The Germans

A Hitler Concentration Camp …

Posted on March 25, 2019. Filed under: The Germans |

Extracted from Anju Basu’s Article in The Wire – 

Dachau was the first of the Nazi ‘concentration’ camps. Commissioned on 22 March 1933, within two months of Hitler’s appointment as the Reich Chancellor, it was also the last among the big camps to be liberated.

Sitting deep inside one of the Third Reich’s most fiercely-guarded regions, Dachau was stormed only on 29 April 1945, a day before Hitler killed himself.

Dachau, then, was one of the most enduring institutions of Nazism, rising and falling with the Third Reich itself, as grotesque and brutal as the regime that conceived it. Auschwitz, Treblinka and Buchenwald had, in the end, gorier report cards, but Dachau, the ‘model camp’, took its pride of place in the pantheon of Nazi death camps.

Every other major camp copied Dachau’s layout and building plans. Each had a similar command centre (with its living quarters, administrative blocks and army barracks); the prisoner enclosures were erected with the same fussy attention to deadly detail (electrically-charged barbed wire  fencing, a three-metre-wide ‘neutral zone’ inside the fence which was under 24X7 surveillance from the watchtowers so that an accidental straggler could be put down instantly); a ditch around the fence; and, finally, the camp’s logo – Arbeit Macht Frei (‘Work makes you free’) – emblazoned on the main prisoner gate, that greeted the hapless inmates of most other camps also with the same macabre relish. A

Dachau’s crown jewel, the extensive SS training school located on the camp premises, boasted of illustrious alumni like Adolf Eichmann and Rudolf Hess, whose personal viciousness had few equals, even inside the Nazi ranks.

Eichmann headed the ‘Race and Resettlement Office’ while Hess, as commandant of Auschwitz, was the master of ceremonies at one of the greatest death orgies in history: no fewer than 1.1 million people were exterminated under his watchful eye.

Hitler’s great hopes of sweeping the early-March, 1933 national elections were dashed, even though the Reichstag Fire Decree of 28 February, which suspended virtually all civil liberties and made it possible to throw the entire Communist Party (KPD) leadership behind bars, had put strong winds into his sails.

The repression and terror had to be stepped up, and a prison system built on an altogether new model was needed to address the needs of the evolving situation. The Nazi Party (NSDAP) had won the Bavaria state elections and, right away in early March, Heinrich Himmler, Munich’s Chief of Police, started working on the project so that, as an NSDAP press statement chillingly, said at the time:

“(a)ll Communists and – where necessary – ….. Social Democratic functionaries who endanger state security (could) be concentrated here, as in the long run it is not possible to keep individual prisoners in the state prisons without overburdening these prisons ….”

An abandoned munitions factory complex in the little town of Dachau, a little distance from Munich, took Himmler’s fancy, and there, on 22 March 1933, the first ‘concentration camp for political prisoners’, with the capacity to hold 5,000 persons, was born. The first detainees were predominantly Communist Party of Germany (KPD) leaders.

In subsequent years, though, Dachau’s scope was enlarged to take in the many different kinds of enemies of the Nazi state, the ‘human bastards’ or ‘three typical sub-human specimens’ as these unfortunates are variously described in a December 1936 Nazi poster displayed at the Dachau memorial museum today: ‘Communist– Work-Shy – Professional Criminal –Jewish national (volks) criminal’.

An exhibit from the museum’s gallery. Credit: Anjan Basu

An exhibit from the museum’s gallery. Credit: Anjan Basu

It is unlikely that the detainees harboured any illusions about what awaited them here, but just in case some of them were still innocent, their ‘orientation programme’, where the camp commandant addressed them on arrival, settled those issues for good. Thus Josef Jarolin, Commandant in 1941/42, lovingly reminded newly-arrived prisoners, “You are without rights, dishonourable and defenceless. You’re a pile of shit and that’s how you are going to be treated.”A

Appropriately, the arrival of the first batch of detainees at Dachau coincided with the ratification, by the parliament, of its own death warrant – the Enabling Act of 23 March 1933.

The Act vested in Hitler the authority to legislate on any issue in any manner he liked without the parliament’s approvalLike Dachau, the Enabling Act was also to be dissolved only after Hitler’s death.

Himmler and his entourage inspecting one of the first detainees in Dachau. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Himmler and his entourage inspecting one of the first detainees in Dachau. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

How many prisoners did Dachau take in, overall? Records are inaccurate at best, but the Museum’s archives document details of over 200,200, mostly men, but also some women and juveniles who arrived in the camp’s final months. The number of the dead, again, is a crude estimate ranging between 35,000 and 50,000.

The demographics of the detainees were as varied as the causes of the deaths. German and Austrian political prisoners, war prisoners from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, the Balkan states, France and Russia, over 2,700 (predominantly Catholic) clergymen who opposed Nazism, and, of course, Jews made up the prison population. Most Jewish prisoners – who wore yellow badges – were brought in after the November 1938 outrage known as Kristallnacht (‘Night of Broken Glass’).

True to the Nazi racial orthodoxy, a strict hierarchy was sought to be preserved even within the prison population (by, among other things, scrupulous adherence to a system of coloured badges): thus, Polish priests faced far harsher treatment than their German brethren; they were also picked for the atrocious ‘medical experiments’ more often than any other population group.

These ‘experiments’ covered the human body’s response to hypothermia (followed by scalding), rapid decompression (in simulated high-altitude conditions) and to malaria and other serious infections. Hundreds of prisoners succumbed to these abominations. Indeed, these experiments were so appalling that, even the doctors in charge of this ghastly enterprise, destroyed all records for fear that they might fall into Allied hands.

That, of course, did not stop the likes of Dr Schilling and Dr Hintermeyer from being tried at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity. Both were sentenced to death.

But death at Dachau did not require the, somewhat costly, intervention of these ‘experiments’. Perhaps a forced labour camp anywhere would feed its prisoners as little as possible while trying to extract from them as much as their weary limbs could deliver, and not bother about their health and hygiene. But camps like Dachau were built around the theme of death and nothing less.A

Appalling over-crowding along with deliberate, egregious neglect of sanitation made sure that epidemics (of typhus or dysentery, for example) would ravage the camp now and then. (According to one estimate, typhus alone carried off 15,000 prisoners during 1944-45.) Over 4,000 Russian prisoners-of-war were summarily executed in 1942-43 just outside Dachau.

Credit: Anjan Basu

Credit: Anjan Basu

Some SS guards were also known to play at deadly games of death themselves: a prisoner’s cap would be hurled into the ‘no man’s land’, and when the luckless man would run to retrieve it, he would be machinegunned. 

As the US Army approached closer, in one of Dachau’s sub-camps at Lindberg, 4,000 prisoners were burnt to death under orders from the camp commander who had decided to shut shop and move on.

The prisoner huts, their doors and windows nailed shut, were doused with gasoline and set on fire. And just 5 days before Dachau was liberated, the commandant forced out nearly 7,000 surviving inmates on a death march, with a heavy guard patrol, southwards in the direction of Eurasburg/Tegernsee.

Starvation, exhaustion and exposure to unseasonably cold weather killed more than a thousand prisoners on the way.

As the camp’s liberators arrived, they were confronted with the shattering scene of a freight train, standing inside the camp’s railway siding, piled high with dead and dying men.

It turned out that, as Buchenwald was about to be liberated, its SS guards stuffed more than 5,000 prisoners inside the wagons of a cargo train which then set off for Dachau, Nazism’s last refuge.

The prisoners encountered unspeakable barbarity on the way: at Nammering, about 800 dead were ordered to be removed from the train to be mass-buried in a wild ravine, and then the carriers of those corpses were shot dead themselves, their dead bodies hurled in their comrades’ graves.A

It was Himmler’s idea that ‘no prisoners (were to be allowed) to fall into the hands of the enemy alive’. The witches’ cabal of the NSDAP was not ready to wind up its rituals of death without a flourish.

It was nothing short of a miracle that about 30,000 survivors were left to greet their liberators on that bleak, snowy late April afternoon in Dachau, among them the prominent French socialist leaders, Leon Blum and Edouard Daladier, and the well-known Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoeller whose great anti-Nazi poem ‘First they came for the communists …’ seared itself into the memory of an entire generation.

Survivors of KZ Dachau demonstrate the operation of the crematorium by pushing a corpse into one of the ovens. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Survivors of KZ Dachau demonstrate the operation of the crematorium by pushing a corpse into one of the ovens. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Where once stood the thirty-two prisoner barracks, only their foundations show today on a desolate stretch of open ground lined by leafless poplars.

The barracks were in such a terrible, rickety shape that they had to be torn down. But the menacing crematorium which, with its numerous ovens, was never dismantled bears testimony to the humongous number of dead bodies incinerated at Dachau.  

The gas chamber also stands today, although it is generally believed to not have been pressed into active use, though it should have come in handy to ‘train’ master exterminators. 

Dachau prisoners, whom the Nazis thought needed to be ‘disposed of’ summarily, either faced the executioner’s bullet or were transported to Hartheim Castle near Linz for the ultimate Nazi ‘treatment’.

This is where the prisoners’ barracks once stood. Credit: Anjan Basu

This is where the prisoners’ barracks once stood. Credit: Anjan Basu

The Dachau memorial came up as late as 1965, mainly because the neighbouring communities were consistently in denial about the camp’s hideous history.

No doubt this attitude reflected in some measure on the somewhat aseptic, nearly spiffy, look of the memorial – a far cry from Auschwitz and Buchenwald – ‘like (of) some delightful holiday camp’, as Lewis Black wrote once.A

The museum’s collection of period photographs, government notifications, and articles from the remnants of the camp is extensive, and some videos capture the grim reality of that fearful period in odious detail.

Bunk beds and wash-rooms for prisoners, recreated on the original prototypes, have been displayed in a barracks replica also. Since the detainees came from many different religious affiliations, the memorial grounds are today home to several temples/chapels:

But, for most visitors, the truly moving monuments are the Nandor Glid sculpture in dark bronze erected in 1968 and the memorial to ‘The Unknown Prisoner’ created by Fritz Koelle.

Glid features, short strands of barbed wire upon which mangled skeletons hang wretchedly, the period 1933-1945 displayed beneath the sculpture, while Koelle’s prisoner stands on a pedestal that bears a legend reading ‘To honour the dead / to warn the living’.

Credit: Anjan Basu

Credit: Anjan Basu

Upon a giant slab of Black Granite in plain white lettering, stand the following words in French, English, German and Russian:

“May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defence of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.”

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Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS …

Posted on January 23, 2019. Filed under: The Germans |

Anthony Delgiomo on Quora

You’re walking on some touchy ground here, my friend. The Wehrmacht were very different from the Waffen SS.

The Wehrmacht were Germans. The professional soldiers that officers and enlisted men of the Allied armies fought against for years but respected. There weren’t too many hard feelings from Allies to Wehrmacht or Wehrmacht to Allies (Unless you were Russian).

When one side took soldiers on the other side prisoner, they generally treated their enemies well (Again, unless they were taken by the Russians).

In the Nuremberg Trials, the Wehrmacht were spared charges of war crimes, and were not classified as a criminal organization. Any Wehrmacht war criminals were tried on an insdividual basis and weren’t considered to represent the whole army.

The SS, on the other hand, were Nazis. They were Adolf Hitler’s right hand. The SS were the leading actors in the Holocaust.

They did not treat their enemies well, and the Allies treated them in kind. Waffen SS prisoners would be treated far worse than others and their officers would often be shot.

Many SS generals were tried for war crimes and killed after the Nuremberg Trials and the SS itself was classified as a criminal organization.

I think Wehrmacht veterans should be treated better and with a degree or sympathy. They received the brunt of the war, and often times didn’t want to fight in the first place. They hated the Nazis for what they did to Germany.

SS veterans should probably not be given too much sympathy depending on who they are. A lot of SS veterans alive today were Hitler Youth child soldiers that were forced into service.

A friend of mine from Germany said that her grandfather enlisted in the SS late in the war when he was 16 years old. He did so to look like a “good German” and to spare his family from the Nazis wrath. At the time, the Nazis were going door to door forcing young boys like him into service and threatening the parents of the boys if they tried to stop the conscription.

He enlisted before the SS got to his village to make it look like his family were “good Germans.” He was a farm boy, and the SS had him tend to the horses they used to transport supplies on the Western Front because gasoline had to be used on tanks and other combat vehicles. H

e was taken prisoner by a colored regiment of the US Army and was treated well, because of his age. One of his captors would actually bring him chocolate bars from his rations in the POW camp and would say that the chocolate was “for the horses”, and wink at him.

D

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Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch Munich Nov 9, 1923 …

Posted on November 8, 2018. Filed under: The Germans |

Extracted from The Wire —- But btw Munich is also famed because it was here that England under Chamberlain ignominously caved in under the Hitler Bully … 

Ninety-five years ago on November 9, Munich was witness to an episode that turned the wheel of Europe’s history to its darkest hour as very few events ever did, hopelessly blurring the dividing line between farce and tragedy.

In the early afternoon of November 9,1923, Adolf Hitler, along with some 2,000 comrades-in-arms, marched on Munich’s city centre in a preposterously abortive bid to capture power.

Known commonly, if somewhat derisively, as the ‘Beer Hall Putsch’, this march was modelled on Mussolini’s infamous March on Rome the previous autumn through which Il Duce stormed to power in Italy.

In the ensuing melee, four Bavarian policemen and 16 Nazi volunteers lost their lives. The Fuehrer fled the scene and hid for two days inside the loft in a friend’s house, to be arrested from there and produced for trial for treason.

The putsch had looked fizzy to start with, much like the free-flowing beer of the Burgerbraukeller, the beer hall that had propelled the Nazis to fame, but, in the end, it fizzled out quickly.

It would be another nine years before the corporal was to be anointed chancellor of Germany – and arbiter of Europe’s destiny for 12 disastrous years.

The reference to 9/11 is not fanciful: the Nazis sought to immortalise the putsch by marking their calendar permanently with its date, calling it Der neunte (9/11, literally, ‘the Ninth of the Eleventh’), and religiously observing every anniversary thereafter with typically Nazi sound and fury.

Every November 9, the march down Munich’s main streets would be re-enacted, there would be a memorial ceremony at Odeonplatz recalling  those 16 fallen comrades, and everyone would pledge themselves anew to the holy battle for  preserving the Third Reich till eternity.

The tradition was scrupulously maintained till November 9, 1944, by when most of occupied Europe had been liberated and the writing on the wall was there for everyone but the most die-hard Nazi to see.

Marx famously wrote about how, when history repeats itself, tragedy often reappears as farce.

Unless one were to think back on November 9, 1923, and how its consequences played out in Germany.

Hitler and his accomplices were tried for high treason, but had a quite ‘soft’ trial where the fanatically pro-Nazi lay judges (in Germany’s unique judicial system of a ‘mixed judiciary’, professional judges shared a bench with their lay brothers) clamoured for Hitler’s exoneration, the man himself waxed eloquent about his own patriotic fervour and how it obliged him to sacrifice everything for Germany’s sake, was sentenced to five years in prison but was eventually let off after a mere eight months on account of – hold your breath! – ‘good behaviour’.

And even those eight months he spent in the comfort and relative freedom of the Festungshaft, the mildest of the three types of jail sentence allowed under German law at the time.

At a minimum, Hitler ran the real risk of being deported back to his native Austria, but the benevolent trial judge opined that the relevant laws could not, in fairness, be applied to someone “who so sincerely thinks and feels like a German, as Hitler does”.

One would imagine that only Weimar Germany could be such an absurdly higgledy-piggledy world 

The tragedy that followed upon the rollicking farce that the Beer Hall Putsch had turned into was arguably the nearest thing to the apocalypse that man’s history has been witness to.

Nearly 85 million lives lost, countless more forever scarred, the Holocaust, the unimaginable barbarism of the targeted bombing of civilians and the endless lines of desperate refugees fleeing to no one knew where – the Second World War’s record-book is as copious as it is frightening.

Let us also not forget that the Fuehrer wrote Mein Kampf,his autobiography – or, in today’s corporate lingo, his ‘mission and vision statement’ – in the safe haven of the Bavarian prison to which that charade of a trial had consigned him.

However, not all the memories linked to Germany’s 9/11 are in unrelieved black. If you walk around the Odeonplatz today, as we did one late November afternoon in 2015, you will come across a somewhat unusual sight of an adjoining cobbled alley that has a broad golden strip snaking along its middle, down its entire length.

That little street is the Viscardigasse, and the golden pathway is post-Hitler Munich’s tribute to countless brave men and women who dared to say ‘no’ to Nazi coercion.

How this came about is a fascinating story. On the Odeonplatz, there has stood since 1844 a monumental memorial, the Felderrnhalle, erected in homage to fallen German military leaders.

Following the Nazis’ accession to power in 1933, Hitler ‘dedicated’ the Federrnhalle to the memory of the 16 Nazis killed in the 9/11 encounter.

A fiat was then issued that whoever passed by that site had to raise their hand in the Nazi salute, the sinister Heil Hitler ritual. Sentries posted around the memorial kept a watchful eye on objectors who refused to comply, all of whom were taken away for questioning by the dreaded Gestapo, often to be summarily despatched to Dachau, Hitler’s first death camp located about 10 miles northeast of Munich.

The threat of severe punishment was very real, and yet there were many who could not bring themselves to perform the obnoxious Hitlergruss. 

What they would do instead was to cut left just before reaching Odeonplatz/Felderrnhalle into this small alleyway, thereby avoiding Hitler’s favourite monument, and emerge on to the main street again beyond the plaza.

This would save them the trouble of having to salute the Nazi ‘memorial’. The guards around the monument knew what was happening, of course, but there was not very much they could do about it.

Except on anniversaries, when the ‘solemnity’ of the occasion often impelled them to round up some of these conscientious objectors from the Viscardigasse itself, and hand them over to the Waffen-SS straight away.

In those terrible times, it took extraordinary courage to do what these resisters did, and yet everyday not an insignificant number of men and women weaved in and out of the Viscardigasse to cock a snook at the Fuehrer’s diktat. 

After Hitler’s spirit was exorcised in post-war Germany, Munich paved the Viscardigasse with bronzed cobblestones to mark the Golden Trail in memory of her brave citizens.

That bleak November afternoon, as snow flurries swirled around and a high wind rose to chill us to our bones, we bowed our head to the courage of those that walked the Golden Trail in Germany’s darkest hour.

 

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Greatest Soccer Game Ever …

Posted on July 13, 2018. Filed under: Sports, The Germans |

Forget the Brazilians and the Argentinians – Pele and Maradona – the Greatest World Cup Final or any Soccer Game ever Played was the World Cup 1954 Final – Germany vs Hungary.

Hungary had hammered Germany 8 – 3 in a Game leading upto the Final. But Now

https://www.theringer.com/soccer/2018/7/13/17568582/world-cup-most-important-game-1954-final-hungary-west-germany

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Karl Marx at 200 …

Posted on May 5, 2018. Filed under: Personalities, The Germans, Uncategorized |

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/divisions-resurface-as-germany-fetes-marx-at-200/article23785729.ece

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Frederick the Great …

Posted on April 30, 2018. Filed under: Personalities, The Germans |

Austrian co-ruler Emperor Joseph II wrote –

“When the King of Prussia speaks on problems connected with the art of war, which he has studied intensively and on which he has read every conceivable book, then everything is taut, solid and uncommonly instructive. There are no circumlocutions, he gives factual and historical proof of the assertions he makes, for he is well versed in history.

Historian Robert M. Citino describes Frederick’s strategic approach:

In war…he usually saw one path to victory, and that was fixing the enemy army in place, maneuvering near or even around it to give himself a favorable position for the attack, and then smashing it with an overwhelming blow from an unexpected dir

ection. He was the most aggressive field commander of the century, perhaps of all time, and one who constantly pushed the limits of the possible.

Historian Dennis Showalter argues, “The King was also more consistently willing than any of his contemporaries to seek decision through offensive operations.”

Foresight ranked among the most important attributes when fighting an enemy, according to the Prussian monarch, as the discriminating commander must see everything before it takes place, so “nothing will be new to him.”

Thus it was flexibility that was often paramount to military success. Donning both the skin of a fox or a lion in battle, as Frederick once remarked, reveals the intellectual dexterity he applied to the art of warfare.

Much of the structure of the more modern German General Staff owed its existence and extensive structure to Frederick, along with the accompanying power of autonomy given to commanders in the field.

[According to Citino, “When later generations of Prussian-German staff officers looked back to the age of Frederick, they saw a commander who repeatedly, even joyfully, risked everything on a single day’s battle – his army, his kingdom, often his very life.”

As far as Frederick was concerned, there were two major battlefield considerations – speed of march and speed of fire. So confident in the performance of men he selected for command when compared to those of his enemy, Frederick once quipped, “A general considered audacious in another country is only ordinary in [Prussia]; [our general] is able to dare and undertake anything it is possible for men to execute.

Even the later military reputation of Prussia under Bismarck and Moltke rested on the weight of mid-eighteenth century military developments and the territorial expansion of Frederick the Great.] Despite his dazzling success as a military commander, Frederick was no fan of protracted warfare, and once wrote, “Our wars should be short and quickly fought…

A long war destroys … our [army’s] discipline; depopulates the country, and exhausts our resources.” Martial adeptness and that thoroughness and discipline so often witnessed on the battlefield was not correspondingly reflected on the domestic front for Frederick.

In lieu of his military predilections, Frederick administered his Kingdom justly and ranks among the most “enlightened” monarchs of his era; this, notwithstanding the fact that in many ways, “Frederick the Great represented the embodiment of the art of war”.

Consequently, Frederick continues to be held in high regard as a military theorist the world over.

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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. Here are some excerpts … 

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 not 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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