The Germans

Stranger than Fiction …

Posted on August 7, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Searching for Success, The Germans |

The pilot glanced outside his cockpit and froze. He blinked hard and looked again, hoping it was just a mirage. But his co-pilot stared at the same horrible vision. “My God, this is a nightmare,” the co-pilot said.”He’s going to destroy us,” the pilot agreed.

The men were looking at a gray German Messerschmitt fighter hovering just three feet off their wingtip. It was five days before Christmas 1943, and the fighter had closed in on their crippled American B-17 bomber for the kill.

The B-17 Pilot, Charles Brown, was a 21-year-old West Virginia farm boy on his first combat mission. His bomber had been shot to pieces by swarming fighters, and his plane was alone, struggling to stay in the skies above Germany . Half his crew was wounded, and the tail gunner was dead, his blood frozen in icicles over the machine guns.

But when Brown and his co-pilot, Spencer “Pinky” Luke, looked at the fighter pilot again, something odd happened. The German didn’t pull the trigger. He stared back at the bomber in amazement and respect. Instead of pressing the attack, he nodded at Brown and saluted. What happened next was one of the most remarkable acts of chivalry recorded during World War Il.

Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket. He eased his index finger off the trigger. He couldn’t shoot. It would be murder. Stigler wasn’t just motivated by vengeance that day. He also lived by a code. He could trace his family’s ancestry to Knights in 16th century Europe . He had once studied to be a priest. A German pilot who spared the enemy, though, risked death in Nazi Germany. If someone reported him, he would be executed. Yet, Stigler could also hear the voice of his commanding officer, who once told him: “You follow the rules of war for you–not your enemy. You fight by rules to keep your humanity.”

Alone with the crippled bomber, Stigler changed his mission. He nodded at the American pilot and began flying in formation so German anti-aircraft gunners on the ground wouldn’t shoot down the slow-moving bomber. (The Luftwaffe had B-17’s of its own, shot down and rebuilt for secret missions and training.) Stigler escorted the bomber over the North Sea and took one last look at the American Pilot. Then he saluted him, peeled his fighter away, and returned to Germany .

“Good luck,” Stigler said to himself. “You’re in God’s hands now.” Franz Stigler didn’t think the big B-17 could make it back to England and wondered for years what happened to the American pilot and crew he encountered in combat.

As he watched the German fighter peel away that December day, 2nd Lt. Charles Brown wasn’t thinking of the philosophical connection between enemies. He was thinking of survival. He flew his crippled plane, filled with wounded, back to his base in England and landed with one of four engines knocked out, one failing, and barely any fuel left. After his bomber came to a stop, he leaned back in his chair and put a hand over a pocket Bible he kept in his flight jacket. Then he sat in silence.

Brown flew more missions before the war ended. Life moved on. He got married, had two daughters, supervised foreign aid for the U.S. State Department during the Vietnam War, and eventually retired to Florida.

Late in life, though, the encounter with the German Pilot began to gnaw at him. He started having nightmares, but in his dream there would be no act of mercy. He would awaken just before his bomber crashed.

Brown took on a new mission. He had to find that German Pilot. Who was he? Why did he save my life? He scoured Military Archives in the U.S. and England . He attended a Pilots’ Reunion and shared his story. He finally placed an ad in a German Newsletter for former Luftwaffe Pilots, retelling the story and asking if anyone knew the Pilot.

On January 18, 1990, Brown received a letter. He opened it and read: “Dear Charles, All these years I wondered what happened to that B-17, did she make it home? Did her crew survive their wounds? To hear of your survival has filled me with indescribable joy.”

It was Stigler.

He had had left Germany after the war and moved to Vancouver , British Columbia in 1953. He became a prosperous businessman. Now retired, Stigler told Brown that he would be in Florida come summer, and “it sure would be nice to talk about our encounter.” Brown was so excited, though, that he couldn’t wait to see Stigler. He called Directory Assistance for Vancouver and asked whether there was a number for a Franz Stigler. He dialed the number, and Stigler picked up.

“My God, it’s you!” Brown shouted as tears ran down his cheeks.

Brown had to do more. He wrote a letter to Stigler in which he said: “To say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU on behalf of my surviving crew members and their families appears totally inadequate.”

The two pilots would meet again, but this time in person, in the lobby of a Florida hotel. One of Brown’s friends was there to record the summer reunion. Both men looked like retired businessmen: They were plump, sporting neat ties and formal shirts. They fell into each other’s arms and wept and laughed. They talked about their encounter in a light, jovial tone.

The mood then changed. Someone asked Stigler what he thought about Brown. Stigler sighed and his square jaw tightened He began to fight back tears before he said in heavily accented English, “I love you, Charlie.”

Stigler had lost his brother, his friends, and his country. He was virtually exiled by his countrymen after the war. There were 28,000 pilots who fought for the German Air Force. Only 1,200 survived. The war cost him everything. Charlie Brown was the only good thing that came out of World War II for Franz. It was the one thing he could be proud of. The meeting helped Brown as well, says his oldest daughter, Dawn Warner.

They met as enemies but Franz Stigler, on left, and Charles Brown, ended up as fishing buddies.

Brown and Stigler became pals. They would take fishing trips together. They would fly cross-country to each other homes and take road trips together to share their story at schools and veterans’ reunions. Their wives, Jackie Brown and Hiya Stigler, became friends.

Brown’s daughter says her father would worry about Stigler’s health and constantly check in on him. “It wasn’t just for show,” she says. “They really did feel for each other. They talked about once a week.” As his friendship with Stigler deepened, something else happened to her father, Warner says “The nightmares went away.”

Brown had written a letter of thanks to Stigler, but one day he showed the extent of his gratitude. He organized a reunion of his surviving crew members along with their extended families. He invited Stigler as a Guest of Honor.

During the reunion, a video was played showing all the faces of the people that now lived–children, grandchildren, relatives–because of Stigler’s act of chivalry. Stigler watched the film from his Seat of Honor.

“Everybody was crying, not just him,” Warner says.
Stigler and Brown died within months of each other in 2008. Stigler was 92, and Brown was 87. They had started off as enemies, became friends, and then something more.

After he died, Warner was searching through Brown’s library when she came across a book on German fighter jets. Stigler had given the book to Brown. Both were country boys who loved to read about planes.

Warner opened the book and saw an inscription Stigler had written to Brown:

“In 1940, I lost my only brother as a night fighter. On the 20th of December, 4 days before Christmas, I had the chance to save a B-17 from her destruction, a plane so badly damaged, it was a wonder that she was still flying. The pilot, Charlie Brown, is for me as precious as my brother was. Thanks Charlie.
Your brother, Franz”

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Schiller – friend of Goethe …

Posted on April 7, 2009. Filed under: Guide Posts, Personalities, The Germans |

Friedrich Schiller formed a productive friendship with the already famous and influential Johann Wolfgang Goethe. They discussed issues like aesthetics and he encouraged Goethe to finish works Goethe had left merely as sketches. Here are some gems from his thought –
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The strong man is strongest when alone.
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Utility is the great idol of the age, to which all powers must do service and all talents swear allegiance.
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A fallen enemy may rise again, but the reconciled one is truly vanquished.
Honesty prospers in every condition of life.
Be noble minded! Your own heart is what matters – not the opinions of others.
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Dare to err, and Dream. Will it, and briskly set to work.
Who dares nothing, need hope for nothing; and he who considers too much will perform little.
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It hinders the creative work of the mind if the intellect examines too closely the ideas as they pour in.
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Grace is the beauty of form under the influence of freedom.
Appearance rules the world.
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It is criminal to steal a purse. It is daring to steal a fortune. It is a mark of greatness to steal a crown. The blame diminishes as the guilt increases.
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Of all the possessions of this life, fame is the noblest.
It is easy to give advice from a port of safety.
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Great souls suffer in silence; and happy is he who learns to bear what he cannot change.
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As freely as the firmament embraces the world or the sun pours forth its beams impartially, so Mercy must encircle both friend and foe.

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Anne Frank … the teen …

Posted on February 8, 2009. Filed under: Books, Guide Posts, Personalities, The Germans |

Anne Frank was a teenaged Jewish girl who documented her thought while in hiding with her family during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.  For two years Anne and her family lived in hidden rooms in her father’s office building. The family was then betrayed, arrested and transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Seven months later, Anne Frank died of typhus. Her father Otto, the only survivor, returned to Amsterdam after the war to find that her diary had been saved. It was published in 1947 and translated in English in 1952. It has become one of the world’s most widely read and beloved books. 

Whoever is happy will make others happy too. No one has ever become poor by giving.  Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!
 
And finally I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside, and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and could be, if there weren’t any other people living in the world.
 
How true Daddy’s words were when he said: all children must look after their own upbringing. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.

I soothe my conscience now with the thought that it is better for hard words to be on paper than that Mummy should carry them in her heart.
I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery and death. I think peace and tranquility will return again.

It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.  The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, with nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.

If I read a book that impresses me, I have to take myself firmly by the hand, before I mix with other people; otherwise they would think my mind rather queer.

Boys will be boys. And even that would’nt matter if only we could prevent girls from being girls. Who would ever think that so much went on in the soul of a young girl?

 

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Again … Goethe …

Posted on January 11, 2009. Filed under: Guide Posts, The Germans |

Goethe put it this way in Book V of his ‘Bildungsroman, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre’:

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People are so inclined to content themselves with the most commonplace that the spirit of the senses so easily grows dead.

 

It is only because the senses are not used to taste of what is excellent that many people take delight in silly and insipid things provided that they are new.

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Hitler’s friend and possible(?) Successor …

Posted on December 14, 2008. Filed under: Books, From a Services Career, Personalities, The Germans |

Albert Speer was sharp and brilliant – possibily the most intelligent and cool Nazi, who was Hitlers personal friend yet who escaped the death sentence at the Nuremburg Trials – his deputy was hanged.. He impressed the Judges into believing, (and at his level and proximity to the power center) that ‘he did not know’. He also came up with a tale of  a hardly plausible – and unacted – plot to kill Hitler. After his release he wrote two best sellers, one on the Third Riech and the other on his prison days.

A trained architect, he came to Hitlers notice because of his genius for the grandiose . At Hitlers behest  he planned to rebuild Berlin. The plans centered around a three-mile long grand boulevard running north – south, which Speer called the Street of Magnificence. At the north end of the boulevard, Speer planned to build a huge assembly hall with a dome which would have been over 700 feet high, with floor space for 180,000 people. At the southern end of the avenue would be a huge triumphal arch; almost 400 feet high and able to fit the French ‘Arc de Triomphe’ inside its opening. When Speer’s father saw the model for the new Berlin, he said to his son, “You’ve all gone completely insane.”

As Minister of Armaments, when the Allies had complete air superiority and were bombing German industry at will, his organizatiional and improvisational skills, ensured that tank production more than doubled; production of planes increased by 80 percent, and production time for submarines was decreased from one year to two months. Towards the end of the war he continued to ensure increase in production till he could supply 270 army divisions whereas the Army had only 150 Diviions.

Speer was so successful that before the beginning of the end, he was widely regarded among the Nazi elite as a possible  successor to Hitler. Yet at the end of the war, this highly intelliegent and powerful fighre could get away by saying, “I did not know of the atrocities or the genocide”.

This is what he writes of Nazi Germany and Hitler –

Despite the popular vision of the country as a monolithic, totalitarian state, Hitler had extremely unstable work habits that included staying up very late (typically until 5 or 6AM) and then sleeping until about noon, spending hours upon hours at meals and tea parties, and wasting both his time and that of colleagues with movies and long, boring monologues. He was incapable of normal office work. Speer says he  openly wondered when exactly Hitler ever found time to do anything important..

The country was divided by overlapping responsibilities, court politics, and incompetent leaders.  Hitler is portrayed as a lazy, unartistically tempered bohemian who worked in spurts.   

Speer’s personal insights into Nazi leaders themselves are nothing short of remarkable, especially since many Nazis and their families chose him as a neutral confidant.. About Göring,, Speer wrote how the by then overweight Luftwaffe marshal spent his days hunting, eating, and quite literally playing with stolen jewels as if they were toys.

Listening to the Führer, Speer concluded that Hitler was incapable of growth, either emotional or intellectual. Because Hitler could charm people (including Speer himself), Speer also believed Hitler was a sociopath and megalomaniac. Even in 1945, when Germany’s armed forces were all but destroyed, Speer could not convince Hitler to admit defeat, or even to go on the defensive.

Two days befire the end, Speer relates that he confessed to Hitler that he had defied Hitlers last order regarding Hitler’s scorched earth policy but assured Hitler of his personal loyalty – and this brought tears to the dictator’s eyes.  The following morning,, the day before his suicide, Hitler curtly bade him farewel .and prepared his ‘final political testament’. That document excluded Speer from the Cabinet and specified that Speer was to be replaced.

PS. He has, said to have, donated over 4/5ths of the royalties he received on account of his two best sellers, to Jewish charities. Of course, anonymously…

PPS. Re Hitler. Two of his great army generals, rated among the world’s very best, have separately recounted how every long meeting with the Fuhrer resulted in their mental and emotional faculties being milked dry and left them drained and empty. Their names? Field Marshals Erich von Manstien and Erwin von Rommel 

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Arthur Schopenhauer …

Posted on January 15, 2008. Filed under: Guide Posts, Quotes, The Germans |

Arthur Schopenhauer, the philosopher best known for responding to Immanuel Kant’s philosophy. His critique of Kant is the greatest of philosophical accomplishments. His metaphysical concept is the foundation for his influential writings on psychology, aesthetics, ethics, and politics which influenced Friedrich Nietzsche, Wagner, and many others.

Here are gems from his works.

To live alone is the fate of all great souls. Great men are like eagles, and build their nest on some lofty solitude.

Any man can do what he wills, but no man knows what he wills.

Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.

I’ve never known any trouble than an hour’s reading didn’t assuage.

It is with trifles, and when he is off guard, that a man best reveals his character.

A man’s face says more interesting things, than his mouth. It is a compendium of everything his mouth will ever say – it is the monogram of all his thoughts and aspirations. Wicked thoughts and worthless pleasures gradually set their mark on the face, especially the eyes.

Will minus intellect constitutes vulgarity.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. The greatest achievements of the human mind have generally been received with distrust.

The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.

Your delight in looking forward and hoping for some particular satisfaction is something which is enjoyed in the anticipation. The more we look forward to something, the less we enjoy it when it happens.

The greatest of follies is to sacrifice health for any kind of happiness.

The wise have always said the same things. Fools, who are in the majority have always done the opposite things.

Rascals are always sociable! The chief sign that a man has any nobility is in the fact that he takes little pleasure in routine social activity.

Wealth is like sea-water – the more we drink, the thirstier we become.

Men by nature, are merely indifferent to one another; women are, by nature enemies.

In our monogamous world, to marry means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties.

Religion is the masterpiece of the art of animal training, for it trains people as to how they shall think.

Sleep is the interest we pay on the capital which is called in at death. The higher the rate of interest and the more regularly it is paid, the further the date of redemption is postponed.

Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.

After your death you will be what you were before your birth.


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Friedrich Nietzsche – German existentialist …

Posted on December 29, 2007. Filed under: Guide Posts, Light plus Weighty, The Germans |

Friedrich Nietzsche was a philosopher. who wrote critiques of religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science, using a distinctive style and displaying a fondness for aphorism. Nietzsche’s influence is substantial within and beyond philosophy, notably in existentialism and postmodernism.

I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.

Fear is the mother of morality.

The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy.

Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Ah, women! They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent.

For the woman, the man is a means – the end is always the child.

A pair of powerful spectacles has sometimes sufficed to cure a person in love.

A woman may very well form a friendship with a man, but for this to endure, it must be assisted by a little physical antipathy.

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From the Thought of Meister Eckhart

Posted on August 13, 2007. Filed under: The Germans |

Meister Eckhart, philosopher and mystic, who was tried as a heretic. His “Defence” is famous for his reasoned arguments. Considered an emblem of the intellectual spirit of the Middle Ages

You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is Compassion.

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.

A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, cover the soul.

We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves!. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there.

He who would be serene and pure, needs but one thing – detachment. The more you own the less you have.

Only the hand that erases, can write the true thing.

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Meet — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe …

Posted on April 20, 2007. Filed under: Guide Posts, Personalities, Quotes, The Germans |

George Eliot called Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “Germany’s greatest man of letters and the last true polymath (one who knows many arts and sciences) to walk the earth.”

Goethe’s works span the fields of poetry, drama, literature, theology, humanism, and science. Goethe’s magnum opus, lauded as one of the peaks of world literature, is the dramatic poem Faust.

It was a meeting of two titans when Napoleon summoned Goethe and deviously asked him to chronicle his life. Equally circumspectly, Goethe demurred and emerged the victor in the duel of personalities.

Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.

Man is made by his belief; as he believes, so he is.

To the person with a firm purpose all men and things are servants.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, Begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Fresh activity is the only means of overcoming adversity.

Nature knows no pause in progress and development and attaches her curse on all inaction.

Who is the most sensible person? The one who finds what is to his advantage in all that happens to him.

In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm, in the real world all rests on perseverance.

Correction does much, encouragement does more.

 

He who does not think much of himself is much more esteemed than he imagines.

 

A man’s manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait..

 

People place themselves on a level with the ones they praise.

 

One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude.

 

A creation of importance can only be produced when its author isolates himself; it is a child of solitude.

 

All intelligent thoughts have already been thought; what is necessary is only to try to think them again.

Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it. And others do just the same with their time.

Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind.

All things are only transitory.

Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest. If I love you, what does that matter to you!

Girls we love for what they are; young men for what they promise to be.

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