servant.” a the investigation was stopped because it did not warrant any further costs to be borne by the German state.

However in 1959 he was re-arrested and was charged for the war crimes he committed at Auschwitz. On 20 August 1965 he was also tied  at the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials by the Landgericht Frankfurt am Main under Chief Judge Hans Hofmeyer for aiding and abetting the murder of Jews.

trials

After several  eyewitness accounts he was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in at least 5 cases, collective murder in at least 109 cases and aiding  in collective murder.

He died on April 3,1977,aged 70 in prison.

 

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Sources

Der Spiegel

German Wikipedia

When 13,745,680 people voted for the Nazis

31 july

It is easy to forget that the Nazis didn’t take power, they were democratically elected, although they did not shy away from using violence securing the votes.

However despite the bully tactics by the SA, people still had a choice to vote for the NSDAP or for any other party.

SA

The General election of July 31st 1932 resulted in the NSDAP becoming the largest party for the first time in its history in Germany. The total tally was 13,745,680 or 37.27% of the total vote, which was an increase of 19.02% compared to the previous election.

election

The election campaign did take place under  violent circumstances. The SA had been banned by Heinrich Brüning who had been Chancellor from March 1930 to May 30th 1932. President von Hindemburg had dismissed Brüning and replaced him with Franz von Papen from the .German Centre Party.

Von Papen  lifted the ban on the SA(Paramilitary arm of the NSDAP), although it really only had been a token ban to start of with. The  SA clashed with the communist paramilitary.

brown

Although the Nazis did become the largest party, they did not achieve the overall majority they had hoped for,and could not yet form a government.

In November 1932 new election were held and although the NSDAP became the biggest party yet again, they still did not have an overall majority.

On 3 December, 1932 von Papen was replaced by his Defence Minister Kurt von Schleicher who  had been in talks with the left wing of the Nazi Party led by Gregor Strasser  and tried to build up a Third Position strategy. However these plans were unsuccessful after Hitler had taken the power away from  Strasser and approached von Papen for coalition talks.

Von Papen got Hindenburg’s approval to form the Hitler Cabinet on 30 January 1933.He reserved the office of the Vice-Chancellor for himself.

On March 5. 1933 yet another election was held this time the Nazi received 43.91% of the votes, but yet again short of an overall majority. In order to avoid forming yet another coalition Hitler drew up plans for the’enabling act’  an amendment to the Weimar Constitution which gave the German Cabinet — in effect, Chancellor Adolf Hitler — the power to enact laws without the involvement of the parliament.

The law was passed on March 23 ,1933.

act

The disturbing thing about this is that they were able to do this without breaking any laws, they followed a democratic process.

electiom campaign

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Creating the conditions for the Holocaust

stab.JPG

Nowadays it is very easy to blame social media for widely distributing fake news on a large scale by means of memes and other ways. However this is nothing new, about 100 years ago this was happening through way of propaganda postcards and cartoons(after all a meme is nothing else then a digital propaganda or satirical postcard or cartoon) spread via post or newspapers.

Long before Hitler came to power, German politicians like Friedrich Ebert already blamed  communists,socialists and especially the Jews for losing WWI, by creating the ‘stab in the back’ myth.

The stab-in-the-back myth was believed despite even though it was entirely false .German Jews had loyally and bravely served in the German army during WWII. In fact their numbers were out of proportion in ratio to their numbers in the population. A fact that was emphasized by the “Reich Federation of Jewish Front Soldiers”

Soldiers

Several myths  were deliberately propagated alongside older prejudices. Myths such as:

  • The Jews had started the war to bring Europe to financial ruin and to bring it under Jewish control.
  • Jews exploited the misery of the war to enrich themselves and prolonged it to lead the Bolshevik Revolution in furthering the aim of world revolution.

These myths were enhanced by propaganda postcards and cartoons.

stab in the back

3

The origin of the term “stab-in-the-back” itself can possibly attributed to General Erich Ludendorff and dated to the autumn of 1919. Ludendorff was having dinere with the head of the British Military Mission in Berlin,  General Sir Neill Malcolm. Malcolm asked Ludendorff why he thought Germany lost the war. Ludendorff replied with his list of excuses, including that the home front failed the army.

Malcolm asked him: “Do you mean, General, that you were stabbed in the back?” Ludendorff’s eyes lit up and he leaped upon the phrase like a dog on a bone. “Stabbed in the back?” he repeated. “Yes, that’s it, exactly, we were stabbed in the back”.

Conservatives, nationalists and ex-military leaders began to speak critically about the peace and Weimar politicians, socialists, communists and especially Jews, It was suggested that they had not been supportive during the war and had played a part in selling out Germany to its enemies.

stab 4

By the time the Nazis came to power the foundations had already been laid.

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Sources

Encyclopedia 1914-1918

USHMM