It would have been easy to turn a blind eye, but Fr.Lichtenberg didn’t.

Fr Lichtenberg

It would be so easy for ordinary citizens to turn a blind eye to the Holocaust, and indeed many did. I do not judge these people, because  faced with a similar situation I don’t know how I would react. Anyone who was critical against the Nazi regime, could face a prison sentence of worse death. And it really didn’t take that much to be sentenced to death. I can therefore understand why people ignored the things happening around them, for many it was a way to ensure survival.

There were those though how saw the injustice and evil and spoke out against it publicly. People like the Catholic Priest Fr. Bernhard Lichtenberg.

Ever since the Nazis came to power he spoke out against them. After the pogrom of November 9, 1938,known as Kristallnacht he said the following public prayer in the St. Hedwig’s Cathedral in Berlin.

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“We know what was yesterday. We do not know what will be tomorrow. But we have experienced what happened today. Outside, the Temple is burning. That is also a House of God.”

Lichtenberg  prayed publicly for the persecuted Jews at the daily Vespers service. Bishop Konrad von Preysing later entrusted Lichtenberg with the task of helping the Jewish community of the city, via the Welfare Office of the Berlin Diocesan Authority (“Hilfswerk”). In theory non-Aryan Christians were to be supported by the “Fund”. However  the aid was provided to every Jewish citizen who contacted the office.

Lichtenberg protested in person to Nazi officials against the arrest and killing of the sick and mentally ill.In 1941 he wrote a letter to the  chief physician of the Reich, Minister of Public Health Leonardo Conti, in relation to the T4 euthanasia program.

Conti

“I, as a human being, a Christian, a priest, and a German, demand of you, Chief Physician of the Reich, that you answer for the crimes that have been perpetrated at your bidding, and with your consent, and which will call forth the vengeance of the Lord on the heads of the German people.”

Initially the Nazis saw him more of a nuisance then a threat but his  efforts to help the Jews and his calls to put an end to the immoral actions of the Nazis grew stronger. To silence him, the Nazis arrested him on October 23, 1941, and was sentenced to 2 years in prison.But because of his unyielding opposition he was sent to Dachau. However he never reached Dachau.He collapsed and died while in transit, on 5 November 1943 in Hof, Bavaria.

BUST

He died for being a decent Human being , who spoke out about the evil he saw around him.

I am not a Catholic and I don’t believe in saints but of I had to believe in saints, he would be top of my list.

On 7 July 2004 Yad Vashem recognized Bernhard Lichtenberg as a Righteous Among the Nations.

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Sources

The Second World War: A Complete History

Bundesarchiv

Yad Vashem

 

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The Jewish typewriter salesman who recommended Hitler for an Iron cross.

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I have to confess that the the title is somewhat misleading because Hugo Gutmann was not a typewriter salesman as of yet when he recommended Hitler’s award of the Iron Cross First Class.

Hugo Gutmann was one of the 12,000 Jewish military who fought for Germany during WWI.

from 29 January to 31 August, 1918 Lt. Gutmann was Adolf Hitler’s commanding officer.

Hitler on the right

Hitler was awarded the Iron Cross, 1st Class, for his role as a messenger, running important information between units under fire. The decoration was given to Hitler on  August 4th, 1918,  by the regimental commander, Major von Tubeuf The 2 decorations Hitler only wore were his Iron Cross, and his Nazi Party Badge.

On 8 February 1919, Gutmann left  the German Army, but still was registered army rolls as a reserve lieutenant. In 1933, he applied  for and received his military pension – which had been protected,  for all veterans including Jewish veterans ,by President  Paul von Hindenburg. Despite the anti Jewish laws and losing his German citizenship  Gutmann was allowed to keep his pension.

Around the time of the ‘Kristallnacht’ in autumn 1938, he was arrested by the Gestapo, but SS officers who know him  and  his  relationship with Hitler had him released from custody.

But regardless  this relationship, eventually his fate would have been the same as all other Jews in Germany and the occupied territories.

In 1939, Gutmann and his family moved to  Belgium . In 1940  just prior to the invasion of the Low Countries,the Gutmanns immigrated to the United States. They initially settled  in St. Louis where Hugo secured employment  as a typewriter salesman. In the US  he changed his name to Henry George Grant. He died in San Diego, California, on 22 June 1962. He was buried at Home of Peace Cemetery in San Diego.

Hugo

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Max Schmeling-defying an evil regime

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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.”

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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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Holocaust documented.

Doc

One of the thing that surprises me is why some people still give credence to Holocaust deniers. Some of these deniers do actually claim to be Historians, if they really are they are absolutely useless and lazy  in their jobs.

I  don’t consider myself to be  a Historian nor did I ever claim to be. I do however have a passion for history and in particular for World War 2 and especially the Holocaust. No matter how I look at it I find it incredibly hard to fathom the horrors subjected to so many by a regime so evil. What makes it worse these crimes were known and reported as they were happening.Some at a time prior to the war where there still was a possibility to stop it from happening in the first place.

The reason why I call these Holocaust deniers lazy is because there are so many documents and records documenting these crimes, often by eye witnesses. Thousands and thousands of documents.

Below some reports and telegrams highlighting concerns and actually reporting atrocities being carried out, Documents were sent to or from British officials.

A report of a Mr Pringle about the treatment of Jews in France in September 1942

pringle

Telegram from Sir G Ogilvie Forbes regarding the damage dealt to Jewish properties during ‘Kristallnacht’

Telegram (en clair) from Sir G. Ogilvie Forbes (Berlin),

D. BY TELEPHONE. 10th November, 1938.

R 5.5p.m. 10th November, 1938

No.663.

IMPORTANT

My telegram No. 661.

I have just returned from a tour of Friedrichstrasse and city districts where Jewish shops are being smashed and looted by youths in plain clothes, followed by large and smiling crowds including soldiers and others in party uniforms. Police were taking no notice.

Only exception was the premises of Messrs. Israel, a big department store partly British-owned which was guarded by police with fire brigade standing by. His Majesty’s Consul-General who visited these premises informs me that enormous damage has been done to stock and fittings. According to Mr. Israel store was attacked early this afternoon by a crowd which included S.S. men in uniform. Business offices owned by Jews are also being entered and smashed up apparently with impunity. Similar attacks on Jewish property are said to be taking place all over Germany.

His Majesty’s Consul Dresden reports that a British Jew from Leipzig has asked for asylum in the Consulate as Jews in Leipzig are being beaten up. I have taken immediate steps with the Under Secretary of State for the safeguarding of British subjects.

Chief Rabbi of Berlin has been arrested and seven synagogues have been burnt.

The facts that these attacks began only after midnight last night and that Jewish shops and offices have been systematically signalled out indicate that this action was deliberately planned.

kristall nacht

Telegram from Mr Gerhart Riegner to Mr S S Silverman, both of the World Jewish Congress, regarding rumours of the extermination of Jews in Concentration Camps.

FROM BERNE TO FOREIGN OFFICE.

Mr. Norton. D. 4.48 p.m. August 10th, 1942.

No. 2831. R. 6.25 p.m. August 10th, 1942.

August 10th, 1942.

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Following from His Majesty’s Consul General at Geneva No. 174 (Begins).

Following for Mr. S.S.Silverman M.P., Chairman of British Section, World Jewish Congress London from Mr. Gerhart Riegner Secretary of World Jewish Congress, Geneva.

[Begins].

Received alarming report stating that, in the Fuehrer’s Headquarters, a plan has been discussed, and is under consideration, according to which all Jews in countries occupied or controlled by Germany numbering 3 1/2 to 4 millions should, after deportation and concentration in the East, be at one blow exterminated, in order to resolve, once and for all the Jewish question in Europe. Action is reported to be planned for the autumn. Ways of execution are still being discussed including the use of prussic acid. We transmit this information with all the necessary reservation, as exactitude cannot be confirmed by us. Our informant is reported to have close connexions with the highest German authorities, and his reports are generally reliable.

Please inform and consult New York. (Ends].

[INDIV].

telegram

KaskiReport on the attacks on the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw

 

News is reaching the Polish Government in London about the liquidation [of] the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw.

The persecution of the Jews in Poland, which has been in progress from the very first day of the German occupation, has taken on extremely acute forms since March 1942, when Himmler ordered the extermination of 50% of the Jewish population in the Government General, to be carried out by the end of 1942.

Though the German assassins had started this work with extraordinary gusto, the results apparently did not satisfy Himmler, for during his visit to the General Gouvernement [sic] in July 1942 he ordered new decrees personally, aiming at the total destruction of Polish Jewry.

The persecutions in Warsaw started on July 21st. 1942, when German police cars suddenly drove into the ghettos. The soldiers immediately started rushing into houses, shooting the inhabitants at sign without any explanation. The first victims belonged mostly to the educated classes. On that day almost all the members of the Jewish Municipal Council were arrested and held as hostages.

On July 22nd. 1942 the Jewish Council was ordered to proclaim the decree of the German authorities dealing with the resettlement of all the Warsaw Jews, regardless of sex or age, in the Eastern part of Poland, with the sole exception of persons working in German factories or members of the Jewish militia. The daily quota of people to be re-settled was fixed at 6,000 and members of the Jewish Municipal Council were ordered to carry out the order under the pain of death.

By the next day, however, on July 23rd., the German police again appeared in the Jewish Municipal Council and demanded to see the chairman, Mr. Czerniakow. After the police had left, Czerniakow committed suicide. From a note he left for his wife, it became clear that he had received an order to deliver 10,000 people the next day and 7000 daily on the following days, in spite of the fact that the quota had been fixed originally at 6,000. The victims to be delivered to the Germans are either dragged out of their homes or seized in the streets. As the zeal of the Jewish police to perform these duties against their own people was slight and did not give a guarantee of efficiency, the Germans have mobilised temporary security batallions [sic] for the man-hunts, consisting of Ukrainians, Latvians, and Lithuanians. These batallions, under the command of SS men, are characterised by their utter ruthlessness, cruelty and inhumanity.

The Jews, when caught, are driven to a square. Old people and cripples are then singled out, taken to the cemetery and there shot. The remaining people are loaded into goods trucks, at the rate of 150 people to a truck with space for 40. The floor of the truck is covered with a thick layer of lime and chlorine sprinkled with water. The doors of the trucks are locked. Sometimes the train starts immediately on being loaded, sometimes it remains on a siding for a day, two days or even longer. The people are packed so tightly that those who die of suffocation remain the crowd side by side with the still living and those slowly dying from the fumes of lime and cholorine, from lack of air, water and food. Wherever the trains arrive half the people arrive dead. Those surviving are sent to special camps at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor. Once there, the so-called ‘settlers’ are mass murdered.

Karski

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Sources

BBC

National Archives UK.

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The funeral of an Emperor

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A historical fact that is often forgotten is that the last German emperor did not die in Germany but in the Netherlands. In the town of Doorn on 4 June 1941, at the age of 82. The Nazis had already taken control of the Netherlands for more then a year at that stage.

Wilhelm II lived in Exile in Doorn since 1920.

He had grown to distrust Hitler. Hearing of the murder of the wife of former Chancellor Schleicher, he said “We have ceased to live under the rule of law and everyone must be prepared for the possibility that the Nazis will push their way in and put them up against the wall!”

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Der Kaiser  once entertained Hermann Göring in his home in Doorn, and sent Hitler a congratulatory telegram  Germany invaded  France. But the Führer refused to entertain the idea of a return for the monarch who he thought had subjected Germany to a humiliating defeat, and kept Doorn under military guard during the Nazi occupation.

Wilhelm II once claimed to be disgusted to call himself a German, after the Kristallnacht, he also disowned his 4th born son after that. He said the following “I have just made my views clear to Auwi in the presence of his brothers. He had the nerve to say that he agreed with the Jewish pogroms and understood why they had come about. When I told him that any decent man would describe these actions as gangsterisms, he appeared totally indifferent. He is completely lost to our family”.

Even though  Hitler had wanted a state funeral in Berlin with himself in a prominent role, Hitler thought that this would establish him the link of a direct descent of the Third Reich from the old German Empire. However Wilhelm II’s family insisted on respecting instructions he’d given in 1933 that he was to be buried in Doorn if Germany was not a monarchy at the time of his death.

1024px-Mausoleumwhilhelm The funeral took place on June 9th 1941 .A  delegation of Nazi officials led by Arthur Seyss-Inquart was allowed to attend as well as a Wehrmacht guard of honour, and Wilhelm’s wishes that Nazi regalia were not be displayed at his funeral were not adhered to.

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Walther Funk-Hitler’s Banker

funk

Walther Funk, (born August 18, 1890, Trakehnen, East Prussia, Germany [now Yasnaya Polyana, Russia]—died May 31, 1960, Düsseldorf, West Germany), German Nazi and economist who was economics minister of the Third Reich from 1938 to 1945 and president of the Reichsbank from 1939.

He was tried and convicted as a major war criminal by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Sentenced to life in prison, he remained incarcerated until he was released on health grounds in 1957. He died three years later.

quote-i-do-feel-ashamed-of-having-participated-to-the-slightest-even-as-a-tool-in-those-dark-walther-funk-80-29-20

What disturbs me about the above quote is that although he says he is ashamed there is no admission of guilt, he also forgets to mention he willingly participated, and made a good life out of it.

At Nuremberg, Funk was accused by Allied prosecutors of having been closely involved in the State confiscation and disposal of the property of German Jews from this time. He boasted that by 1938, the German state had confiscated Jewish property worth two million marks, using decrees from Hitler and other top Nazis to force German Jews to leave their property and assets to the State if they emigrated, such as the Reich Flight Tax. They were forced by Göring to pay for the damage caused by the Nazis to their own property on Kristallnacht, and increasingly deprived of their personal wealth and assets as the Second World War approached.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1970-083-42,_Magdeburg,_zerstörtes_jüdisches_Geschäft

Below are the findings of the Nuremberg Trials of Funk.

Funk is indicted under all four counts. Funk, who had previously been a financial journalist, joined the Nazi Party in 1931, and shortly thereafter became one of Hitler’s personal economic advisers. On 30th January, 1933, Funk was made Press Chief in the Reich Government, and on 11th March, 1933, became Under Secretary in the Ministry of Propaganda and shortly thereafter a leading figure in the various Nazi organisations which were used to control the press, films, music and publishing houses. Funk took office as Minister of Economics and Plenipotentiary General for War Economy in early 1938 and as President of the Reichsbank in January 1939. He succeeded Schacht in all three of these positions. He was made a member of the Ministerial Council for the Defence of the Reich on August, 1939, and a member of the Central Planning Board in September, 1943.

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Funk became active in the economic field after the Nazi plans to wage aggressive war had been clearly defined. One of his representatives attended a conference on 14th October, 1938, at which Goering announced a gigantic increase in armaments and instructed the Ministry of Economics to increase exports to obtain the necessary exchange.

On 28th January, 1939, one of Funk’s subordinates sent a memorandum to the OKW on the use of prisoners of war to make up labour deficiencies which would arise in case of mobilisation. On 30th May, 1939, the Under Secretary or the Ministry of Economics attending a meeting at which detailed plans were made for the financing of the war.

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On 25th August, 1939, Funk wrote a letter to Hitler expressing his gratitude that he had been able to participate in such world shaking events; that his plans for the ” financing of the war,” for the control of wage and price conditions and for the strengthening of the Reichsbank had been completed; and that he had inconspicuously transferred into gold all foreign exchange resources available to Germany. On 14th October, 1939, after the war had begun, Funk made a speech in which he stated that the economic and financial departments of Germany working under the Four Year Plan had been engaged in the secret economic preparation for war for over a year.

Funk participated in the economic planning which preceded the attack on the U.S.S.R. His deputy held daily conferences with Rosenberg on the economic problems which would arise in the occupation of Soviet territory. Funk himself participated in planning for the printing of rouble notes in Germany prior to the attack to serve as, occupation currency in the U.S.S.R. After the attack he made a speech in which he described plans he had made for the economic exploitation of the ” vast territories of the Soviet Union ” which were to be used as a source of raw material for Europe.

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Funk was not one of the leading figures in organising the Nazi plans for aggressive war. His activity in the economic sphere was under the supervision of Goering as Plenipotentiary General of the Four Year Plan. He did, however, participate in the economic preparation for certain of the aggressive wars, notably those against Poland and the Soviet Union, but his guilt can be adequately dealt with under Count Two of the Indictment.

In his capacity as Under Secretary in the Ministry of Propaganda and Vicechairman of the Reichs Chamber of Culture, Funk had participated in the early Nazi programme of economic discrimination against the Jews. On 12th November, 1938, after the pogroms of November, he attended a meeting held under the chairmanship of Goering to discuss the solution of the Jewish problem and proposed a decree providing for the banning of Jews from all business activities, which Goering issued the same day under the authority of the Four Year Plan.

goering

Funk has testified that he was shocked at the outbreaks of 10th November, but on 15th November, he made a speech describing these outbreaks as a “violent explosion of the disgust of the German people, because of a criminal Jewish attack against the German people,” and saying that the elimination of the Jews from economic life followed logically their elimination from political life.

In 1942 Funk entered into an agreement with Himmler under which the Reichsbank was to receive certain gold and jewels and currency from the SS and instructed his subordinates, who were to work out the details, not to ask too many questions.

Schachtanlage_Merkers

As a result of this agreement the SS sent to the Reichsbank the personal belongings taken from the victims who had been exterminated in the concentration camps. The Reichsbank kept the coins and bank notes and sent the jewels, watches and personal belongings to Berlin Municipal Pawn Shops. The gold from the eyeglasses, and gold teeth and fillings was stored in the Reichsbank vaults. Funk has protested that he did not know that the Reichsbank was receiving articles of this kind. The Tribunal is of the opinion that Funk either knew what was being received or was deliberately closing his eyes to what was being done.

As Minister of Economics and President of the Reichsbank, Funk participated in the economic exploitation of occupied territories. He was President of the Continental Oil Company which was charged with the exploitation of the oil resources of occupied territories in the East. He was responsible for the seizure of the gold reserves of the Czechoslovakian National Bank and for the liquidation of the Yugoslavian National Bank. On 6th June, 1942, Funk’s deputy sent a letter to the OKW requesting that funds from the French Occupation Cost Fund be made available for black market purchases. Funk’s knowledge of German occupation policies is shown by his presence at the meeting of 8th August, 1942, at which Goering addressed the various German occupation chiefs, told them of the products required from their territories, and added, ” It makes no difference to me in this connection if you say that your people will starve.”

In the fall of 1943, Funk was a member of the Central Planning Board which determined the total number of labourers needed for German industry, and required Sauckel to produce them, usually by deportation from occupied territories. Funk did not appear to be particularly interested in this aspect of the forced labour programme, and usually sent a deputy to attend the meetings, often SS General Ohlendorf, the former Chief of the SD inside of Germany and the former Commander of Einsatzgruppe D. But Funk was aware that the board of which he was a member was demanding the importation of slave labourers, and allocating them to the various industries under its control.

As President of the Reichsbank, Funk was also indirectly involved in the utilisation of concentration camp labour. Under his direction the Reichsbank set up a revolving fund of 12,000,000 Reichsmarks to the credit of the SS for the construction of factories to use concentration camp labourers.

Reichsbank

In spite of the fact that he occupied important official positions, Funk was never a dominant figure in the various pro

grammes in which he participated. This is a mitigating fact, of which the Tribunal takes notice.

The Tribunal finds that Funk is not guilty on Count One but is guilty under Counts Two, Three and Four.

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The Leica Freedom Train

LeicaFreedomTrain

When the Nazis came to power in Germany there were plenty of business men and women who saw opportunities.

Some of them saw opportunities in exploiting the environment created by the NSDAP, especially in relation to the ‘Jewish Question’ they would actively help the Nazis for their own betterment.

On the other hand there were those who saw opportunities to do good and help those most affected by the Nazi regime. Ernst Leitz II and his family  were among those who used their influence and contacts to do good.

ernst-leitz-leica

Ernst Leitz’s optics company, founded in Wetzlar in 1869, had a tradition of enlightened behavior toward its workers. Pensions, sick leave, health insurance — all were instituted early on at Leitz, which depended for its work force upon generations of skilled employees, many of whom were Jewish.

Ernst Leitz GmbH, is now three companies: Leica Camera AG, Leica Geosystems AG, and Leica Microsystems GmbH. known for the Leica cameras.

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When Ernst Leitz sr. died in 1920, his son, Ernst Leitz II, took over, leading the company through the war years, as well as the introduction of the Leica 35mm camera in 1925. When Adolf Hitler became the German Chancellor in 1933, the younger Leitz almost immediately started receiving frantic calls and letters from Jewish associates, asking for the nearly impossible– help getting them and their families out of Germany. Since the Leitz family was not Jewish, they were not subject to Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Laws, which– among other things– greatly restricted where Jews could and could not live, as well as limiting and scrutinizing their professional and civic activities.

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In order to help, Leitz quietly embarked on what history would later dub the Leica Freedom Train. The plan seemed simple enough, but could yield dire consequences for all concerned if ever discovered. The plan helped Jews leave the country covertly, under the pretense of Leitz employees being transferred to work overseas.

Employees, retailers, family members, and sometimes even friends of family members were “assigned” to Leitz sales offices, primarily in the United States, but also in France, England, and even Hong Kong. Efforts intensified after Kristallnacht— Crystal Night– in November of 1938, during which Jews were beaten and killed while their buildings, shops, and synagogues were vandalized and burned all across Germany.

Employees arriving in New York were met at the pier and taken to the Leitz Manhattan offices and showroom on 5th Avenue, where they received help finding jobs, homes, and anything else they needed to embark on their new lives.

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The refugees were given a living allowance if finding work proved to be difficult. Each was also given a Leica camera– not because they needed new cameras, but because they were easily exchangeable for cash if necessary. Many among this wave of employees became product designers, repair technicians, sales people, marketers, and even writers in the photography industry.

The Leica Freedom Train was operating at its height in 1938, and into early 1939, dropping off groups of refugees around the world every few weeks. It was not until the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 that the country’s borders were officially closed and Leitz’s rescue operation came to an unfortunate end.

Leitz’s daughter, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz, elsie-3_480was imprisoned by the Gestapo after she was caught at the border, helping Jewish women cross into Switzerland. She eventually was freed but endured rough treatment in the course of questioning. She also fell under suspicion when she attempted to improve the living conditions of 700 to 800 Ukrainian slave laborers, all of them women, who had been assigned to work in the plant during the 1940s

The company did produce rangefinders and other optics for the German military. Other Nazi officials especially propaganda experts believed strongly in the Leica cameras as a propaganda tool. That;s why it is believed that some local Nazi officials turned a blind eye to the exploits of the Leitz family.

This entire affair may have never come to light, had it not been for the dedicated research of a California-born rabbi living in England. Written by Frank Dabba Smith and published in 2002 by the American Photographic Historical Society, “The Greatest Invention of the Leitz Family: The Leica Freedom Train” details the family’s efforts to quietly intervene in one of history’s greatest injustices. When Ernst Leitz II was posthumously honored by the Anti-Defamation League with the Courage to Care Award in 2007.The rabbi of the Harrow and Wembley Progressive Synagogue in northwest London and a Leica enthusiast, has reconstructed their stories through photographs, documents and letters of thanks from survivors and their families

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“Under considerable risk and in defiance of Nazi policy, Ernst Leitz took valiant steps to transport his Jewish employees and others out of harm’s way,” said Abraham Foxman, director of ADL. “If only there had been more Oskar Schindlers, more Ernst Leitzs, then less Jews would have perished.”

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Many thanks to Norman Stone for drawing my attention to the Leica Freedom train story.

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How did they not see it?

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The one thing that still baffles me is how did the governments around the globe not see what Hitler’s plans were?

I know that Japan and Italy and to a lesser extend Finland,Romania and a few smaller countries were also axis nations but the fact is if Hitler’s Germany would not have become the power they were, neither of the other countries would have dared starting a global war, maybe a few local conflicts but not a full blown world war.

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Leaving aside the annexation of Austria, the Sudetenland and the Rhineland, or even the Kristall Nacht(night of the broken glass) because these were blatant acts of aggression. If any one just would have bothered reading “Mein Kampf” they would have known what Hitler’s plans were.

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Combine that with the clear military build up from the late 20’s and especially since 1933 the signs were there, but yet no action was taken. Was because of ignorance,naivety or just jeer stupidity, I don’t know.Of course the media wasn’t as advanced then as it is now but nevertheless there was coverage. It is not like Hitler was doing this secretly, he did it in plain sight and in fact boasted about it.

Würzburg on “Boycott Day”, 1 April 1933. A parade of SS men.

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The Nazi booth at a radio exhibition which started in Berlin on August 19, 1932. The booth was designed as propaganda of the Nazi gramophone plate industry which produced only records of the national socialist movement.

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Annual midnight swearing-in of SS troops at Feldherrnhalle, Munich, 1938.

Annual midnight swearing-in of SS troops at Feldherrnhalle, Munich, 1938.

Reichserntedankfest, 1934.Thanks Giving

 

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Men of Leibstandarte ‘Adolf Hitler’ at the Lichterfelde barracks in Berlin, Germany, November 22, 1938.

Hitler's personal bodyguard undergo a drill inspection in Berlin, November 1938

Hitler’s Autobahn

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Inspecting the troops

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Heinkel He 100 was a German pre-World War II fighter aircraft design from Heinkel. Although it proved to be one of the fastest fighter aircraft in the world at the time of its development, it was not ordered into production.

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Approximately 19 prototypes examples were built. None are known to have survived the war. The Luftwaffe rejected the He 100 to concentrate single-seat fighter development on the Messerschmitt Bf 109.

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Reflection of an American Student who studied in Berlin in 1938.

“So, here I am on the outskirts of Frankfurt, sitting on a train and bound for Würzburg, where I know not what awaits me.”

Robert Harlan, studying a semester abroad at the University of Marburg, witnessed Kristallnacht. Traveling by train to help the parents of a Jewish friend whose house had been ransacked, Harlan reflects that “America, the land of freedom, still has much meaning I’m thinking.”

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They saw what was happening and did nothing.

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As Edmund Burke once said”The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”, I would like to add “for good women to do nothing”

This is is how the Nazi regime and all its evil could flourish. People saw what was happening, it was often blatantly obvious but yet they did nothing,or very little.

This is not meant as an accusation to the German (and Austrian)people, because they were intoxicated by the power displayed by Hitler, additionally they were going through economic hardships and Hitler kept his ‘promises’of prosperity and employment and they didn’t realize or didn’t want to see the price to paid for it.

Below are just some examples that really should have opened the eyes of some people.

This photograph was taken in Austria days after the Nazi annexation, March 1938. A lady sitting on a bench, marked “Jews only”

A Jewish woman who is concealing her face sits on a park bench marked Only for Jews, Austria, 1938 (1)

A boy sits on a bench in a public park. The words painted on the bench say, “For Aryans only.

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It wasn’t only the Germans and Austrians who knew what was happening the whole world saw what was going on and did nothing.

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Jewish prisoners paraded by the SS and local police through the streets of Baden-Baden,November 10 1938.

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SS guards at the Dachau concentration camp, 1933.

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Nazi SA paramilitaries outside Israel’s Department Store in Berlin. The signs read: “Germans defend yourselves! Don’t buy from Jews.

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Four Nazi troops sing in front of the Berlin branch of the Woolworth Co. store during the movement to boycott Jewish presence in Germany, March 1, 1933.

Nazis singing to encourage a boycott of the allegedly Jewish-founded Woolworths, 1933

This is the Reichserntedankfest(Thanksgiving for the Harvest) of 1934 in Buckeberg. That year, 700,000 people participated. Even those who did not support Nazis were totally blown away and emotionally shaken. They had never experienced anything even remotely like this, there was no rock concerts back then. It created spiritual feeling of sublime and unity among people who were participating. When they were marching back to their tents in the night, they could still see the huge spotlights piercing the sky in the Buckeberg. They were totally pumped up and fell that things are really going to change better.

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The synagogue of Baden-Baden in flames, November 10, 1938

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Two Germans accused of having violated the law against sexual relations between Jews and Gentiles.

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A Jewish youth is forced under Nazi supervision to write “Jew” on the wall of a house, following the annexation of Austria, Vienna, 1938.

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In Austria Jews are made to scrub pro-Austrian slogans from streets – March 1938

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A woman’s hair is shaved in public as she is accused of having violated the Nuremberg Laws

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I know people will say that there are similarities in apartheid and the segregation of African Americans, but the Nazi’s final solution’s aim was to annihilate and not to segregate.

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Herman van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer- The other 2 fathers in Anne Frank’s annex

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We all know the story of Anne Frank but we don’t really know that much of the others who hid in the secret annex.

On Father’s day lets have a look at the other 2 Fathers who stayed with Anne Frank and her family.

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Hermann van Pels, (31 March 1898 – October 1944), known as Hermann (Hans in the first manuscript) van Daan in Anne’s diary, died in Auschwitz, being the first of the eight to die. He was the only member of the group to be gassed. However, according to eyewitness testimony, this did not happen on the day he arrived there. Sal de Liema, an inmate at Auschwitz who knew both Otto Frank and Hermann van Pels, said that after two or three days in the camp, van Pels mentally “gave up”, which was generally the beginning of the end for any concentration camp inmate. He later injured his thumb on a work detail and requested to be sent to the sick barracks. Soon after that, during a sweep of the sick barracks for selection, he was sent to the gas chambers. This occurred about three weeks after his arrival at Auschwitz, most likely in very early October of 1944, and his selection was witnessed by both his son Peter and by Otto Frank.

Hermann van Pels begins working with Otto Frank in 1938. Miep Gies remembers him as “tall, large man” and “quite an agreeable sort, [who] had no trouble fitting into the routine” in the company.

Hermann van Pels

Hermann acquired his knowledge of the butcher’s trade by working in the business of his father, Aron van Pels (who was originally Dutch). After his marriage to Lina Vorsänger, Aron settled down in Gehrde, Germany. He worked there for his German father-in-law, a wholesaler in butchers’ equipment. Aron and Lina had six children: Max, Henny, Ida, Hermann, Klara and Meta. Hermann was born on March 31, 1898. He became the representative of his father’s business in Osnabrück, Germany.

On December 5, 1925 he married the German Auguste (Gusti) Röttgen. She then became Dutch, since according to German law women automatically assumed the nationality of their husbands.

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Gusti was born on September 29, 1900 in Buer, near Osnabrück, and her father was a merchant. Hermann and Gusti lived in Osnabrück, near the Dutch border, where Peter was born on November 8, 1926.

Peter van Pels

Fritz Pfeffer (30 April 1889 – 20 December 1944) was a German dentist and Jewish refugee who hid with Anne Frank during the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands, and who perished in the Neuengamme concentration camp in Northern Germany.

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Pfeffer was given the pseudonym Albert Dussel in Anne’s diary, and remains known as such in many editions and adaptations of the publication.

His cause of death was listed in the camp records as “enterocolitis”, a catch-all term that covered, among other things, dysentery and cholera.

Fritz Pfeffer was born in Gießen, Germany, one of the five children of Ignatz Pfeffer and Jeannette Hirsch-Pfeffer, who lived above their clothing and textiles shop at 6 Marktplatz in Giessen. After completing his education, Fritz trained as a dentist and jaw surgeon, obtained a license to practice in 1911 and opened a surgery the following year in Berlin.

He served in the German Army during the First World War.

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In 1926 married Vera Bythiner (31 March 1904 – 30 September 1942), who was born in Posen in Imperial Germany (now Poznań, Poland). The marriage produced a son, Werner Peter Pfeffer (3 April 1927 – 14 February 1995), then the couple divorced in 1932. Fritz was granted custody of the boy and raised him alone until November 1938,

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when the rising tide of Nazi activity in Germany persuaded him to send him into the care of his brother Ernst in England. Werner emigrated to California in 1945 after his uncle’s death and changed his name to Peter Pepper, later establishing a successful office supplies company under that name.

The tide of antisemitism in Germany, which increased from the election of Adolf Hitler in 1933, forced most of Fritz’s relatives to flee the country. His mother had died in 1925; his father remarried and remained in Germany, only to be arrested; he died in Theresienstadt in October 1942. His elder brother Julius Pfeffer had died in 1928, Emil Pfeffer emigrated to South Africa in 1937, Ernst Pfeffer moved to England and died in 1944, and Hans left for New Jersey. Their sister Minna remained with their father in Germany and died in Nazi custody. Vera escaped to the Netherlands but was arrested in 1942 and died in Auschwitz.

In 1936 Fritz met a young woman, Charlotte Kaletta (1910–1985), born in Ilmenau, Thuringia in central Germany, who shared his history of a broken marriage. She was estranged from her first husband, Ludwig Lowenstein, and their son Gustaf. The couple moved in together but were prohibited from marrying under the 1935 Nazi Nuremberg Laws which forbade marriages between Jews and non-Jews.

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Kristallnacht cemented their decision to leave Berlin and they fled to Amsterdam in December 1938.

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They were there for two years before the German invasion, and subsequent anti-Jewish laws which did not permit the co-habitation of Jews and non-Jews forced them to officially separate and register under different addresses. After establishing a dental practice in Amsterdam’s Rivierenbuurt he became acquainted with the Van Pels and Frank families. Miep Gies met Pfeffer at one of the Franks’ house parties and became a patient in his dental practice.

n the autumn of 1942, he decided to go into hiding and asked Miep Gies about some suitable addresses. She consulted Otto Frank, who, with his and the van Pels family, was being hidden by her in secret rooms in the Franks’ office building. Frank agreed to accommodate Pfeffer, and he was taken into their hiding place on 16 November, where his medical degree came in handy as they could not contact a doctor while in hiding.

Margot Frank moved into a room with her parents, to allow Pfeffer to share a small room with Anne, beginning what would become a torturous relationship for both.

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It has been suggested by at least one biographer that Anne’s extreme discomfort at sharing her room with a middle-aged man while she was going through puberty may have been at the root of her problems with Pfeffer, but the pressures of being in hiding and the generational differences of their forty-year age gap undoubtedly exacerbated the differences in their natures. Pfeffer felt his age gave him seniority over Anne and wrote off her writing activities as unimportant compared to his own studies. His observance of orthodox Judaism clashed with her liberal views. Her energy and capriciousness grated on his nerves, while his pedantry and rigidity frustrated her. Anne’s irritations and growing dislike of Pfeffer led to complaints and derisory descriptions of him in her diary, against which his son Werner and wife Charlotte defended him once the book was published.The relationship of Anne and Fritz was the toughest of all.

Fritz Pfeffer met zoon Werner, Berlijn, 1937/1938.

Pfeffer left a farewell note to Charlotte and they stayed in touch through Miep, who met her on a weekly basis to exchange their letters and take provisions from her.

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His letters never disclosed the location of his hiding place and Miep never revealed it, but on 4 August 1944 Pfeffer and the seven other occupants of the hiding place were arrested for deportation to Nazi concentration camps.

With the rest of the group and two of their protectors, Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler, Pfeffer was taken to the Nazi headquarters in Amsterdam-South, then to a prison for three days before being transported to Westerbork on 8 August. Pfeffer was taken to the Punishment Barracks with the others, where he undertook hard labour, until he was selected for deportation to Auschwitz on 3 September. He was separated from the others on arrival on 6 September and sent to the men’s barracks, where he was reunited with Otto Frank. On 29 October he was transferred with 59 other medics to Sachsenhausen and from there to Neuengamme on an unknown date. There, he died at age 55 in the sick barracks, of enterocolitis on 20 December 1944, according to the camp’s records.800px-Neuengamme_(Dove_Elv_Schild)

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