The World War 2 hero who saved my sight.

Charles

Just before Christmas 2011 I lost the sight in my right eye. The retina had become detached but after 2 operations the sight could not be saved, in fact my eye shrunk, dramatically  and I have now a glass shell with  an eye painted on it in front of the remainder of my eye.

In November 2014 the retina in my left eye also became detached, so I was facing going blind. I had to undergo an emergence operation in a Hospital in Cork which is 100 km away from my home in Limerick.

In Cork the consultant surgeon advised me he would be putting a scleral buckle in place to re-attach my retina and to save my eye and sight.The operation was a success this time and my eye was saved.

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The man who pioneered this technology was Dr Charles L. Schepens. Hewas born in Mouscron, Belgium, in 1912  He initially studied mathematics before graduating from medical school in 1935 at State University of Ghent in Belgium.In 1937 he served as assistant to Dr. L. Hambresin in Brussels.

In 1940, he was appointed as a Captain in the Medical Corps of the Belgian Air Force, where he served until the country was invaded by the Nazis in May 1940. He escaped to France and worked with the French and Belgian resistance,  In 1942, under the nom de guerre “Jacques Pérot,” he spearheaded a secret information and evacuation pipeline in the Pyrenees, under the cover of a country lumber mill near the village of Mendive. He was arrested several times by the Gestapo.

He was firts arrested by the Gestapo in October 1940 while he still was in Belgium  on false accusations  of using a bus to transport Allied pilots out of Belgium. Although he was released 10 days later, this experience turned the previously apolitical doctor into an activist, and he allowed his office to be used as a post office for underground agents, arranging for the transfer of maps and such information as troop movement.

In 1942, a spy in Gestapo headquarters alerted him that he was about to be arrested, and he escaped to Paris.

In an of the mill  effort to find  an escape route to Spain, he and a group of fellow resistance members came across  an abandoned sawmill near the town of Mandive in the Pyrenees on the Spanish border.

One of the key features was a 12-mile-long cable-car system extending up the mountain and ending near the border.

Dr. Schepens, bought the mill in July 1942 with backing from a wealthy French patriot and had it in full operation by the end of the year. The site became a functioning lumber enterprise, taking orders, delivering wood and meeting a payroll. Not to cause any suspicion Dr. Schepens(aka Jacques Perot)  developed relationships with the occupying Germans, leading his Basque neighbors to think that he was a Nazi collaborator.

Men,mainly men he helped to escape, who did manual labor around the mill could secretly ride the cable-car system to the top of the mountain and slip into Spain, often with the assistance of a shepherd named Jean Sarochar.

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More than 100 Allied pilots, prisoners of war, Belgian government officials and others made their way out of France over the cable railway. The system also was used to move documents, currency, propaganda and other materials into and out of France.

Everything went according to plan until 1943: That year, a captured resistance agent exposed him. The Gestapo came for him a second time. He escaped before they could arrest him.He had told the Gestapo “it is now 10 o’clock. I have 150 workers idle, because they have not been given their orders this morning. Give me 10 minutes with them. I’ll give the orders and come back.”. He then just walked out.

He spent 16 days in the forest before reaching Spain and, eventually, England, where he resumed his medical career.

In the mean time the Nazis held Dr. Schepens wife and children as bait to lure him out of hiding. However eventually his wife and children  made their own daring escape, hiking through the mountains to reach Spain, and were reunited with Dr. Schepens nine months later in England.

After the war, Schepens resumed his medical career at Moorfields.[3] In 1947, he immigrated to the United States and became a fellow at the Harvard Medical School.

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He became famous in the ophthalmic community for his work in creating the first binocular, stereoscopic indirect ophthalmoscope (1946) and in treating retinal detachment with an encircling scleral buckle (1953).

If the Gestapo had arrested him the second time, he more then likely would have been executed. Amazing to think of what could have happened to my eye in that case.

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Sources

https://eye.hms.harvard.edu/news/charles-schepens-featured-in-eyeworld

https://eye.hms.harvard.edu/charlesschepens

Washington Post

https://www.eyeworld.org/article-ophthalmologist-who-created-vitreoretinal-subspecialty-lived-double-life-as-wwii-resistance-fighter-and

https://www.aao.org/biographies-detail/charles-schepens-md

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filippo Illuminato-13 year old resistance Hero.

Fillipo

I don’t want to make this a current political blog, and I won’t.,but I need to get this off my chest. Much too often do I hear that the current generations, often referred to as Generation Y(Millennials) and Generation Z(iGen) have it so much harder then any generation before them. It really gets my blood boiling because it is an insult to those who gave their lives so that they now can complain about everything.

When I read about Filippo Illuminato and how he died I noticed he was only 13. Initially I thought that the dates were wrong, because how could a young boy who had just entered his teenage tears be such a Hero. But the dates were correct.

He was born 21 August 1930 in Naples,Italy. After finishing primary school, he took a job as an apprentice mechanic in a vehicle repair shop.

On 3 September 1943, the Allies and Italy signed the Armistice of Cassibile. Nazi Germany reacted by attacking Italy, their former Axis ally.

On 13 September, the Nazi military governor of Naples ordered disarmament, and a curfew, he warned there would be  savage retaliations for any attack on his men. On 26 September, In response to this, , an unarmed crowd poured into the roads against the Nazi roundups, freeing young people from deportation. The rioters were joined by some former Italian soldiers who had kept themselves hidden so far.The insurrection lasetd for 4 days, referred to as “the 4 days of Naples”

When the Allies entered Naples on 1 October, the Nazis had gone.

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However during the Four Days of Naples  the young 13 year old Filippo Illuminato had bravely opposed a German armored car. The young boy received a posthumous Gold Medal of Military Valour for his act of Heroism.

Below is the English translation of the citation on the medal:

A thirteen-year-old fighter in the insurrection of Naples against the German invasion, alone and with sublime boldness, while the men sought shelter, he attacked an armoured car that was about to enter Via Roma from Piazza Trieste and Trento. After throwing one hand grenade, he advanced under enemy fire, and threw a second grenade before falling riddled with bullets. Such supreme, noble recklessness elevates this thirteen-year-old boy to a place among the heroes of the Fatherland, and he is to be acknowledged with pride in the memory of Naples and of all Italy. – Naples, Piazza Trieste e Trento , 28 September 1943.

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The young people who fought back.

 

I have many weaknesses ,one of them is that I have a very low tolerance or even no tolerance for people who have a warped sense of entitlement. I know I shouldn’t be intolerant and just rise above it , but I find that very hard at times.

Especially when it comes to the snowflake generation or millennials. A millennial is described  as “a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century.Or people born between the years of 1981 to 1998. I have to say not all of these people do have that sense of entitlement, there are many very decent people among them. It is only a minority of millennials but is a very vocal minority, They appear to have a problem for every solution. Generally they have not experienced any hardships but yet they claim their lives are much worse then that of the generation before them.

Then I come across stories of extremely brave young people like Mordechai Anielewicz,Mira Fuchrer and Rachel (Sarenka) Zylberberg(all pictured above)zob

These 3 young people ,who were in the same age bracket as the millenials, all died this day 76 years ago in Warsaw, May 8,1943. They were all members of the  Jewish Combat Organizationor ZOB in Polish), a resistance movement in occupied Poland, which was instrumental in engineering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

 

The youth groups that were instrumental in forming the ŻOB had anticipated German intentions to annihilate Warsaw Jewry and began to shift from an educational and cultural focus to self-defense and eventual armed struggle

Their headquarters  was a bunker based on Ulica Miła 18 (or 18 Pleasant Street in English)

I am not going too much into the details of the group. I leave that up to all of you to do the homework on that, Because there is so much information on them.

Suffice to say that Mordechai Anielewicz was the leader of the ZOB and Mira Fuchrer was his girlfiend. Together with their friend Rachel  Zylberberg they played a pivotal role in the uprising at the cost of their lives.

On the 8th of May they were in the bunker with a group of about 120 fighters, when the bunker was discovered.s They were surrounded by the Nazis but the young resistance  fighters refused to surrender. Many of them committed suicide.

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These heroes should never be forgotten.

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Not all Germans were bad-Defying the Nazi regime.

 

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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.

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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.

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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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The Dutch Jews who fought back

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In the Netherlands, the only pre-war group that immediately started resistance against the German occupation was the communist party. During the first two war years, it was by far the biggest resistance organization, much bigger than all other organizations put together. A major act of resistance was the organisation of the February strike in 1941, in protest against anti-Jewish measures.

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In this resistance, many Jews participated. About 1,000 Dutch Jews took part in resisting the Germans, and of those, 500 perished in doing so.

Among the first Jewish resisters was the German fugitive Ernst Cahn, owner of an ice cream parlor. Together with his partner, Kohn, he had an ammonia gas cylinder installed in the parlor to stave off attacks from the militant arm of the fascist NSB, the so-called “Weerafdeling”(“WA”). One day in February 1941 the German police forced their entrance into the parlor, and were gassed. Later, Cahn was caught and on March 3, 1941 he became the first civilian to be executed by a Nazi firing squad in the Netherlands.

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Benny Bluhm, a boxer, organized Jewish fighting parties consisting of members of his boxing school to resist attacks. One of these brawls led to the death of a WA-member, H. Koot, and subsequently the Germans ordered the first Dutch razzia (police raid) of Jews as a reprisal. That in turn led to the Februaristaking, the February Strike.

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Bluhm’s groupBluhm-Benny was the only Jewish group resisting the Germans in the Netherlands and the first active group of resistance fighters in the Netherlands. Bluhm survived the war, and strove for a monument for the Jewish resisters that came about two years after his death in 1986.

Numerous Jews participated in resisting the Germans. The Jewish director of the assembly center in the “Hollandsche Schouwburg”, a former theatre, Walter Süskind, was instrumental in smuggling children out of his centre. He was aided by his assistant Jacques van de Kar and the director of the nearby crèche, Mrs Pimentel.

Within the underground communist party, a militant group was formed: de Nederlandse Volksmilitie (NVM, Dutch Peoples Militia). The leader was Sally (Samuel) Dormits, who had military experience from guerrilla warfare in Brazil and participation in the Spanish Civil War.

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This organisation was formed in The Hague but became mainly located in Rotterdam. It counted about 200 mainly Jewish participants. They made several bomb attacks on German troop trains and arson attacks on cinemas, which were forbidden for Jews. Dormits was caught after stealing a handbag off a woman in order to obtain an identification card for his Jewish girlfriend, who also participated in the resistance. Dormits committed suicide in the police station by shooting himself through the head. From a cash ticket of a shop the police found the hiding place of Dormits and discovered bombs, arson material, illegal papers, reports about resistance actions and a list of participants. The Gestapo was warned immediately and that day two hundred people were arrested, followed by many more connected people in Rotterdam, The Hague and Amsterdam.

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The Dutch police participated in torturing the Jewish communists. After a trial more than 20 were shot to death; most of the others died in concentration camps or were gassed in Auschwitz. Only a few survived.

The trail left behind by Dormits also let ti the textile factory Hollandia Kattenburg where soem of the suspects were arrested and sentenced to death. Additionally 367 Jewish labourers of the factory were deported together with their families to Westerbork transit camp, in total there were 826 persons.

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Sister Maria Restituta Kafka and Sister Élise Rivet-Defiant WWII Heroes

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Sr Maria Restituta Kafka:

Born on 1 May 1894 [at Hussowitz bei Bruenn in the Austria-Hungary Empire, today] Brno-Husovice, in modern day Czech Republic, of humble background, Helene Kafka grew up in the Austrian capital where she worked in the Lainz hospital with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. In 1914 she entered the convent and received the name Maria Restituta. From 1919 until 1942 she served in the hospital in Moedling, Vienna, where she became a surgical nurse and an anaesthetist, esteemed for her professional competence, beloved for her sensitivity and respected for her energetic character, so much that she soon earned the nickname ‘Sister Resoluta’.

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After Germany annexed Austria, the religious worked for justice and the dignity of every human being. Faced with the anti-religious suppression of the Nazis, she responded by reaffirming religious freedom and by refusing to remove the crucifixes in the hospital. She also countered Hitler’s swastika with the Cross of Christ. She also spread ‘A soldier’s song’ that spoke of democracy, peace, and a free Austria. Spied on by two ladies, she was denounced by a doctor close to the SS, who for some time sought an opportunity to distance her from the hospital

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A Viennese cannot keep her mouth shut, she said. When a new hospital wing was constructed, Kafka kept to traditional Catholic practice and hung a crucifix in every room.

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The Nazi authorities demanded that the crosses be taken down, threatening her dismissal, but she refused.The crucifixes were not removed, nor was Kafka, since the Franciscan community said that they could not replace her.

Kafka continued in her vocal criticism of the Nazi government and several years later was denounced by a doctor who strongly supported the regime. On Ash Wednesday 1942 (18 February of that year), while coming out of the operating theater, Kafka was arrested by the Gestapo and accused, not only of hanging the crucifixes, but also of having dictated a poem mocking Hitler.On 29 October 1942 she was sentenced to death by the guillotine by the Volksgerichtshof for “favouring the enemy and conspiracy to commit high treason”. The authorities offered to release her if she would leave the convent, but she refused.

When a request for clemency reached the desk of Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery.

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He replied that her execution would provide “effective intimidation” for others who might want to resist the Nazis.Kafka spent the rest of her days in prison, where she was noted for caring for other prisoners. During this period, she wrote in a letter from the prison:

It does not matter how far we are separated from everything, no matter what is taken from us: the faith that we carry in our hearts is something no one can take from us. In this way we build an altar in our own hearts.

Kafa was sent to the guillotine on 30 March 1943.She was 48 years old.

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On 21 June 1998, on the occasion of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Vienna, Kafka was beatified by him. She was the first female martyr of Vienna.

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Kafka, the only Religious Sister to be formally condemned to death under the Nazi regime, was commemorated in Rome on the evening of 4 March 2013, in the Basilica of San Bartolomeo all’Isola on Tiber Island, with a liturgy of the word at which Cardinal Christoph Schönborn presided.

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During the service, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity gave to basilica a small cross which Kakfa had worn on the belt of her religious habit. The relic was placed in the chapel there which remembers the martyrs of Nationalist Socialism

Élise Rivet (January 19, 1890, Draria, Algeria – March 30, 1945, Ravensbrück concentration camp, Germany) was a Roman Catholic and World War II heroine

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The daughter of a French naval officer, she joined the convent of the medical sisters of “Notre Dame de Compassion” in Lyon. In 1933 she became “Mère Marie Élisabeth de l’Eucharistie”, the convent’s Mother Superior. After the fall of the French Third Republic to Nazi Germany in World War II, she began hiding refugees from the Gestapo[citation needed] and eventually used her convent to store weapons and ammunition for the Mouvements Unis de Résistance (MUR).

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On March 24, 1944 she and her assistant were arrested by the Gestapo and taken to the prison at Fort Montluc in Lyon.

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From there she was taken to Romainville before being shipped to Ravensbrück concentration camp near Berlin, Germany. There, stripped of her religious garments, she was forced into hard labor. With the end of the War in sight, the Germans began a massive amount of killings by gas chamber, including Mother Élise, on March 30, 1945, only weeks before the war ended. Rivet volunteered to go to the gas chamber  in place of a mother only weeks before Germany surrendered unconditionally.[She was 55 years old.

In 1961, the government of France honored her with her portrait on a postage stamp and a street bearing her name in Brignais (Lyon) was inaugurated on December 2, 1979.

 

In 1997, she was posthumously awarded the Médaille des Justes and in 1999 the “Salle Élise Rivet” was named for her at the Institut des Sciences de l’Homme in Lyon.

 

Marlene Dietrich

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On her birthday it is time to look back at Marlene Dietrich’s WWII efforts.

Marie MagdaleneMarleneDietrich ( 27 December 1901 – 6 May 1992)was a German actress and singer who held both German and American citizenship. Throughout her unusually long career, which spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s, she maintained popularity by continually reinventing herself.

In the 1920s in Berlin, Dietrich acted on the stage and in silent films. Her performance as Lola-Lola in The Blue Angel (1930) brought her international fame and resulted in a contract with Paramount Pictures.

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Dietrich starred in Hollywood films such as Morocco (1930), Shanghai Express (1932), and Desire (1936). She successfully traded on her glamorous persona and “exotic” looks, and became one of the highest-paid actresses of the era. Throughout World War II, she was a high-profile entertainer in the United States.

Dietrich was known to have strong political convictions and the mind to speak them. In interviews, Dietrich stated that she had been approached by representatives of the Nazi Party to return to Germany but had turned them down flat. In the late 1930s, Dietrich created a fund with Billy Wilder and several other Germans to help Jews and dissidents escape from Germany.

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In 1937, her entire salary for Knight Without Armor (450,000) was put into escrow to help the refugees. In 1939, she became an American citizen and renounced her German citizenship. In December 1941, the U.S. entered World War II, and Dietrich became one of the first celebrities to help sell war bonds.

She toured the US from January 1942 to September 1943 (appearing before 250,000 troops on the Pacific Coast leg of her tour alone) and was reported to have sold more war bonds than any other star.

During two extended tours for the USO in 1944 and 1945, she performed for Allied troops in Algeria, Italy, the UK and France, then went into Germany with Generals James M. Gavin and George S. Patton.

 

When asked why she had done this, in spite of the obvious danger of being within a few kilometers of German lines, she replied, “aus Anstand“—”out of decency”.Wilder later remarked that she was at the front lines more than Eisenhower. Her revue, with Danny Thomas as her opening act, included songs from her films, performances on her musical saw (a skill she had originally acquired for stage appearances in Berlin in the 1920s) and a pretend “mindreading” act. Dietrich would inform the audience that she could read minds and ask them to concentrate on whatever came into their minds. Then she would walk over to a soldier and earnestly tell him, “Oh, think of something else. I can’t possibly talk about that!” American church papers reportedly published stories complaining about this part of Dietrich’s act.

In 1944, the Morale Operations Branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) initiated the Musak project, musical propaganda broadcasts designed to demoralize enemy soldiers. Dietrich, the only performer who was made aware that her recordings would be for OSS use, recorded a number of songs in German for the project, including “Lili Marleen”, a favorite of soldiers on both sides of the conflict.Major General William J. Donovan, head of the OSS, wrote to Dietrich, “I am personally deeply grateful for your generosity in making these recordings for us.”

 

At the war’s end in Europe, Dietrich reunited with her sister Elisabeth and her sister’s husband and son. They had resided in the German city of Belsen throughout the war years, running a cinema frequented by Nazi officers and officials who oversaw the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Dietrich’s mother remained in Berlin during the war, her husband moved to a ranch in the San Fernando Valley of California. Dietrich vouched on behalf of her sister and her sister’s husband, sheltering them from possible prosecution as Nazi collaborators. Dietrich would later omit the existence of her sister and her sister’s son from all accounts of her life, completely disowning them and claiming to be an only child.

Dietrich received the Medal of Freedom in November 1947. She said this was her proudest accomplishment. She was also awarded the Légion d’honneur by the French government for her wartime work

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The Churchill Club

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These days teenagers and young adults are often referred to as “the snowflake” generation a term that refers to young people, typically university or college students, who seek to avoid emotionally charged topics, or dissenting ideas and opinions. This may involve support of safe spaces and trigger warnings in the university setting.

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Although I agree with this to an extend, I think the problem is not with this generation but with the generation that raised them.

However during WWII young people didn’t have the time to get upset by something ‘offensive’ that was said to them. For many they had to put all their energy to survive.

Some were even brave enough to defy the most evil regime on earth, with a real risk of losing their lives.

The Churchill Club (Danish: Churchill-klubben) was a group of eight teenage schoolboys from Aalborg Cathedral School in the north of Jutland who performed acts of sabotage against the Germans during the occupation of Denmark in the Second World War.

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The Churchill Club was probably the earliest resistance group to be formed in Denmark. Under the leadership of 17-year-old Knud Pedersen.

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They started their activities at the end of 1941 when they began to target the German occupation forces in Aalborg as a result of the German treatment of occupied Denmark. They succeeded in carrying out 25 acts of sabotage before they were arrested by the police in May 1942.Some of those acts of sabotage included stealing weapons and destroying vehicles, blueprints, and plane parts. The boys were charged with 1,860 million kroner for the destroyed Nazi property; their sentences ranged from two to three years in prison. Even after imprisonment, they managed to escape at night to continue their sabotage activities.

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A few days before Christmas 1941 the group was formed using the name of the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

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One of their first acts was painting the words  “War Profiteer” in blue paint on the offices and homes of known Nazi sympathizers.

The Churchill Club insignia was an imitation of the Nazi Swastika.  It was blue and had arrows shooting out of each line.  The symbol stood for “Flames of rebellion to kill Nazis!”

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They made explosives out of stolen Nazi weapons.   They decided to blow up the Aalborg railroad yard which was the Nazi base in Aalborg, on the 2nd of May 1942 .  The rail car they blew up contained air plane wings.  The Danish firemen were slow to help the Germans put out the fire because they were afraid of more explosions.

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On the 8th of May 1942 members of the Churchill club had been  followed and were subsequently  arrested for stealing German soldier’s weapons.Although they didn’t know how to use the weapons.

 

On the 17th of July the boys were put on trial and were sentenced depending on their age.Knud Pedersen was sentenced to 3 years in Nyborg state prison.

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I am surprised about the relative lenient sentences they received. More often then not these acts of resistance resulted in death sentences.

Knud Pedersen became an accomplished artist after the war.

 

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Guy Môquet’s farewell letter

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Today marks the 77th anniversary of the execution of Guy Môquet, a 17 year young French Communist militant.and resistance fighter.During the German occupation of France during World War II, he was taken hostage by the Nazis and executed by firing squad in retaliation for attacks on Germans by the French Resistance. Môquet went down in history as one of the symbols of the French Resistance.

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Guy Prosper Eustache Môquet was born on 26 April 1924 in the 18th arrondissement of Paris.He studied at the Lycée Carnot and joined the Communist Youth Movement. After the occupation of Paris by the Germans and the installation of the Vichy government, he was denounced on 13 October 1940 and arrested at the Gare de l’Est metro station by three police officers of the French Anti-Communist Special Brigade. He had with him a poem about three of his arrested comrades, handwritten by him.

“The traitors of our country
These agents of capitalism
We will drive them away
In order to establish socialism

To get you out of jail
To kill capitalism”

 

These are the last words he sent to his family.

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My darling Mummy, my adored brother, my much loved Daddy, I am going to die! What I ask of you, especially you Mummy, is to be brave. I am, and I want to be, as brave as all those who have gone before me. Of course, I would have preferred to live. But what I wish with all my heart is that my death serves a purpose. I didn’t have time to embrace Jean. I embraced my two brothers Roger and Rino (1). As for my real brother, I cannot embrace him, alas! I hope all my clothes will be sent back to you. They might be of use to Serge, I trust he will be proud to wear them one day. To you, my Daddy to whom I have given many worries, as well as to my Mummy, I say goodbye for the last time. Know that I did my best to follow the path that you laid out for me. A last adieu to all my friends, to my brother whom I love very much. May he study hard to become a man later on. Seventeen and a half years, my life has been short, I have no regrets, if only that of leaving you all. I am going to die with Tintin, Michels. Mummy, what I ask you, what I want you to promise me, is to be brave and to overcome your sorrow. I cannot put any more. I am leaving you all, Mummy, Serge, Daddy, I embrace you with all my child’s heart. Be brave! Your Guy who loves you.”

The reason why this story touches me is because I have a 17 year old son and I can even start to imagine the pain Guy’s father must have felt. it would have destroyed me. Often we forget about those who stay behind and the pain they felt. This was a remarkable young boy and I am not sure how many boys of that age would make the sacrifice he made.

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The real escape from Sobibor

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Today marks the 74th anniversary of the Sobibor uprising. The reason why I call this article “the real escape from Sobibor” is not to mistake it for the movie “Escape from Sobibor” although the book and the movie are based on the event, parts of it are fictionalized.

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However this is not to say it is not a good movie, because it is a good movie and although I haven’t read the book I understand it is a very compelling read.

Sobibór  was a Nazi German extermination camp located on the outskirts of the village of Sobibór, in occupied Poland, within the semi-colonial territory of General Government, during World War II.

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During the revolt of 14 October 1943, about 600 prisoners tried to escape; about half succeeded in crossing the fence, of whom around 50 evaded capture. Shortly after the revolt, the Germans closed the camp, bulldozed the earth, and planted it over with pine trees to conceal its location. Today, the site is occupied by the Sobibór Museum, which displays a pyramid of ashes and crushed bones of the victims, collected from the cremation pits.

On 14 October 1943, members of the camp’s underground resistance succeeded in covertly killing 11 German SS-Totenkopfverbände officers and a number of Sonderdienst Ukrainian and Volksdeutsche guards. Of the 600 inmates in the camp, roughly 300 escaped, although all but 50 – 70 were later re-captured and killed. After the escape, SS Chief Heinrich Himmler ordered the death camp closed. It was dismantled, bulldozed under the earth, and planted over with trees to cover it up.

By the summer of 1943, the transports to the Sobibór death camp were slowing down. The veteran Jewish prisoners sensed that the end was quickly approaching. In July, the prisoners organized an underground unit. It was led by Leon Feldhendler, the son of a rabbi from the nearby town of Zolkiewka.

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In September 1943, a deportation from Minsk of Soviet Jewish prisoners of war brought to the camp a trained officer, Lieutenant Aleksandr “Sasha” Aronovich Pechersky.

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The Jewish underground recruited Pechersky and placed him in command. His deputy was Leon Feldhendler.

They devised a daring plan. SS officers would be lured into storehouses on the pretext that they were to be given new coats and boots. Once inside , aided by the bold efforts of Thomas (Tuvia) Blatt,thomas_blatt

they would be attacked by the prisoners and killed with axes and knives. Nazi weapons were to be seized, and at roll call the camp would be set ablaze. All prisoners would have a chance to bolt for freedom. Once outside Sobibór’s gates, they would all be on their own.

 

 

At 4:00 p.m. on October 14, 1943, the first SS soldier was killed with an axe. Ten more SS men were killed, as were several Ukrainian guards. Telephone wires and electricity lines were cut. Within an hour, the camp was burning, guns were aimed at the guard towers, and the first group of prisoners fled across the German mine fields surrounding the facility.

By dusk more than half the prisoners—about 300 people—had escaped. Most were killed by their Nazi pursuers or died crossing the minefields. After the revolt, some joined partisan units; others found shelter among sympathetic Poles. It is estimated that just 50 of the escapees survived the war.

 

Within days of the uprising, the SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered the camp closed, dismantled, and planted with trees.The gas chambers were demolished. Remnants of their foundations were covered with asphalt and made to look like a road.Four of the chambers were uncovered by archaeologists in 2014, using modern technology.

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Feldhendler was among those who survived the war, hiding in Lublin until the end of German occupation. The city was taken by the Soviet Red Army on 24 July 1944, and became the temporary headquarters of the Soviet-controlled communist Polish Committee of National Liberation established by Joseph Stalin. However, on 2 April 1945, Feldhendler was shot through the closed door of his flat as he got up to investigate a commotion in an outer room. Feldhendler and his wife managed to escape through another door and made their way to Lublin’s Św. Wincentego á Paulo hospital, where he underwent surgery but died four days later. According to most of the older publications, Feldhendler was killed by right-wing Polish nationalists,sometimes identified as the Narodowe Siły Zbrojne,an anti-Communist and anti-Semitic partisan unit (name unknown). However, more recent inquiries, citing the incomplete treatment of the event by earlier historians, and the scant documentary record, have called into question this version of events.

The only concrete document found by local Polish scholars is a record of Feldhendler’s hospital admission at Wincentego á Paulo describing the injury. Dr Kopciowski wrote that Feldhendler was likely shot in an armed robbery gone bad, because he was known locally as a budding gold trader. Feldhendler’s killing was one of at least 118 violent deaths of Jews in the Lublin district between the summer of 1944 and the fall of 1946 amid the crime-wave of the so-called Soviet liberation.