I hope for recordings. (Some productions of All is Calm are available on YouTube, at least.)
I had hoped to present you with the results of my latest research before the end of the month, but it hit an unexpected… not snag, but a solid brick wall that I’m now trying to maneuver around. So, while I’m not sure I’ll get it done before the end of the year, I wanted to leave you at least with something biographical that’s not very well known except by specialist historians and those interested in their research.
Hans Kammler was perhaps the most powerful man at the end of the Third Reich that you’ve never heard of. His story and especially the story of his secret projects are fascinating. I’d read about some of it already, but I’m so glad to have found Tino Struckmann’s channel – he does a great job of presenting the facts and locations. Definitely check it out! (I’m still binge-watching…)
The documentary on Kammler and the German nuclear research projects from which the Richardson interview clip was taken.
One of the last things I expected in the course of my Savitri Devi research was the quasi-confirmation of the Oradour story. I have never delved deeply into the events at Oradour and therefore do not know the state of the research. Perhaps all of this has already come up.
Of course, there will always be those who claim it was all lies from „the Nazis“. But the beauty of Savitri Devi is that she never thought it necessary to lie. And if you compare the accounts in her books with other, „reputable“ sources, this is confirmed again and again. So I see no reason to doubt anything here in principle. Details, sure – that’s just the way it is with eyewitness reports and second-hand accounts. But the basic events are probably correct. In the case of Oradour, Savitri Devi names her sources; one of them even with initials, as was her way. It is quite possible that more details will be mentioned in her correspondence, which is gradually being made public in the Savitri Devi Archive.
So I was not a little surprised to learn that Georges René (Georg) Boos, whom she had already written off as a martyr in Pilgrimage, was pardoned and only died in Germany in 2015(!), shortly after an interview with a French journalist. According to his report, the latter had been studying Oradour for years, but apparently not even he knew the previous history described by Savitri Devi. That is why he did not ask any questions at the crucial points of the interview and did not understand the hidden clues that Boos gave him. On the other hand, if you know the back story, you understand the hesitation, the paraphrasing, the evasive answers. (Just watch the short excerpt from the interview available on YouTube – embedded in my other blog post – , if you speak the languages. It’s in German, with French subtitles.)
I find it remarkable that Boos still remained silent all these decades later, when his judge was presumably long dead. But crucial information sank into the grave with him that way. It would certainly be worthwhile to pursue the matter.
Recently, I went to the neighbouring town of Alfeld an der Leine for our cementery project – not for the Savitri Devi project, but it seems all roads lead to Alfeld. 🙂
Unlike Elze, on the Alfeld cementery there are soldiers‘ graves from the First and Second World War. I was surprised to realise that those buried there actually hailed from the town, they did not died there in battle. I’ve never come across anything like it. One family asking for their son or brother to be reinterred at the local cemetery, sure. But on a larger scale? That really impressed me. Must have been one heck of a fight with bureaucracy…
I was also impressed that the inscription on the cross is still allowed to be there in the crazy political climate we live in.
While the English-speaking world (I think?) celebrates Veterans‘ Day today, in Germany it’s Martinstag – well, actually, the first of two. 10 November is Martinstag for the Protestants, being the birthday of Martin Luther, and 11 November is Martinstag for the Catholics, as the feast of Saint Martin. It’s funny because both days even have roughly the same traditions attached to them, like children going from house to house and singing in exchange for sweets. The Catholics often have lanterns to go with it. Both days have been in rapid decline for a number of years now, ever since commercialism brought the absolutely foreign Halloween to our shores. (F*** it.) Lately, at least the Protestant church has begun campaigning against it, but with the decline of Christianity in Germany, this has not been very successful to date. But I congratulate my federal state Lower Saxony for having made 31 October a holiday a couple of years or so ago – as Reformation Day, not Halloween.
But I digress.
Or maybe not.
In a way, I feel an immense sadness that we never had Veterans‘ Day, not even in our very nationalistic times. We had holidays commemorating important battles, like Sedantag, and we had the Nazi version of Memorial Day, Heldengedenktag. But that was about dead soldiers, not living veterans. Only a few months ago I would have said: nowadays, it is about the absolute last holiday we would ever have around here – I can hear them scream bloody murder at the very idea… (They screamed bloody murder at the Zapfenstreich alone, for crying out loud.) However, with the Ukraine war going on and our government (two parties of which mainly responsible for the decline of the Bundeswehr in recent decades) suddenly reminding itself of the possible importance of the military, I’d say things have relaxed a bit. A little bit. Perhaps.
So, a few voices, impressions, thoughts, and more often than not disappointments by those whom it actually concerned and who were able to draw comparisons.
On 15 January 1942, German bomber planes from Dutch-based Fighter Squadron 2 attack the steelworks near Middlesbrough. One of the Do 217 E-2s flies into a balloon barrage protecting the important armaments plant and crashes with a crew of four. The plane buries itself in the marshy ground. The British are able to recover three dead Luftwaffe soldiers, who are buried with military honours in Thornaby cemetery. The fourth German airman remains missing.
In autumn 1997, when drains are being laid, the workers come across aircraft debris and the remains of a human being in the depths. It takes over a year before they can be identified: it was Sergeant Major Heinrich Richter from Silesia. The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge [German War Graves Commission] was unable to find any relatives. It turned out that one of the German airmen buried more than 50 years ago had been mistaken for Heinrich Richter. He was in fact the non-commissioned officer Hans Maneke, as it now turned out. He received his correct gravestone.
On 14 October 1998, Heinrich Richter was interred next to his three comrades who had been buried more than 50 years ago. The British public took a lively interest. From the „Times“ and the „Daily Telegraph“ to the local newspapers, there was extensive coverage. The BBC not only broadcast parts of the funeral, but also gave a voice to the former lieutenant of Combat Squadron 2, Heinz Möllenbrok, who travelled to England and laid a wreath at the grave on behalf of his still-living comrades. 200 citizens from near and far had gathered for the funeral service in the church. The coffin was followed by the mayors of the surrounding communities, the local chairman of the Royal British Legion, the association of former soldiers, former airmen of the Royal Air Force and 300 citizens of Middlesbrough. The grave was surrounded by 20 British ex-servicemen with the traditional flags of their veteran associations. Pastors of different denominations blessed the grave, among them a pastor of the German-speaking Lutheran congregation of London. The Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Hans Mondorf, expressed his surprise at the sympathy of the local population.
British newspapers read: „After more than half a century since the war, we respect the bravery of the men who flew in the planes, regret their sacrifice and feel pity for those who mourned the loss then, but who are probably no longer alive themselves today.“ And an old British soldier who operated the barrage balloons at the time, one of which became the fate of the Do 217 aircrew, said: „At the time we thought we had won a great victory, but the war has been over for many years and now it is right to respect every fallen man who fought for his country.“
Returning to Germany, former Luftwaffe Lieutenant Heinz Möllenbrok, now 78, sent some of the articles about the funeral that had appeared in the British press to Norddeutscher Rundfunk, national and local newspapers, assuming that the events that had received so much attention in Britain would also be newsworthy for the German media, since it was a German soldier who had found his final resting place. – To date, no reaction…
(In Bill Norman’s Broken Eagles – Luftwaffe losses over Yorkshire 1939-1945, there’s a chapter dedicated to this story.)
Willi Göbel, from the „History and Tradition“ department of the Fighter Pilots‘ Association, called me at the end of September 1998 and asked if I could tell him something about Hans-Joachim Fischer, an Oberfähnrich of Fighter Squadron 53 „Pik As“ who fell in 1943. He had been recovered in August in Italy with his Me 109. […] Wolfgang Dreifke, who is one of the few fighter pilots who survived the war, then told me that he still remembered Fischer and the air combat. Fischer had joined the squadron a few days before. He had no front-line experience yet and this was only his second or third enemy flight. […]
In the afternoon, I was met at the airfield in Bologna by Leo Veneri, the president of the „Gruppo Avioclub Lugo“ aero club, and Dr. Enio Jezzi, a historian from the city of Lugo, and taken to the hotel in Fusignano. There, Dr. Anton Weißsteiner, a South Tyrolean, and his wife Steffi were already waiting for me. […]
Now we went to the airfield of Lugo, where together with the club members we marvelled at the Daimler-Benz engine of Fischer’s Me 109. I learned more details from Leo Venieri. The crash site near Lugo had been known for some time. It was in an inaccessible terrain, so that the recovery could only take place in August 1998.
The aircraft, a Bf-109 G-6, had buried itself eight metres deep in the boggy ground and only the engine had survived the crash to some extent. With the help of the „Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsore e. V.“ the pilot could be identified. Hans-Joachim Fischer was born in Diez an der Lahn on 26 April 1924.
On Sunday morning we drove to the Piazza in Lugo. A monument with a statue nine metres high and an even higher obelisk behind it dominate it. It was erected in honour of F. Baracca, Italy’s most successful fighter pilot in the First World War and the most famous citizen of the town of Lugo. This may also explain why the town of Lugo pays such homage to the German fighter pilot who was recovered in its vicinity. Posters at the church and other places pointed out today’s ceremony. Toni had provided two large wreaths. […]
The dignitaries lined up at the steps of the imposing monument. To the sound of a trumpet solo, Toni and I laid the wreath at the pedestal on behalf of the fighter pilot community. Then we went to the town church on the same site. It was filled to capacity and Leo Venieri led Toni and me to the front row. In the middle aisle stood the coffin decorated with flowers. On a red cushion lay an air force officer’s cap with the eagle. That would not be possible in Germany…
On either side of the pews, representatives of the various organisations had lined up with their standards. Toni nudged me and whispered that the flag with the red star was the partisan flag. „The Italians obviously cope better with their past than the Germans,“ I mused further. During the mass, several speeches were made, by the mayor, several representatives, including Leo Venieri and Dr. Enio Iezzi. An interpreter translated all the speeches into German and my words of commemoration were translated into Italian:
„As the last living group commander of Fighter Wing 53, I have come from Germany to accompany you, Oberfähnrich Hans-Joachim Fischer, on behalf of your comrades of the squadron and all German fighter pilots, on your last journey.
Our common fate was that we flew the same fighter aircraft, which helped us to achieve an indescribable flying high. Through this fighter plane we had grown wings that enabled us to plunge exultantly into the cloud valleys, only to spiral back up into the glistening sky, pulled by two thousand horses.
Our common fate was also that we were soldiers. We loved our fatherland and gave our lives for it. But on 22 March 1944, death snatched you abruptly from your flying elation, one month before your 21st birthday. Your plane sank deep into the ground with you, so that it was only now that it could be recovered.
I thank all those who made this recovery possible and who are now preparing this dignified celebration for our comrade Hans-Joachim Fischer. It is a great experience and a joy for me to be here.“
I must confess that I was very moved by the long applause. The mass concluded with the solemn blessing of the coffin. Afterwards the coffin was loaded into a car and we left the city in several cars, accompanied by two policemen on motorbikes. After a stop for lunch at a country inn, we approached our destination, the Futa Pass at an altitude of 900 metres. The higher we got, the foggier it became and it started to drizzle lightly. It was the right mood for a visit to the cemetery. – This is the largest of twelve German military cemeteries of the Second World War. Immediately at the entrance, I was shocked to stop in front of a large bronze sign announcing that 36713 German soldiers had found their final resting place here. Shivering, we also followed the coffin up the spiralling path to the cemetery chapel. – I learned later that the Futa Pass had been one of the most important bases of the „Gotenlinie“, which had stopped the Allied advance for a year. It must have been terrible fighting, especially from the end of August 1944, it had only ended in 1945. On one side were the German soldiers, on the other the English and American soldiers and, in the rear, the Italian partisans. The „zeitgeist“ was: „An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth!“
None of the boys lying here knew the name „Auschwitz“. They were therefore spared the horror that gripped all of my generation, whether friend or foe, when the Allies reached the concentration camps and opened the gates and the terrible images of the liberated inmates went around the world. […] These soldiers were also spared the bitter and boundless disappointment that their „Führer“, who had demanded of them „commitment to the last“, had taken his leave of world history through a cowardly poison suicide.
As we stepped out of the small, oppressive chapel – the dignified coffin had once again been blessed by a priest – our eyes fell on the gravestones protruding from the mist. Thirty-six thousand seven hundred and thirteen German soldiers of my generation lie here. Died, shot, slain!
Of my generation? Those are mainly the ones born between 1915 and 1925. Now I stood here as one of the last living Germans of this generation. I can only speak for myself. But when I stand on a military cemetery, regardless of the nation, I feel a deep sadness for all the victims of this war. For all of them, regardless of whether they fell, were killed, perished in the hail of bombs or whatever. Whether soldiers or civilian victims. Even if I should be misunderstood: I also include those who have lost their lives through my involvement. They were aircrew whose fate it was that we belonged to the same generation, only that one was born in Germany, the other in France or England or somewhere else. We, just like them on the other side, were fighting for our country.
At the war academy I learned Clausewitz’s phrase, „War is simply the continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means.“ Today I know, „War is the terrible end of failed politics.“ It must not be the continuation of politics by other means. […]
Mrs Caldari, the young wife of the cemetery caretaker, asked me: „Were you also 20 years old when you flew then?“ I answered in the affirmative and she looked at me with an indescribable sad look in which I thought I recognised a deep regret for my generation: „My God!“
While the shot soldiers have found their final resting place here, a battle has broken out in my fatherland – with words. On one side is my generation and the relatives of fallen, dead and missing family members. Their motto is: „Honour the soldiers!“ On the other side, the „good guys“, who are favoured by their late birth to know everything better and to do everything better. […] „Not all soldiers were criminals“, they say pharisaically. How many criminals lie under the gravestones of the Futa Pass, then? 3? 30? 300? 3,000? 30,000?
Out of the haze emerged four youths who silently handed me a hand-carved eagle, they wanted to give it to me. It was a show of sympathy, which I faced somewhat helplessly, but touched. […] „Stefano“, a member of the „Gruppo Avioclub Lugo“, took me to the airfield in Bologna. We sat next to each other in silence during the car journey of several hours, as we did not speak each other’s language. Upon parting, he hugged me fiercely. That’s how you can say ‚thank you‘ without words, strongly and warmly even. Then I flew back to Germany, to my homeland, to my fatherland.
„Fatherland? Ah, right, that’s what my grandfather told me he fought for!“ In Germany, a different „zeitgeist“ prevailed.
(Julius Meimberg, Jägerblatt, 1/1999)
The bus rolled through green meadows and fields – past restaurants with historical names and dates from the 16th to the 18th century. People stood at the side of the road waving black-red-gold flags. After a few more minutes, the bus stopped. A large crowd had gathered on the forecourt. The buildings behind them were festively decorated with flags and green branches. We were amazed beyond words. Where had we former night fighters ended up? It couldn’t be Germany. Soldiers from the Second World War are overlooked there. If the Union Jack hadn’t fluttered next to the German flags, we would have remained in the dark. So we hadn’t lost our way after all, we were in England.
However, we were very surprised to find that the whole village of West Corwick in Yorkshire was on its feet to welcome and greet former German night fighters. For the first few minutes we just couldn’t believe that this festive decoration was meant for us. As we got off the bus, the waiting people applauded. Silently we walked to our reserved seats. The overwhelming reception had left us simply speechless. So what made the citizens of West Corwick welcome their former enemies with such warmth? The RAF bases we knew of had been closed, including our last location on our visits to England, the Finningley airfield, like Sobernheim in Germany. We assumed that our friend Steve Grenn, Chief Executive of the Gunner Association, had booked a ‚round table‘ in a pub. We also thought that this meeting must be a financial problem for the board Steve Grenn, Paul Grant and Jim Goldie. We believed that these three „Lancaster Gunners“ would have to pay out of their own pockets for hotel accommodation and meals for 20 German guests, as they flatly refused an offer to share the costs with us.
We did not know that the board had approached the Mayor of West Corwick and Snait, Mrs. Andrea Allison. She mobilised her village of 4,000 people and arranged a reception for the former German night fighters that no one – English or German – will ever forget. 22 sponsors, companies and business people, supported the project financially. Individual citizens were approached with a collection box. It was a complete success! In her welcoming speech, the mayor emphasised that not only the soldiers of both countries meet here in friendship, but that at the same time our people should express their solidarity. […] As if from a „magic box“, children suddenly crawled onto the podium, danced happily around and waved white scarves at us. And how could it be otherwise: With their bright voices they sang the song „Lili Marleen“. That’s when the night fighters and many of the others came to life and joined in the chorus. That some of us got moist eyes was not surprising. […] We night fighters were thinking of Germany in those minutes. As former soldiers, we were being honoured after more than 50 years in a foreign country, which made us very thoughtful. […]
What would the night fighters in England be without their twin squadron, Fighter Squadron 73 from Laage? The Commodore, Oberst Reinhard Mack, had landed at Waddington in Lincolnshire with four crews, two MiG 29s and two „Phantom“ F-4Fs. The overflight was arranged by Air Commander David Wilby. We know of no general who is so committed to the Anglo-German aviation friendship. Both officers, Commander Wilby and Oberst Mack, were watched approvingly by those present as they walked down the lined-up cadet formations. All three arms sections had lined up: the 750 Squadron of the Air Training Corps, the Sea Cadet Corps Humberside and the Army Cadet South Yorkshire. By the time the British Air Commander and German Colonel had reached the wheelchair users as they reviewed the troops, the past, the memory of the war, had caught up with us again. There sat the veterans of the British nation, decorated with many medals, with serious faces. These former soldiers are not on the sidelines like our severely wounded comrades in Germany. When the two officers shook hands with them in greeting, they straightened up. When we also came to them afterwards, some held fast to our hands. Some looked at us scrutinisingly but kindly, as if to say: Why only were we enemies?
Waffen-SS veteran Günter Adam, whom I have quoted repeatedly on this blog, is as unapologetic as ever:
My battered ticker went on strike once again, and I had to go to hospital in December, where the procedure of admission is practised time and again. Now came what I am already used to. The scars on my chest, caused by two gunshot wounds, attracted the attention of the two doctors who were admitting me and those who were treating me.
The first, a young woman doctor: „Gunshot wounds? Aha, souvenirs from the Nazi era.“ My answer: „No, service for my fatherland.“
The second young doctor: „Yes, wandered too far into Russia.“ Me: „On the contrary, been too far ahead in the West.“
The ward doctor, a little older: „Gosh, that you survived something like that? You were unbelievably lucky.“ Then after a short pause: „Can I bring you my lottery ticket to fill out every week?“
Then the senior doctor: „Looking at you, you have a mark under your left arm, don’t you?“ After my affirmation: „Yes, first you stuck your neck out, then you were criminals, then you contributed to the building of this republic and the economic miracle, and now that you are slowly ‚going grey‘ you have to keep your mouth shut.“ – I had nothing more to say to this.
A few days later I learned from a patient, who did not know the meaning of the motto, that in the obituary of the doctor’s father it said: „His honour was loyalty.“
(Seriously, if those conversations really happened, the young doctors have to work on their tactfulness. Yikes.)
The Bundeswehr partner company of our hometown had invited to a shooting competition with P 1 (former P 38), G 3 (rifle) and MP (submachine gun Uzi). Teams from local institutions, associations and clubs took part, including our team from a socially engaged association, which – what a coincidence – consisted of members of our former troop.
Each team had seven marksmen. There is no need to report about the process of such a tournament, it is well known to old soldiers. But the award ceremony brought a surprise: 1st place for the fire brigade, 2nd place for the city administration, 3rd place went to us veterans, and that even before the hunters!
We were all already over 70 years old, one even over 80. Nevertheless, he was the best individual marksman with the pistol. At the barbecue afterwards, debriefing, lively exchanges, but also reflectiveness. Teasing about the marksmanship of the „veterans“ and questions about when and where we had „served“. We had no intention of provoking, but also no reason to deny our origins, since we were all „established people“ and comrade Peter had even been mayor of R.
From the circle of young officers one could hear: „Aha, the Führer’s old guard, always favoured with equipment and rations, and convalescent homes.“ Some had even heard something about the „Lebensborn“. Slowly, the other conversations in the group fell silent and people listened.
It was clear to me that an argument was needed to silence the critics. I knew that one of our comrades, a former Oberjunker, had been wounded nine times. And so I turned to a young Bundeswehr captain. „How many times do you estimate we seven veterans have been wounded?“ (I didn’t know either.)
It was guessed, each of us at least once and therefore seven times wounded. I pointed to Willi, once, but eye gone. Alfred five times, Peter three times, Erich twice, Hannes three times, Heinz nine times, myself four times. So 27 wounds in 7 men, not counting double wounds.
I spoke to the young captain: „Recently I read a statistic according to which there were 60,000 projectiles fired for every hit in the last war. That would be 1,620,000 rounds on us seven veterans, if the statistics are correct!“
There was an embarrassed silence in the group. It should be added that we are good friends with the young soldiers today and keep good comradeship.*
(Günter Adam: „Ich habe meine Pflicht erfüllt!“)
* I seem to remember reading in Jägerblatt (or elsewhere?) that active members of the Bundeswehr were no longer allowed to have contact with WW2 veterans. (Imagine!) I can’t find the article now, but if I do, I’ll add it here.
… to my blog post on Savitri Devi in Lower Saxony: Her Nusse and Athens connections.
Early on in my preoccupation with Savitri Devi, I learned that she had spent time in Alfeld an der Leine – which is a neighbouring town. I was hooked. And when I also learned that she had visited Holzminden (close to my place of birth) and had actually lived and worked in Hannover, where I have lived and worked for twenty years, well, my research into that chapter of her life was born. Who were those people she met, and could still something be found out about her time with them?
Part of the problem with the local connection was the lack of names. At best, I had only initials to work with; at worst, nothing at all. Where do you start with that? The local historians tried their best but found little at first. Nobody had heard of Savitri Devi before I came along. And how do you identify the Austrian „F. F.“ if he didn’t by chance settle down in the small town where Savitri had met him?
It was luck (or whatever you wish to call it) that pointed me in the right direction. Savitri Devi’s Werl prison file contains a letter of her husband to the British authorities – ratting out one of her right-wing contacts: Max Aloe of Blücherstraße 10 in Alfeld. Thank you, Mr Mukherji! Armed with that information, the trail could be picked up in the local street directories.
Savitri’s hosts are by now deceased; at least one of their children might well be still alive but I haven’t managed to establish contact yet with the family.
Hanover, 10 and 11 May 1953
Herr S. – whom I had met in Frankfurt, – had given me Herr B.’s address as that of „a German Heathen according to my heart.“ And every nerve of my body was tense with expectation as I rang the bell. An elderly man of proud bearing, with silver-white hair, bright eyes, and the classical features of an Aryan of the Ice Age, opened the door. „Frau Savitri Devi?“ asked he, in a sympathetic voice.
„Yes,“ replied I.
The old Aryan of the Ice Age and of today, – of all times – simply said: „Come in; you are heartily welcome. I was waiting for you.“
I stepped in, deeply moved. There was nothing particularly striking in the gentleman’s words: anybody could have uttered them after receiving a telegram announcing my arrival. But my immediate impression at the contact of this nearly seventy year-old fighter for our Cause was about the nearest approach to „love at first sight“ I had experienced in my life.
(Savitri Devi: Pilgrimage)
And so, Savitri met Heinrich Blume, „modern priest of Light and Life on behalf of Germany’s collective soul, who had presided over national rites under the Third Reich“, according to her narration.
Heinrich Blume (*25 January 1887 in Hameln; †26 July 1964 in Hanover) was a German teacher and völkisch National Socialist politician.
After attending the secondary school in Goslar from 1893 to 1901 and the preparatory school in Einbeck from 1901 to 1904 as well as the seminary in Northeim from 1904 to 1907, Blume was a teacher in Kerstlingerode (today a district of Gleichen) in the district of Göttingen, in 1907/08 in German schools in Copenhagen and from 1910 to 1919 in Niederscheden (district of Münden) and Dassel. In 1914 he passed the secondary school teacher’s examination in natural sciences. In the same year he enlisted as a war volunteer and was wounded at Langemark in 1915. In 1916 he passed the headmaster’s examination and eventually became headmaster in Melsungen.
As early as the 1920s, Blume joined the NSDAP and the SA.
In the Reichstag election of May 1924, Blume was elected to the Reichstag for constituency 19 (Hesse-Nassau), where he represented the National Socialist Freedom Party in its second term. At this time he was already active in the Deutschbund, whose organ, the Deutschbundblätter, he edited. He had also published essays in the journal Pädagogische Warte.
As a völkisch politician, Blume was radically anti-Semitic in public. For example, his name can be found under an appeal from 1925 calling for the abolition of equal rights for Jews and their status under alien law „to their complete expulsion from the cultural peoples“, the prohibition of Jewish worship (on the grounds that it „under the guise of religious customs in reality cultivates immoral and anti-state aspirations“), the closure of synagogues and the confiscation and destruction of rabbinical writings. […]
In his influential position in the Deutschbund, Blume ensured the affiliation of the German Art Society, whose chairmanship he took over in 1927 together with Eugen Friedrich Hopf. […]
In May 1929, Blume was elected deputy federal leader of the Deutschbund […].
The man who had known Adolf Hitler personally from the earliest days of the Movement; the man who, before that, had taken an active part in all the lesser movements that have prepared the ground for the N.S.D.A.P.; who had fought as a young man for Hans Krebs‘ idea of the Greater Reich on a racial basis and who had, as an adolescent, greeted Friedrich Lange’s similar Idea, fixed upon me his bright, steel-blue eyes, and replied: „You were right; you are right – rigorously, absolutely right!“
After the National Socialist „Machtergreifung“ [seizure of power], Blume acted as cultural advisor in the NSDAP Gau Hessen-Nassau and was appointed by Dietrich Klagges to the civil service at the Ministry of Education. Furthermore, he was an editor of the Nazi art magazine Das Bild.
If Heinrich Blume already lived in Hannover before 1945, there is only one entry in the last street directory (1943) that fits his description, that of „Blume, Heinrich, Oberregierungsrat“, i.e., an upper civil servant. His address is given as Mardalstraße 12 in the city district of Kirchrode, which matches Savitri Devi’s description that „the [central] station is far away“.
After the end of the war, Blume’s books Das politische Gesicht der Freimaurerei (1936) and So ward das Reich. Deutsche Geschichte für die Jugend (1940) were put on the Soviet Occupation Zone’s list of literature to be withdrawn.
Herr B. spoke a long time – about our principles; about the war, and the traitors who have brought about the disaster; about his own life during the darkest years, when he was, in spite of his old age, forced to break stones along the roads and to help in the repairing of canals [probably the Mittellandkanal and its side canals in Hannover], under the whip of the victors.
„Some of us had to work under the supervision of Negroes,“ stated he. „At first, we thought we were still the less unfortunate, for our warders were Englishmen. But we soon changed our minds. Those who worked under Negro overseers were far better treated than we; it happened, now and then, that they were offered a cigarette; and they were not – as we were – beaten with the butt of their warders‘ rifles, as soon as they would stop working for two seconds, to take breath.“
This statement matches that of several German POWs held in the Rhine Meadows Camps, as quoted in my Voices from the past series.
She introduced me the two men – and a third one, who was standing in the background, and whom I had not noticed.
„Longin B. – we call him ‚Leo‘ – former Oberscharführer S.S., released from Werl along with me, ten days ago; Heinz G., another S.S. comrade, released from Werl last year; Erich X., for long years a prisoner of the Russians.“
I can never forget Hertha’s introductions: „Hans F., Sturmführer S.S., just released from Landsberg; Lydia V., sentenced to death by the French, and now just released from Fresnes; Leo B., sentenced to death by the British, and released from Werl at the same time as I, i.e., on Thursday before last; Anni H., one of us in the Belsen Trial, released from Werl in 1951; our ‚Muki,‘ released from Werl three years ago, author of Gold in the Furnace and Defiance – our story – and… you know me, Hertha E., former overseer in Belsen…“ […]
Then, I remembered that Leo B. had spent over seven months in the ‚death cell,‘ waiting to be hanged, before the British had commuted his sentence to one of life-long imprisonment.
(Savitri Devi: Pilgrimage)
It is not known how many of the women from Salzgitter-Bad lived to see the end of the war. The camp commanders were SS-Obersturmführer Peter Wiehage and, from the end of 1944, SS-Untersturmführer Longin Bladowski. Bladowski was later sentenced to twelve years in prison. It is not known how long he was imprisoned.
The latter is perfectly well known, if you put all the information together. Longin Bladowski was first sentenced to death, then pardoned; he was finally released on 7 May 1953. „Death sentence commuted to 12 years‘ imprisonment, released in 1953“ is noted in the Bundesarchiv under the signature ALLPROZ 8/47. (The BArch holds several files on his person, including the trial file). Savitri Devi, who met him on 17 May 1953, reports in Pilgrimage that he was released from Werl prison together with Hertha Ehlert, whose date of release is actually mentioned on Wikipedia.
(It’s interesting, by the way, to compare the English and the German Wikipedia entry that paint very different pictures of Hertha Ehlert.)
Longin Bladowski and Hertha Ehlert were transferred to the Fischerhof convalescent home near Uelzen immediately after their release from prison – I assume today’s youth hostel, which writes so shamefacedly on its website: „The „Fischerhof“ in the Uelzen city forest looks back on a varied history and today serves as a modern youth hostel.“ (https://www.jugendherberge.de/jugendherbergen/uelzen-319/portraet/)
„Varied history“ („wechselvolle Geschichte“) usually is code for „something connected with the Nazis happened here“. And indeed, Franz Widmann’s book (that I will talk about in my upcoming blog post on Gerhard Wasner) contains what is most likely a reference to the Fischerhof:
In Uelzen I was sent to a military hospital in a forest outside the town. It was a former leisure hotel.
(Franz Widmann: Mit „Totenkopf“ und „Frundsberg“ an Ost- und Westfront)
„By the way: do you know why there were – why there had to be – reprisals at Oradour? Most people don’t know. But three persons, of whom two were French, told me in 1946. It is, in fact, one of the first things I heard on my return to Europe. It seems that the ‚heroes‘ of the French résistance had caught hold of twelve German officers, tied them up, and pressed them to death in an enormous wine press … And there is something more, which a Frenchman told me last year: it seems that they also caught hold of three S.S. men, tied them by their feet to a motor-lorry, and, after thus, dragging them along the road for a few kilometres, hung them on crooks – thrusting the latter through the flesh under their chins, before a butcher’s shop in or near the village. I was told that they were still alive when men from the the S.S. division [Das] Reich passed by and saw them. Who would not have burnt down the village after such horrors?“ […]
I spent the whole next day in conversations with comrades, in particular with Lydia V. and with the young man from the Oradour Trial. I asked the latter whether the horrors that had been related to me were true.
„Only too true,“ replied he.
„And why did you not, then, mention such facts in your trial?“ enquired I. „Why was there not a word spoken about them by any of you or your lawyers?“
„We were not allowed to allude to them directly or indirectly,“ answered the former S.S. soldier. „We were bluntly told that, if we did so, we should, thereby, merely impair the possibility of saving our lives. Those who knew they had no chances of saving their lives – and who did not care – (like Boos) did not speak for fear their boldness would be punished upon us.“
(Savitri Devi: Pilgrimage)
„Ne remuez pas tout ça. Moi, j’ai donné à l’époque ma promesse à Nussy-Saint-Saëns que je ne parlerai jamais“, nous dit-il en référence au magistrat qui présidait au procès de Bordeaux à l’issue duquel il fut condamné à mort. Cette remarque contient une information capitale. „Nussy-Saint-Saëns voulait la paix, explique-t-il, par égard pour les survivants. Il m’a regardé, et nous nous sommes compris. Certains points n’ont tout simplement pas été évoqués, et c’était bien comme ça. Et l’histoire, on me l’a mise sur le dos, à moi. Mais j’ai eu des conditions de détention très agréables en France. J’étais sous bonne garde et, avant tout, bien protégé.“
[„Don’t stir things up. I gave my promise to Nussy-Saint-Saëns at the time that I would never speak“, he says, referring to the magistrate who presided over the Bordeaux trial at the end of which he was sentenced to death. This remark contains crucial information. „Nussy-Saint-Saëns wanted peace,“ he explains, „for the sake of the survivors. He looked at me, and we understood each other. Certain points were simply not mentioned, and that was fine. And the story, it was put on my back, on me. But I had very nice conditions of detention in France. I was well guarded and, above all, well protected.“]
At the Fischerhof, Savitri also met Erwin Degenhardt, one of the accused at the Oradour trial. His co-defendant, the „Alsacian [Georges René] Boos who so boldly proclaimed his allegiance to Germany and his faith in Adolf Hitler to the end“ and, to Savitri, deserved „to be called a German“, actually became a German citizen after his death sentence was commuted and his subsequent release in 1959.* He died in 2015.
* Strictly speaking, as a member of the SS Boos already held dual citizenship, a fact that was put to brilliant use by the „Breda Seven“ and bold German judges. (Dutch SS men, by the way, were denied Dutch citizenship by their own government, something that is not widely known.)
In June 1953, Savitri Devi moved from Nusse – in Pilgrimage, she reveals having unsuccessfully tried to earn money there by working in the beetroot fields – to Emsdetten, Westfalia.(1) She probably lived at first with the family of Leokardia „Katja“ U., according to the plan outlined in Pilgrimage, but there is no specific note of this on her Emsdetten registration form. In August 1954 she moved in with the Miethe family (she mentions their daughter Henriette „Henny“ in Long-Whiskers and the Two-Legged Goddess) on Hembergener or, as it’s officially called today, Hemberger Damm 115. This was also where, on 16 December 1954, her room was searched by German police and the manuscript of Pilgrimage confiscated. Sadly, no official documentation of that episode appears to have survived; neither the Emsdetten town archive nor the state archive of North Rhine-Westfalia holds any file on it, and there was no press covering of it either.
Savitri Devi left the country for a few weeks sometime in early 1956 (perhaps visiting France) before returning to Germany, staying „with various acquaintances“ and finally settling down in Hannover, living first at Lisbethstraße 6 with a Frau Melchior (perhaps „Frau M.“ mentioned in Long-Whiskers), then at Lisbethstraße 9A(2) and later in a garden colony in Ricklingen.
She taught French at a language school, but I haven’t been able to establish which one. It was not the Volkshochschule in any case, the „usual suspect“.
Those are the snippets that I’ve managed to gather from still existing documentation. There is certainly more – Savitri Devi’s Hannover registration form, for example, that I haven’t yet gained access to; the stories of Heinrich Blume and Longin Bladowski; eyewitnesses from Emsdetten, and much more. So I hope that this collection will only be the first of a multi-part series.
(1) According to her Emsdetten registration form, which matches the description in Pilgrimage. Her Nusse registration form lists the date of her move to Emsdetten as 1 August 1954, to Grevener Damm 115. Grevener Damm runs parallel to Hemberger Damm. I suspect there was some mix-up when Savitri Devi finally remembered to register her change of address one year after the fact. In Nusse, she had lived in the household of Johannes Perwitz.
She registered in Nusse on 26 May 1953. Since she had no permanent address in Germany before that date, she gave her last place of residence as Athens, „Stratiotok on Syndermou no. 4“. (Someone proficient in Greek might want to look that up.) E-mail Amtsarchiv Sandesneben to author, 7 November 2022.
(2) Stadtarchiv Emsdetten, Meldekarte Portas, Maximiani
A litte-known story in most countries is that of the „Forest Brothers“, partisans or guerrillas in the Baltic states in and after the Second World War. Even less known is the fact that some former German soldiers who managed to escape from Soviet POW camps fought alongside them.
In 1958, a book with the somewhat sensational title Der Wolf von Laekvere, written by Hermann Behr after the recollections of „Franz Sch.“, one of those German Forest Brothers, was released in Germany for the first time. It was reissued as Die Waldbrüder in 2010 with a foreword chronicling the life of the protagonist and the publishing history of the book. According to it, all names and some details have been altered to protect the identity of „Franz“´ Estonian comrades and helpers. Even his own name is an alias.
The book was translated into Swedish (Jag flydde för ryssen) and French (Le Loup de Laekvere) in 1959.
On that eighteenth of March, the crushing blow against the kulaks, the „grey barons“, as they were also derogatorily called by the Reds, began. It was a blow against the most bitter opponents of collectivisation, which was now to be driven forward with force. In the morning, between four and six o’clock, the rebellious villages were surrounded. They forced their way into the huts and chased the surprised, scared to death inhabitants out of their beds. The trucks had already driven up. The freight wagons were already waiting at the railway stations. Each family was allowed – the only concession – to take half a barrel of possessions with them. The wind carried the tears, the tears of mothers, children and old people, far into the country. Only the world learned nothing of these new torments of a maltreated little people. Nor did the world learn what was happening in Koeru, a large village between Simuna and Paide. No one cried there. There, the peasants had rallied together and put the deportation squads to flight. Battle songs from the liberation days of nineteen were sung, when the country had been cleansed of the Bolsheviks in twelve days with the help of Finnish volunteers. Tanks were brought in from Paide. They knocked over the huts as if they were made of cardboard, but they were empty. The people of Koeru had meanwhile entrenched themselves in the forest. It took days to break their resistance there. […]
The deportations lasted until the first days of April. But many a freight wagon was blown open before it could leave the station. The prisoners, who had already reckoned that they would never see their homeland again, rushed out into the open, first in disbelief, then stunned with joy. Trucks with deportees were suddenly stopped by roadblocks. The forest spat fire and the feet of those who had regained their freedom trampled over the corpses of the soldiers guarding them. Small, well-armed groups appeared everywhere. They stayed the power’s arm wherever there was an opportunity. And he felt the bites, the red bear… […]
By seven o’clock in the evening we had, via Porkuni and Asamalla, reached the county town, which stretched worm-like along the valley of the Seljajögi and was overlooked by the ruins of an order castle that looked like a large tooth stump. The town had about fifteen thousand inhabitants. But the number seemed to have doubled now, in September forty-nine, since there was a famine in the Ukraine and thousands of hollow-eyed, Russian-speaking ghosts had flocked to the newly created Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, believing that no five- or ten-year plan and no collective farm economy had yet turned abundance into scarcity here. Invalids from the former Red Army squatted on the street corners, pointing to their arm and leg stumps and begging passers-by for alms. They still wore their tattered earth-brown uniforms from the war. Some had their chests full of tin, which they had traded for their healthy limbs. To an ungrateful fatherland, however, it was worth no more than two hundred and fifty rubles a month at the most, on which a man could neither live nor die. Most of these wretches wore linen bags around their shoulders, which they filled with the gifts of pity. The Estonians derisively called them „pocket gophers“ for this reason. If no one dared to open their mouths because they did not want to put their heads under the guillotine themselves – these miserable, embittered „invaliids“ enjoyed a kind of fool’s freedom. Their mouths dripped with denigration of the leading Muscovites as well as of the whole system, and it was astonishing what forbearance the authorities showed towards them. The police did not intervene. This could only have the purpose of giving the impression that these poor wretches were all deranged, whereas it was the truth that they were proclaiming. […]
And then they played „Argonnerwald…“, in the middle of red Estonia, in the year forty-nine, and the whole pub roared along, because they all still knew the song from the German occupation.
I’ve always been a bit sceptical of Mark Felton, but I want to be fair: maybe he meant it sarcastically; maybe he was trying to portray the views of the times; maybe he meant exactly what he said. In any case, I’m pissed off – British arrogance at its best.
(His Bormann series is still worth watching.)
One of the most sobering visits in recent months has been my trip to Kiel (pronounced „keel“, which I still think is funny for a port city). I was there on research for my Savitri Devi project. But let me first say that I absolutely love Schleswig-Holstein, the federal state Kiel belongs to. I haven’t been in the Kieler Förde region before, but of course I immediately fell in love. It is beautiful, and before butt-ugly modern architecture sprang up around the bay it must have been stunning beyond belief. I actually moved around mostly by boat, not having a driver’s license; and that seems the easiest way to get around anyhow. There is a shipping line that functions just as normal public transport in the bay area.
First, I disembarked at Möltenort to visit the U-boat memorial. In my great naiveté I expected a short side quest before moving on to the big target.
It was a gut punch. Listed there in an „underground“ (open to the sky) semi-circle on bronze(?) plaques are names upon names upon names of U-boaters lost at sea or in harbour from both world wars. You walk into that semi-circle, and it just hits you. The rows seem endless.
The memorial, much bigger than I expected not only in terms of those names, is crowned by a German Eagle (beautiful) and very well maintained. I’ve seen war memorials and war graves that are a disgrace, abandoned and apparently hoped to be forgotten. Not this one!
There is a chapel-like room on each end of the semi-circle (or at the beginning of it, more precisely) containing wreaths, not just from German organisations but from at least one private British citizen. (We’ll return to the British later on!)
After leaving a donation for the upkeep of the memorial, I was off on foot along the coastline toward the marine memorial at Laboe. You can’t miss it.
Though still a memorial to the fallen seamen during the world wars, today it is also a place of remembrance of all those lost at sea. Underneath the museum hall, there is the hall of remembrance. I didn’t take any pictures as it is really dark down there and I thought it disrespectful to use the flash. While I get the idea behind the non-lighting – it symbolises the dark waters of the sea, the „sailor’s grave“ (there is a small blueish skylight in the middle of the round hall, the last glimpse of the world above, so to speak, as you sink) – , it is also quite a pity as you can hardly read the plaques and letters and see the photos left by families and friends. There is a beautiful corner where British visitors have left their iconic poppy-decorated messages. Like I said, this not only a place of remembrance for the war dead, but also for those lost at sea more recently. All around the rotunda, flags from all over the world have been placed. It’s a sobering experience but respectfully done, and I highly recommend visiting it if you’re ever in the area.
And though I’m not usually prone to taking photos of industrial installations (yawn), I leave you with this, just because on my way to Kiel I had read in Victor Gollancz’s excellent book In Darkest Germany (1947):
It is proposed [by the British occupation authorities] to destroy the quays and deep-water berths of Kiel harbour. If this is done, not only will Kiel cease, as it should cease, to be a naval base: it will cease to be a harbour at all, and no ships of any size will be able to call there. Now the Kiel authorities, with commendable pluck, are planning to build up a whole series of light industries: but they are badly placed geographically, and will certainly fail if their harbour, which is the natural outlet, is lost to them. The highest British authorities put the resultant unemployment at 150,000 out of a total population of 250,000. The reason, again, is Potsdam. But I have excellent authority that the Russians, far from destroying, are improving the harbours in their zone – which marches with Schleswig-Holstein.