Rolf Wenkhaus; Child actor and Luftwaffe crew member

I was reminiscing on TV shows I watched as a kid in the Netherlands. One of my favourite shows was a series called “Q&Q”. It was about 2 teenage detectives. The boys named Aristides Quarles and Wilbur Quant accidentally snap a photo of a dead body in the woods. After finding the place where the body was, they find it to be gone. Nobody believes them except Grandpa. They decide to investigate themselves. I will spare you the theme song because once you hear it, it will be in your head for days.

Then I also remembered a German movie I watched about some German teenage detectives, nowadays with Google and IMDB, it was relatively easy to find the title. The movie is called “Emil and the Detectives” .Turns out it is the birthday of the young main actor today. Rolf Wenkhaus was born on September 9,1917. The movie I was referring to earlier was made in 1931.

Rolf only made tow more movies, the last one was a Nazi propaganda movie titled “S.A.-Mann Brand”

Ironically the screenplay for Rolf Wenkhaus’s 1st movie, “Emil and the Detectives” was written by Billy Wilder, a Jewish Austrian screenwriter who lived in Berlin. After the rise of the Nazi Party, he moved to Paris, due to rampant antisemitism and discrimination against the Jewish people. He moved to Hollywood in 1933. That movie was also based on a novel by Erich Kästner, a pacifist and an opponent of the Nazi regime. The Gestapo interrogated Kästner several times, the national writers’ guild expelled him, and the Nazis burned his books as “contrary to the German spirit” during the book burnings of 10 May 1933, instigated by Joseph Goebbels.

After the outbreak of World War II, Rolf Wenkhaus enlisted in the military. At the time of his death, aged 24, he was in the aircrew of a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor, a four-engine bomber that specialized in attacks on shipping. Wenkhaus’s plane, with identification code F8 MH 0093, was shot down on 31 January 1942, off the coast of Bloody Foreland in County Donegal, Ireland by HMS Genista, a British Flower-class corvette being utilized as a convoy escort vessel.

The entire aircrew of six was killed. The body of the pilot, Werner Bornefeld, washed up at Bunbeg two weeks later, and was eventually reburied at a German War Cemetery at Glencree, Ireland.

Because Rolf Wenkhaus’s corpse has never been found they officially pronounced his dead only in 1948.

sources

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0921020/?ref_=tt_ov_st

https://prabook.com/web/rolf.wenkhaus/1928015

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_K%C3%A4stner#Berlin_1933%E2%80%931945

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The Suicide of Elsa Reininger- A forgotten Holocaust victim.

A few weeks ago I discovered a Jewish Cemetery in Limerick. It was across from a landmark pub in the city called ‘the Hurlers’. There was small laneway across from the Hurlers leading to the small Cemetery.

One of the graves was of Simon Gewurz. He was originally from Bratislava in Slovakia. But he moved to Limerick where he died in 1944. I recently found out that he was the last Rabbi in Limerick.

In 1938 he had to conduct the funeral service of Elsa Reininger.

Elsa’s story was a tragic one. She had fled Austria after Hitler annexed the country. Reininger was her maiden name, she was married to Berisch Hofler. a Polish Jew. The couple had one daughter, Margarete.

Austria was annexed into the Third Reich on March 13, 1938, the day after German troops entered Austrian territory, the so called Anschluss. The Nazis were greeted by cheering Austrians with Nazi salutes and Nazi flags. A law was published, declaring Austria “one of the lands of the German Empire” under the name “Ostmark”. On April 10, an Anschluss referendum was held in Austria. According to official Reich data, with 99.08% of the population voting, the Anschluss was approved by 99.75%.

Almost immediately attacks were carried out on the Austrian Jewish community in an attempt to get them to leave the country. They were beaten up and forced to sell their businesses, scrub footpaths and clean public toilets on their hands and knees.

Shortly after the ‘Anscluss’ the Hoflers left Austria. It is not clear how the the Hoflers left Austria, but both Elsa and her Husband ended up in Limerick city, Ireland. Their Daughter, Margarete, had married a widower, Gaskel Kaitcer, in the UK. Gaskel had family in Limerick, the Tobin family, so the couple decided to move to Limerick. Margarete soon got a job working as a violinist in one of Limerick’s cinemas.

In September 1938 Berisch visited his daughter, and stayed as a lodger with Gaskel’s cousin, Annie Tobin and her Husband at 18 Newenham Street. Elsa followed in October 1938. Elsa had arrived in Limerick from England, where her passport was stamped for a 48 hours stay, basically a short term visa.

The experiences of what she witnessed in Austria had really disturbed Elsa. Her nerves were shattered from what she had seen and experienced in Vienna and the possibility that she might have to return there. She spoke continuously to the Tobins about Hitler. She suffered from depression. On October 27, 1938 she booked a room at the Crescent Hotel, she took a
gun from her handbag and as she lay on the bed, she put it to her head and pulled the trigger, killing herself, aged 57. No one heard the shot. Around 8 o’ clock Berish Hofler went to his daughters house and was distressed he didn’t find his wife. At 23.30 Margarete went to the Garda(Police) station and reported her mother missing. The body was found shortly after midnight. The Gardai(Irish Police) notified the family. In the early hours of Friday morning the 28th, the Fire Brigade ambulance arrived and removed the body to the morgue at Barrington’s Hospital on Georges Quay. As it was the eve of the Jewish Sabbath the family were anxious have the remains buried. Mr Nathaniel Fine made arrangements for the burial with Griffins funeral home on Lr. Gerald Griffin Street. As the body was about to be
removed the Gardai intervened and had the deceased returned to the morgue, but after a post-mortem examination had been made on Saturday, permission for the burial was
given again . On Sunday morning 30 October, a Griffins’ motor hearse went to Barrington’s Hospital, collected the coffin and drove to the Jewish Cemetery in Kilmurry where, in the presence of Berisch Hofler, Margarete Kaitcer and her husband Gaskel and the last serving Jewish Rabbi of Limerick, Simon Gewurz, the remains of Elsa Reininger were laid to rest in an unmarked grave.

Elsa was just one of the thousands that were so overwhelmed by the evil they had witnessed, that they felt they could not continue to live. These are often the forgotten Holocaust victims because they are not registered as such.

sources

file:///C:/Users/Dirk/Downloads/Elsa_Reininger_A_Forgotten_Victim_of_Ado.pdf

https://www.geni.com/people/Simon-Gewurtz/6000000003823159033

Click to access ct046.pdf

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The Bombing of Campile,Co.Wexford-Ireland.

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Ireland remained officially neutral during World War II. However, on 26 August 1940, the German Luftwaffe bombed Campile in broad daylight.

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On August 26 1940 the tiny village of Campile in Co Wexford was bombed by the German Luftwaffe, killing three local women and giving Ireland — until then largely insulated from the terror of World War Two — its first experience of the conflict.

 

Sisters Mary Ellen (30) and Kitty Kent (26) and restaurant worker Kathleen Hurley (27) all perished after the Heinkel bomber dropped four bombs over the Shelburne Co-op and Creamery, demolishing it in a matter of seconds.

Mary Ellen and Kitty were the daughters of Michael and Ellen Kent from Terrerath. Mary Ellen worked as the manageress in the restaurant, while Kitty worked in the drapery. In a cruel twist of fate Kitty had been delayed in going to her dinner that fateful day and would otherwise not have been in the restaurant when the bombs were dropped. Kathleen Hurley, the daughter of William and Catherine Hurley, also worked in the restaurant and had just returned that morning after two weeks’ of summer holidays.

 

 

 

Four German bombs were dropped on the creamery and restaurant sections of Shelburne Co-op on that day. The railway was also targeted by the bombers. The attack has never been fully explained, although there are numerous theories as to why the bombing occurred.

 

One was that the German pilots were lost and had mistaken the south-east coast of Wexford for Wales.

It was also suggested that butter boxes emblazoned with the Shelburne Co-op name were discovered by the Nazis a few months earlier following the evacuation of Dunkirk and that the bombing was in retaliation for supplying foodstuffs to the Allied armies.

However, Campile historian John Flynn, who has written a new book to mark the 70th anniversary of the disaster, argues that the bombing was a message from Hitler to Taoiseach Eamon de Valera warning him to keep his promise on Ireland’s neutrality.

Eamon-de-Valera

 

After consulting military reports, Mr Flynn said it was clear that Campile was a “definite target” that fateful day.

One theory that has always been battered about is that the co-op was supplying butter to the Allies armies when we were supposed to be neutral.

it was also alleged that the Co-op sold boots to the British Army and these were found by the Germans. Another theory is the RAF were able to put the German bombers, which were targeted by a radar beam, off course and that they were totally reliant on crew judgement in the case of the bombing of Campile.

The 20-minute ordeal terrorised the peaceful village and left behind a trail of devastation, with huge gates ripped off their hinges, slates torn off roofs, railway siding was twisted and sleepers were pulled up.

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On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the bombing, a plaque was erected on the co-op walls in memory of the three women that died during the attack.

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One thing that always puzzled me is why did de Valera  formally offer his condolences to the German Minister in Dublin on the death of Adolf Hitler in 1945 ?

Under Hitler’s leadership several dozens of Irish citizens were killed, for Campile wasn’t the only town that was bombed. I know under the guise of the neutrality diplomatic protocol, he may have felt compelled to do so.

But neutrality means  2 things “the state of not supporting or helping either side in a conflict, disagreement, etc.; impartiality.” and “absence of decided views, expression, or strong feeling.”

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Irish government’s condolences to Germany after Hitler’s death

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Ireland’s president,Douglas Hyde, during World War II offered condolences to Nazi Germany’s representative in Dublin over the death of Adolf Hitler,  declassified government records show.

It was long believed that Ireland’s prime minister(Taoiseach) at the time, Eamon de Valera, was the only government leader to convey official condolences to Eduard Hempel, director of the German diplomatic corps in Ireland.

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(Dr Eduard Hempel, Dr Vogelsang and Dr Adolf Mahr at the German legation’s garden party in Dublin, 1938.)

De Valera’s gesture ,unique among leaders of neutral nations in the final weeks of World War II ,was criticized worldwide.

On May 2, 1945, just two days after Hitler and his consort Eva Braun committed suicide in their Berlin bunker, De Valera, who also served as foreign minister, and his aide, Secretary of External Affairs Joseph Walshe, visited the German Embassy in Dublin to sign a book of condolences for the departed Fuhrer.

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They also met with the top German envoy to Ireland, Eduard Hempel. Irish envoys in other nations did likewise, including Leopold Kerney in Spain, who called on the German Embassy in Madrid to express his condolences.

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Not everyone in De Valera’s government agreed with his decision to mourn Hitler. Frederick Boland, the assistant secretary of the Department of External Affairs, reportedly begged him not to go to the embassy.

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Indeed, no other Western European democracies followed De Valera’s example – he found himself in the dubious company of two European fascist dictators, Francisco Franco of Spain and António de Oliveira Salazar of Portugal, in voicing condolences over Hitler.

 

De Valera, who had apparently never expressed any admiration or support for Nazi Germany in the years leading up to the war, also found himself in the embarrassing and uncomfortable spot of receiving praise and gratitude from the British Union of Fascists for “honoring the memory of the greatest German in history.”

De Valera argued that to refuse condolences “would have been an act of unpardonable discourtesy to the German nation and to Dr Hempel”.

It was a pedantic and foolish diplomatic gesture, and it was not appreciated by my grandmother Christabel Bielenberg, according to Kim Bielenberg -her Grandmother was a German living in Ireland at the time,when she learned of it later on.

Many in Germany were hardly stricken with grief at the demise of Hitler in the Spring of 1945, and even if they had been sympathetic, they were so busy trying to guarantee their own survival – finding food and keeping a roof over their heads – that they had little time to mourn him.

The global media also piled on. An editorial in The New York Times said of De Valera’s visit: “Considering the character and the record of the man for whose death he was expressing grief, there is obviously something wrong with the protocol, the neutrality of Mr. de Valera.”

The New York Herald Tribune also blasted De Valera. “If this is neutrality, it is neutrality gone mad – neutrality carried into a diplomatic jungle – where good and evil alike vanish in the red-tape thickets: where conscience flounders helplessly in slogans of protocol,” the paper declared.

Some Irish-Americans also condemned de Valera.

One Angela D. Walsh of New York wrote to a local newspaper: “Have you seen the motion pictures of the victims of German concentration camps, de Valera? Have you seen the crematoriums? Have you seen the bodies of little children murdered by Nazi hands? Have you seen the living dead, de Valera? Skin stretched over bone, and too weak to walk?”

In response to vitriolic international criticism over his gesture (most notably from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Harry Truman), De Valera insisted it was a question of diplomatic protocol and that failing to send his respects would amount to “an act of unpardonable discourtesy.”

President_Harry_S._Truman_and_Prime_Minister_Winston_Churchill_on_the_steps_of_the_-Little_White_House,-_the..._-_NARA_-_198764

In a letter to Robert Brennan, the Irish ambassador in Washington, De Valera wrote: “During the whole of the war, Dr. Hempel’s conduct was irreproachable. He was always friendly and invariably correct — in marked contrast with [U.S. envoy David] Gray. I certainly was not going to add to [Hempel’s] humiliation in the hour of defeat.”

De Valera also specified that his actions in no way condoned the policies of Hitler’s regime.

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Cavan Orphanage fire

mi-cavan_orphanage_grave

In the early hours of 24 February  in 1943 fire broke out in the basement laundry of St. Joseph’s Orphanage & Industrial School run by the enclosed order of Poor Clare nuns in Main St., Cavan town. The fire very quickly turned into an inferno. The alarm was raised by horrified townspeople who tried to help. At first they could not gain access to the convent and when they were admitted it was almost too late too reach the terrified, screaming children, trapped in the top floor dormitories. A hugely inadequate fire service meant that within forty minutes the flames had taken hold, the roof had caved in and the building was left just a shell. Thirty five children and an elderly lay woman burned to death. The following day the remains of the thirty six bodies were recovered from the smoldering ruin. They were put in just eight coffins and buried subsequently in a mass grave.

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The subsequent investigation attributed it to a faulty flue. The sight of smoke coming out of the building alerted people on Main Street. They went to the front entrance and tried to gain entry. Eventually they were let in by one of the girls but not knowing the layout of the convent, they were unable to find the girls.

By this time all of the girls had been moved into one Dormitory. At this stage it would have been possible to evacuate all of the children but instead the nuns persuaded the local people to attempt to put out the fire. Two men (John Kennedy and John McNally) went down to the laundry to try to put the fire out. The flames were now too intense for this to be possible and McNally only survived by being carried out by Kennedy.

By this point it was no longer possible for the girls to get out through the main entrance or the fire escape. The local fire brigade had then arrived but their equipment was not sufficient for this fire. Wooden ladders were not long enough to reach the dormitory windows. In the absence of any other solution girls were encouraged to jump. Three did so, though with injuries, however most were too frightened to attempt it. By the time a local electricity worker, Mattie Hand, arrived with a long ladder, and a local man, Louis Blessing, brought five girls down. One child left by way of the interior staircase while it was still accessible. One child made it down the exterior fire escape. One child escaped by way of a small ladder held on the roof of the shed. the fire completely engulfed the dormitory and the remaining girls died.

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Incredibly, when alerted to the gathering smoke by a orphan girl, a senior nun made the decision not to evacuate the children, instead she directed them to the top floor dormitory and closed the doors.

Being an enclosed order, the nuns were reportedly reluctant to leave the building themselves, which they considered would be a violation of their vows.

Over concerns about the causes of the fire and the standard of care, a Public Inquiry was set up. The report’s findings stated that the loss of life occurred due to faulty directions being given, lack of fire-fighting training, and an inadequate rescue and fire-fighting service. It also noted inadequate training of staff in fire safety and evacuation, both at the orphanage and local fire service.

This finding has been disputed by many, including in a piece of verse (to be precise, a Limerick) written by the secretary to the Inquiry Brian O’Nolan, better known as the author Flann O’Brien, and one of the counsel representing the Electricity Supply Board, Tom O’Higgins, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and presidential candidate.

 

“In Cavan there was a great fire,Judge McCarthy was sent to inquire,
It would be a shame, if the nuns were to blame,
So it had to be caused by a wire.”

It was alleged that the nuns prevented firefighters entering the building in case they saw the girls inside in a state of undress.

Due to the nature of the fire, the remains of the dead girls were placed in 8 coffins and buried in Cullies cemetery in Cavan. A new memorial plaque was erected in 2010 just inside the convent gates at Main Street, Cavan. The plaque was anonymously donated to the Friends of the Cavan Orphanage Victims group.

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