William Kemmler-First execution by electric chair.

WmKmlr-execution (1)

At Auburn Prison in New York, the first execution by electrocution in history was carried out against William Kemmler, who had been convicted of murdering his lover, Matilda Ziegler, with an axe.

William Kemmler was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both of his parents were immigrants from Germany and both of them were alcoholics.After dropping out of school at age 10, having learned neither how to read nor write, Kemmler worked in his father’s butcher shop. His father died from an infection that he received after a drunken brawl and his mother died from complications of alcoholism. After his parents died, he went into the peddling business and earned enough money to buy a horse and cart, although at this point he was becoming a heavy drinker.

William_Kemmler.jpg

In one episode involving him and his friends after a series of drunken binges, he said he could jump his horse and cart over an eight-foot fence with the cart attached to the horse. The attempt was a failure, and his cart and goods destroyed in the incident. He was known to friends as “Philadelphia Billy” due to his drinking binges that were very well known around the saloons in his Buffalo neighborhood. Kemmler was reportedly slender, with dark brown hair. He spoke both English and German.

Electrocution as a humane means of execution was first suggested in 1881 by Dr. Albert Southwick, a dentist.

2014_03_12_15_58_12_110_Southwick_Alfred_200

Southwick had witnessed an elderly drunkard “painlessly” killed after touching the terminals of an electrical generator in Buffalo, New York. In the prevalent form of execution at the time–death by hanging–the condemned were known to hang by their broken necks for up to 30 minutes before succumbing to asphyxiation.

In 1889, New York’s Electrical Execution Law, the first of its kind in the world, went into effect, and Edwin R. Davis, the Auburn Prison electrician, was commissioned to design an electric chair. Closely resembling the modern device, Davis’ chair was fitted with two electrodes, which were composed of metal disks held together with rubber and covered with a damp sponge. The electrodes were to be applied to the criminal’s head and back.

first-electric-chair-Auburn-NY-photo-International-News

On August 6, 1890, William Kemmler became the first person to be sent to the chair. After he was strapped in, a charge of approximately 700 volts was delivered for only 17 seconds before the current failed. Although witnesses reported smelling burnt clothing and charred flesh, Kemmler was far from dead, and a second shock was prepared. The second charge was 1,030 volts and applied for about two minutes, whereupon smoke was observed coming from the head of Kemmler, who was clearly deceased. An autopsy showed that the electrode attached to his back had burned through to the spine.

Dr. Southwick applauded Kemmler’s execution with the declaration, “We live in a higher civilization from this day on,” while American inventor George Westinghouse, an innovator of the use of electricity, remarked, “They would have done better with an axe.”

 

Advertisements

The Whitechapel 11

dorset_street_whitechapel_lens_view

The Whitechapel murders were committed in or near the impoverished Whitechapel district in the East End of London between 3 April 1888 and 13 February 1891. At various points some or all of these eleven unsolved murders of women have been ascribed to the notorious unidentified serial killer known as Jack the Ripper.

1888_whitechapel_london_murder_map

Of the eleven Whitechapel Murders, it is widely believed that Jack the Ripper is directly responsible for five of them. It is possible that the Ripper may have claimed more than five victims, but most experts agree that at least five of the East End murders were the work of Jack the Ripper.

emma_elizabeth_smith_whitechapel_murders-300x238

The first victim in the series of Whitechapel Murders was a prostitute by the name of Emma Elizabeth Smith. Smith was attacked and raped on Osbourn Street in Whitechapel on April 3, 1888. During the assault, her attackers beat and raped her, then violently inserted a blunt object into her vagina, causing an injury which would take her life the following day. After the assault, the men emptied her purse and fled – leaving her to die on the street. Before she slipped into a coma and died the next day at a London hospital, Smith told authorities that two or three men, one of them a teenager, were responsible for her attack.

The press had linked Smith’s murder to the subsequent Whitechapel Murders, but most experts later believed that particular murder to be the result of random gang violence. Whitechapel was home to many notorious gangs who would patrol the streets of Whitechapel – harassing unfortunate women like Emma Smith – demanding they pay them money in exchange for ‘protection’.

martha_tabram_whitechapel_murder_victim_sm

The next victim in the series of Whitechapel Murders was Martha Tabram. Tabram, a prostitute in the East End, was brutally murdered in the early morning hours of August 7, 1888. On the eve of her murder, Tabram was out drinking with another prostitute and two soldiers at a public house near the George Yard Buildings. Shortly before midnight on August 6th, Tabram and her friend paired off with their clients – Tabram heading through the archway into George Yard.

Tabram’s body was first encountered at around 3:30 AM on August 7th by carman George Crow. He had been returning home after work, and because of the darkness in the stairwell, mistook her body as that of a drunk woman passed out on the landing.

At around 5 AM, her body was again discovered by another resident of George Yard Buildings, but by this time there was enough light in the stairway to reveal her ghastly wounds. She had been stabbed 39 times. The wounds focused on her throat, chest and lower abdomen, and appeared to have been inflicted by a pocket knife – with the exception of one violent stab through her chest which looked to have been performed with a large dagger or bayonet.

ripper_victim_polly_nichols

The body of Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols was discovered in the wee morning hours of August 31, 1888, at about 3:40am by 2 carmen on their way to work. Her body was found in front of a gated horse stable entrance on Buck’s Row, Whitechapel. The two men who happened upon her, Charles Cross and Robert Paul, saw Polly lying on the ground with her skirts pulled up to her waist. At first they weren’t sure if she was either passed out drunk or dead, but after some hesitation they approached her and felt her hands and face, which were both cold to the touch. Feeling very uneasy about what they had just stumbled upon, both men hurried off to alert the first constable they could find.

Minutes later she was discovered by PC John Neil while passing through Buck’s Row while on his nightly beat. He shone his lantern on Polly’s body which revealed her lifeless eyes staring up into the night sky.

Her throat had been deeply severed in two locations – nearly decapitating her – and her lower abdomen partially ripped open by a deep, jagged wound. The killer had also made several other incisions in her abdomen with the same knife. The doctor who had arrived at the scene to examine her body had deemed her time of death to be less than 30 minutes from the time she’d been found.

jack_the_ripper_victim_annie_chapman

A witness had reported seeing Annie Chapman talking with a man outside 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, 5:30am the morning of her murder. Albert Cadosch, who lived at 27 Hanbury Street, reported hearing a woman in the next door backyard say “No”, followed by what sounded like a body falling against the fence. Approximately twenty minutes later, her badly mutilated body was found by carter John Davis near a doorway in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street.

Her throat had been cut in much the same manner as Mary Ann Nichols had been slashed, and her abdomen ripped entirely open. Her intestines, torn out and still attached, had been placed over her right shoulder. A later autopsy revealed that the killer had removed her uterus and parts of her vagina.

The Ripper would claim two victims in the early morning hours of September 30, 1888; the first of which was Elizabeth Stride. Her body was discovered in Dutfield’s Yard, off Berner Street, at approximately 1am. The killer had cut her throat, severing her left artery, yet no other slashes or incisions had been made.

Because of the absence of abdominal mutilations, there has been some doubt as to whether or not Stride was in fact killed by Jack the Ripper. However, most experts agree that Stride was murdered by the same killer due to the nature in which her throat had been cut.

It’s also believed that the reason Stride had not been mutilated like the others was due to an interruption of some sort. It’s possible the killer feared he was in jeopardy of being detected by nearby witnesses and elected to flee before finishing his ritual.

Forty five minutes after Stride’s body was found in Dutfield’s Yard, Eddowes’ body was discovered in Mitre Square, within the City of London. Eddowes’ throat had been severed and her abdomen torn open with a deep, jagged wound. Her left kidney had been removed, along with a major portion of her uterus. Just before Eddowes’ mutilated body would be discovered in Mitre Square, an eyewitness saw her in the company of a man who he described as being approximately 5′ 7″ tall, 30 years of age, with a medium build, fair complexion and a moustache. His attire gave him the over all “appearance of a sailor.”

The Stride and Eddowes murders were later referred to as the “Double Event“.

jack_the_ripper_victim_mary_jane_kelly

Considered to be Jack the Ripper’s Swan Song, Mary Jane Kelly’s murder was the most gruesome of all the Whitechapel Murders. She was found horribly mutilated, lying on the bed in her single room flat where she lived at 13 Miller’s Court, off Dorset Street, Spitalfields. She was discovered at 10:45am on the morning of Friday, November 9, 1888.

The landlord’s assistant, Thomas Bowyer, had been sent over to collect the rent, which she had been weeks behind in paying. When she didn’t answer his knock at the door, Bowyer reach his hand through a crack in the window, pushing aside a coat being used as makeshift drapery. What he saw at that moment was absolutely horrific.

Kelly’s body was mutilated beyond recognition. Her entire abdominal cavity had been emptied out, her breasts cut off, and her viscera had been deliberately placed beneath her head and on the bedside table. Kelly’s face had been hacked away and her heart removed, which was also absent from the crime scene. Kelly’s murder was by far the most grisly and ritualistic of all.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/11/09/mary-jane-kelly-the-last-victim-of-jack-the-ripper/

Rose Mylett

 

Following Kelly’s ghastly murder, there were four other women who were killed in the Whitechapel district during that same period, the first of which was Rose Mylett. Mylett was found strangled in Clarke’s Yard on High Street on December 20, 1888. Investigators assessed that her death may have been the result of a drunken stupor, as there were no visible signs of a struggle apparent anywhere on her body or clothing. Even though the inquest deemed it to be a murder, her death in no way resembled a Ripper killing.

whitechapel_murder_victim_alice_mckenzie

The body of Alice McKenzie was found on July 17, 1889, in Castle Alley, Whitechapel. She had suffered a severed carotid artery, along with multiple small cuts and bruises across her body – evident of a struggle. One of the pathologists involved in the investigation dismissed this as a possible Ripper murder, as it did not match with the findings of the three previous Ripper victims he had examined. Writers have also disputed McKenzie as being a victim of Jack the Ripper, but rather of a murderer trying to copy his modus operandi in an attempt to deflect suspicion.

pinchin-street-torso-found

The tenth Whitechapel murder victim was The Pinchin Street Torso The victim was named as such because she was found headless and legless under a railway arch on Pinchin Street, Whitechapel, on September 10, 1888. Investigators believed that the victim was murdered at a different location, and the body dismembered for disposal.

whitechapel_murder_victim_frances_coles

Frances Coles was murdered on February 13, 1891. She was found at Swallow Gardens – a passageway beneath a railway arch between Chamber Street and Royal Mint Street, Whitechapel – with her throat slit. Visible wounds on the back of her head suggested that Coles was likely thrown to the ground after having suffered to knife wounds across her throat. Apart from the cuts to her throat, there were no mutilations to her body.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/12/14/the-real-edmund-reid/

The Metropolitan Police, City of London Police, and private organisations such as the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee were involved in the search for the killer or killers. Despite extensive inquiries and several arrests, the culprit or culprits evaded identification and capture. The murders drew attention to the poor living conditions in the East End slums, which were subsequently improved. The enduring mystery of who committed the crimes has captured public imagination to the present day.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/12/02/hell-broke-loose/

jack_the_ripper_deerstalker_hat

D.B. Cooper-Probably the perfect crime

db_cooper_wanted_poster

One afternoon a day before Thanksgiving in 1971, a guy calling himself Dan Cooper (the media mistakenly called him D.B. Cooper) boarded Northwest Airlines flight #305 in Portland bound for Seattle.

flight_305

He was wearing a dark suit and a black tie and was described as a business-executive type. While in the air, he opened his brief case showing a bomb to the flight attendant and hijacked the plane. The plane landed in Seattle where he demanded 200K in cash, four parachutes and food for the crew before releasing all the passengers. With only three pilots and one flight attendant left on board, they took off from Seattle with the marked bills heading south while it was dark and lightly raining. In the 45 minutes after takeoff, Cooper sent the flight attendant to the cockpit while donning the parachute, tied the bank bag full of twenty dollar bills to himself, lowered the rear stairs and somewhere north of Portland jumped into the night. When the plane landed with the stairs down, they found the two remaining parachutes and on the seat Cooper w

On the afternoon of Thanksgiving eve, November 24, 1971, a man carrying a black attaché case approached the flight counter of Northwest Orient Airlines at Portland International Airport. He identified himself as “Dan Cooper” and purchased a one-way ticket on Flight 305, a 30-minute trip to Seattle.

Cooper boarded the aircraft, a Boeing 727-100 (FAA registration N467US), and took A seat In the rear of the passenger cabin. He lit a cigaretteand ordered a bourbon and soda. Eyewitnesses on board recalled a man in his mid-forties, between 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) and 6 feet 0 inches (1.83 m) tall. He wore a black lightweight raincoat, loafers, a dark suit, a neatly pressed white collared shirt, a black necktie, and a mother of pearl tie pin.

14xp-cooper-jumbo

 

Flight 305 was approximately one-third full when the aircraft took off on schedule at 2:50 pm, PST. Cooper handed a note to Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant situated nearest to him in a jump seat attached to the aft stair door. Schaffner, assuming the note contained a lonely businessman’s phone number, dropped it unopened into her purse. Cooper leaned toward her and whispered, “Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.

The note was printed in neat, all-capital letters with a felt-tip pen. Its exact wording is unknown, because Cooper later reclaimed it, but Schaffner recalled that it indicated he had a bomb in his briefcase, and wanted her to sit with him.Schaffner did as requested, then quietly asked to see the bomb. Cooper cracked open his briefcase long enough for her to glimpse eight red cylinders (“four on top of four”) attached to wires coated with red insulation, and a large cylindrical battery.After closing the briefcase, he dictated his demands: $200,000 in “negotiable American currency”;four parachutes (two primary and two reserve); and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the aircraft upon arrival.Schaffner conveyed Cooper’s instructions to the pilots in the cockpit: when she returned, he was wearing dark sunglasses.

article-2020687-0d3c5f6000000578-409_308x219-2

The pilot, William Scott, contacted Seattle-Tacoma Airport air traffic control, which in turn informed local and federal authorities.

1024px-ksea_tower_interior

The 36 other passengers were told that their arrival in Seattle would be delayed because of a “minor mechanical difficulty”.Northwest Orient’s president, Donald Nyrop, authorized payment of the ransom and ordered all employees to cooperate fully with the hijacker. The aircraft circled Puget Sound for approximately two hours to allow Seattle police and the FBI time to assemble Cooper’s parachutes and ransom money, and to mobilize emergency personnel.

Schaffner recalled that Cooper appeared familiar with the local terrain; at one point he remarked, “Looks like Tacoma down there,” as the aircraft flew above it. He also correctly mentioned that McChord Air Force Base was only a 20-minute drive (at that time) from Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Schaffner described him as calm, polite, and well-spoken, not at all consistent with the stereotypes (enraged, hardened criminals or “take-me-to-Cuba” political dissidents) popularly associated with air piracy at the time. Tina Mucklow, another flight attendant, agreed. “He wasn’t nervous,” she told investigators. “He seemed rather nice. He was never cruel or nasty. He was thoughtful and calm all the time.” He ordered a second bourbon and water, paid his drink tab (and attempted to give Schaffner the change), and offered to request meals for the flight crew during the stop in Seattle.

FBI agents assembled the ransom money from several Seattle-area banks—10,000 unmarked 20-dollar bills, most with serial numbers beginning with the letter “L” indicating issuance by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and most from the 1963A or 1969 series and made a microfilm photograph of each of them.Cooper rejected the military-issue parachutes offered by McChord AFB personnel, demanding instead civilian parachutes with manually operated ripcords. Seattle police obtained them from a local skydiving school.

At 5:24 pm Cooper was informed that his demands had been met, and at 5:39 pm the aircraft landed at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.

article-2020687-0d3c5f6000000578-409_308x219-4

Cooper instructed Scott to taxi the jet to an isolated, brightly lit section of the tarmac and extinguish lights in the cabin to deter police snipers. Northwest Orient’s Seattle operations manager, Al Lee, approached the aircraft in street clothes (to avoid the possibility that Cooper might mistake his airline uniform for that of a police officer) and delivered the cash-filled knapsack and parachutes to Mucklow via the aft stairs. Once the delivery was completed, Cooper permitted all passengers, Schaffner, and senior flight attendant Alice Hancock to leave the plane.

During refueling Cooper outlined his flight plan to the cockpit crew: a southeast course toward Mexico City at the minimum airspeed possible without stalling the aircraft—approximately 100 knots (190 km/h; 120 mph)—at a maximum 10,000 foot (3,000 m) altitude. He further specified that the landing gear remain deployed in the takeoff/landing position, the wing flaps be lowered 15 degrees, and the cabin remain unpressurized.Copilot William Rataczak informed Cooper that the aircraft’s range was limited to approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) under the specified flight configuration, which meant that a second refueling would be necessary before entering Mexico. Cooper and the crew discussed options and agreed on Reno, Nevada, as the refueling stop. Finally, Cooper directed that the plane take off with the rear exit door open and its staircase extended. Northwest’s home office objected, on grounds that it was unsafe to take off with the aft staircase deployed. Cooper countered that it was indeed safe, but he would not argue the point; he would lower it himself once they were airborne.

An FAA official requested a face-to-face meeting with Cooper aboard the aircraft, which was denied.The refueling process was delayed because of a vapor lock in the fuel tanker truck’s pumping mechanism,and Cooper became suspicious; but he allowed a replacement tanker truck to continue the refueling—and a third after the second ran dry.

At approximately 7:40 pm, the 727 took off with only Cooper, pilot Scott, flight attendant Mucklow, copilot Rataczak, and flight engineer H. E. Anderson aboard. Two F-106 fighter aircraft scrambled from nearby McChord Air Force Base followed behind the airliner, one above it and one below, out of Cooper’s view.

d9414600004f2afafcf909cda301ed1a

A Lockheed T-33 trainer, diverted from an unrelated Air National Guard mission, also shadowed the 727 until it ran low on fuel and turned back near the Oregon–California state line.

After takeoff, Cooper told Mucklow to join the rest of the crew in the cockpit and remain there with the door closed. As she complied, Mucklow observed Cooper tying something around his waist. At approximately 8:00 pm a warning light flashed in the cockpit, indicating that the aft airstair apparatus had been activated. The crew’s offer of assistance via the aircraft’s intercom system was curtly refused. The crew soon noticed a subjective change of air pressure, indicating that the aft door was open.

727db

At approximately 8:13 pm the aircraft’s tail section sustained a sudden upward movement, significant enough to require trimming to bring the plane back to level flight. At approximately 10:15 pm Scott and Rataczak landed the 727, with the aft airstair still deployed, at Reno Airport. FBI agents, state troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and Reno police surrounded the jet, as it had not yet been determined with certainty that Cooper was no longer aboard; but an armed search quickly confirmed that he was gone.

After hijacking an aeroplane and extorting $200,000 from the FBI, DB Cooper coolly made his escape via parachute.

Many suspect he died on the descent. That theory was strengthened in 1980 when an 8-year-old boy stumble open three wads of rotting $20 bills with serial numbers matching the cash given to Cooper.

081093a9-dd9c-46e7-b65e-6563cf3e3a50-grid-6x2

However, his body was never found leading to countless theories about who he was and what might have happened.

 

 

The Lindbergh baby kidnapping

lindbergh_baby_poster-1

On the evening of March 1, 1932 Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., eldest son of aviator Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was abducted from the family home in the town of Highfields, in East Amwell, New Jersey.

charleslindbergh22

Lindbergh, who became an international celebrity when he flew the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, and his wife Anne discovered a ransom note demanding $50,000 in their son’s empty room.

lindbergh_kidnapping_note

The kidnapper used a ladder to climb up to the open second-floor window and left muddy footprints in the room.

The Lindberghs were inundated by offers of assistance and false clues. Even Al Capone offered his help from prison. For three days, investigators found nothing and there was no further word from the kidnappers. Then, a new letter showed up, this time demanding $70,000.

The ransom was packaged in a wooden box that was custom-made in the hope that it could later be identified. The ransom money included a number of gold certificates – gold certificates were about to be withdrawn from circulation,and it was hoped this would draw attention to anyone spending them. The bills were not marked but their serial numbers were recorded.

us-10-gc-1928-fr-2400

The kidnappers eventually gave instructions for dropping off the money and when it was delivered, the Lindberghs were told their baby was on a boat called Nelly off the coast of Massachusetts. After an exhaustive search, however, there was no sign of either the boat or the child. Soon after, the baby’s body was discovered near the Lindbergh mansion.

lindbergh-dead-front-page

He had been killed the night of the kidnapping and was found less than a mile from home. The heartbroken Lindberghs ended up donating the mansion to charity and moved away

The kidnapping looked like it would go unsolved until September 1934, when a marked bill from the ransom turned up. The gas station attendant who had accepted the bill wrote down the license plate number because he was suspicious of the driver. It was tracked back to a German immigrant and carpenter, Bruno Hauptmann. When his home was searched, detectives found a chunk of Lindbergh ransom money.

high

 

 

Hauptmann claimed that a friend had given him the money to hold and that he had no connection to the crime. The resulting trial was a national sensation. The prosecution’s case was not particularly strong; the main evidence, besides the money, was testimony from handwriting experts that the ransom note had been written by Hauptmann. The prosecution also tried to establish a connection between Hauptmann and the type of wood that was used to make the ladder.

high-1

Still, the evidence and intense public pressure were enough to convict Hauptmann and he was electrocuted in 1935. In the aftermath of the crime—the most notorious of the 1930s—kidnapping was made a federal offense.

The Wigwam Murder- A WW2 Murder Case.

August Sangret (28 August 1913 – 29 April 1943) was a French-Canadian soldier  of North American Indian ethnic origin, convicted and subsequently hanged for the September 1942 murder of 19-year-old Joan Pearl Wolfe in Surrey, England. This murder case is also known as the Wigwam Murder.

The murder of Joan Pearl Wolfe became known as “the Wigwam Murder” due to the fact the victim had become known among locals as “the Wigwam Girl” through her living in two separate, improvised wigwams upon Hankley Common in the months preceding her murder, and that these devices proved to have been constructed by her murderer.The case also involved the famous British Pathologist Professor Keith Simpson.

220px-cedric_keith_simpson_cbe

On 7 October 1942, two soldiers were strolling on Hankley Common (near Godalming, Surrey) when they noticed an arm protruding from a mound of earth. A badly decomposed fully-clothed woman was found to have been loosely buried up on the mound.

joan

Professor Keith Simpson concluded that the woman had been stabbed with a hooked-tipped knife, and that she was then killed with a heavy blunt instrument. He also deduced that the attack had occurred elsewhere, and the woman’s corpse dragged to the ridge where it was buried. The woman was eventually identified as Joan Pearl Wolfe, who was living rough in a crude shelter made of tree branches, and so the newspapers gave her the nickname of “Wigwam Girl”.

The police search of Hackney Common found the dead woman’s Identity Card and a letter to a Canadian soldier called August Sangret. The letter informed Sangret that she was pregnant.

Wolfe became engaged to a Canadian soldier: Francis Hearn. Hearn returned to Canada promising to marry her; she wore a ring that he had given her and she sometimes referred to herself as his wife.

On 17 July 1942, the day after Hearn left for Canada, Wolfe met Sangret for the first time in a pub in Godalming. They talked and walked through a local park. They had sex that night and parted company having arranged to meet again. As very often happened, Wolfe did not keep her next date, but Sangret met her again by chance a few days later when she seemed to be on a date with another soldier named Hartnell. The three conversed for some time and then Hartnell left. Sangret and Wolfe met regularly.

My Dear August,

Well, my dear, I hope I am forgiven for not turning up to see you last night, but I was in the police station five hours and they did not help me. I was walking along the road and suddenly came over queer. I fainted for the first time in my whole life. The brought me to the hospital here. They are going to examine me. I shall know whether I am all right or not then. I hope you will come and see me, as I really want to see you very much and being in bed all day is awful. You can come any night between 6-7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon. Please try and come. I have your picture on the locker beside me. The nurses know you are my boy friend, they told me to tell you to come and see me. You have to tell them my name and ask for Emergency Ward. Well, hoping to see you soon, I will say au revoir. God bless you. Love Joan.

Wolfe was not ill; she was, apparently, pregnant.

(Although pathologists who later examined Wolfe’s body were unable to determine whether she had been pregnant at the time of her death, had she been so at the time she wrote this letter on 26 July, Sangret—having known Wolfe for just nine days—could not have fathered the child. If Wolfe was indeed pregnant, the father of the child would likely have been Francis Hearn.)

When Wolfe was released from hospital, the couple spent a great deal of time together. Sangret made a shack or wigwam in woodland behind the officers lines.

hankley_common_-_geograph-org-uk_-_1250043

Here Wolfe would stay most of the time and Sangret would visit whenever he could, including many nights when he should have been in camp. The couple talked about their future plans, including marriage. When they could not meet, Wolfe sent letters to Sangret that would be read out by Sergeant Hicks. Wolfe got work, but she was totally unreliable and her various employments only lasted a few days. Wolfe drifted away for a few days to London and soon after she returned she was again picked up by the police and spent a few more days in hospital — not because she was ill, but simply so that she would be looked after.

When Wolfe returned, the couple were discovered in a wigwam by Private Donald Brett, a soldier attached to the military police. Brett told them to disassemble the wigwam and move away. Wolfe was once again taken to a hospital by the police. By the time she returned, Sangret had built a second wigwam made waterproof with his rain cape and gas cape. When Wolfe returned, the couple walked into town to try to find a room in town without success. That evening, Wolfe was detained by the military police who questioned her; she was sent to a hospital again and Sangret was arrested for “keeping a girl in camp”.

The couple had to explain themselves to the authorities, they explained that their plans included getting married and they were treated sympathetically. On leaving hospital, Wolfe again returned to Sangret. They tried again to find a room in town, but ended up sleeping together in an unlocked cricket pavilion. Over the next two weeks, they spent a number of nights at the old pavilion and then, on 14 September, Wolfe disappeared. The affair between Sangret and Wolfe had lasted 81 days.

Sangret was arrested and taken to Godalming police station. He was interviewed at length by inspector Edward Greeno. The questioning went on for days and Sangret’s statement, which was then the longest statement ever made, took a policeman five days to write out in longhand. Sangret was charged with Wolfe’s murder.

greeno

When the police interviewed Sangret, he admitted having intimate relations with the girl and living with her tree wigwam. A heavy birch branch, with blood stains, was found near the body’s grave. Sangret’s recently washed battledress was found to have blood stains. Finally on 27 November 1942, a hooked-tip knife was found blocking a waste pipe.

sangret_murder_weapon

August Sangret was charged with Wolfe’s murder and tried during February 1943. He was found guilty of murder, with a recommendation to mercy, and sentenced to death by hanging. The Home Secretary choose to disregard the jury’s recommendation. Sangret was hanged at Wandsworth Prison on 29 April 1943

Preliminary hearings were held at Guildford on 12, 13, 19 and 20 January 1943. With the committal proceedings complete, Captain Creasey noted in his diary that the case was “medium strong, circumstantial case only.”

The judge finished his summary with the words:

That the girl (Wolfe) was murdered is not in dispute; that she was murdered by some man is also quite plain; and the only question you have to determine is: Have the Crown satisfied you beyond all real doubt that the prisoner, August Sanget, is the man who murdered her?

[…]

I can only conclude by saying what I said at the beginning; when dealing with a case of circumstantial evidence you must be satisfied beyond all doubt before you find the prisoner guilty. If you come to the conclusion that, on the facts as proved to you, no real doubt is left in your minds that his was the hand which slew this unhappy girl, then you will convict him.

The jury, who took two hours to reach their verdict, made a strong recommendation to mercy. Before sentence of death was passed, Sangret declared, “I am not guilty. I never killed that girl.”

Sanget’s appeal was heard on 13 April. The appeal was dismissed and the jury’s appeal for mercy was not a matter for the courts, but for the Home Secretary. Then Home Secretary Herbert Morrison found the jury’s recommendation surprising, even inexplicable. Seeing no good reason to interfere, he let the law take its course.

herbert_morrison_1947

Sangret was held in the condemned cell at Wandsworth Prison where he was hanged on 29 April 1943.

wandsworth_prison_-_geograph-org-uk_-_1030498

In his memoirs, published in 1960, Edward Greeno made his opinion quite clear:

I had interviewed thousands of people in this case and seventy-four of them went into the witness-box. The case was so watertight that, as Sir Norman Kendal said later, Sanget’s appeal against the death sentence ‘was almost a farce’.

One small doubt remained. Sanget murdered the girl because she was expecting his child—but was she? Was she expecting anybody’s child?

The doctors didn’t think so on the occasion that the police sent her to hospital, and when her body was found it was too late to tell.

But this is certain: Sangret did murder her. He confessed before he died, and this is where I quarrel with the rules. It is never announced when a murderer confesses. But why not? There are always cranks and crackpots to argue that some wicked policeman has framed some poor fellow. So why make an official secret of the fact that the policeman did his job?

Due to the Army not discharging Sangret before his execution, he is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial.

sangret_a

 

August Frank memorandum

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the August Frank memorandum.

august_frank

The August Frank memorandum of 26 September 1942 was a directive from SS Lieutenant General (Obergruppenführer) August Frank of the SS concentration camp administration department (SS-WVHA). The memorandum provides a measure of the detailed planning that Frank and other Nazis put into the carrying out of The Holocaust. For example, it includes instructions as to the disposition of postage stamp collections and underwear of the murdered Jews. It is clear that the Nazis were intent in removing everything of value from their murdered victims, and indeed, went further than the memo itself. Hair, for example, was removed before execution to be made into mattresses.

The memorandum contains an instruction that the yellow stars that the Nazis forced the Jews to wear on their clothing were to be removed before the clothing was redistributed to ethnic Germans whom the Nazis were resettling into occupied Poland. This memorandum, when it came to light after the war, played a key role in refuting Frank’s claims that he had no knowledge that Jews were being murdered en masse in the extermination camps of Operation Reinhard.It is also notable as an example of the use of the Nazi euphemism “evacuation” of the Jews, which meant their systematic murder.

deportation_to_treblinka_from_ghetto_in_siedlce_1942

The top secret memorandum, printed in multiple copies, was sent to the Chief of the SS Garrison Administration Lublin, and to the Chief of Administration Concentration Camp Auschwitz among others. English translation, provided by the Nuernberg Military Tribunal during the Trials of War Criminals:

1024px-nuremberg_trials_retouched

Top Secret
6 copies–4th copy

Chief A/Pr./B.
Journ. No. 050/42 secr.
VS 96/42

26 September 1942

To the Chief of the SS Garrison Administration Lublin
To the Chief of Administration Concentration Camp Auschwitz
Subject: Utilization of property on the occasion of settlement and evacuation of Jews.

Without taking into account the over all regulations which are expected to be issued during October, pertaining to the utilization of mobile and immobile property of the evacuated Jews, the following procedure has to be followed with regard to the property carried by them — property, which will in all orders in the future be called goods originating from thefts, receiving of stolen goods, and hoarded goods:
1. a. Cash money in German Reich Bank notes have to be paid into the account: Economic and Administrative Main Office 158/1488 with the Reich Bank in Berlin-Sehoeneberg.
b. Foreign exchange (coined or uncoined), rare metals, jewelry, precious and semi-precious stones, pearls, gold from teeth and scrap gold have to be delivered to the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office. The latter is responsible for the immediate delivery to the German Reich Bank.

rhino2_nera_0
c. Watches and clocks of all kinds, alarm clocks, fountain pens, mechanical pencils, hand and electrical razors, pocketknives, scissors, flashlights, wallets, and purses are to be repaired by the Economic and Administrative Main Office in special repair shops, cleaned, and evaluated; and have to be delivered quickly to front line troops. Delivery to the troops is on a cash basis through the post exchanges. Three-fourth price grades are to be set and it has to be made sure that each officer and man cannot buy more than one watch. Exempt from sale are the gold watches, the utilization of which rests with me. The proceeds go to the Reich.
d. Men’s underwear and men’s clothing including footwear has to be sorted and valued. After covering the needs of the concentration camp inmates and in exceptions for the troops they are to be handed over to the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle. The proceeds go to the Reich in all cases.
e. Women’s clothing and women’s underwear, including footwear; children’s clothing and children’s underwear, including footwear; have to be handed over to the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle against payment. Underwear of pure silk is to be handed over to the Reich Ministry of Economics according to orders by the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office. This order refers also to underwear, under letter.
f. Featherbeds, quilts, woolen blankets, cloth for suits, shawls, umbrellas, walking sticks, thermos flasks, ear flaps, baby carriages, combs, handbags, leather belts, shopping baskets, tobacco pipes, sun glasses, mirrors, table knives, forks and spoons, knapsacks, and suitcases made from leather or artificial material are to be delivered to the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle. The question of payment will be decided later.
The needs in quilts, woolen blankets, thermos flasks, ear flaps, combs, table knives, forks and spoons, and knapsacks can be furnished from Lublin and Auschwitz from these stocks against payment from budget funds.
g. Linen, such as bed sheets, bed linen, pillows, towels, wiping cloths, and tablecloths are to be handed over to the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle against payment. Bed sheets, bed linen, towels, wiping cloths, and table cloths can be furnished for the needs of troops from these stocks against payment from budget funds.
h. Spectacles and eyeglasses of every kind are to be handed in to the medical office for utilization. (Spectacles with golden frames have to be handed in without glasses together with the rare metals). A settlement of accounts for the spectacles and eyeglasses need not take place with regard to their low value and their limited use.

heaps-of-glasses-taken-from-gassed-inmates-at-auschwitz
i. Valuable furs of all kinds, raw and cured, are to be delivered to the SS WVHA.

Litzmannstadt, Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle
j. Ordinary furs (lamb, hare, and rabbit skins) are to be reported to the SS WVHA, Amt B II, and are to be delivered to the clothing plant of the Waffen SS, Ravensbrueck near Fuerstenbern (Mecklenburg).
k. All items mentioned under the letters d, e, and f, which have only one-fifth or two-fifths of the full value, or are useless altogether will be delivered via the SS WV HA to the Reich Ministry for Economics for utilization.
For the decision on items which are not mentioned under the letters b-i, application for a decision as to their utilization should be made to the chief of the WVHA.

2. The SS WVHA will establish all prices under observation of the legally controlled prices. This estimation, however, can be made later on. Petty evaluations which only waste time and personnel may be eliminated. Average prices for single items have to be established in general. For instance, one pair of used men’s trousers 3.00 RM, one woolen blanket 6.00 RM, etc. For the delivery of useless items to the Reich Ministry for Economics, average Kilo prices will have to be established.

It has to be strictly observed, that the Jewish Star is removed from all garments and outer garments which are to be delivered. Furthermore, items which are to be delivered have to be searched for hidden and sewed-in values, this should be carried out with the greatest possible care.

Polen, Ghetto Litzmannstadt, Bewohner

ACTING FOR

[Signed] FRANK
SS Brigadefuehrer and Brigadier General of the Waffen SS

On a side note isn’t it amazing that some people with the same surname had such a different impact on the retelling of the Holocaust from a victim and perpetrator point of view. The victims: Anne Frank and her family. The perpetrators Hans and August Frank.

On 3 November 1947 Frank was sentenced to life in prison by the tribunal with the following words:

“AUGUST FRANK, this Tribunal has adjudged you guilty under counts two, three, and four of the indictment filed in this case. For the crimes of which you have thus been convicted, this Tribunal sentences you to imprisonment for the remainder of your natural life, at such place of confinement as shall be determined by competent authority”

In 1951 Frank’s sentence was commuted to 15 years. Frank was released from Landsberg Prison on 7 May 1954. He died in March 1984.

 

Wall Street bombing

wallstexplosion1920

Many people think that terrorism is a relatively new phenomenon which really only started in the late 1960’s

But nothing could be further from the truth. Scholars dispute whether the roots of terrorism date back to the 1st century and the Sicarii Zealots, to the 11th century and the Al-Hashshashin, to the 19th century and the Fenian Brotherhood and Narodnaya Volya.

So terrorism has been around for many centuries. This blog is about one of the 1st of the ‘modern’ terror attacks.

The Wall Street bombing occurred at 12:01 pm on September 16, 1920, in the Financial District of Manhattan, New York City. The blast killed 30 people immediately, and another eight died later of wounds sustained in the blast. There were 143 seriously injured, and the total number of injured was in the hundreds. The bombing was never solved, although investigators and historians believe the Wall Street bombing was carried out by Galleanists (Italian anarchists named after Luigi Galleani), a group responsible for a series of bombings the previous year. The attack was related to postwar social unrest, labor struggles, and anti-capitalist agitation in the United States.

9-who-anarchist-galleani-d

Just after noon on Thursday, September 16, 1920. A wagon loaded with a bomb containing dynamite and 500 pounds of small iron weights parked in front of 23 Wall Street. The corner building was then the headquarters of J.P. Morgan & Co., the nation’s most powerful bank. At 12:01 pm, the timer on the bomb reached zero and a terrific explosion rocked the street.

wallst1-jpg-crop-promo-large2

Thirty people—and one horse—died instantly from the blast. Another eight died later from the injuries they sustained. Hundreds were injured, some by shrapnel on the street, others by the glass that rained down from the broken windows of the J.P. Morgan building. The blast was so forceful that, according to a bystander quoted in the New York Times the next day, a trolley carrying passengers two blocks away was “thrown from the tracks by the shock.”

image065

wallst3-jpg-crop-promo-large2

No-one claimed responsibility in the aftermath of the attack, leading many on the scene to conclude that the perpetrators were communist agitators fresh from the Bolshevik Revolution. On September 17, 1920, the Times reported that “both the police and the government investigators were inclined to the theory that Reds had placed a time bomb in the wagon.” Russians were the prime suspect in the eyes of John Markle, a wealthy anthracite coal field operator who happened to be at the J.P. Morgan building when the blast occurred. “[T]here is no question in my mind,” he told the Times, “that the explosion was caused by Bolsheviki.”

bomb_aftermath_02

he Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation (BOI, the forerunner of the Federal Bureau of Investigation) did not immediately conclude that the bomb was an act of terrorism. Investigators were puzzled by the number of innocent people killed and the lack of a specific target, other than buildings that suffered relatively superficial, non-structural damage. Exploring the possibility of an accident, police contacted businesses that sold and transported explosives. By 3:30 pm, the board of governors of the New York Stock Exchange had met and decided to open for business the next day. Crews cleaned up the area overnight to allow for normal business operations the next day, but in doing so they destroyed physical evidence that might have helped police investigators solve the crime.The New York assistant district attorney noted that the timing, location, and method of delivery all pointed to Wall Street and J.P. Morgan as the targets of the bomb, suggesting in turn that it was planted by radical opponents of capitalism, such as Bolsheviks, anarchists, communists, or militant socialists.

1024px-wall-street-vic-200916

Investigators soon focused on radical groups opposed to U.S. financial and governmental institutions and known to use bombs as a means of violent reprisal. They observed that the Wall Street bomb was packed with heavy sash weights designed to act as shrapnel, then detonated on the street in order to increase casualties among financial workers and institutions during the busy lunch hour. Officials eventually blamed anarchists and communists. The Washington Post called the bombing an “act of war.”The Sons of the American Revolution had previously scheduled a patriotic rally for the day after (September 17) to celebrate Constitution Day at exactly the same intersection.

sons_of_the_american_revolution

On September 17, thousands of people attended the Constitution Day rally in defiance of the previous day’s attack.

The bombing stimulated renewed efforts by police and federal investigators to track the activities and movements of foreign radicals. Public demands to track down the perpetrators led to an expanded role for the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation, including the General Intelligence Division of the BOI headed by J. Edgar Hoover.The New York City Police Department also pushed to form a “special, or secret, police” to monitor “radical elements” in New York City.

wallst2-jpg-crop-promo-large2

On September 17, the BOI released the contents of flyers found in a post office box in the Wall Street area just before the explosion. Printed in red ink on white paper, they said: “Remember, we will not tolerate any longer. Free the political prisoners, or it will be sure death for all of you.” At the bottom was: “American Anarchist Fighters.”The BOI quickly decided that the flyer eliminated the possibility of an accidental explosion. William J. Flynn, Director of the BOI, suggested the flyers were similar to those found at the June 1919 anarchist.

The investigation conducted by the Bureau of Investigation stalled when none of the victims turned out to be the driver of the wagon. Though the horse was newly shod, investigators could not locate the stable responsible for the work. When the blacksmith was located in October, he could offer the police little information.Robert W. Wood helped to reconstruct the bomb mechanism.

Investigators questioned tennis champion Edwin Fischer, who had sent warning post cards to friends, telling them to leave the area before September 16. He told police he had received the information “through the air.” However, they found Fischer made a regular habit of issuing such warnings, and had him committed to Amityville Asylum, where he was diagnosed as insane but harmless.

e_p_fischer

The Bureau of Investigation and local police investigated the case for over three years without success. Occasional arrests garnered headlines but each time they failed to support indictments. Most of the initial investigation focused on anarchists and communists, such as the Galleanist group, whom authorities believed were involved in the 1919 bombings. During President Warren G. Harding’s administration, officials evaluated the Soviets as possible masterminds of the Wall Street bombing and then the Communist Party USA. In 1944, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, successor to the BOI, investigated again. It concluded that its agents had explored many radical groups, “such as the Union of Russian Workers, the I.W.W., Communist, etc….and from the result of the investigations to date it would appear that none of the aforementioned organizations had any hand in the matter and that the explosion was the work of either Italian anarchists or Italian terrorists.”

One Galleanist in particular, Italian Anarchist Mario Buda (1884–1963), an associate of Sacco and Vanzetti(Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian-born US anarchists who were convicted of murdering a guard and a paymaster during the armed robbery of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company on April 15)220px-sacvan, and the owner of a car which led to the arrest of the latter for a separate robbery and murder, is alleged by some historians, including Paul Avrich, to be the man most likely to have planted the bomb. Avrich and other historians theorize that Buda acted in revenge for the arrest and indictment of his fellow Galleanists, Sacco and Vanzetti. Buda’s involvement as the Wall Street bombmaker was confirmed by statements made by his nephew Frank Maffi and fellow anarchist Charles Poggi, who interviewed Buda in Savignano, Italy, in 1955. Buda (at that time known by the alias of Mike Boda) had eluded authorities at the time of the arrests of Sacco and Vanzetti, was experienced in the use of dynamite and other explosives, was known to use sash weights as shrapnel in his time bombs, and is believed to have constructed several of the largest package bombs for the Galleanists(Buda was also a suspect in the Preparedness Day Bombing of San Francisco July 22, 1916). These included a large black powder bomb that killed nine policemen in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1917. Buda was in New York City at the time of the bombing, but he was neither arrested nor questioned by police.

After leaving New York, Buda resumed the use of his real name in order to secure a passport from the Italian vice-consul, then promptly sailed for Naples. By November he was back in his native Italy, never to return to the United States.Other Galleanists still in the U.S. continued the bombing and assassination campaign for another twelve years, culminating in a 1932 bomb attack targeting Webster Thayer, the presiding judge in the Sacco and Vanzetti trial.Thayer, who survived the ensuing blast that destroyed his house and injured his wife and housekeeper, moved his residence to his club for the remainder of his life, where he was guarded 24 hours a day.

Today, the limestone acade of 23 Wall Street still bears the scars from the shrapnel that blasted into it 94 years ago. These little marks are the only on-site hint of the attack—no signs or plaques commemorate the bombing.

Harry Dobkin-Blitz Murderer

dobkin

One can imaging that the Blitz must have been a terrifying time in Great Britain, but it also must have been a time where people ceased the opportunity amidst the chaos to do things they usually wouldn’t dare to do for the fear of being caught. Harry Dobkin was one of these folks.

Harry Dobkin was born in London in 1901. After leaving school he worked in the cloth trade. Dobkin married Rachel Dubinski in 1920.

rachel_dobkin

A child was born but the marriage did not last and the couple separated and in 1923 Rachel Dobkin applied for maintenance. Over the next few years Dobkin served several periods in prison as a result of her complaints about his non-payment of maintenance.

Dobkin had a variety of different jobs including that of a tailor, ship’s steward and cook. Soon after the outbreak of the Second World WarDobkin found work as a fire-watcher to a firm of solicitors in London.

During the Blitz Dobkin realized that so many people were killed in air raids that it was impossible for the police to investigate every death. Victims were buried quickly and very few post mortems were carried out. In April 1941 Dodkin murdered his wife and buried her under the ruin of Vauxhall Baptist Chapel, hoping she would be discovered as an air raid victim.

On July the 17th 1942 a workman who was helping to demolish the badly bomb-damaged Vauxhall Baptist Chapel in Vauxhall Road, Kennington (now Kennington Lane), prised up a stone slab and found beneath it a mummified body.

The immediate assumption was that the remains were either of an air raid victim or had come from the old burial ground underneath the church, which had ceased to be used some fifty years before. When the church had been bombed on the 15th of October 1940 more than a hundred people had been killed in the conflagration and the area around the chapel had been the target of a number of Luftwaffe raids between that time and March of 1943

Nor was it the first body that the workers had come upon while demolishing the chapel. Nevertheless, routine was followed, and the police were called in, arriving in the persons of Detective Inspectors Hatton and Keeling, the bones being removed to Southwark Mortuary for examination by pathologist Dr Keith Simpson.

4619875228_338x254

Simpson immediately suspected foul play. In trying to raise the bones, the skull had become detached and Simpson realized that the head had already been cut from the body. In addition to this, the limbs had been severed at the elbows and knees, flesh had been removed from the face, the lower jaw was missing and the bones were partially burnt. An obvious attempt had been made to disguise the identity of the corpse.

Dr Simpson obtained the permission of the coroner to take the remains back to his laboratory at Guy’s Hospital for a more detailed inspection.

220px-Cedric_Keith_Simpson_CBE

Returning to the crypt of the church in a vain attempt to find the missing limbs, Simpson noticed a yellowish deposit in the earth, subsequently analysed as slaked lime. This had been used to suppress the smell of putrefaction, but it also had the effect of preventing maggots from destroying the body.

Examining the throat and voice box, Simpson detected a blood clot, strongly indicating death due to strangulation. The next task was to discover the identity of the victim. The body was that of a woman aged between forty and fifty, with dark greying hair, was five feet one inch tall, and had suffered from a fibroid tumour.

Time of death was estimated at between twelve and fifteen months prior to discovery. Meanwhile the police had been checking the lists of missing persons, and noted that fifteen months previously Mrs Rachel Dobkin, estranged wife of Harry Dobkin, the fire watcher at the firm of solicitors next door to the Baptist Chapel at 302 Vauxhall Road, had disappeared.

An interview with her sister elicited the information that she was about the right age, with dark greying hair, was about five feet one tall, and had a fibroid tumour. She also gave police the name of Mrs Dobkin’s dentist, Barnett Kopkin of Stoke Newington, who kept meticulous records and was able to describe exactly the residual roots and fillings in her mouth. They matched the upper jaw of the skull.

Finally, Miss Mary Newman, the head of the Photography Department at Guy’s, super- imposed a photograph of the skull on to a photograph of Rachel Dobkin, a technique first used six years earlier in the Buck Ruxton case.

Isabella1

The fit was uncanny. The bones found in the crypt were the mortal remains of Mrs Rachel Dobkin.

Rachel Dubinski had married Harry Dobkin in September 1920, through the traditional Jewish custom of a marriage broker. Within three days they had separated, but unhappily nine months later a baby boy was born. In 1923 Mrs Dobkin obtained a maintenance order obliging her husband to pay for the upkeep of their child. Dobkin was always a spasmodic payer, and over the years had been imprisoned several times for defaulting. In addition, Mrs Dobkin had unsuccessfully summonsed him four times for assault.

However, it must be said in mitigation of Dobkin’s actions that she habitually pestered him in the street to get her money, and it should be remembered that she was still demanding cash in 1941 when the ‘child’ was twenty years old and hardly a dependant. Dobkin was to hint later that she was also blackmailing him over some undisclosed indiscretion at work.

On Good Friday, the 11th of April 1941, Dobkin and his wife had met in a cafe in Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, near to where he lived in Navarino Road, Dalston, E8. They left at 6.30 and she was never seen alive again, though he claimed that she had boarded a No.22 bus to visit her mother. Next day Rachel’s sister reported her missing to the police, implicating Harry Dobkin in the process. Because of the priorities of war, Dobkin was not interviewed about the disappearance until April the 16th.

On the night of the 14th a small fire had broken out in the ruined cellar of the Baptist Church. This was peculiar, because there had been no air raids and the blaze was only noticed at 3.23am by a passing policeman. When the fire brigade arrived Harry Dobkin was there, pretending to put it out. He told the constable that the fire had started at 1.30am and that he hadn’t bothered to inform the authorities because there was little danger of the fire spreading. There was a serious air raid on the next night, so the incident was quickly forgotten. Dobkin was interviewed twice more about his wife’s disappearance and a description and photograph were circulated by the police but no further action was taken.

On the 26th of August 1942, Dobkin was interviewed for the first time by Chief Inspector Hat ton, and escorted to the church cellar, where he vehemently denied any involvement in his wife’s death. He was then arrested for her murder.

The trial of Harry Dobkin opened at the Old Bailey on the 17th of November 1942, with Mr Justice Wrottesley presiding and Mr L.A. Byrne prosecuting. Dobkin’s counsel, Mr F.H. Lawton, spent most of his efforts trying vainly to challenge the identification evidence. The prisoner’s appearance in the witness box left the jury unimpressed, and it took them only twenty minutes to arrive at a verdict of guilty.

Before his execution Dobkin confessed to his wife’s murder, claiming that she was always pestering him for money and he wanted to be rid of her for good. On the 7th of January, 1943, Harry Dobkin was hanged behind the walls of Wandsworth Prison.

3689160597_77a601d947

Allied Gangster-American WWII deserters

article-0-1A0CB3C7000005DC-867_634x514

The Army is a reflection of society, it has different layers and characters.It has clergy men, Physicians, Nurses, Police and even teachers. But like the wider society it also has members whose intentions are less honorable. Even those who are considered the good guys and the liberators.

Paris 1944, and French citizens are cowering in their homes and businesses, fearful of the soldiers who will show no mercy, who will steal, assault, rape and murder without compunction.

But it’s not Nazis that they are afraid of, it’s former American GIs… deserters, who roamed the streets in highly organised gangs.

It’s a fascinating and little known fact that in the weeks and months following the liberation of Paris, the city was hit by a wave of crime and violence like something out of Prohibition era America.

While the Allies fought against Hitler’s forces in Europe, law enforcers fought against the criminals who threatened that victory. Men who had abandoned the ‘greater good’ in favour of self-interest, black-market profits and the lure of the cafes and brothels of Paris: deserters.

article-2332814-1A0AB8B0000005DC-180_634x415

Highly organised, armed to the teeth and merciless, these deserters used their US uniforms as another tool of their trade along with the vast arrays of stolen weapons, forged passes and hijacked vehicles they had at their disposal.Between June 1944 and April 1945 the US army’s Criminal Investigation Department handled a total of 7,912 cases. Forty per cent involved misappropriation of US supplies.

USA_-_Army_CID_Badge

Greater yet was the proportion of crimes of violence – rape, murder, manslaughter and assault which accounted for 44 per cent of the force’s workload. The remaining 12 per cent were crimes such as robbery, housebreaking and riot.

Up to 50,000 American and 100,000 British soldiers deserted during World War II, and in a new book, The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II, Charles Glass lifts the lid on one of the most violent and shameless episodes in American military history.

20130406_bkp502

Charles Glass had long harboured an interest in the subject. But it was only truly ignited by a chance meeting with Steve Weiss – decorated combat veteran of the US 36th Infantry Division and former deserter.

article-2332814-1A0AB8B9000005DC-808_306x423

They met for coffee and Weiss asked Glass what he was working on. Glass recalls: ‘I told him it was a book on American and British deserters in the Second World War and asked if he knew anything about it.

‘He answered, “I was a deserter.”‘

This once idealistic boy from Brooklyn who enlisted at 17, had fought on the beachhead at Anzio and through the perilous Ardennes forest, he was one of the very few regular American soldiers to fight with the Resistance in 1944. And he had deserted.

His story was,  both secret and emblematic of a group of men, wreathed together under a banner of shame that branded them cowards. Yet the truth was far more complex.

Many were afraid. They had reached a point beyond which they could not endure and chosen disgrace over the grave. Some recounted waking, as if from a dream, to find their bodies had led them away from the battelfield.

Others, like Weiss, fought until their faith in their immediate commanders disappeared. Was it a form of madness or a dawning lucidity that led them to desert?

50,000 American and 100,000 British soldiers deserted during World War II.Yet only one was executed for it, Eddie Slovik. He was, until that point, by his own assessment the unluckiest man alive.

 

Of the 49 Americans sentenced to death for desertion during the Second World War he was the only one whose appeal for commutation was rejected. His greatest sin, as Glass tells it, was his timing.

His appeal came in January 1945 just as the German counter-offensive, the Battle of the Bulge, was at its peak. Allied forces were near breaking point. It was not, Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight Eisenhower decided, time to risk seeming to condone desertion.

Slovik was shot for his crime on the morning of 31 January 1945.

He was dispatched in the remote French village of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines and the truth concealed even from his wife, Antoinette.

She was informed that her husband had died in the European Theatre of Operations.

slovik-wedding-x

Private Alfred T Whitehead’s was a very different story.

Private Alfred T Whitehead, a farm boy from Tennessee, His story reveals an interesting insight into the actions of one particular type of deserter.

Whitehead fought at Normandy and claims to have stormed the beaches on the D-Day landings and been in continuous combat up to December 30. In the process he earned the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, Combat Infantry Badge and Distinguished Unit Citation.

whitehead

After suffering an illness, he was invalided out to Paris. Upon his recovery, Whithead was sent to the 94th Reinforcement Battalion, a replacement depot in Fontainebleau.

Bored by is new posting, he deserted and quickly moved into life as a criminal in the Paris underworld – and into one of the many gangs of ex-soldiers terrorizing Paris.

Led by an ex-paratrooper sergeant, raids were planned like military operations. Whitehead later admitted, ‘we stole trucks, sold whatever they carried, and used the trucks to rob warehouses of the goods in them.’

The gang used combat tactics, hijacked goods, attacking civilians and military targets indiscriminately. They robbed crates of alcohol, hijacked jeeps and raided private houses. They stole petrol, cigarettes, liquor and weapons.  And there seemed to be nobody able to stop them as their crime wave even spread into neighbouring Belgium

Such was their ‘success’ that Whithead estimated that after just six months his own share of the plunder ran to an astonishing $100,000.Whitehead’s luck eventually ran out and he was captured, court martialled and
dishonourably discharged, serving time at the Delta Disciplinary Training Barracks in the south of France and, when repatriated to the States, in federal penitentiaries in New Jersey before his release.

Many years later he had that ‘dishonourable discharge,’ turned into a General one on rather disingenuous legal grounds.

In peacetime appearances mattered more to Whitehead than they ever had in war.

Back then, he admitted: ‘I never knew what tomorrow would hold, so I took every day as it came. War does strange things to people, especially their morality.’

Those ‘strange things’ rather than the false extremes of courage and cowardice are the truths set out in this account of the War and its deserters.

 

The murder of Captain Brownscombe

Captain Brian Brownscombe was murdered by a Nazi officer after being taken prisoner.Brian “Basher” Brownscombe was a son of Herbert Henry and Edith May Brownscombe of Watchet, Somerset.He served with 181 Airlanding Field Ambulance.

7d0f8fb6d6f3f5b3d7aa7ae3d230272e

The medical officer had been awarded the George Cross after keeping a wounded soldier afloat for five hours, following the disastrous Sicily Landings, after his glider crashed into the sea and sank.He landed in Arnhem on September 17, 1944, as medical officer with the 2nd South Staffords. He set up a hospital in a museum, but after the Germans overran the position, he and all the wounded soldiers were taken prisoner.

During Market Garden he was again attached to South Staffordshires were he served as the Regimental Medical Officer. He left England by glider on 17 september 1944 and landed near Wolfheze. Soon after landing he and other medical personnel set up a Regimental Aid Post (RAP) into a farmhouse (Reijerscamp) to treat any landing casualties. Casualties were light and they soon moved to their pre-planned positions. (Red Berets and Red Crosses page 90)

They were then captured by the Germans. Like most medical personnel Brownscombe continued to treat wounded in the Arnhem area. He first worked in St Elizabeth’s Hospital and after a few days he went to the Municipal Hospital at Arnhem. There he was killed by the German Karl Lerche.

lerche_1

Private George Phillips was working in the Municipal Hospital and remembers that one evening just after he had finished a stint of duty that Captain Brownscombe was killed. He was shot by a drunk SS NCO. George still can see him lying on the stretcher with a hole in the back of his head. He said they were completely knocked out by this and he was the only British medical officer in the hospital. The SS NCO responsible for the killing was tracked down after the war and stood trial as a war criminal.”

His murderer, Karl-Gustav Lerche, twice changed his name after the war in an attempt to avoid retribution, but he was finally caught and stood trial as a war criminal at Munich in 1955, where he was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labour.

But for the actions of his former lover, Lerche would never have been brought to justice. He had been doing odd jobs in Munich and had taken up with a woman called Charlotte Bormann. In September 1952 she walked into her local police station to denounce the man she had come to despise. Tired of his lies, Bormann told police that the man she knew as Gunther Breede was both a fraud and killer. In reality he was named Karl-Gustav Lerche who had admitted to killing a British POW in the war. Bormann, too, had form, although not of the criminal kind. The 54-year-old had married and divorced three husbands. Notably one of them was the nephew of Nazi leader Martin Bormann.

MTE4MDAzNDEwNDU4NTQzNjMw

The issue wasn’t just that the dashing Captain Brownscombe, known as ‘Basher’, had been shot off the battlefield; it was that he’d been shot after an evening of merry drinking with his captors. It had been an unusual gathering. Shortly after landing near Arnhem in September 1944, as part of an audacious Allied plan to reach Germany’s Ruhr area through the Netherlands, 28-year-old army doctor Brownscombe had been captured by German forces. He had plenty of company: during the Battle of Arnhem, which raged from 17 to 25 September, 6,000 of the 10,000 allied soldiers deployed in the immense operation were captured, while 1,400 were killed.

The battle also having resulted in vast numbers of British and German wounded soldiers, Brownscombe and the two other captured British doctors were assigned to duty at the German army hospital. In fact, the collaboration was a minor success, with the doctors going about their work in the spirit of Hippocrates. Watching this friendly co-existence, a Waffen-SS officer also stationed in Arnhem decided that it would be good to socialise with the British POWs.

On the afternoon of 24 September, the happy-go-lucky member of the Waffen-SS Kurt Eggers propaganda unit ;Waffen-SS Unterscharführer Knud Fleming Helweg-Larsen, invited Brownscombe, his two fellow British medics, Brian Devlin and James Logan and British army chaplains Daniel McGowan and Alan Buchanan along with Waffen-SS officers Karl-Gustav Lerche and Ernst Beisel for drinks in the officers’ mess. “We sat there and drank some bottles of red wine, apricot brandy and whisky,” Helweg-Larsen later told a British army interrogator. “The conversation was friendly. I interpreted for the two Germans.”

After a while, the two other Waffen-SS officers left, while Helweg-Larsen kept drinking with the Brits. “We were all pretty merry, but Brownscombe was the most sober of the party or carried his drink best,” Helweg-Larsen told the interrogator. The group parted company at dusk, and Helweg-Larsen invited his new friend Brownscombe over to the SS officers’ living quarters for a last drink “to show him that the SS were not so bad as English propaganda made out.”

Some 10 people including Lerche gathered at the SS billet, and “we drank and sang English and German songs.” Afterwards, a driver took Helweg-Larsen and Brownscombe back to the hospital. They stepped out, still chatting away, sharing stories and agreeing to stay in touch after the war. “He said I was too good to be in the SS and I said he was too good to be in the English Army,” Helweg-Larsen recalled. The evening’s goodbye was a lengthy one, as they kept shaking hands and patting each other on the back then continuing their conversation. During one such handshake, the Dane reported, Brownscombe collapsed in front of him, dead.

Suddenly Lerche appeared, holding a pistol. When the Dane asked what had happened, Lerche said that he’d had to do it, adding that Brownscombe had a happy death. Though Helweg-Larsen had himself killed a Danish newspaper editor several years earlier, he remonstrated with Lerche: “[Brownscombe] had been our guest and you had drunk with him.” Rather bizarrely, the pair left the dead officer on the ground, where his fellow POWs found him. The next day, Father Buchanan buried Brownscombe and placed a wooden cross on his grave.

Lerche who had been a member of the Waffen-SS Kurt Eggers propaganda unit, which was   a German Waffen SS propaganda formation which publicised the actions of all Waffen SS combat formations, seeing action in all major theatres of war with the exception of North Africa,

was sentenced to 10 years of hard labour in 1955 by a court in Munich. But eventually only served 5 years.

It is somehow ironic that someone related to Martin Borman got some justice for Captain Brownscombe.

2016-08-22 (1)