Hugh O’Flaherty-WWII Hero

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I did not call this blog Forgotten History since his story is quite well known in some parts of the world,nevertheless it is a story that needs be re-told especially nowadays where we need to hear about heroes.

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, CBE (28 February 1898 – 30 October 1963) was an Irish Roman Catholic priest and senior official of the Roman Curia, and significant figure in Catholic resistance to Nazism. During World War II, he was responsible for saving 6,500 Allied soldiers and Jews. His ability to evade the traps set by the German Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst, earned O’Flaherty the nickname “The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican”. He was the first Irishman named Notary of the Holy Office.

This ingenious priest was the mastermind of an underground movement to house and save over 6,500 jews and allied soldiers. He was so audacious that the nazi germans painted a large circle around the vatican saying that if O’flaherty crossed that line he would be killed. This did not hold him back. Instead he would disguise himself as a nun, a street cleaner, a beggar, etc. in order to get into travel incognito throughout Rome to help refugees. He was so daring that he even dressed up as a German general in order to go into a German prison and give last communion to a fellow priest who was to be exectuted.

The stunts and risks that he took were amazing. For example, they housed many Jews and refugees in a house next door to the gestapo offices. They seemed always to be one step ahead of them. However, what is most unique about this man’s story is what he did after the war. Herbert Kappler, the head of the Nazi occupation force, who was determined to kill O’flaherty recieved a sentence of life in prison. For the next months and years that followed rarely did anyone ever visit Kappler, no one that is except for O’Flaherty who monthly visited his old nemesis. A few years later, O’Flaherty baptized Kappler into the catholic faith. This is an amazing story of someone who followed the teachings of Jesus of loving his neighbor as himself even when that neighbor used to be an enemy.

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Shortly after O’Flaherty’s birth in Lisrobin, Kiskeam, County Cork, his parents, James and Margaret, moved to Killarney.The family lived on the golf course where James O’Flaherty worked as a steward.By his late teens, young O’Flaherty had a scratch handicap and a scholarship to a teacher training college.

However, in 1918 he enrolled at Mungret College, a Jesuit college in County Limerick dedicated to preparing young men for missionary priesthood.

Normally, students ranged from 14 to 18 years of age. At the time when O’Flaherty came in, he was a little older than most of the students, about 20.The college allowed for some older people to come in if they had been accepted by a bishop who would pay for them.

O’Flaherty’s sponsor was the Bishop of Cape Town, Cornelius O’Reilly, in whose diocese he would be posted after ordination,a big step for a young man who had never stepped foot outside of Munster. At the time when O’Flaherty was in Mungret, the Irish War for Independence was ongoing.He was posted to Rome in 1922 to finish his studies and was ordained on 20 December 1925. He would never join his diocese. Instead, he stayed to work for the Holy See, serving as a Vatican diplomat in Egypt, Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Czechoslovakia. In 1934, he was appointed Monsignor.

In the early years of World War II, O’Flaherty toured prisoner of war (POW) camps in Italy and tried to find out about prisoners who had been reported missing in action. If he found them alive, he tried to reassure their families through Radio Vatican.

Monsignor O’Flaherty got his start in smuggling and hiding refugees in the fall of 1942, when the Germans and Italians cracked down on prominent Jews and aristocratic anti-Fascists. Monsignor O’Flaherty had socialized with these people before the war; now he hid them in monasteries and convents, and in his own residence–the German College.

In the spring of 1943, his operation broadened to include escaped British POWs; and he acquired a most improbable partner, Sir Francis D’Arcy Godolphin Osborne, British Minister to the Vatican. The POWs would be safe in the Vatican, but as internees they would be unable to rejoin their fighting units. Sir D’Arcy’s status prevented him from leaving the Vatican, so Msgr. O’Flaherty developed a network of apartments in Rome in which they could hide.

In September the Germans occupied Rome. The Italian game of “forgetting” to round up Jews was over.

According to Msgr. O’Flaherty’s biographer, J.P. Gallagher, Vatican officials who had inclined to prudence and ordinary Italians who had been indifferent to the plight of the Jews were radicalized by the Gestapo. “Even the most conservative men in the Vatican were prepared now to give the trouble-shooting Monsignor quite a bit more rope.”

Monsignor O’Flaherty hid Jews in monasteries and convents, at Castel Gandolfo, in his old college of the Propaganda Fide, in the German College and in his network of apartments. Every evening, he stood in the porch of St. Peter’s, in plain view both of the German soldiers across the piazza and of the windows of the Pope’s apartments. Escaped POWs and Jews would come to him there. He would smuggle them across the piazza and through the German Cemetary to the college. Sometimes he would disguise them in the robes of a monsignor or the uniform of a Swiss Guard.

One Jew,made his way to St. Peter’s and, coming up to O’Flaherty at his usual post on the steps and drawing him deeper into the shadows, proceeded to unwind a solid gold chain that went twice around his waist. ‘My wife and I expect to be arrested at any moment,’ said the Jew. ‘We have no way of escaping. When we are taken to Germany we shall die. But we have a small son; he is only seven and is too young to die in a Nazi gas chamber. Please take this chain and take the boy for us too. Each link of the chain will keep him alive for a month. Will you save him?'”

Monsignor O’Flaherty improved upon this plan: he accepted the chain, hid the boy and procured false papers for the parents. At the end of the war, he returned the boy and the chain.

 

When Mussolini was removed from power by the King in 1943, thousands of Allied POWs were released; however, when Germany imposed an occupation over Italy, they were in danger of recapture. Some of them, remembering visits by O’Flaherty, reached Rome and asked him for help. Others went to the Irish embassy to the Holy See, the only English-speaking embassy to remain open in Rome during the war. Delia Murphy, who was the wife of the ambassador and in her day a well-known ballad singer, was one of those who helped O’Flaherty.

O’Flaherty did not wait for permission from his superiors. He recruited the help of other priests (including two young New Zealanders, Fathers Owen Sneddensnedden and John Flanagan), two agents working for the Free French, François de Vial and Yves Debroise, and even communists and a Swiss count.

One of his aides was British Major Sam Derry, a POW escapee.

Derry along with British officers and escaped POWs Lieutenants Furman and Simpson, and Captain Byrnes, a Canadian, were responsible for the security and operational organisation. O’Flaherty also kept contact with Sir D’Arcy Osborne, British ambassador to the Holy See and his butler John May (whom O’Flaherty described as “a genius … the most magnificent scrounger”).

O’Flaherty and his allies concealed 4,000 escapees, mainly Allied soldiers and Jews, in flats, farms and convents. One of the first hideouts was beside the local SS headquarters. O’Flaherty and Derry coordinated all this. When outside the Vatican, O’Flaherty wore various disguises. The German occupiers tried to stop him and eventually they found out that the leader of the network was a priest. SS attempts to assassinate him failed. They learned his identity, but could not arrest him inside the Vatican. When the German ambassador revealed this to O’Flaherty, he began to meet his contacts on the stairs of the St. Peter’s Basilica.

Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Kappler, the head of the SS Sicherheitsdienst and Gestapo in Rome learned of O’Flaherty’s actions; he ordered a white line painted on the pavement at the opening of St. Peter’s Square (signifying the border between Vatican City and Italy), stating that the priest would be killed if he crossed it. Ludwig Koch, head of the Fascist police in Rome, often spoke of his intention to torture O’Flaherty before executing him if he ever fell into his hands.

Finally Colonel Kappler complained to Berlin. Monsignor O’Flaherty received an invitation to a reception at the Hungarian Embassy, with an implicit safe-conduct. There Baron von Weiszacker, the German Ambassador, told him:

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“Nobody in Rome honors you more than I do for what you are doing. But it has gone too far for us all. Kappler is waiting in the hall, feeling rather frustrated.I have told him that you will of course have safe-conduct back to the Vatican tonight. But…if you ever step outside Vatican territory again, on whatever pretext, you will be arrested at once. Now will you please think about what I have said?”

O’Flaherty smiled down at von Weiszacker and replied: “Your Excellency is too considerate. I will certainly think about what you have said– sometimes

Several others, including priests, nuns and lay people, worked in secret with O’Flaherty, and even hid refugees in their own private homes around Rome. Among these were the Augustinian Maltese Fathers Egidio Galea, Aurelio Borg and Ugolino Gatt and Brother Robert Pace of the Brothers of Christian Schools. Another person who contributed significantly to this operation was the Malta-born widow Henrietta (Chetta) Chevalierwho hid some refugees in her house with her children, and was lucky to escape detection.Jewish religious services were conducted in the Basilica di San Clemente, which was under Irish diplomatic protection, under a painting of Tobias.

When the Allies arrived in Rome in June 1944, 6,425 of the escapees were still alive. O’Flaherty demanded that German prisoners be treated properly as well. He took a plane to South Africa to meet Italian POWs and to Jerusalem to visit Jewish refugees. Of the 9,700 Jews in Rome, 1,007 had been shipped to Auschwitz. The rest were hidden, 5,000 of them by the official Church − 3,000 in Castel Gandolfo, 200 or 400 (estimates vary) as “members” of the Palatine Guard and some 1,500 in monasteries, convents and colleges. The remaining 3,700 were hidden in private homes.

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At the time of the liberation of Rome, O’Flaherty’s and Derry’s organisation was caring for 3,925 escapees and men who had succeeded in evading arrest. Of these 1,695 were British, 896 South African, 429 Russian, 425 Greek and 185 American. The remainder were from 20 different nations. This does not include Jews and sundry other men and women who were in O’Flaherty’s personal care

After the war O’Flaherty received a number of awards, including Commander of the Order of the British Empire and the US Medal of Freedom with Silver Palm.

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He was also honoured by Canada and Australia. He refused to use the lifetime pension that Italy had given him. In the 1950s, the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, in the form proposed by the now-canonised Mary Faustina Kowalska, was under a ban from the Vatican. It was O’Flaherty who, as Notary, signed the document that notified Catholics of the ban.

O’Flaherty regularly visited his old nemesis Colonel Herbert Kappler (the former SS chief in Rome) in prison, month after month, being Kappler’s only visitor. In 1959, Kappler converted to Catholicism and was baptised by O’Flaherty.

In 1960, O’Flaherty suffered a serious stroke during Mass and was forced to return to Ireland. Shortly before his first stroke in 1960, he was due to be confirmed as the Papal Nuncio to Tanzania. He moved to Cahersiveen to live with his sister, at whose home he died on 30 October 1963, aged 65. He was buried in the cemetery of the Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church in Cahersiveen.

There is a monument in Killarney town and a grove of trees dedicated to his memory in the Killarney National Park.

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O’Flaherty was portrayed by Gregory Peck in the 1983 television film, The Scarlet and the Black, which follows the exploits of O’Flaherty from the German occupation of Rome to its liberation by the Allies

 

Colonel Kappler

Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Kappler was head of The Gestapo in Rome during the occupation.

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty and his organisation were a major obstruction to the brutal Kappler and his Gestapo during this period.

Kappler was responsible for many cruel deeds in Rome as well as the massacre at The Ardeatine Caves, which were personally supervised by Kappler.

Despite this O’Flaherty assisted in helping members of Kapplers family in escaping from Rome at Liberation.

At his trial in 1948, after six hours, the head of the five-judge military tribunal gravely pronounced the stiffest sentence he could give under Italian law: “life imprisonment, including four years’ solitary confinement, for “repeated and premeditated murder.”

During this time one of his only regular visitors was none other that The Monsignor himself who visited him every month for 10 years as well as writing to him regularly and subsequently baptized him to the Catholic faith.

In 1977 he escaped from a Rome Prison hidden in a laundry basket, and was spirited away to Germany, by his recently wedded wife, whom he had married in Prison in 1972. He died of cancer in 1978, never having been returned to Prison.

 

Whether you are Christian,Jewish,Muslim,Budhist or Atheist ,one most admire Father Hugh O’Flaherty for his ability to forgive this cruel man.

Fr O’Flaherty a hero in the purest sense of the word.

Forgotten History-Major Bosshardt

Yes this is a story which took place during WWII and yes it does concern a Major, however she was a Major in a different kind of Army.

You see Alida Margaretha Bosshardt was a Major in the Salvation Army(Dutch-Leger Des Heils)

Alida Margaretha Bosshardt (8 June 1913 – 25 June 2007), better known as Major Bosshardt, was a well known officer in The Salvation Army, and more or less the public face of this Christian organization in the Netherlands.

Born in Utrecht, Bosshardt became a member of the Salvation Army after visiting one of their meetings when she was 18. Before that, she was not religious. Her father was a converted Roman Catholic, her mother was Dutch Reformed. From 1934 she worked in a children’s home in Amsterdam. During the German occupation in the Second World War, Bosshardt took care of the mostly Jewish children who had been brought by their parents to the home.

Alida Bosshardt was born into a Protestant middle class family in Utrecht. Already at a young age she showed independence and a strong will. During her teenage years, Alida came into contact with the Salvation Army, and decided to enter the Service. In 1932, barely 19 years old, she took the oath, “that with God’s help, I will be a true and faithful soldier of the Salvation Army.” She then studied at its Academy in order to become an officer, a rank she attained in 1934.

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As a beginning recruit in the Army, Alida started to work at the Zonnehoek, a home for children from broken homes that was located in the Jewish area of eastern Amsterdam.

Among her wards were the Jewish Terhorst sisters, Hendrina, b.1927, Helena, b.1934, and Dimphina, b.1938. In 1941, a new-born baby sister Roosje, was accepted into the home. That same year, on the orders of the German occupying authorities, the Salvation Army was outlawed, and its buildings and money were confiscated. The Zonnehoek continued to function for some time as a private home. In the summer of 1942, with the onset of the deportations of the Jews to “work in the East”, many desperate Jewish parents brought their infants to Alida, begging her to find hiding addresses for them. In a large number of cases she was able to do so, sometimes bringing them herself to the eastern parts of the country by bicycle.

Some of the Jewish children she kept in the home, among whom were Klaartje Lindeman, Floortje and Doortje de Slechter and two Samson children. When the Germans billeted the home, Alida took as many children as she could to a newly rented apartment in the northern part of Amsterdam. She insisted that the four Terhorst sisters as well as a number of other Jewish children stay under her care. During the move, she removed the yellow stars from the clothes of the older children, saying, “we don’t do this sort of thing”.

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After a bomb fell next to their new home, Alida again needed to move, making sure the Jewish children were included in the group. This scenario repeated itself a number of times, until Alida had to split up the children and was able to find homes for some of the Gentile children and hiding addresses for her various Jewish wards. In order to be able to buy food and other necessities, Alida went out to collect money. She was betrayed, and arrested by the German regular police, for collecting for the banned Salvation Army. Even though she was held at Police headquarters, she managed to escape, and went into hiding herself on the orders of her Army superiors. When it was considered that the immediate danger had passed, Alida resumed her resistance and rescuing activities. In the Hungerwinter of 1944-1945, she regularly went on food-treks to the eastern rural parts of the country, to find food needed in the various children’s homes in the west. After the war, the Jewish children all went back to their families.

Alida Bosshardt, in her nineties, stayed active with the Salvation Army as Majoor Bosshardt and kept in touch with her earlier wartime wards.
On January 25, 2004, Yad Vashem recognized Alida Margaretha Bosshardt as Righteous Among the Nations

The Major Bosshardt Prize, named after Bosshardt, was established in 2006. It consists of a certificate and a miniature bronze statue of Bosshardt and is intended for persons who have been of singular merit for society.

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Major Bosshardt has also a bridge called after her and in Terneuzen in the Province of Zeeland  a Bronze bust has been erected in her memory

Forgotten History- War Criminal;Klaas Carel Faber.

 

This is mot a scientific fact, it’s just my opinion and observation but it seems to be that those who have committed horrible crimes in WWII(and who weren’t captured) appear to have long and prosperous lives.

What is even more disturbing not all escaped war criminal fled to South America, some of them had comfortable lives in Europe after the war even in Germany.

Klaas Carel Faber (20 January 1922 – 24 May 2012) was a convicted Dutch-German war criminal. He was the son of Pieter and Carolina Josephine Henriëtte (née Bakker) Faber, and the brother of Pieter Johan Faber, who was executed for war crimes in 1948.

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Faber was on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of most wanted Nazi war criminals. Faber died in Germany in May 2012, having never been extradited.

Faber was born in Haarlem, The Netherlands, to a family with a strong National-Socialist background.Like his father and his brother, Faber was a member of the National Socialist Movement, or NSB, before the war,and joined the Waffen SS a month after the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1940.

 

After five months, he abandoned military training for less demanding police jobs in Rotterdam and The Hague.

In May 1943, he became a German citizen with the passing of the Erlaß über den Erwerb der deutschen Staatsangehörigkeit durch Einstellung in die deutsche Wehrmacht, die Waffen-SS, die deutsche Polizei oder die Organisation Todt vom 11. Mai 1943 (RGBl. I. S. 315), which automatically awards citizenship to all foreign members of the Waffen-SS and other organizations. From 1943 to 1944, he was part of a firing squad at the Westerbork concentration camp, the camp Anne Frank passed through on her way to her death at Belsen.His zeal increased after his father, Pieter Faber, a baker at Heemstede, was killed by Hannie Schaft of the Dutch resistance on 8 June 1944.

https://dirkdeklein.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/forgotten-history-hannie-schaft-resistance-fighter/

He participated in the SS’s Silbertanne (“Silver Fir”) death squad which targeted members of the Dutch resistance, and those who hid Jews and opposed Nazism.He was also a member of Sonderkommando Feldmeijer, which carried out arbitrary assassinations (more than 50; his brother and Heinrich Boere were members of the same squad)of prominent Dutch citizens in reprisal for Resistance activities, and served as a bodyguard to Dutch Nazi leader Anton Mussert.(Below 2 pictures of Heinrich Boere and Anton Mussert)

 

 

After the war, Faber was tried by a Dutch court and sentenced to death by firing squad on 9 June 1947, for the murder of 11 persons in Westerbork and 11 others.The Dutch court stated that the Faber brothers were “two of the worst criminals of the SS” Pieter Faber was executed in 1948.On 14 January 1948, Klaas Carel Faber’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. However, on 26 December 1952, he escaped from prison in Breda, with Herbertus Bikker, Sander Borgers  and four other former members of the Dutch SS, and that same evening crossed the border into Germany.

 

The escape may have been masterminded by the Stichting Oud Politieke Delinquenten, an organisation of former Dutch fascists and collaborators.As a former member of the SS, Faber had obtained German citizenship.Following his escape Faber went on to live in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt and until retirement worked for the car manufacturer Audi as an office clerk.

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In 1957, a German court in Düsseldorf dismissed charges against him for lack of evidence, claiming the Dutch authorities would not share evidence. Two extradition requests were made by the Dutch in 1954 and 2004 to have Faber returned to complete his sentence. Both requests were denied by the German authorities, the second with reference to the 1957 decision of lack of evidence.[ When new evidence was presented to a Munich court in 2006, the cases were viewed as manslaughter as opposed to murder, and thus outside the statute of limitations. A new arrest warrant from Dutch authorities was required to reopen the case, which was issued in part because of attention brought to the case by Dutch journalist Arnold Karskens , who in 2003 had found Faber’s residence. Calls for his extradition were frequent, including at the 2007 commemoration of the first transport that left Westerbork for the destruction camps.

 

In April 2009 Faber was listed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center as one of most important Nazi era war criminals still at large.

 

The center noted that he was a member of the Sonderkommando Feldmeijer execution squad. In July 2009 it was reported that at the time the German government might have wanted to prosecute Faber after all while other reports stated that he enjoyed immunity from prosecution. In August 2010, following the petition of more than 150 lawyers organized by Jerusalem-based lawyer David Schonberg, the Israeli government demanded that Germany enforce Faber’s sentence or extradite him to the Netherlands, and change its policy of allowing Nazi war crimes suspects to escape prosecution. Israel’s justice minister, Ya’akov Ne’eman, wrote to the German justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, asking that justice be carried out.

 

In November 2010, the Netherlands issued a European Arrest Warrant for Faber, the first the country ever issued for a war criminal.The application questioned the legality of Faber’s German citizenship given because of his membership in the SS. A Justice official from Bavarian justice stated that the request would be considered, “but as far as I know, there is nothing new”.

In January 2012 the German Justice department requested the judiciary in Ingolstadt, after pressure from the Dutch government, to execute the life sentence of the war criminal. Faber died before the request was granted. The many extradition requests and other investigations also called into question various administrative decisions regarding the Faber case.

Faber died on 24 May 2012 from kidney failure in Ingolstadt.

It surprises me that the German authorities were so reluctant to extradite Klaas Carel Faber, I believe it is their duty to ensure that all who carried out these atrocities in the name of the German government of the time(1939-1945) should be brought to justice at any cost and bureaucratic red tape should not hinder justice for the victims and their families. If there is one government on the planet who should know this it is the German government.

On the other side although I am not pro death penalty in this case I believe the Dutch government should have executed him together with his brother in 1948.

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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Forgotten History-Luise Löwenfels

 

This is a WWII story from my hometown of Geleen in the Netherlands about a lady called Luise Löwenfels although she was known as Maria Aloysia Löwenfels AKA Sister Aloysia.

Luise Löwenfels (Trabelsdorf,Germany  5 juli 1915 – Auschwitz-Birkenau, ca. 9 augustus 1942). She was born in a small village called Trabelsdorf in Germany in a Jewish family.

Even though she was Jewish she attended a Roman Catholic school. When she was 10 her father passed away, in that time she did get consolation from her Catholic friends at school.

She was drawn to the Roman Catholic faith and often visited Catholic churches and would attend mass on a regular base, this to the dismay of her family.She would often be punished by her Mother and Brothers for this. Later when she still didn’t conduct herself in the manner her family expected her to she was disowned by them.

She sought refuge in nearby convents. In the 1930’s due to the Nazi imposed laws on the Jews she regularly had to change her place of residence.

Eventually she found refuge in a convent in Mönchengladbach

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On 25 November 1935 she was baptized and received the name Maria Aloysia.

Due to increasing threat of the Nazi regime many Jews decided to leave Germany. Maria Aloysia’s plan was to move to England but she ended up in the Netherlands  in the small mining town Geleen near the Dutch-German border in the convent of ‘Arme Dienstmaagden van Jezus Christus’ – which translates to Poor Maidens of Jesus Christ. Who she joined on the 8th of December 1937, on the 12th of September 1940 she gave her first vows as a Nun.

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Because of her Jewish origin her religious live was made increasingly difficult, she was no longer allowed to teach at the local junior infant school and she was forced to wear the yellow star of David.

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Although the German occupiers had promised not to pursue the Jews who had converted to Christianity , they deviated from this decision after the Dutch Bishops had openly protested against the German actions.

Together with dozens of other Catholic converted Jews including  Edith Hedwig Stein [St. Teresia Benedicta of the Cross, OCD] and her sister Rosa Adelheid Stein, who both lived in the nearby convent of Echt, Sister Aloysia was arrested and were brought to Kamp Amersfoort.

 

 

 

Then they were transported to Westerbork .

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On the 7th of August 1942 they were all transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where they most certainly were led straight to gas chambers when they arrived on the 9th of August.

 

Sister Aloysia died the tender age of 27. Her only ‘crime’ was being born in a Jewish family.

Although the story of Edith Stein had been well known and documented, the story of Sr. Aloysia had been largely ignored.

The convent had been destroyed in October 1942 by a bombing campaign by the allies who had mistaken Geleen voor nearby Aachen in Germany.

https://dirkdeklein.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/forgotten-history-battlefield-geleen/

The convent was rebuild in 1950 but closed again in the 80’s, however the Sisters still have a community in Geleen and involve themselves mainly with looking after refugees.

On the 28th of June 2006 a monument in remembrance of Sr. Maria Aloysia Löwenfels. It was placed approximately where they old Convent once stood.

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In 2015 the Apostolic administrator of the German diocese Limburg has started the canonization procedure (The official process for declaring someone a saint)for Sr Aloysia. To have her declared a Martyr.

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Forgotten History- Audrey Hepburn and WWII

Aside from my interest in WW2 and I am also a movie buff. And to be honest looking at actors and actresses nowadays none of them have the screen presence like the classic screen Icons such as  Audrey Hepburn.

Although I was never a huge fan there is no denying her acting talents and some of the all time classic movies she starred in. ‘Robin and Marian’ is still one of my all time favorites.

Bur not to get side tracked since this blog is referring to her activities during World War 2 and is not meant to be a movies review.

The fact that she actively did help the resistance is amazing given the background of her parents.

Hepburn was born on 4 May 1929 at number 48 Rue Keyenveld in Ixelles, a municipality in Brussels, Belgium.Her father, Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston was a British subject born in Úžice, Bohemia.

Her mother, Baroness Ella van Heemstra , was a Dutch aristocrat and the daughter of Baron Aarnoud van Heemstra, who was mayor of Arnhem from 1910 to 1920, and served as Governor of Dutch Suriname from 1921 to 1928.

Hepburn’s mother and father married in the Dutch-Colonial Batavia (now Jakarta), Dutch East Indies, in September 1926. They moved back to Europe, to Ixelles in Belgium, where Hepburn was born in 1929, before moving to Linkebeek, a nearby Brussels municipality, in January 1932.Hepburn held British citizenship through her father.

As a result of her multinational background and travelling with her family because of her father’s job,she learned to speak five languages: Dutch and English from her parents and later French, Spanish, and Italian. Hepburn began studying ballet when she was five years old

Hepburn’s parents were members of the British Union of Fascists in the mid-1930s,with her father becoming a true Nazi sympathizer.

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The marriage began to fail in 1935, and after her mother discovered him in bed with the nanny of her children,[Hepburn’s father left the family abruptly. Joseph settled in London following the divorce.In the 1960’s, Hepburn would finally locate him again in  Dublin through the Red Cross.

audrey and dad

Although he remained emotionally detached, his daughter remained in contact and supported him financially until his death.

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Hepburn’s father, Joseph, who abandoned her when she was a little girl, and her mother, Ella, were members of the British Union of Fascists. In 1935, they toured Germany with other members of the organization, including the notorious Mitford sisters, British aristocrats who were jailed for their Nazi sympathies. After Hepburn’s parents divorced, Ella returned to Germany to attend the Nuremberg rallies and wrote an enthusiastic account of the experience for fascist magazineThe Blackshirt. Joseph was investigated by the British House of Commons for receiving seed money to start a newspaper from Germans with ties to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. He was imprisoned as an enemy of the state for the duration of the war.

In 1937, Ella and Audrey moved to Kent, South East England, where Hepburn was educated at a small independent school in Elham, run by two sisters known as “The Mesdemoiselles Smith”.In September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany, and Hepburn’s mother relocated with her daughter back to Arnhem in the hope that (as during World War I) the Netherlands would remain neutral and be spared a German attack.

audrey and mom

While there, Hepburn attended the Arnhem Conservatory from 1939 to 1945 where, in addition to the standard school curriculum, she trained in ballet with Winja Marova. After the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, Hepburn adopted the pseudonym Edda van Heemstra because an “English sounding” name was considered dangerous during the German occupation. In 1942, Hepburn’s uncle, Otto van Limburg Stirum (husband of her mother’s older sister, Miesje), was executed in retaliation for an act of sabotage by the resistance movement.

Limburg Stirum O-E-G

While Hepburn’s half brother Ian was deported to Berlin to work in a German labour camp. Hepburn’s other half-brother Alex went into hiding to avoid the same fate.”We saw young men put against the wall and shot, and they’d close the street and then open it and you could pass by again…Don’t discount anything awful you hear or read about the Nazis. It’s worse than you could ever imagine.” Audret Hepburn recalled.

After this, Ella, Miesje, and Hepburn moved in with her grandfather Baron Aarnoud van Heemstra in nearby Velp. At the time, Hepburn suffered from malnutrition, developed acute anæmia, respiratory problems, and edema.Hepburn, in a retrospective interview, commented, “I have memories. More than once I was at the station seeing trainloads of Jews being transported, seeing all these faces over the top of the wagon.

I remember, very sharply, one little boy standing with his parents on the platform, very pale, very blond, wearing a coat that was much too big for him, and he stepped on to the train. I was a child observing a child. Later in her career, Hepburn was asked to play Holocaust victim Anne Frank in both the Broadway and film adaptations of Frank’s life. Hepburn, however, who was born the same year as Frank, found herself “emotionally incapable” of the task, and at almost 30 years old at the time, too old.

By 1944, Hepburn had become a proficient ballet dancer and she had secretly danced for groups of people to collect money for the Dutch resistance.

“The best audience I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performances”, she remarked She also occasionally acted as a courier for the resistance, delivering messages and packages Had she been discovered doing either of these things, a swift execution would have followed.. After the Allied landing on D-Day, living conditions grew worse and Arnhem was subsequently destroyed during Operation Market Garden.

During the Dutch famine that followed in the winter of 1944, the Germans blocked the resupply routes of the Dutch’s already-limited food and fuel supplies as retaliation for railway strikes that were held to hinder German occupation.

People starved and froze to death in the streets; Hepburn and many others resorted to making flour out of tulip bulbs to bake cakes and biscuits.

During those times, the future Hollywood icon’s meals were often comprised of endive, the low-calorie green leafy vegetable often used in salads, tulip bulbs that she dug up from the ground and water. This was how she survived.Audrey Hepburn disclosed that there were times she couldn’t stand up; she felt to weak to make use of her limbs.

By the time WWII ended, the then 16-year-old Audrey Hepburn only weighed 88 pounds [about 40 kilograms]

One way young Audrey passed the time was by drawing; some of her childhood artwork can be seen today.When the country was liberated, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration trucks followed. Hepburn said in an interview that she fell ill from putting too much sugar in her porridge and eating an entire can of condensed milk. Hepburn’s war-time experiences sparked her devotion to UNICEF, an international humanitarian organisation, in her later career.

Audrey Hepburn’s legacy as an actress and a personality has endured long after her death. The American Film Institute named Hepburn third among the Greatest Female Stars of All Time. She stands as one of few entertainers who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Awards. She won a record three Bafta Awards for Best British Actress in a Leading Role. In her last years, she remained a visible presence in the film world. She received a tribute from the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 1991 and was a frequent presenter at the Academy Awards. She received the BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992. She was the recipient of numerous posthumous awards including the 1993 Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and competitive Grammy and Emmy Awards. She has been the subject of many biographies since her death and the 2000 dramatisation of her life titled The Audrey Hepburn Story which starred Jennifer Love Hewitt and Emmy Rossum as the older and younger Hepburn respectively. The film concludes with footage of the real Audrey Hepburn, shot during one of her final missions for UNICEF.

During the 1950s, it would have been disastrous for Hepburn’s squeaky clean image if it were known that her parents were Nazi sympathizers. By today’s standards, her rejection of her parents’ racist ideology makes her even more admirable.

Hepburn’s image is widely used in advertising campaigns across the world. In Japan, a series of commercials used colourised and digitally enhanced clips of Hepburn in Roman Holiday to advertise Kirin black tea. In the United States, Hepburn was featured in a 2006 Gap commercial which used clips of her dancing from Funny Face, set to AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, with the tagline “It’s Back – The Skinny Black Pant”.

To celebrate its “Keep it Simple” campaign, the Gap made a sizeable donation to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund.In 2013, a computer-manipulated representation of Hepburn was used in a television advert for the British chocolate bar Galaxy. On 4 May 2014 Google featured a doodle on its homepage on the occasion of Hepburn’s 85th birthday.

 

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/the-film-star-and-her-fascist-father-28961174.html

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000030/?ref_=nv_sr_1

 

 

Forgotten History-Lucky Luciano, the Mafia and WWII

lucku-lucciano-record-digitized

Without romanticizing it ,because the Mafia was and is a violent organisation, however they did use to operate under a strict code and even to the’Mob’ the Nazi regime was unacceptable.

The American government collaborated with the Mafia during WWII

Operation Underworld

During the early days of World War II, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence suspected that Italian and German agents were entering the United States through New York, and that these facilities were susceptible to sabotage. The loss of SS Normandie in February 1942 especially raised fears and suspicions in the Navy about possible sabotage in the Eastern ports.

Normandie-Paquebot-annees30-Sipa

A Navy Intelligence Unit, B3, assigned more than a hundred agents to investigate possible Benito Mussolini’s supporters within the predominantly Italian-American fisherman and dockworker population on the waterfront. Their efforts were fruitless as the dockworkers and fishermen in the Italian Mafia-controlled waterfront were tight-lipped and distant to strangers.The Navy contacted Meyer Lansky, a known associate of Salvatore C. Lucania and one of the top non-Italian associates of the Mafia,about a deal with the Mafia boss Lucania.

Lucania, also known as Lucky Luciano, was one of the highest-ranking Mafia both in Italy and the US and was serving a 30 to 50 years sentence for compulsory prostitution in the Meyer Lansky To facilitate the negotiations, the State of New York moved Luciano from the Clinton prison to Great Meadow Correctional Facility, which is much closer to New York City.

The State of New York, Luciano and the Navy struck a deal in which Luciano guaranteed full assistance of his organization in providing intelligence to the Navy. In addition, Luciano associate Albert Anastasia—who controlled the docks and ran Murder, Inc.—allegedly guaranteed no dockworker strikes throughout the war.

albert-anastasia-1902-1957-was-boss-everett

In return, the State of New York agreed to commute Luciano’s sentence.Luciano’s actual influence is uncertain, but the authorities did note that the dockworker strikes stopped after the deal was reached with Luciano.

In the summer of 1945, Luciano petitioned the State of New York for executive clemency, citing his assistance to the Navy. Naval authorities, embarrassed that they had to recruit organized-crime to help in their war effort, declined to confirm Luciano’s claim. However, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office validated the facts and the state parole board unanimously agreed to recommend to the governor that Luciano be released and deported immediately.On January 4, 1946, Governor Thomas E. Dewey, the former prosecutor who placed Luciano into prison, commuted Lucky Luciano’s sentence on the condition that he did not resist deportation to Italy.Dewey stated “Upon the entry of the United States into the war, Luciano’s aid was sought by the Armed Services in inducing others to provide information concerning possible enemy attack. It appears that he cooperated in such effort, although the actual value of the information procured is not clear.”Luciano was deported to his homeland Italy on February 9, 1946. There was a media hype of Luciano’s role after his deportation. The syndicated columnist and radio broadcaster Walter Winchell even reported in 1947 that Luciano would receive the Medal of Honor for his secret services.

Operation Husky

Locked in prison, reading daily newspaper reports of Allied victories, Charlie Luciano got impatient. He wanted to be part of the action. If the U.S. government were grateful to him for his help against enemy agents at home, then they’d be knocked out if he got his hands really dirty and stepped forward for active duty. According to Meyer Lansky, he had it all worked out. He would volunteer to act as a scout or liaison officer for frontline troops. He’d put his neck on the line by being parachuted into action—behind enemy lines—and use his considerable influence to win the war for America. Lansky laughed, picturing him landing on top of a church spire. But Luciano couldn’t see the funny side—he was deadly serious.

The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major campaign of World War II, in which the Allies took the island of Sicily from the Axis powers (Italy and Nazi Germany). It was a large amphibious and airborne operation, followed by a six-week land campaign and was the beginning of the Italian Campaign.

Husky began on the night of 9/10 July 1943, and ended on 17 August. Strategically, Husky achieved the goals set out for it by Allied planners; the Allies drove Axis air, land and naval forces from the island and the Mediterranean sea lanes were opened for Allied merchant ships for the first time since 1941. Benito Mussolini was toppled from power in Italy and the way was opened for the invasion of Italy. Hitler “canceled a major offensive at Kursk after only a week, in part to divert forces to Italy,” resulting in a reduction of German strength on the Eastern Front of World War II.

Italian Americans were very helpful in the planning and execution of the invasion of Sicily. The Mafia was involved in assisting the U.S. war efforts.Luciano’s associates found numerous Sicilians to help the Naval Intelligence draw maps of the harbors of Sicily and dig up old snapshots of the coastline.Vito Genovese, another Mafia boss, offered his services to the U.S. Army and became an interpreter and advisor to the U.S. Army military government in Naples. He quickly became one of AMGOT’s(Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories)most trusted employees.

vito

Through the Navy Intelligence’s Mafia contacts from Operation Underworld, the names of Sicilian underworld personalities and friendly Sicilian natives who could be trusted were obtained and actually used in the Sicilian campaign. The Joint Staff Planners for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff(JSP) drafted a report titled Special Military Plan for Psychological Warfare in Sicily that recommended the “Establishment of contact and communications with the leaders of separatist nuclei, disaffected workers, and clandestine radical groups, e.g., the Mafia, and giving them every possible aid.” The report was approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington on 15 April 1943.

Benito Mussolini, Il Duce was strongly anti-Mafia and from 1925 to 1929, extended the Prefect of Palermo more than a few liberties in a campaign to stamp out the Mafia.

DULCE

The methods used in the anti-Mafia initiative were brutal. Suspects were rounded up en masse. Those suspects who slipped through the dragnet often saw their property destroyed or their families taken hostage by the carabinieri – the Italian gendarmes. Civil liberties were effectively suppressed and police brutality was routine. The initiative ended in 1929, but by this point, plenty of mafiosi had fled Sicily to the United States and the few who remained were despised and mostly powerless.

This is probably more the reason why the Mafia collaborated with the American government to ensure that’ Il Duce’ was dealt a blow as revenge of his war on the Mafia in Sicily and of course there was a substantiNeal Jewish element to the Mafia.

Nevertheless their efforts did contribute to the allied efforts during WWII.

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Forgotten History- James Doohan a WW2:Star Trek Hero

This probably isn’t a forgotten history for the Trekkies but even though I am a Star Trek Fan I did not know about the heroics of James Doohan(Scotty) during World War 2.

 

James Montgomery “Jimmy” Doohan  March 3, 1920 – July 20, 2005) was a Canadian character actor and voice actor best known for his role as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in the television and film series Star Trek.

June 6,  D-Day, the fateful evening during World War II in 1944 that Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, to battle Hitler’s Nazi forces and liberate mainland Europe. One of those soldiers, on his very first combat assignment, was a young Canadian named James Doohan, who later when on to great fame as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Star Trek: The Original Series.

“The sea was rough,” Doohan recalled of his landing on Juno Beach that day, an anecdote included in his obituary, which the Associated Press ran on June 20, 2005. “We were more afraid of drowning than (we were of) the Germans.”

At the beginning of the Second World War, Doohan joined the Royal Canadian Artillery and was a member of the 14th midland field battery 2nd Canadian infantry division from Cobourg Ontario.

He was commissioned a lieutenant in the 14th Field Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.

juno-4-14.6 14th Field Regiment

He was sent to England in 1940 for training. His first combat was the invasion of Normandy at Juno Beach on D-Day. Shooting two snipers, Doohan led his men to higher ground through a field of anti-tank mines, where they took defensive positions for the night. Crossing between command posts at 11:30 that night, Doohan was hit by six rounds fired from a Bren gun by a nervous Canadian sentry: four in his leg, one in the chest, and one through his right middle finger. The bullet to his chest was stopped by a silver cigarette case given to him by his brother. He would later give up smoking, but at least he could say that being a smoker actually saved his life.

His right middle finger had to be amputated, something he would conceal during his career as an actor

Doohan, throughout his acting career, took measures to hide the missing finger, but it was occasionally visible to the camera, including in certain shots from Star Trek. He made no effort, however,to hide the missing finger during his decades of autograph signings and convention appearances.

finger

D-Day was the first and last action he saw in the war.  After recovering from his injuries, he became a pilot in the Canadian Air Force, but never saw action.  Despite not ever flying in combat, he was once called “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force” when he flew a plane through two telegraph poles after “slaloming” down a mountainside, just to prove it could be done.  This act was not looked upon highly by his superiors, but earned him a reputation among the pilots of the Canadian Air Force

On July 20, 2005, at 5:30 in the morning, Doohan died at his home in Redmond, Washington due to complications of pulmonary fibrosis, which was believed to be from exposure to noxious substances during WWII.

A portion of his ashes, ¼ ounce (7 grams), were scheduled the following fall for a memorial flight to space with 100 others, including Project Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper.[Launch on the SpaceLoft XL rocket was delayed to April 28, 2007, when the rocket briefly entered outer space in a four-minute suborbital flight before parachuting to earth, as planned, with the ashes still inside.

The ashes were subsequently launched on a Falcon 1 rocket, on August 3, 2008, into what was intended to be a low Earth orbit; however, the rocket failed two minutes after launch. The rest of Doohan’s ashes were scattered over Puget Sound in Washington. On May 22, 2012, a small urn containing some of Doohan’s remains in ash form was flown into space aboard the Falcon 9 rocket as part of COTS Demo Flight 2.

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Forgotten History-Frits Philips

 

We all know the name and brand. The company which was started as a family business in 1891  by Gerard and his Father Frederik Philips, who owned a cigar shop and was a first cousin of Karl Marx.

 

Gerard and his younger brother Anton Philips changed the business to a corporation by founding in 1912 the NV Philips’ Gloeilampenfabrieken. As the first CEO of the Philips corporation, Gerard laid with Anton the base for the later Philips multinational.

Hang on I hear you say this is not forgotten history, these are well known and documented facts(except for the Karl Marx link). And you would be right but the title is ‘Forgotten History-Frits Philips’

 

Frederik Jacques “Frits” Philips (16 April 1905 – 5 December 2005) was the fourth chairman of the board of directors of the Dutch electronics company Philips, which his uncle and father founded. For his actions in saving 382 Jews during the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands in World War II, he was recognized in 1996 by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations.

 

Frits Philips was born in the city of Eindhoven in the south of the Netherlands. The second child, he was the only son of Anton Philips and his wife Anne Henriëtte Elisabeth Maria de Jongh.

Born and raised long before many of the products that would make his company a household name had even been developed, Mr. Philips, who was known as Frits, was a successful businessman who was more interested in the common good than the corporate coffers. Mr. Philips, along with his predecessors at the company, helped build houses for company employees along with sports clubs and cultural institutions.

On 18 October 1935 Frits Philips was appointed vice-director and a member of the board of Philips. Learning of the expected occupation of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany in World War II in 1940, his father Anton Philips, young nephew Frans Otten, and other Philips family members escaped from the Netherlands and fled to the United States, taking company capital with them. Frits Philips stayed in the Netherlands. Together they managed to keep the company alive during the war.

From 30 May until 20 September 1943, Philips was held in the concentration camp Vught because of a strike at the Philips factory.

 

During the Occupation, Philips saved the lives of 382 Jews by convincing the Nazis that they were indispensable for the production process at Philips.

Mr. Philips reportedly tried to hire as many Jews as possible and then told the Nazi occupiers that they were irreplaceable, a strategy that prevented many of them from being sent to Auschwitz.

Of the 469 Jews employed at the factory, 382 survived the war, according to a company history.

Some historians are critical about Mr Frits Philips ,they say he played a double role in the war because its factory production contributed to the German war industry as well.But the fact is that anyone who defied the Nazi regime put their life at risk.

Between 1961 and 1971 Frits Philips served as President of the company, he was to be the last of the Philips family to be a President of Philips.

It’s funny I worked for Philips for a decade and I never knew about Frits’s involvement in saving the lives of 382 Jewish Philips employees.Nor did I know that there was a Family link with Karl Marx.

  • 1965, he was included in the Dutch royal ranks of Orange Nassau (rank of commander).
  • 1970, he was knighted as Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion. 

    In his hometown of Eindoven he was simply known as Mr Frits a statue was erected in his honor and a concert hall was named after him.

     

    Yet more proof that one man can make a difference.

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Forgotten History-Nicholas Winton an unsung Hero

It is often said that only the good die young and the evil seem to live forever, and for a long time I believed this to be true, looking at how old some of the escaped War Criminals got. But then I heard of Nicholas Winton, he died 1 July 2015 at the old age of 106. This man was the personification of good.

I first came across the story of Nicholas Winton in 1988 where the BBC had a special broadcast of “That’s life” in honor of  Mr Winton, which I found a bit odd because the show was notable for presenting hard-hitting investigations alongside satire and occasional light entertainment, and not so much a show where they honored people. That was more for “This is your life” but I was a lot younger then and did not really understand the relevance at the time.

Sir Nicholas George Winton MBE (born Nicholas George Wertheim; 19 May 1909 – 1 July 2015) was a British humanitarian who organized the rescue of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport (German for “children transportation”). Winton found homes for the children and arranged for their safe passage to Britain.The world found out about his work over 40 years later, in 1988. The British press dubbed him the “British Schindler”.On 28 October 2014, he was awarded the highest honour of the Czech Republic, the Order of the White Lion (1st class), by Czech President Miloš Zeman.

In December 1938, Martin Blake, a friend and an instructional master at the Westminster School in London, asked Winton to forego his planned ski vacation and visit him in Czechoslovakia, where he had traveled in his capacity as an associate of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia. This committee had been established in October 1938 to provide assistance for refugees created by the German annexation of the Sudeten regions under the terms of the Munich Pact. Convinced that a European war was imminent, Winton decided to go. In Prague, Blake introduced Winton to his colleague, Doreen Wariner, and arranged for him to visit refugee camps filled to capacity with Jews and political opponents from the Sudetenland.

After Munich, Winton had been certain that the Germans would occupy the rest of Bohemia and Moravia before long. He had been alarmed further by the violence against the Jewish community in Germany and Austria during the Kristallnacht riots in November 1938.

 

When he heard of subsequent efforts of Jewish agencies in Britain to rescue German and Austrian Jewish children on the so-called Kindertransport, an effort that eventually brought about 10,000 unaccompanied children to safety in Great Britain, Winton summoned a small group of people to organize a similar rescue operation for children imperiled by the impending German dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in March 1939

Winton immediately established a Children’s Section and, using the name of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, initially without authorization, began taking applications from parents at his hotel in Prague. As his operation expanded, he opened an office in central Prague. Soon, thousands of parents lined up outside of Winton’s Children Section’s office seeking a safe haven for their children.

Winton returned to London to organize the rescue operation on that end. He raised money to fund the transports of the children and the 50 pound per child guarantee demanded by the British government to fund the children’s eventual departure from Britain. He also had to find British families willing to care for the refugee children. By day, Winton worked at his regular job on the Stock Exchange, and then devoted late afternoons and evenings to his rescue efforts. He made a great effort to raise money and find foster homes to bring as many children as possible to safety.

An important obstacle was getting official permission to cross into the Netherlands, as the children were to embark on the ferry at Hoek van Holland. After Kristallnacht in November 1938, the Dutch government officially closed its borders to any Jewish refugees. The border guards, marechaussees, searched for them and returned any found to Germany, despite the horrors ofKristallnacht being well known.

Winton succeeded, thanks to the guarantees he had obtained from Britain. After the first train, the process of crossing the Netherlands went smoothly.Winton ultimately found homes in Britain for 669 children, many of whose parents would perish in the Auschwitz concentration camp.His mother worked with him to place the children in homes and later hostels.Throughout the summer of 1939, he placed photographs of the children in Picture Post seeking families to accept them.

He also wrote to US politicians such as Roosevelt, asking them for haven for more children.

letter

He said that two thousand more might have been saved if they had helped but only Sweden took any besides those sent to Britain.The last group of 250, scheduled to leave Prague on 1 September 1939, were unable to depart. With Hitler’s invasion of Poland on the same day, the Second World War had begun.Nearly all of the children in that group perished during the war.

The first transport of children organized by Winton left Prague by plane for London on March 14, 1939, the day before the Germans occupied the Czech lands. After the Germans established a Protectorate in the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, Winton organized seven further transports that departed by rail out of Prague and across Germany to the Atlantic Coast, then by ship across the English Channel to Britain. At the train station in London, British foster parents waited to collect the children. The last trainload of children left Prague on August 2, 1939. Rescue activities ceased when Germany invaded Poland and Britain declared war in Germany in early September 1939.

The total number of children rescued through Winton’s efforts is not yet certain. According to a scrapbook he kept, 664 children came to Great Britain on transports that he organized. In the research compiled for the documentary “The Power of Good: Nicholas Winton,” aired on Czech television in 2002, researchers identified five additional persons who entered Britain on a Winton-financed transport, bringing the official number to 669 children. The available information indicates that some children who were rescued have not yet been identified.

After the war, Nicholas Winton’s rescue efforts remained virtually unknown. It was not until 1988, when his wife Grete found a scrapbook from 1939 with all the children’s photos and a complete list of names of those rescued that Winton’s rescue efforts became known. Winton since received a letter of thanks from the late Ezer Weizman, former president of the State of Israel, and was made an honorary citizen of Prague in the independent Czech Republic. In 2002, Winton received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to humanity.

A statue of Winton stands on Platform 1 of the Praha hlavní nádraží railway station.Created by Flor Kent, it was unveiled on 1 September 2009 as part of a larger commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the last Kindertransport train.

800px-Wintons_Prague_memorial_by_Flor_Kent_-_1

Also on the 1st of September 2009 a special “Winton Train” set off from the Prague Main railway station. The train, composed of one or two steam locomotives (out of a set of six) and carriages used in the 1930s, headed to London via the original Kindertransport route. On board were several surviving “Winton children” and their descendants, who were welcomed by Winton in London. The occasion marked the 70th anniversary of the intended last Kindertransport, due to set off on 3 September 1939 but prevented by the outbreak of the Second World War. At the train’s departure, a memorial statue for Winton, designed by Flor Kent, was unveiled at the railway station.

1024px-Winton-Train-Headboard-London-Liverpool-St-Stn-20090904It just goes to show again that one man can make a difference.

Forgotten History-Lieutenant-Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming “Jack” Churchill,

This must be one of the most  craziest stories to emerge from WWII. This man must have been the luckiest man ever. I am not sure if he was crazy or a psychopath(in a psoitive way) or totally fearless but one thing is sure he was one of a kind.

Lieutenant-Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe FlemingJackChurchill, (16 September 1906 – 8 March 1996) was a British Army officer who fought throughout the Second World War armed with a longbow, bagpipes, and a basket-hilted Scottish broadsword.

Nicknamed “Fighting Jack Churchill” and “Mad Jack”, he is known for the motto: “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.” It is claimed that Churchill also carried out the last recorded longbow and arrow killing in action, shooting a German NCO in 1940 in a French village during the Battle of France.

It was May 1940, and the German officer’s unit was attacking toward a village called l’Epinette, near Bethune, France. Five of his soldiers took cover behind a farmyard wall, sheltered from the fire of British rearguards covering the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force to the English Channel. Without warning, one German crumpled, the feathered tip of an arrow sticking out of his chest. From a small farm building on their flank, rifle-fire tore into the others.

While he may have known that his enemy was soldiers of the Manchester Regiment, the German leader could not have known that they were led by the formidable Captain Jack Churchill. It was Churchill’s arrow that skewered the luckless German, while his men’s rifles accounted for the rest. However deadly, bows and arrows were surely anachronisms in modern war. They were formidable soldiers and always had been, precisely the sort of men Jack Churchill was cut out to lead.

But then, so was the bowman.

John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill—known as “Jack Churchill” to his friends, and later “Mad Jack” or “Fighting Jack”—was a professional soldier, son of an old Oxfordshire family. Born in Hong Kong, Churchill graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1926 and was commissioned in the Manchesters, a storied regiment with battle honors dating back to the 18th century. The regiment had been raised as the 63rd and 96th Regiments of Foot and had shed their blood for Britain all across the world. Forty-two battalions of Manchesters served in World War I alone.

Jack Churchill’s younger brother, Tom, also became a Manchesters officer, and in time would rise to major general, retiring in 1962. His younger brother, called Buster, opted for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm and died for his country off Malta during the fierce fighting of Operation Pedestal.

That Churchill was a free spirit was obvious from the beginning of his service, even in an army rich in such men. For example, while serving in Burma before the outbreak of World War II, he attended a course in signals at Poona in India. It might appear odd to some that Churchill took his motorcycle all the way from Rangoon to Poona, but it did not seem at all remarkable, at least to Churchill, to return the 1,500 miles from Poona to Calcutta—whence he was to take a ship for Rangoon—riding his bike. Along the way he lost a contest with a large and hostile water buffalo but returned to his unit in time to serve in the Burma Rebellion of 1930-32.

As soon as the Nazis invaded Poland and war became imminent, though, Churchill rushed to the battlefield. The longbow came out almost immediately during the Allied retreat to Dunkirk, France, in mid 1940. He took to practicing guerilla tactics, staging raids, and earning commendations for his bravery, even surviving a clipping by machine gun fire. Then, while watching a German force advance from a tower in the little village of L’Epinette, Churchill signaled his attack by shooting a Nazi sergeant through the chest with a barbed arrow, immediately followed by a hail of bullets from two fellow infantrymen in tow.

As befitted his love of things Scottish, Jack Churchill carried the basket-hilted claymore (technically a claybeg, the true claymore being an enormous two-handed sword).

Later on, asked by a general who awarded him a decoration why he carried a sword in action, Churchill is said to have answered: “In my opinion, sir, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”

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The war-diary of 4th Infantry Brigade, to which Churchill’s battalion belonged, commented on this extraordinary figure. “One of the most reassuring sights of the embarkation [from Dunkirk] was the sight of Captain Churchill passing down the beach with his bows and arrows. His high example and his great work … were a great help to the 4th Infantry Brigade.”

 

During the retreat, Churchill took command of his company when his company commander was wounded, and it was during this fighting that he spitted his hapless German soldier with, as the chronicles of Henry V’s wars would put it, “a cloth-yard shaft.” One of his brother officers, an old friend, saw him about that time chugging across the Flanders plain on a small motorcycle, his bow tied to the frame, arrows sticking out of one of the panniers on the back, a German officer’s cap hanging on the headlight. “Ah!” said Churchill, spotting his friend, “Hullo Clark! Got anything to drink?”

Once Churchill had dismounted, his friend noticed dried blood smeared across one ear and asked Churchill about the injury. German machine gun, said Churchill casually. His men had shouted at him to run but, he said, he was simply too tired. He won his first Military Cross during the retreat to the Channel, when he hitched six trucks together to salvage a disabled British tank; although in the end he could not save the tank, he did rescue a wounded British officer.

His close call did not seem to impress Churchill in the least. Then and afterward, he seemed to be one of those extraordinary men who thrive on danger and fear it not at all. Some fellow soldiers are said to have called him “Mad Jack,” and the nickname was not altogether undeserved.

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In 1941, Churchill volunteered to join the newly formed British commandos, with whom he launched his screaming Nordic raid. After emerging from the battle unscathed, a British demolition “expert” accidentally detonated a charge next to him, sending shards from the bottle of wine he was drinking into his forehead. But he was back on his feet soon after, joining the 1943 campaign in Italy, where he snuck out one night with a corporal, creeping from one German post to the next and surprising the guards with his claymore. By the end of the night he’d captured 42 prisoners with a sword and soon after earned the Distinguished Service Order.

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In 1944, Churchill was sent to assist Josip Broz Tito’s forces in Yugoslavia, leading a full frontal assault on a well-defended tower on the island of Brač.

 

Leading a charge through strafing fire and mortars, he was one of only seven men to reach the target and, after firing off every bullet he had, found himself the last man standing. So he stood playing “Will Ye No Come Back Again?” on his pipes until the advancing Germans knocked him out with a grenade blast. The Nazis reportedly ignored orders to kill him out of respect, but it probably helped that they assumed he was a relative of Winston Churchill, which prompted them to send him to Berlin for interrogation. After proving he had no valuable intel and causing panic by lighting a trash fire during one of his moves, he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

He promptly escaped the camp, shimmying under a wire fence, and attempted to walk about 125 miles through Nazi territory to the Baltic Sea. He was captured just miles from the shore and transferred to another camp, this time in Italy. As should have been expected by then, he escaped in 1945, sneaking away during a power outage and walking about 100 miles using a stolen rusted can to cook what he considered liberated vegetables looted from Nazi-held fields until he found an American regiment in Verona and convinced them he was a British Officer.

As the Pacific War was still on, Churchill was sent to Burma, where some of the largest land battles against Japan were being fought. By the time Churchill reached India, Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been bombed and the war ended.

 

Churchill was said to be unhappy with the sudden end of the war, saying: “If it wasn’t for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going another 10 years!

Though Jack Churchill might have thought that he was through with war, he was not. After World War II ended, he qualified as a parachutist, transferred to the Seaforth Highlanders, and later ended up in Palestine as second-in-command of 1st Battalion, the Highland Light Infantry. And it was there, in the spring of 1948, just before the end of the British mandate over that troubled land, that he again risked his life for other people.

Those were dangerous days, with much blood—Jewish, Arab and British—shed by Arab terrorists and by Jewish radicals, notably the so-called Stern Gang.

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On a day in May a Jewish medical convoy—ambulances, trucks, and buses—was ambushed by Arabs on a narrow street in Jerusalem, not far from a small HLI detachment at a place called Tony’s Post. Churchill rushed to the site in a Dingo, a small armored car. This one had its turret removed for repair, but it gave him a semblance of protection at least.

Accurately assessing the potential for mass murder by the Arab terrorists, he radioed for two Staghounds, heavy cannon-armed armored cars, and these were diverted from convoy protection and dispatched to him. It would take time for the armored cars to reach him, however, and while they were on their way, Churchill acted. He drove down to the beleaguered convoy in a large armored personnel carrier covered by the only escort available, an open-topped Bren gun carrier and a small police armored car armed with a machine gun. Leaving his tiny convoy and swinging a walking stick, he walked calmly into the open and down the road to the convoy.

Marching into the teeth of the battle around the convoy, he must have been quite a sight. Since he had just come from a battalion parade, he was resplendent in full dress: kilt, glengarry bonnet, red-and-white diced stockings, Sam Browne belt, and white spats. And as usual he later made light of this extraordinary cold courage: “I grinned like mad from side to side,” he said afterward, “as people are less likely to shoot at you if you smile at them … [that] outfit in the middle of the battle, together with my grinning at them, may have made the Arabs laugh because most of them have a sense of humor. Anyway, they didn’t shoot me!”

Churchill spoke to the occupants of one bus and offered to drive his big armored personnel carrier down to the convoy and make as many trips as necessary to evacuate the patients and their medical personnel. He warned those at the convoy that there might be casualties when they moved to the British vehicle, and one of the Jews asked whether he would not first drive off the Arabs. He patiently explained that he could not; there were hundreds of Arabs and he had only 12 men.

After a discussion with one of the doctors, as Churchill stood in the open, his offer was refused. “Thank you very much but we do not want your help. The Haganah (the Jewish defense force) will save us.” Churchill walked down the convoy repeating his offer, but was uniformly refused. By now one of Churchill’s men had been mortally wounded, and he ran back to his vehicles and sent them out of harm’s way. Returning to Tony’s Post, he supported the Jewish convoy with small arms fire until Arab gasoline bombs and rifle fire destroyed the Jewish vehicles and most of their passengers. The Haganah had not arrived to save them after all, and 77 Jews died in the narrow street.

Later, Churchill engineered the evacuation of some 700 Jews—patients, staff, and students—from the university and hospital atop Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus. Churchill made an early run up Scopus in his jeep accompanied by Eli Davis, the deputy medical director of the hospital.

Here is how Davis later told the story: “Major Churchill told me there was slight chance of getting through … because the Arabs saw the British meant business. He agreed to make the trip up to Scopus and invited me along. The Major took a Jeep and his driver. I sat while he stood in the Jeep twirling his stick. He looked as though he were on parade in London…”

In later years, Churchill served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, where he became a passionate devotee of the surfboard. Back in England, he was the first man to ride the River Severn’s five-foot tidal bore and designed his own board.During this time back in England he worked at a desk job in the military.

Jack Churchill never changed, never lost his flair for the unusual, not to say the flamboyant. In his later years, passengers on a London commuter train were often startled by seeing an older male passenger rise, open a window, and hurl his briefcase out into the night. The passenger would then leave the car and wait by the train’s door until it stopped at the next station. It was Churchill, of course, enjoying his little gesture and reasonably sure that his fellow passengers could not know he had thrown the case into the garden of his house. It saved him carrying it home from the station.

 

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