Max Schmeling-defying an evil regime

mAX

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

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

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

Max and AH

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

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

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

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

KO

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

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

KO2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mercer Greene Abernathy- A hero who gave his life for strangers.

Mercer

One of the definitions of a hero is “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character”

Mercer G. Abernathy was such a person and even though I don’t know him it is with a 100% certainty I can state he was a hero.

I know nothing of this man except for his Army records and a page of his high school year book, and that he  was born on December 29, 1924. in Texas

football

He doesn’t even have a grave because he died in Germany or the Netherlands  missing In Action as navigator on a B17 Flying Fortress.

All that he is remembered by is his name on a memorial marker in the Netherlands American War Cemetery in Margraten near Maastricht in the Netherlands.

Memorial

He died in a foreign land trying to liberate strangers from evil.

At the entrance of American War Cemetery in Margraten there is a text on a building which says

“In Memory of the Valor and sacrifices which hallow this soil”

Earlier this year I visited the cemetery and said a prayer for all of those buried there and remembered there and said a few separate prayers for a few, Mercer Greene Abernathy was one of those few for I owe so much to those men.

Dear Sir I salute you.

Valot

 

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Desperation and Survival

sonder

I have often wondered how the Sonderkommandos coped with their  work.

Sonderkommandos were the were forced labour units made up of  Nazi death camp prisoners. usually Jews.They were forced to help with the disposal of gas chamber victims among other duties. Sometimes even removing family members.

It is not like they had a choice, it was either work and have a chance to survive or get killed themselves. I have heard people call them traitors but I don’t subscribe to that point of view, The basic instinct of any human being is to survive.

How hard it was for these victims, for they to were victims, is illustrated in the testimony of Filip Müller, a Slovak Jewish member of the Sonderkommando.

Muller

Filip had become so desperate that he tried to commit suicide by smuggling himself into the gas chamber.

Below are some excerpts from his testimony taken from his book ‘ Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers’

“In the great confusion near the door I managed to mingle with the pushing and shoving crowd of people who were being driven into the gas chamber. Quickly I ran to the back and stood behind one of the concrete pillars. I thought that here I would remain undiscovered until the gas chamber was full, when it would be locked. Until then I must try to remain unnoticed. I was overcome by a feeling of indifference: everything had become meaningless. Even the thought of a painful death from Zyklon B gas, whose effect I of all people knew only too well, no longer filled me with fear and horror. I faced my fate with composure.Eyewitness

Inside the gas chamber the singing had stopped. Now there was only weeping and sobbing. People, their faces smashed and bleeding, were still streaming through the door, driven by blows and goaded by vicious dogs. Desperate children who had become separated from their parents in the scramble were rushing around calling for them. All at once, a small boy was standing before me. He looked at me curiously; perhaps he had noticed me there at the back standing all by myself. Then, his little face puckered with worry, he asked timidly: “Do you know where my mummy and my daddy are hiding?” I tried to comfort him, explaining that his parents were sure to be among all those people milling round in the front part of the room. “You run along there,” I told him, “and they’ll be waiting for you, you’ll see.”

The only reason he survived is because he was approached by a few girls.

“Suddenly a few girls, naked and in the full bloom of youth, came up to me. They stood in front of me without a word, gazing at me deep in thought and shaking their heads uncomprehendingly. At last one of them plucked up courage and spoke to me: “We understand that you have chosen to die with us of your own free will, and we have come to tell you that we think your decision pointless: for it helps no one.” She went on: “We must die, but you still have a chance to save your life. You have to return to the camp, and tell everybody about our last hours,” she commanded. “You have to explain to them that they must free themselves from any illusions. They ought to fight, that’s better than dying here helplessly. It’ll be easier for them, since they have no children. As for you, perhaps you’ll survive this terrible tragedy and then you must tell everybody what happened to you. One more thing,” she went on, “you can do me one last favour: this gold chain around my neck: when I’m dead, take it off and give it to my boyfriend Sasha. He works in the bakery. Remember me to him. Say ‘love from Yana.’ When it’s all over, you’ll find me here.” She pointed at a place next to the concrete pillar where I was standing. Those were her last words.”

Burning bodies

Müller first testified during his recovery in a post-liberation hospital and subsequently in several trials. His testimonies were included in “The Death Factory” written by two fellow Holocaust survivors, Erich Kulka and Ota Kraus. He was also interviewed for the 1985 French documentary Shoah by Claude Lanzmann, who himself had been a Holocaust survivor and French resistance fighter.

Müller died on November 9, 2013. In my opinion there is only one word to describe him. Hero.

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The Fighting Girlfriend

tank

Your husband goes off to war and gets killed in battle. What do you do?

Well like any other wife you would sell all your belongings and with the money earned from that sale, you go an acquire a tank, to take revenge.

It sounds like a great plot for a revenge movie directed by Quentin Tarantino perhaps, However this is exactly what Mariya Oktyabrskaya did.

Her husband was killed fighting the Germans in Kiev in 1941. Mariya only found out 2 years later.The news enraged her and she was determined to take revenge. In order to do this she sold everything she had, and then went straight to the chief himself, Stalin. She wrote him the following letter.

“My husband was killed in action defending the motherland. I want revenge on the fascist dogs for his death and for the death of Soviet people tortured by the fascist barbarians. For this purpose, I’ve deposited all my personal savings–50,000 rubles–to the National Bank in order to build a tank. I kindly ask to name the tank ‘Fighting Girlfriend’ and to send me to the front line as a driver of the said tank.”

Stalin had no choice but to agree. The propaganda value would be priceless and it would provide for a much needed boost to the morale. With Mariya’s money a T 34 tank was bought.

t 34

Mariya received 5 months of training, which was uncommon because usually tank crews were rushed straight to the front line with minimal training.

After the training she was assigned to the 26th Guards Tank Brigade in September 1943, where she soon took part in the Second Battle of Smolensk.

smolensk

Although other tank crews regarded her as some kind of publicity stunt, she got the chance to prove them wrong.

During her first battle, Oktobskaya showed some excellent tank handling skills and helped in destroying machine gun nests and artillery positions. Whilst under heavy fire, her tank, “The Fighting Girlfriend,” drove  through enemy lines, but was badly damaged in the process.

damaged t 34

Oktyabrskaya, disregarded orders, leaped out of her tank and fixed the tank, amidst heavy fire. Because of  this feat she was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Her last battle was on 17 January 1944, she fought in another night attack as part of the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive. It would  be her last.

nov len

The attack took place at the village of Shvedy near Vitebsk. She neutralized resistance in trenches and machine-gun nests with her Fighting Girlfriend. and she and her crew  also destroyed a German self-propelled gun. Subsequently, the tank was hit by a German anti-tank shell,and  the tank once again suffered damage , Oktobrskaya tried to pull the trick once again. She managed to repair the damaged track but was hit in the head by shell fragments and lost consciousness.

She was transported to a Soviet military field hospital at Fastov, near Kiev, where she stayed  in a coma for two months, before finally succumbing to her injuries / She died on the 15th of  March 1944. In August that year, she  was posthumously made a Hero of the Soviet Union.

Mariya

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The lonely journey of Otto Frank on the Monowai steamship.

Monowai

I am a father of 3 children and every time they leave the house a million scenarios go through my head of things that could happen to them, but I am not unique in this for it  is what fathers and mothers do, they worry for their kids.

Otto Frank was a father and a husband to 2 beautiful daughters and a remarkable wife, I just can’t fathom the anxiety he must have felt on the 4th of August 1944, when the Gestapo raided the annex of the building, Otto and his family had been hiding in since July 6 1942.

annex

The uncertainty of the fate of his family must have driven him to the brink of insanity.

On the 22nd of  April 1945, a few weeks before the end of the war in Europe, the Monowai,flying the New Zealand flag,  set sail from England for Odessa on the Black Sea.it was carrying 1600 Soviets who had been captured serving with the Germans in France. The Manowai then embarked Jewish Holocaust survivors from Western Europe, on of them was Otto Frank – who had been liberated from the Auschwitz death camp on January 27th 1945. by the Soviet army. On 21 May the ship traveled with the Jewish survivors   from Odessa to Marseille, where it arrived on the 27th of May.

Marseille

While aboard the Monowai, Otto Frank wrote the following letter:

“The closer we get to home the greater our impatience to hear from our loved ones. Everything that’s happened the past few years! Until our arrest I don’t know exactly what caused it, even now, at least we still had contact with each other. I don’t know what’s happened since then. Kugler and Kleiman and especially Miep and her husband and Bep Voskuil provided us with everything for two whole years, with incomparable devotion and sacrifice and despite all danger.

I can’t even begin to describe it. How will I ever begin to repay everything they did. But what has happened since then? To them, to you to Robert (His brother). Are you in touch with Julius and Walter? (Edith’s brothers) All our possessions are gone. There won’t be a pin left, the Germans stole everything. Not a photo, letter or document remains. Financially we were fine in the past few years, I earned good money and saved it. Now it’s all gone. But I don’t think about any of that. We have lived through too much to worry about that kind of thing. Only the children matter, the children. I hope to get news from you immediately. Maybe you’ve already heard news about the girls”

By this time Otto had discovered that his wife, Edith, had died at Auschwitz

This letter broke my heart. We know so much about Anne through her diary and also but to a lesser extend about Margot, but none of us can ever imagine the pain Otto felt when he heard the news about his daughters.

Frank

The sad thing is that Anne Frank’s diary did not have to be published if the US had not cancelled the Frank’s visa in December 1941, just after Germany had declared war to the US.  I am not accusing the US government but it is sad nonetheless.

The even sadder thing is that Otto Frank was accused of tempering with Anne’s diary. I really don’t understand the mindset of people like that. accusing a man who lost everything. To me he is a hero who despite everything kept his sanity and ensured that the story of his daughter and the rest of his family would be told.

Otto Frank died of lung cancer on 19 August 1980 in Basel.

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New Zealand History

Wikipedia

 

Willem Jacob van Stockum-Scientist and WWII Hero.

Willem Jacob van Stockum

This is one of those men that makes me proud to be Dutch, and like me he has also a connection with Ireland.

He was born in Hattem, a small town  in the east of the Netherlands. His father was an officer in the Dutch Navy.

Willem studied mathematics at Trinity College, Dublin, where he earned a gold medal.

Trinity College, Dublin

He continued his studies in Edinburgh and Toronto where he received  an M.A. from the University of Toronto and his Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. His main academic achievement was to solve Einstein’s field equations for an infinite rotating cylinder. His work is regularly cited by those interested in time travel.

Van Stockum moved to the USA in hope of becoming an understudy to Albert Einstein.albert-einstein

Eventually in the spring of 1939 he gained a temporary position under Professor Oswald Veblen at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

 

The outbreak of World War II happened  while he was teaching at the University of Maryland. Eager to join the fight against Hitler and Fascism, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941, where he eventually earned his pilots wings in July 1942.

willem.

Because of his advanced knowledge of physics, he spent much of the next year as a test pilot in Canada. After the Netherlands was invaded by the Nazis, van Stockum sought to join the war as a pilot.

He moved to Britain in the spring of 1943 and and in 1944 became the only Dutch officer posted to the no. 10 squadron at RAF Melbourne in Yorkshire.

10-squadron-halifax-iii-mz684-za-b-crew-w800

On 10 June 1944, van Stockum and his crew of six took off on their sixth combat mission, as part of another 400-plane raid. Near their target, the plane was hit by flak, and all seven crew members were lost, along with seven from another bomber on the same mission. The fourteen airmen are buried in Laval, near the place where the planes went down.

DSC_0194-2

 

Ending the blog with the last line he wrote in an article about his decision of  becoming a fighter pilot.

“For goodness’ sake let us stop this empty political theorizing according to which a man would have to have a University degree in social science before he could see what he was fighting for. It is all so simple, really, that a child can understand it.”

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Charles Jesse Uplinger- Just a random name.

URLINGER

Charles Jesse Uplinger- Just a random name.

But he wasn’t just a random man. He was a son, a husband, a brother and a friend and above all a Hero.

Born  on 9 April 1917, Sherburn, Martin County, Minnesota

I never met him but yet unbeknownst to him he had an impact on my life, for he was one of the many who sacrificed his life so I didn’t have to.

His service number 37581838 are not just a set of characters but the identification of the 27 year old man who selflessly gave his life on October 2 1944.

Dear Sir I salute you and with the deepest respect do I bow my head to you.

grave

 

Necdet Kent rescuing Jews from an train heading to Auschwitz.

necdet-kent-968b6fb3-49f8-4e51-9e72-38cce50b83c-resize-750.jpeg

It maybe an naive notion but I believe there are only 2 types of people in this world,good and bad.

Bad people will always do bad and evil things regardless, they may on occasion maybe charitable and do something good, but at the end only to serve their own interest.

On the other hand sometimes good people can be weak when faced with danger or their own mortality, and therefore do things they usually wouldn’t do, which result in evil being permitted.

However there are those who see evil for what it is and regardless what the consequences are for them, they will do everything to stop it. They are the heroes we don’t always read or hear about.

İsmail Necdet Kent was such a man. He was a Turkish diplomat who risked his life to save Jews during World War II

After he was posted as as vice consul to Athens, Greece.He moved to Marseille in France  1941 and 1944. where he was appointed to the post of vice consul.

Marseille, Hafenviertel. Deportation von Juden

At sometime  in 1943, Kent rushed to the Saint Charles train station in Marseilles and boarded a train bound for the Auschwitz concentration camp after Nazi guards refused to let some 70 Jews with Turkish citizenship disembark. After more than an hour on the train, the guards let Kent and the Jews leave.

A Jewish assistant at the consulate had alerted Kent  that  about 80 Turkish Jews resident in Marseilles had been loaded into cattle cars for immediate transport to certain death in Auschwitz  The Jews were crammed one on top of the other in the wagon, which was meant to transport cattle.Overcome with sorrow and anger at the sight, Kent approached the Gestapo commander at the station, and demanded that the Jews, whom he said were Turkish citizens, be released.

Jews being deported from France

The official refused to comply, saying that the people were nothing but Jews.

Not willing to give up , and with a surge of courage and human benevolence, Kent turned to the Jewish aide from the consulate and said, “Come on, we’re getting on this train, too.” Pushing aside the soldier who tried to stop him, he jumped into the wagon. The German officer demanded Kent to get off the train , but he refused.

The train took off, but at the next station, German officers boarded and apologized to Kent for not failing to let  him off at Marseilles, they had  a car was waiting for him  to take him back to his office. But Kent explained that the mistake was not that he was on the train – but that 80 Turkish citizens had been loaded on the train.

“As a representative of a government that rejected such treatment for religious beliefs, I could not consider leaving them there,” he said. Dumbfounded by his  defiance an uncompromising stance, the Germans caved in  let everyone off the train.

Although Turkey was a neutral country at that time, Kent could have easily been killed fro his act of defiance.

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Yad Vashem

Jewish Virtual Library

“It is not you who are in charge. God will judge you” the bravery of Fr.Józef Cebula.

jozef cebula

The word ‘Hero’ is branded way too easily nowadays, Recently I heard someone on a current affairs program saying he saw the Kardashians as his role models and heroes, that actually scared me. If people whose only contribution to society is self indulgence and self promotion are seen as heroes, then real heroes like Father Józef Cebula will soon be forgotten.

Father Józef Cebula was born into a modest family of Polish origin on March 23, 1902, at Malnia in southern Poland. He suffered tuberculosis as a child,and was in fact declared incurable . After an unexpected recovery, he visited an Oblate shrine where he shared his story with an Oblate priest. The priest advised Józef to study with the Oblates at the newly-established Oblate minor seminary.

oblates

Jozef entered the Oblate Junior Seminary in 1920, and was ordained to the priesthood on June 25, 1927.While still in a seminary. Father Cebula became a superior at the Oblate seminaries in 1931, and became novice master at Markowice in 1937.

When the Germans invaded and occupied Poland in September 1939, they declared loyalty to the Church illegal. In October 1939 the 100 member community at Markowice was placed under house arrest, and set to work as farm laborers.

Later on that month, the Community was evicted and the novitiate was turned into a centre for the Hitler Youth.

H Y

Fr. Jozef was called before the authorities on several occasions for refusing to stop saying Mass and hearing confessions. Eventually he was arrested and sent to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria.

Known for his humility, Fr. Cebula was a man of quiet prayer with a deep spiritual life. He radiated peace in the very middle of the death camp, even when tormented by the Nazis.

Mauthausen

In Mauthausen he was harassed and forced to work hard, to break rocks in the quarry, simply because he was a Roman Catholic priest. Father Cebula was forced to carry 60-pound rocks from the quarry to a camp two miles away. He had to climb a 144-step staircase called the Death Stairs, while being beaten and insulted by his tormentors. The guards humiliated and mocked him by ordering him to sing the texts of the Mass while he worked.

quarry

On May 9th 1941 , Fr. Cebula summoned up his strength and courage  and said, “It is not you who are in charge. God will judge you.” The Nazis ordered him to run, with a rock on his back, towards the camp’s barbed wire fence, where a guard shot him with a sub-machine gun and declared that Fr. Cebula “was shot while trying to escape”. He died  in this volley of bullets. His body was taken to a crematorium and burned.

It takes a Hero to stand up against evil knowing it will cost you your life. Lets never forget the real heroes.

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Sources

OMI World

USHMM

The death of FDR

f2d31ce4c3

On April 12, 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage in his cottage in Warm Springs, Georgia at 3:35 pm. The President was 63 and serving his fourth term. Vice President Harry Truman took the Presidential Oath of Office at 7:09 pm in the Cabinet Room in the White House.

Harry-S-Truman-Oath

On March 29, 1945, Roosevelt went to the Little White House at Warm Springs, to rest before his anticipated appearance at the founding conference of the United Nations. On the afternoon of April 12, Roosevelt said, “I have a terrific headache.” He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious, and was carried into his bedroom.300px-FDR-April-11-1945.jpg

The president’s attending cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn, diagnosed the medical emergency as a massive cerebral hemorrhage.At 3:35 p.m. that day, Roosevelt died at the age of 63. An editorial by The New York Times declared, “Men will thank God on their knees a hundred years from now that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House.”

On the morning of April 13, Roosevelt’s body was placed in a flag-draped coffin and loaded onto the presidential train for the trip back to Washington.

(Chief Petty Officer ,US Navy. Graham W. Jackson playing “Goin’ Home” on his accordion as FDR’s flag-draped casket passes by}

fdrdeath3

Along the route, thousands flocked to the tracks to pay their respects. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt was transported by train from Washington, D.C., to his place of birth at Hyde Park. As was his wish, Roosevelt was buried on April 15 in the Rose Garden of his Springwood estate.

800px-Franklin_Roosevelt_funeral_procession_1945

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Awesome Stories

Eyewitness to History