Sgt.Roddie Edmonds- We are all Jews here.

Roddie Edmonds and many of his fellow US Army mates were captured by Nazi forces on 19 December 1944, during the battle of the Bulge . Some of them were sent to Stalag IX B Edmonds was the senior noncommissioned officer (Master Sergeant), and was therefore responsible for the camp’s 1,275 American POWs.

The men of the 422nd Regiment were forced to march about 50 kilometers to Gerolstein, Germany , there they were loaded into cattle/box cars, 60 to 70 men per car, with almost no food or water. The following 7 days and nights they traveling to Stalag IXB in Bad Orb. Where they arrived on Christmas day 1945,25December. After about a month in Bad Orb, the American POWs were divided into three groups – officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and enlisted men. The NCOs were taken to Stalag IXA in Ziegenhain. There were 1,000 men in this group.

Om January 25,1945-2 days before Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops- they arrived in Stalag IX A, Ziegenheim

The camp commandant ordered Edmonds to tell only the Jewish-American soldiers to present themselves at the next morning’s assembly so they could be separated from the other prisoners. Instead, Edmonds ordered all 1,275 to assemble outside their barracks. The German commandant rushed up to Edmonds in a fury, placed his pistol against Edmonds’ head and demanded that he identify the Jewish soldiers under his command. Instead, Edmonds responded “We are all Jews here,” and threatened to have the commandant investigated and prosecuted for war crimes after the conflict ended, should any of Edmonds’ men be harmed.

Luckily the camp commandant had still a bit of common sense left and took the the threat serious. Many other would not have done that and would have executed all men.

Because of this brave stand against the Nazi tyranny, Sgt Edmonds saved 200 Jewish men. But it was more then 200 he saved. These men had children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren. So this number can be multiplied several times.

Roddie Edmonds a hero who rightly awarded the recognition as a Righteous among the people by Yad Vashem.

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Werner Lott -U Boat commander.

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Captain(Korvettenkapitän)Werner Lott was commander of U-35 from 15 August 1937 until 29 November 1939.He sank 4 ships and damaged one.

You often hear about war crimes committed by the German armed forces, but there were also acts of decency.

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Around 15.40  on 3 Oct, 1939, the Greek freighter Diamantis, although the ship was neutral it was carrying strategic cargo to Britain and was therefore considered a “legitimate target” for the German Navy. It was therefore torpedoed by U-35 and sank 40 miles west of the Scilly Islands, . Because the lifeboats were not suited for use in the bad weather, Capt Lott decided to take all crew members aboard and landed them the next day at Dingle, Co Kerry.Ireland.

Lott’s role in the war would be very limited.On 29 November 1939  the U-35 was scuttled by its crew in the North Sea,after a depth charge attack from the British destroyers Kingston, Icarus, and Kashmir. Lord Louis Mountbatten was the commander of the British squadron.

Lott and his crew were taken as prisoners of war.While imprisoned at the Tower of London. He complained about the accommodations, and demanded to talk to the officer in charge. But it was Lord  Mountbatten who visited him instead,  Mountbatten arranged for the Admiralty to allow Lott and his second-in-command to dine at Scott’s restaurant on the condition they would  not attempt to escape. Lott agreed to the demand and kept his promise, he was returned to the Tower later that evening.

A few days later, he and his fellow officers were moved to the Grizedale P.O.W. camp.

GizedaleLater, the entire crew was moved to P.O.W. camps in Canada.

The fact that the U35 was scuttled in the early stages of WWII and because the crew was taken as POW’s the entire crew survived the war.

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Sources

https://uboat.net/men/commanders/754.html

http://www.u-35.com/english.htm

https://www.mariner.ie/close-encounter-with-u-boat/

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Utah POW camp incident.

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During World War II, Utah was home to approximately 15,000 Italian and German prisoners of war that were distributed across a number of  camps. Camp Salina was a small, temporary branch camp to accommodate overflow prisoners in Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City. From 1944 to 1945 it was home to about 250 Germans, most of whom were from Erwin Rommel’s Afrika korps.

After 1944, with the rapid advance of Allied forces in Western Europe after D-Day the need for more space to house the influx of Axis P.O.W.s grew drastically.

The US  government crated  a program to use German and Italian POW’s for agricultural labor. Therefore,the government sent out prisoners to agricultural areas to work in the fields. Such was the case in Salina, where the prisoners helped to harvest produce, such as sugar beets, on the surrounding farms.

US Soldiers unfit for front line service, such as those with behavioral problems, were typically assigned to guard duty on the camp.

Private Clarence V. Bertucci from  New Orleans was one of those soldiers. While Bertucci had been overseas in England with an artillery unit, he had not seen front line action.

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On the night of July 7, 1945, Bertucci was out drinking heavily.He stopped at a cafe on Main Street to have some coffee and told a waitress,  “something exciting is going to happen tonight”, before reporting for guard duty back at the camp.

Shortly after midnight, July 8, 1945, Bertucci  went to his midnight post, manning one of the watch towers that overlooked the camp. Once there, he loaded a 250 round belt of .30 caliber ammunition into a M1919 Browning machine gun and proceeded to fire into the tents housing the sleeping prisoners.

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The attack lasted about 15 seconds  , killing eight and mortally wounding a ninth, who died a few days later in the hospital, Bertucci also wounded twenty other German P.O.Ws. One of the prisoners was “nearly cut in half” by the machine gun fire. After arresting Private Bertucci, the military investigation judged him mentally incompetent and thus remitted him to a mental institution. He remained institutionalized until his death in 1969.

A July 23, 1945, article from Time stated,

“Ninth Service Command officers admitted that Bertucci’s record already showed two courts-martial, one in England. His own calm explanation seemed a little too simple: he had hated Germans, so he had killed Germans”

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Inter Mountain Histories

SS and Nazis in the Dutch Coalmines

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The most southern province of the Netherlands, Limburg, in the south east of the country used to be a rural area with mainly farming as employment opportunities, However in the late 19th and early 20th century something nicknamed “black gold” was discovered in the southern part of the province, this ‘black gold’ was coal.

The Dutch government exploited the discovery of coal by building 4 coal mines.

-Staatsmijn Wilhelmina in Terwinselen
-Staatsmijn Emma in Treebeek/Hoensbroek (1911 – 1973)
-Staatsmijn Hendrik in Brunssum (1915 – 1963)
-Staatsmijn Maurits in Lutterade-Geleen (1926 -1967)

Maurits

Although the mines brought jobs and prosperity it didn’t come without costs.The mine workers would receive a relatively high wage , the work was very physical and sometimes emotionally draining .A great number of mine workers  would not retire because of Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis(aka black lung disease)or Silicosis, they would die at a young age.

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During WWII the mines were exploited by the German occupiers, and the coal would be used for the German war effort.

Some dutch men had signed up to the SS and were also members of the NSB, The Dutch Nazi party. After the war some several hundreds of these men were imprisoned in Prisoner of War camps.

43743591_1034093993434756_2737810057973465088_nThey were sentenced  to work in the coal mines by the Dutch government and the Allied forces , mainly in the Maurits and the Emma.

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After their shifts they were made to walk back to the camp from the mine. Those working in the Maurits had to walk back to prisoner camp ‘Graetheide’ which was a 12-15 km march.

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Some records indicate that some men were sentenced to 25 years labor in the mines, but since the last mine closed in 1969 it is a clear indications that those sentences were reduced. Despite the hard labor in the mines they were let off easy.

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Sources

Demijnen.nl

Nostal Gia

 

The 1940 Summer Olympic games, the games that never happened! Or did they?

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I have mentioned this before in other blogs that the IOC(International Olympic Committee) has very little to do with sports but more with politics.

But I have to admit they made the right decision on the 1940 Summer Olympics, although they didn’t really have much choice in the matter.

The 1940 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XII Olympiad, were originally scheduled to be held from September 21 to October 6, 1940, in Tokyo, Japan. They were rescheduled for Helsinki, Finland.

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In 1936, Tokyo was chosen in a surprise move, making it the first non-Western city to win an Olympic bid.

Japan pulled out of hosting the Games in July 1938. The IOC then awarded the Games to Helsinki, Finland, the city that had been the runner-up in the original bidding process. When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out on July 7, 1937, Japan decided a year after the outbreak after the war to focus more on military matters then sporting events, therefore it withdrew from hosting the Games of the XII Olympiad.Second Sino-Japanese War

The IOC then awarded the Games to Helsinki, Finland, the city that had been the runner-up in the original bidding process. To be held from July 20 to August 4, 1940, The Games were then canceled altogether after the breakout of WWII in 1939.

The 1944 Olympics which had been awarded to London was also cancelled, it wasn’t until 1948 before the Olympic games resumed. London who lost out in 1944 got to host the games in 1948.

However. while the official Olympic Games were canceled, a different kind of Olympics was held in 1940. Prisoners of war in a camp in Langwasser, Germany, held their own DIY Olympic Games in August 1940. The event was called the International Prisoner-of-War Olympic Games. The Olympic flag and banners for Belgium, France, Great Britain, Norway, Poland and the Netherlands were drawn on a prisoner’s shirt using crayons. The 1980 movie Olimpiada ’40 ​recounts this story.

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Although the International Prisoner-of-War Olympic Games of 1940 were kept in complete secrecy, in 1944 in another POW camp,Woldenberg another International Prisoner-of-War Olympic Games was held under the name of the Woldenberg Olympics.

The guards of Woldenberg allowed the ’44 event to proceed with the provision that no fencing, archery, javelin, or pole-vaulting competitions took place.

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Roughly 369 of the 7000 prisoners participated. Most of the men competed in multiple contests, which ranged from handball and basketball to chess. Boxing was included—but owing to the fragile state of prisoners, broken bones resulted in a premature end to the combat.

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The Ritchie Boys

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In the 1930s, as Germany grew increasingly hostile to Jews, many Jewish families tried to leave the Nazi state. And many of their efforts were stymied — by lack of money, by vindictive German authorities and by the nearly closed borders of countries like the United States. Often, a Jewish family could afford to send only one of its children — usually the oldest male — at a time.

Those Jewish children, mostly teens, settled as best they could in America, cut off from their families and what was once their home. When the United States entered the war against Germany, many of these German-born Jews jumped at the chance to help their new country — and to help their families still in Europe.

The Ritchie Boys consisted of approximately 15,200 servicemen who were trained for U.S. Army Intelligence during WWII at the secret Camp Ritchie training facility. Approximately 14%, or 2,200, of them were Jewish refugees born in Germany and Austria. Most of the men sent to Camp Ritchie for training were assigned there because of fluency in German, French, Italian, Polish, or other languages needed by the US Army during WWII. They had been drafted into or volunteered to join the United States Army and when their ability to speak the languages of the enemy were discovered, they were sent to Camp Ritchie on secret orders.

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Some of the Jewish refugees who were part of this program had originally arrived in the US as children, many without their parents, and were also among the One Thousand Children. (One such OTC and Ritchie boy was Ambassador Richard Schifter)

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Nearly 2,000 German-born Jews were trained at Camp Ritchie to interrogate captured German soldiers. Because they grew up with the language and the culture of the enemy, the group was uniquely suited to plumb the minds of their Nazi captives. After completing the eight-week training course at Camp Ritchie, these Ritchie Boys were formed into Interrogation of Prisoner of War (IPW) teams. They would face the very men who persecuted them and their families.

No small amount of courage was needed for their work.

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Typically, small IPW(interrogations of Prisoners of war) teams were attached to forward units of American forces, to have access to fresh information from newly captured German soldiers. Recently captured soldiers, disoriented, scared and hungry, were more likely to talk.

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The Ritchie Boys knew what they were doing. Interrogations were in every sense a mind game, and at Camp Ritchie, the young soldiers were taught how to best their interrogatees without using force.

At Camp Ritchie, they even demonstrated what Nazi hysteria was like so the interrogators weren’t taken by surprise by the Third Reich POWs with their frightening mannerisms.

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There were four basic interrogation techniques: “superior knowledge,” “form of bribery,” “find common interests” and “use of fear.”

The Ritchie Boys practiced their German-language prisoner interrogation skills on mock prisoners at Camp Ritchie. They addressed him in German, offered a chair, water, a cigarette – before getting tough.

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The interrogator would first overwhelm the prisoner with their vast, detailed knowledge of the German military. This would often get a new prisoner talking, since the interrogator seemed to know everything already. (As part of their training, Ritchie Boys exhaustively studied the ins and outs of the enemy forces. They had to commit much of it to memory.)

The bribery tactic would have the interrogator consume a coveted item — usually chocolate or cigarettes — in front of the prisoner, and share only in exchange for information. In finding common interests, the interrogator would chat amiably with the prisoner, developing a rapport, and thus lower their guard.

A common interrogation tactic was to use the Germans’ fear of transfer into Soviet custody. By means of targeted disinformation via newspaper announcements, flyers, radio broadcasts, and sound trucks, the German population and military were encouraged to cease their resistance to the Allied invasion.

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One IPW duo invented a fake Soviet official named Commissar Krukov (one of them dressed up in a borrowed Soviet uniform) who threatened to send uncooperative prisoners to Siberia. The German POWs seemed to fear that more than anything.

After the war, many of the Ritchie Boys served as translators and interrogators, some during the Nuremberg Trials.

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Many of them went on to successful political, scientific, or business careers

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Swiss war crimes-The mistreatment of Prisoners of War

Notlandung_37-07_-_Wauwilermoos_Luftaufnahme_Lager-_und_Aussenbereich

Wauwilermoos was an internment as well as prisoner-of-war penal camp during World War II in Switzerland, situated in the municipalities of Wauwil and Egolzwil in the Canton of Luzern. Established in 1940, Wauwilermoos was a penal camp for internees, including for Allied soldiers during World War II, among them members of the United States Army Air Forces, who were sentenced for attempting to escape from other Swiss camps for interned soldiers, or other offenses. In addition to Hünenberg and Les Diablerets, Wauwilermoos was one of three Swiss penal camps for internees that were established in Switzerland during World War II. The intolerable conditions were later described by numerous former inmates, by various contemporary reports and studies.

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Once in the custody of the Swiss government, American airmen were considered “internees.” Internees are treated almost identically to POWs under the laws of war, excepting that by definition an internee is held in a neutral state. Some other US soldiers entered Switzerland by foot, for which they earned the status of “evadee.” Evadees were not kept in camps, and could come and go as they pleased. Internees, on the other hand, were usually restricted to a specific area and kept under guard.

The Swiss were determined to adhere strictly to the rules governing internees, largely because they were under constant threat of invasion by the German Army.

Captain André Béguin was the commander of the camp whose cruel regime during the war times was tolerated by the authorities.

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Serving as Captain in the Swiss Army, Béguin was also a Nazi sympathizer.As member of the National Union, he had previously lived in München, Germany. “He was known to wear the Nazi uniform and to sign his correspondence with ‘Heil Hitler'”

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Any hint of impartiality toward the Allies could have incurred dire consequences for a state that professed neutrality, particularly one surrounded completely by the Axis. USAAF personnel caught attempting escape were punished severely, sometimes well beyond the limits stipulated in the laws of war.

The Swiss government’s policy toward neutrality was clearly illustrated by the fact that some USAAF bombers attempting to land in Switzerland were attacked by Swiss fighters and anti-aircraft weapons.

After landing in Switzerland, interned crewmembers were typically interrogated and then quarantined for a short period before movement to a permanent internment camp.

Forced_Landing_-_Flugplatz_Dübendorf_B17_and_B24__1944

Raiding a German airfield on 18 March 1944, a German air combat fighter struck a B-17 bomber of the 511th Squadron, 351st Bombardment Group (Heavy), piloted by Lt. George Mears.

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A German aircraft shot out two of the B-17’s engines and an oil fire started on a third. The pilot and copilot were able to regain control, and headed for Switzerland to land there. In September 1944 George Mears, 1st Lt. James Mahaffey and two other officers tried to escape to the French-Swiss border before they were arrested and sent to the Wauwilermoos prison camp.

2nd Lt. Paul Gambaiana was another USAAF airman sent there. Just before D-Day his aircraft went down, the crew “wanted to get back to our base so we attempted to leave Switzerland, and they got us and put us there. It was a Swiss concentration camp. About the only thing I can remember … we had cabbage soup which was hot water and two leaves of cabbage floating around…The rest I have put away and forgotten. I’m trying to forget the whole thing,” Gambaiana said in a telephone interview from his home in Iowa in 2013.

James Misuraca spoke about the compound of single-storey buildings surrounded by barbed wire, the armed Swiss guards with dogs, and the commandant, “a hater of Americans, a martinet who seemed quite pleased with our predicament”. Sleeping on lice-infested straw. Arriving on 10 October 1944, Misuraca and two other U.S. officers made an escape on 1 November. They had “timed the rounds of the guards, climbed out a window and over wire fences and walked for miles”. Then an U.S. Legation officer drove them to Genève at the border to France, and on 15 November they reached the Allied lines.

Most of the Wauwilermoos prisoners had never shared their stories until Mears’s grandson contacted them. The “survivors reported filthy living quarters, of skin rashes and boils, all reported that they were underfed. Some reported being held in solitary for trying to escape. Some went in weighing in the 180s and 190s and came out 50 pounds lighter”.

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In early December 1944 USAAF First Lieutenant Wally Northfelt was nearing his second month of imprisonment at Wauwilermoos. Nine months earlier, the navigator’s B-24 bomber crash-landed at the Dübendorf airfield. Northfelt attempted to escape from Switzerland near Geneva in September 1944, but he was apprehended by border guards and confined at Wauwilermoos. After his arrival at the punishment camp, Northfelt quickly tired of the “meager rations of coffee, bread, and thin soup” which he blamed in part for his weight loss of forty pounds over the course of his time in Switzerland. Northfelt claimed that “he was only able to get enough food to survive by purchasing it off the black market”. Northfelt was also ill; sleeping on dirty straw had caused him sores all over his body, and he had problems with his prostate gland.

Notlandung_37-24_-_Wauwilermoos_Baracke_Innenbereich

 

Medical care was given by a doctor, Northfelt claimed, who was “specialized in women’s cases”. Northfelt claimed Béguin was a “pro-Nazi” who “only cleaned up the camp when inspections by high ranking officers or American dignitaries were announced”.

Presumably on 3 November 1944 when the U.S. embassy was informed by three American soldiers who fled from Wauwilermoos,delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who visited Wauwilermoos “failed to notice much amiss”, and ICRC member Frédéric Hefty wrote: “If iron discipline is the norm, there is also a certain sense of justice and understanding that helps with the re-education and improvement of the difficult elements sent there”.

The reports contained statements from internees that the camp was “a relaxing place that they would happily return to”. However, “the internees provided their statements in return for favours from Béguin”. even were “Kapo-similar preferred prisoners.” The conditions in the camp had not been reported correctly: “Switzerland’s wartime general, Henri Guisan, demanded that all Red Cross reports about the internment camps be submitted to army censors first if delegates wanted access” noted historian Dwight S. Mears. The American military attaché in Bern warned Marcel Pilet-Golaz,Marcel_Pilet-Golaz Swiss foreign minister in 1944, that “the mistreatment inflicted on US aviators could lead to ‘navigation errors’ during bombing raids over Germany”.

Although the ICRC inspected the camp on a few occasions, headed by Swiss Army Colonel Auguste Rilliet, the inspection team simply noted that sanitary conditions could be improved, and prisoners were not aware of the length of their sentences or why they were in the camp in the first place. Only just prior to the removal of the commandant in September 1945, Rilliet rated the camp conditions unsatisfactory, in spite of the fact that Wauwilermoos was the subject of official protests by the United States, Great Britain, Poland, Italy, and even prevented normalization of diplomatic relations with the USSR. This may have been due to a secret agreement between the ICRC and the Swiss Army, which gave the Swiss Army permission to review and censor inspection reports prior to their release to foreign powers. Numerous Swiss citizens reported that the conditions at Wauwilermoos were in violation of the 1929 Geneva Conventions, including as below-mentioned, a Swiss Army medical officer, an officer on the Swiss Army’s General Staff, and also by the editors of two Swiss newspapers.

Already since 1942, several on-site inspections had been made by the Swiss officials. For instance Major Humbert, army doctor  and head physician in the Seeland district of the Swiss Federal Commissioner of Internment and Hospitalization (FCIH), menitioned in three reports in January and February 1942, the “enormous morbidity” in the penal camp: “The moral atmosphere in the camp is absolutely untenable”. Although Major Humbert also noted the despotic punishment catalog and psychological deficits of the commandant of the prison camp, Captain André Béguin, his complaints resulted in no reactions by the authorities, and in February 1942 Humbert was dismissed.

In the same year an investigation against Béguin was conducted because of possible espionage in favour of Nazi Germany. Although Colonel Robert Jaquillard, chief of the counterintelligence service of the army, spoke against the retention of Captain Béguin as commander of the camp, his report came to the chief of the legal department of the Swiss federal internment department, Major Florian Imer. After an inspection by Imer in the penal camp Wauwilermoos, Imer noted that “in particular the allegations of Major Humbert were exaggerated for the most part”. Another report in January 1943 noted the camp’s bad sanitary condition. At the end of 1944, Ruggero Dollfus, interim Swiss Federal commissioner for internment  complained again about the poor sanitation, and, among others, Dollfus noted that the Red Cross auxiliary packets were confiscated by Béguin, and nearly 500 letters from and to the airmen had been withheld by the commandant. Although the camp was visited by inspectors, its commanding officer, Béguin, was suspended and banned from entering the camp not earlier than on 5 September 1945. On 24 September he was taken into custody. On 20 February 1946, the military court sentenced Béguin to three and a half years in prison.

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Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go, but get out of the POW camp ASAP.

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During World War II, Allied soldiers in German prison camps used Monopoly games for more than just amusement. Thanks to an ingenious scheme by a branch of the British Ministry of Defense known as MI9, these soldiers were actually able to use Monopoly games to escape to freedom.

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Christopher William Clayton Hutton (1893–1965) known to his colleagues as ‘Clutty’ was an intelligence officer who worked for MI9,Christopher_Clutty_Hutton

Hutton was also responsible for the delivery of escape kits to POWs. The Geneva Convention allowed prisoners to receive parcels from families and relief organisations. These were dispatched through a number of fictitious charitable organisations, created to send parcels of games, warm clothing and other small comforts to the prisoners. One of the major problems of captivity was boredom, and games and entertainments were permitted, as the guards recognised that if the prisoners were allowed some diversions, they would be less troublesome.

Games manufacturer Waddingtons helped by supplying editions of its Monopoly board game, and other games,

The plan involved having fake charities deliver aid packages containing these games, which, in truth, contained various escape tools, including “playing pieces” that were actually compasses or metal files that could be used to cut through barbed wire. Even the games’ “play money” was actually real French, German, and Italian money that could be used for food, bribes, or train tickets.

Hidden within their boards, the games also had silk maps that prisoners could use to travel to safety after leaving their prison camps. The manufacturer made the maps with silk so that they would neither deteriorate in water nor rustle when POWs unfolded them, thus not alerting German guards.

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Due to the secrecy of the mission to deliver the games to POWs, it is virtually impossible for the public to know for certain how many of them used the games to escape. However, British historians estimate that the games helped thousands of soldiers.

After the war, the British government decided to keep the games a secret in case another conflict called for their use in the future. In fact, it was not until the 1980s that the British public learned the astounding story of World War II’s Monopoly escape kits.

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Squadron Leader Phil Lamason & the KLB Club

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I could have gone with any of 168 stories of the members of this club, but I decided to go with the highest ranking officer.

The KLB Club (initials for Konzentrationslager Buchenwald) was formed on 12 October 1944, and included the 168 allied airmen who were held prisoner at Buchenwald concentration camp between 20 August and 19 October 1944.166 airmen survived Buchenwald, while two died of sickness at the camp.

Buchenwald Gate

The “terror fliers” heads were shaved, they were denied shoes, and forced to sleep outside without shelter for about three weeks. They were given one thin blanket for three men.  They were assigned to a section of the camp called, “Little Camp,” which was a quarantine area.  Prisoners in the Little Camp received the least food and the harshest treatment.

After a short time, the men figured out who was the ranking officer of all the prisoners. Squadron Leader Phil Lamason, a Lancaster bomber pilot from New Zealand, was the most senior officer. Lamason called everyone together after their first meal together and made a speech, saying,

Phillip John Lamason DFC & Bar (15 September 1918 – 19 May 2012) was a pilot in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) during the Second World War, who rose to prominence as the senior officer in charge of 168 Allied airmen taken to Buchenwald concentration camp, Germany, in August 1944.

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Lamason’s Lancaster was shot down while attacking railway yards near Paris two days after D-Day. Two of his crew were killed; Lamason bailed out with the other four, three of whom eventually made it back to England. For seven weeks Lamason and his navigator were hidden by the French Resistance before they were betrayed to the Gestapo, who interrogated them at the infamous Fresnes prison near Paris. Lamason was wearing civilian clothes when he was captured and was therefore treated as a spy rather than as a prisoner of war.

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On August 15 1944, five days before Paris was liberated, Lamason and his navigator were taken in cattle trucks with a group of 168 other airmen to Buchenwald, a journey that took five days .

 

As the most senior officer, Lamason insisted on military discipline and bearing. He did not do this just to improve morale but also because he saw it as his responsibility to carry on his war duties despite the circumstances.

Once at Buchenwald, he risked his life on numerous occasions as he sought to obtain the men’s release and to smuggle news of their plight to the Luftwaffe — RAF prisoners of war were the responsibility of the Luftwaffe, not of the Gestapo.

By negotiating with the camp authorities he was able to secure extra blankets, clothes, clogs and food for the airmen. In October he learned that the Gestapo had ordered their execution, and he increased his efforts to secure the fliers’ release.

In late 1944 a rumor crossed inspector of day fighters Colonel Hannes Trautloft’s desk that a large number of Allied airmen were being held at Buchenwald. Trautloft decided to visit the camp and see for himself under the pretence of inspecting aerial bomb damage near the camp.

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Trautloft was about to leave the camp when captured US airman Bernard Scharf called out to him in fluent German from behind a fence. The SS guards tried to intervene, but Trautloft pointed out that he out-ranked them and made them stand back. Scharf explained that he was one of more than 160 allied airmen imprisoned at the camp and begged Trautloft to rescue him and the other airmen Trautloft’s adjutant also spoke to the group’s commanding officer, Phil Lamason.

Disturbed by the event, Trautloft returned to Berlin and began the process to have the airmen transferred out of Buchenwald. Seven days before their scheduled execution, the airmen were taken by train by the Luftwaffe to Stalag Luft III on 19 October 1944,where their shaven-headed, emaciated appearance shocked their fellow PoWs. One of Lamason’s colleagues described him as “a man of true grit, he was the wonderful unsung hero of Buchenwald”; most of the airmen who had been sent to that camp attributed their survival to his leadership and determination.

Nationalities of the 168 airmen
United States 82 American
United Kingdom 48 British
Canada 26 Canadian
Australia 9 Australian
New Zealand 2 New Zealander
Jamaica 1 Jamaican

00345664(this is not a picture of the actual men)

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Continue reading "Squadron Leader Phil Lamason & the KLB Club"

Stalag Luft III murders- The real aftermath of the Great Escape

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Most of us will have seen the classic WWII movie ‘the Great escape’ usually around every Christmas period or Easter time it will be shown multiple times on a great number of channels.

It is one of my favourite wartime movies although it does take quite a number of artistic liberties in relation to some of the real events.

The Stalag Luft III murders were war crimes perpetrated by members of the Gestapo following the “Great Escape” of Allied prisoners of war from the German Air Force prison camp known as Stalag Luft III on March 25, 1944. Of a total of 76 successful escapees, 73 were recaptured, mostly within days of the breakout, of whom 50 were executed on the personal orders of Adolf Hitler. These summary executions were conducted within a short period of recapture.

Fifty of the Allied airmen who tunnelled out of Stalag Luft III were executed in chilling scenes like this. article-2285629-18565A31000005DC-948_634x400

Outrage at the killings was felt immediately, both in the prison camp, among comrades of the escaped prisoners, and in the United Kingdom, where the Foreign Minister Anthony Eden rose in the House of Commons to announce in June 1944 that those guilty of what the British government suspected was a war crime would be “brought to exemplary justice.”Sir_Anthony-Eden_number_10_Official

After Nazi Germany’s capitulation in May 1945, the Police branch of the Royal Air Force, with whom the 50 airmen had been serving, launched a special investigation into the killings, having branded the shootings a war crime despite official German reports that the airmen had been shot while attempting to escape from captivity following recapture. An extensive investigation headed by Wing Commander Wilfred Bowes RAF and Squadron Leader Frank McKenna of the Special Investigation Branch into the events following the recapture of the 73 airmen was launched, which was unique for being the only major war crime to be investigated by a single branch of any nation’s military.

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The day after the mass escape from Stalag Luft III,Hitler’s rage was all-consuming. He summoned SS chief Heinrich Himmler and Reichsmarschall Göring and ordered that all 76 fugitives be executed upon recapture.

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Word of such an atrocity, Göring explained, might result in fierce Allied reprisals. Himmler agreed, prompting Hitler to order that ‘more than half the escapees’ be shot. Random numbers were suggested until Himmler proposed that 50 be executed. Hitler ordered his SS chief to put the plan in motion.

The Kriminalpolizei (the criminal-investigations department of the Reich police) issued a Grossfahndung, a national hue and cry, ordering the military, the Gestapo, the SS, the Home Guard and Hitler Youth to put every effort into hunting the escapees down. Nearly 100,000 men needed to defend the Reich were redirected to the manhunt.

By Wednesday, March 29, five days after the breakout, 35 escapees languished behind bars in the cramped cells of the jail at Görlitz, not far south of Sagan.

Those who remained on the run hoped to make destinations in Czechoslovakia, Spain, Denmark and Sweden. Luck, however, worked against them.

They were seized at checkpoints, betrayed by informants or simply thwarted by freezing temperatures. Before long, all but three of the fugitives were back in captivity.

 Two weeks after the escape, the whereabouts of the escapees remained a mystery to the prisoners inside the camp. Just six men had thus far been returned to Stalag Luft III and marched directly into the cooler, the solitary-confinement block.

But on April 6, Group Captain Herbert Massey, the senior British officer in the camp, was to learn the fate of so many of his men.

The camp commandant, Colonel Braune, informed him that 41 had been killed while resisting arrest or attempting to escape after being captured; not one had been merely wounded. Braune was unable to look Massey in the eye as he told him the lies.

On April 15, a list identifying the victims appeared on the camp’s noticeboard. The list now contained not 41 names, but 47. Two days later, a representative of the Swiss Protecting Power visited Stalag Luft III on a routine inspection and was given a copy of the list.

Among the dead were 25 Britons, six Canadians, three Australians, two New Zealanders, three South Africans, four Poles, two Norwegians, one Frenchman and a Greek.

The Swiss government then reported the killings to the British government, including three additional victims, bringing the total number of those murdered to 50. Churchill was incensed, and even amid the final push for victory made finding the killers a priority.

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The 3 Successful escapees

  • Per Bergsland, Norwegian pilot of No. 332 Squadron RAF
  • Jens Müller, Norwegian pilot of No. 331 Squadron RAF
  • Bram van der Stok, Dutch pilot of No. 41 Squadron RAF

    A detachment of the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Air Force Police headed by Wing Commander Wilfred Bowes was given the assignment of tracking down the killers of the 50 officers. The investigation started seventeen months after the alleged crimes had been committed, making it a cold case. Worse, according to an account of the investigation, the perpetrators “belonged to a body, the Secret State Police or Gestapo, which held and exercised every facility to provide its members with false identities and forged identification papers immediately they were ordered to go on the run at the moment of national surrender.”

    The small detachment of investigators, numbering five officers and fourteen NCOs, remained active for three years, and identified seventy-two men, guilty of either murder or conspiracy to murder, of whom 69 were accounted for. Of these, 21 were eventually tried and executed (some of these were for other than the Stalag Luft III murders); 17 were tried and imprisoned; 11 had committed suicide; 7 were untraced, though of these 4 were presumed dead; 6 had been killed during the war; 5 were arrested but charges had not been laid; 1 was arrested but not charged so he could be used as a material witness; three were charged but either acquitted or had the sentence quashed on review, and one remained in refuge in East Germany.[1]:261

    Despite attempts to cover up the murders during the war, the investigators were aided by such things as Germany’s meticulous book-keeping, such as at various crematoria, as well as willing eye-witness accounts and many confessions among the Gestapo members themselves, who cited that they were only following orders.

    SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe, who is believed to have selected the airmen to be shot, was later executed for his involvement in the July 20 plot to kill Hitler.Bundesarchiv_Bild_101III-Alber-096-34,_Arthur_Nebe

    American Colonel Telford Taylor was the U.S. prosecutor in the High Command case at the Nuremberg Trials. The indictment in this case called for the General Staff of the Army and the High Command of the German Armed Forces to be considered criminal organizations; the witnesses were several of the surviving German Field Marshals and their staff officers.One of the crimes charged was of the murder of the 50. Luftwaffe Colonel Bernd von Brauchitsch, who served on the staff of Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, was interrogated by Captain Horace Hahn about the murders.Horace_Hahn_senior_class_photo_1933

    The first trial specifically dealing with the Stalag Luft III murders began on 1 July 1947, against 18 defendants. The trial was held before No. 1 War Crimes Court at the Curio Haus in Hamburg. The accused all pleaded Not Guilty article-2285629-1858A3D4000005DC-294_634x480

    The verdicts and sentences were handed down after a full fifty days on September 3 of that year. Max Wielen was found guilty of conspiracy and sentenced to life imprisonment. The others were found not guilty of the first two charges, but guilty of the individual charges of murder. Breithaupt received life imprisonment, Denkmann and Struve ten years imprisonment each, and Boschert eventually received life imprisonment. The other 13 condemned prisoners were hanged  at Hamelin Jail in February 1948 by British executioner Albert Pierrepoint.Albert-Pierrepoint

     

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