German Jewish Family’s Experiences under Hitler part 1
This is the first of three extracts from the fascinating family history of Phil Howells that he has kindly sent to me and allowed me to reproduce here. It provides an invaluable insight into the social history of the era in which Edmund Forster was raised and worked.
Adolf Hitler on Education.
Quoted from Max von der GRÜN’s Wie war das Eigentlich – Kindheit und Jugend im Dritten Reich. (See Book List above. My translation appears below.) ‘Am 1.12.1936 wurde das Gesetz über die Hitlerjugend erlassen. In §2 hiess es: “Die gesamte deutsche Jugend ist ausser im Elternhaus und Schule in der Hitlerjugend körperlich, geistig und sittlich im Geiste des Nationalsozialismus zum dienst vom Volk und der Volksgemeinschaft zu erziehen.”
‘Das bedeutete die totale Erfassung der Jugend in Verbände und Gliederungen, wenig später präzisierte Hitler seine Vorstellungen über Jugenderziehung noch weitgehender.
Adolf HITLER ‘“…Meine Pädagogik ist hart. Das Schwache muss weggehämmert werden. In meinen Ordungsburgen wird eine Jugend heranwachsen, vor der sich die Welt erschrecken wird. Eine gewalttätiger, herrische, unerschrockene, grausame Jugend will ich. Jugend muss das alles sein. Schmerzen muss sie ertragen. Es darf nichts Schwaches und Zärtliches an ihr sein. Das freie, herrliche Raubtier muss erst wieder aus ihren Augen blitzen. Stark und schön will ich meine Jugend. Ich werde sie in allen Leibesübungen aussbilden lassen. Ich will eine athletische Jugend. Das ist das Erste und Wichtigste. So merze ich die Tausende von Jahren der menschlichen Domestikation aus. So habe ich das reine, edle Material der Natur vor mir. So kann ich das Neue schaffen.
‘“Ich will keine intellektuelle Erziehung. Mit Wissen verderbe ich mir die Jugend. Am liebsten liesse ich sie nur das lernen, was sie ihrem Spieltriebe folgend sich freiwillig aneigen. Aber Beherrschung müssen sie lernen. Sie sollen mir in den schwierigsten Proben die Todesfurcht besiegen lernen. Das is die Stufe der heroischen Jugend. Aus ihr wächst die Stufe des Freien, des Menchen, des Gottesmenschen. In meinen Ordensburgen, wird der schöne, sich selbst gebietende Gottesmensch als kultisches Bild stehen, und die Jugend auf die kommende Stufe der männliche Reife vorbereiten…..”
‘Aber die Maske liess Hitler erst in seiner Rede in Reichenberg am 2.Dezember 1938 endgültig fallen.
Adolf HITLER ‘“Diese Jugend, die lernte ja nichts anderes als deutsch denken, deutsch handeln. Und wenn nun dieser Knabe und dieses Mädchen mit ihren zehn Jahren in unsere Organisationen hineinkommen und dort nun so oft zum erstenmal überhaupt eine frische Luft bekommen und fühlen, dann kommen sie vier Jahre später vom Jungvolk in die Hitlerjugend, und dort behalten wir sie wieder vier Jahre, und dann geben wir sie erst recht nicht zurück in die Hände unserer alten Klassen- und Standeserzeuger, sondern dann nehmen wir sie sofort in die Partei oder in die Arbeitsfront, in die SA oder die SS, in das NSKK (= NS Kraftfahrerkorps) und so weiter. Und wenn sie dort zwei Jahre oder anderthalb Jahre sind und noch nicht ganz Nationalsozialisten geworden sein sollten, dann kommen sie in den Arbeitsdienst und werden dort wieder sechs und sieben Monate geschliffen, alle mit einem Symbol, dem deutschen Spaten. Und was dann nach sechs oder sieben Monaten noch an Klassenbewustsein oder Standesdünkel, da oder da noch vorhanden sein sollte, das übernimmt dann die Wehrmacht zur weiteren Behandlung auf zwei Jahre. Un wenn sie dann nach zwei oder drei oder vier Jahren zurückkehren, dann nehmen wir sie, damit sie auf keinen Fall rückfällig werden, sofort wieder in SA, SS und so weiter. Und sie werden nicht mehr frei, ihr ganzes Leben.”
‘Zynischer ging es kaum. Mit anderen Worten hiess das: Ich brauche Kanonenfutter, Soldaten für die Eroberung Europas. Diese Jugend sollte nicht zür Menschlichkeit erzogen werden, sie sollte nur so viel wissen, um später andere Völker unterjochen zo können. Das war Hitlers einfaches “pädagogisches” Rezept.’
Translation by PH
My brief: When translating, a rather rare occupation nowadays, I occasionally use my dictionary as a Thesaurus, wondering whether there is a more apt word available, rather than the one which has come into my aging head. Translating is exacting enough, but when one comes across Nazi “thinking” and their own invention of words, or appropriation of established words for that party’s own political purposes, one is exercised even more. Not infrequently this is indicated in the dictionary with Nat.Soc.next to the word in question. An example in a passage below, by Adolf Hitler, is the word Ordensburgen, being the plural of Ordensburg. Ordensbruder, or brother of an order, is another word for monk, or one who belongs to an order. Burg means castle. Ordensburg therefore means castle of an order, such as was the case with, for example, the medieval Teutonic knights. The Nazis purloined the word as a title for their colleges used for training political leaders. No doubt Hitler, in the passage quoted below, used the word in this sense. By adopting words illustrating a tradition of long standing, they attempted to insert their new and dubious institutions into the country’s already existing and respected culture.
I have inserted a few extra commas in the passages by the Führer (= Leader) in order to make the translation easier to read.
Max von der Grün writes: ‘On the 1.12.1936, the act regarding the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) was issued. §2 stated: “Outside the home and school, the entire German youth in the HitlerYouth is to be educated physically, spiritually and ethically for service to the people, and the nation as a whole.”
‘That meant the total inclusion of youth in clubs and organizations. Shortly afterwards, Hitler classified precisely his concept regarding youth-education, developing it still further.
Adolf HITLER: ‘“….My pedagogy is severe. The weak must be hammered away. In my training schools a youth would develop in front of which the world would be terrified. I will have a powerful, lordly, unshockable, fierce youth. Youth must be all of that. They must be able to bear pain. There must be nothing weak or tender about them. The free, magnificent, predatory animal must again flash from their eyes. I want my youth strong and beautiful. I will have them trained in all manner of body-exercises. I want an athletic youth. That is of primary importance. Thus I eradicate the thousands of years of human domestication. Thus I have the clean, noble material of nature before me. Thus I can create the new.
‘“I will not have intellectual education. With knowledge I spoil the youth for myself. Rather I would let them learn only that to which their play instinct subsequently freely inclines them. But they must learn control. For me they must learn by the severest tests, to conquer fear of death. That is the step to heroic youth. Out of it develops the step to freedom, to human people, to Godlike people. In my training schools, the beautiful, self-controlled God-person is offered as cult ikon, and youth prepares itself for the coming step to manly maturity…”
‘But Hitler first let the mask fall conclusively in his speech on 2 December 1938 at Reichenberg.
Adolf HITLER: ‘“This youth, they learn nothing but to think German, to act German. And when now this boy and this girl, with their ten years, come into our organisation and now, as is often the case, for the first time in general receive and feel a breath of fresh air, then four years later they come from the Jungvolk (Young Folk) into the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth), and there we hold them again four years, and we don’t first give them back into the hands of our old class- and profession-creators, but we take them immediately into the Party, or into the Arbeitsfront (Labour-front), into the SS or the SA, into the NSKK (=NS Kraftfahrerkorps or National Socialist Motor-Driver Corps) and so on. And when they are there two years or one-and-a-half years and have not yet entirely become National Socialists, then they come into the Arbeitsdienst (Labour Service) and there they again undergo military-style training, all with a symbol, the German spade. And what then after six or seven months, class-consciousness or professional self-conceit, there or there is still supposed to exist, the armed services take over for further processing for two years. And when they return after two or three or four years, then in order that they in no way revert, we take them immediately into the SA, SS and so on. And they will never again be free during their whole lifetime.”’
Max von der Grün then continues:
‘It could not be more cynical. In other words it means, I need cannon-fodder, soldiers for the conquest of Europe. This youth should not be educated for humanity, it should only know enough in order, later, to subjugate other nations. That was Hitler’s simple “pedagogical” recipe.’
This is one of the foulest documents I have ever had to translate, and I had a few sad ones after World War 2, during the turmoil in Austria. While reading these passages from speeches by Hitler, I was very aware how narcissistic he was, with the sentences being continuously seeded with the first person: me, myself and I. It is clear he was playing out his fantasies, imagining himself to be the blond, athletic Godperson. Moreover, he attempted to make them real by vicariously exploiting German youth, and depriving them of their very souls. As the Thousand Year Reich crumbled after only twelve years, he used this youth, about whom he spoke, to extend the war, and his own miserable existence, by just a few more months. On that account, my 17 year old cousins, Wolfgang Kaumanns and Siegfried Feyerabend, were sent to stem the Russian advance. Both lost their lives.
Excerpt from Professor Gellately’s book, Backing Hitler.
Page 87. “A small incident from May 1941 may suggest how much changed about ‘law and order’ during the war. The report we have was that a police official in SS uniform, probably a member of the Gestapo, turned up in a senior high-school class in the Stuttgart area. He was there to explain the background of ‘shootings “because of resistance” one could read about from time to time in the press’. He said simply, that while courts worked well when hard evidence could be found, the police had to act when there was insufficient evidence. They knew how to recognise guilt and were not bound by rules of evidence as were judges, so that the police could become the proverbial judge, jury, and executioner. Lest students worry unduly, they were assured that the police did not execute anyone without ‘previously thoroughly examining’ the case. How the students might have reacted to this frank explanation of police justice is not mentioned by those who reported the event.
“That the police could explain unlawful executions to the public and expect to quiet any public reservations on the subject, speaks volumes about how Germany had been transformed since 1933.”
Nazi destruction of books and works of art. Many have heard of the books brought out of libraries in the universities and other establishments to be hurled into the flames of bonfires organised by the Nazis. One was lit in the forecourt of the main headquarters of the Berlin fire-brigade. An author whose work was being destroyed came to watch the conflagration. That was Erich KÄSTNER, who, in Britain, is mainly known for his children’s story, Emil and the Detectives. Von der Grün publishes a list of the authors concerned, some being of the calibre of Thomas MANN and Stefan ZWEIG.
Not everyone in the UK knows that painters and sculptors were forbidden to carry out their work. Emil NOLDE, for example, continued using watercolours which his friends secretly supplied. When the Gestapo raided his house, there was no smell of turpentine, which would have been the case had he used the oil medium. I mentioned this to a student from the Falmouth College of Arts. She blurted out, ‘But this is ridiculous!’ I told her that, for that remark alone, she and her family could have been arrested and sent to a concentration camp.
His work with other’s, such as the sculptor Barlach, were considered to be Entartete Kunst (Degenerative art). Thousands of works by internationally acclaimed painters were stripped from the walls of galleries and private houses They were destroyed, except some seven hundred, which Dr Josef Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister and Gauleiter for Berlin, sold secretly to obtain foreign currency to supply their rearmament program. At present, while the National Galerie in Berlin is being refurbished, the curator has kindly lent some of their paintings to the National Gallery in London. One is by Max Liebermann. As an old man, the Nazis forbade him to paint, the reason being, in his case, that he was Jewish. When asked his opinion about the order, Liebermann replied, “So viel kann ich unmöglich essen, wie ich erbrechen möchte.” (It is impossible for me to eat so much as I wish to vomit.) The painter died shortly afterwards.
I felt like this after reading the Hitler excerpts above.
Die Weisse Rose -The White Rose
This is an appropriate moment, I think, to mention three young people, as they were then in 1943, and for whom I have great regard. Hans SCHOLL, his sister, Sophie SCHOLL, and their friend Christoph PROBST were students at Munich University who, with others, founded the White Rose movement against the Hitler tyranny, and for which they paid with their lives.
This is a quotation from Martin GILBERT’s Second World War, published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London:
‘16 February 1943. ‘In Munich that day, stunned citizens saw the words “Freedom” and “Down with Hitler” painted in large white letters on a wall in one of the city’s main streets. Two days later, at Munich University, anti-Nazi leaflets were scattered in the main entrance hall. “Germany’s name will remain disgraced for ever”, one sentence in the leaflet read, “unless German youth rises up immediately, takes revenge, and atones – smashes its torturers, and builds a new, spiritual Europe.”
‘Those responsible for the leaflet, Hans Scholl, his twenty-one-year-old sister Sophie and their friend Christoph Probst, were members of a small group which called itself “White Rose”, a rare dissenting voice in Nazi Germany. They were soon arrested and brought to trial. Their judge was Roland FREISLER (say Frysler), President of the People’s Court. The three were sentenced to death by decapitation, and guillotined. Before putting his head under the guillotine, Hans Scholl called out, with a cry that was heard throughout the prison, “Long live Liberty!”
‘Within Munich University, the White Rose had been encouraged by Kurt HÜBER, a professor who shared its anti-Nazi views. Later he also was arrested and executed, together with two other members of the group, Willi GRAF and Alexander SCHMORRELL, both of whom had served on the Eastern Front in 1942, and had been shocked at what they had seen there of the barbarity against the Jews, as Hans Scholl had been. Scholl, as a gesture of protest, had shaken the hands of Jews in cattle-trucks at railway stations in eastern Poland.’
The English newspaper The Guardian, dated 8 September 1998, carried a large obituary and photograph of Inge AICHER-SCHOLL, the elder sister of Sophie and Hans. The Nazis had a system of arresting the extended family in cases like these. Inge was not implicated with The White Rose movement, but she had to serve six months in prison. After the war, she, and her husband, Otl AICHER, another anti-Nazi, set about promoting The Other Germany. She commenced by building a school room, using materials she had frequently carried there on her bicycle. Lecturers had to collect an electric-light bulb from her, then after their talk, return it to her. Such were the post-war conditions in that country, which my aunt Reni did not survive, and with Grandfather’s life only being saved by Mother bringing him to England.
Later, Inge and Otl opened a College of Design in Ulm in 1953, hoping to carry on the Bauhaus tradition, which the Nazis had destroyed.
He was killed in a car-accident a few months before her own death on 4 September 1998. She was born 11 August 1917.
My maternal grandparents, #5 Philipp and Johanna Kaumanns take a winter stroll by the Rhine. They are walking up-stream from their retirement-dwelling which was opposite the Hotel Dreesen, seen across the river, to the left of the tree on the left. It was from this hotel that Hitler departed in June 1934 for Bavaria in order to have his friend and colleague, Ernst Röhm, the commander of the Nazi SA ‘Brownshirts’, murdered. Hitler and Chamberlain signed the Godesberg Agreement at Dreesen. This led to the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and its invasion.
My first wife (from Vienna) Lilo, and her murdered relations. (Hebra, Lieben, Laube)
Mentioning Freisler reminds me of another case, that of von HEBRA, to which I have already referred earlier in the English part of my history.
Lilo, my Viennese first wife, is also shown in photos with relatives in the previous issue, Book 2 Part 2c, including the then (1950) Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Vienna University, Fritz LIEBEN, her uncle by marriage. (Reprinted in Volume 3, Section 49, regarding #3 Götz KAUMANNS.) Fritz was a Jew. He escaped from Vienna first to France, then to New York, where he spent the war as a laboratory assistant in Mount Sinai Hospital, living in a bedsit on Riverside Drive. He had warned his brother, a Viennese banker, to get out of Austria, but he refused as he could not just abandon his bank. He made the excuse that all would be well as he had done business with Goering, the Nazi minister. Later he had to flee to Hungary, where the Germans caught up with him, and put him to death.
Fritz’s daughter, Verena, who was married to Heinz LAUBE, at that time (1950) a junior secretary at the Austrian Embassy in London, is shown in a photo playing with my young cousin Goetz KAUMANNS and a dog on my mother’s lawn at Hutton, near Brentwood, Essex. In due course, Heinz became the Austrian ambassador in Turkey where, in 1978, Verena and her child were assassinated. This was a political murder, a blow against an Austrian representative whose Chancellor had been assisting Jews emigrating from Russia via Austria on their way to Israel. Their killer, SENER YIGIT, aged 33, was executed in 1983 by strangulation, the Turkish method.
Lilo is certainly unique among the people I know, or have known, in having two uncles-by-marriage whose brothers were executed by the Nazis.
Lilo’s uncle, Edouard von HEBRA, and his wife, their son and daughter-in-law, lived in an Alpine-style wooden house near the Attersee in the Salzkammergut, Austria, where, in 1949, Lilo and I spent the first week of our honeymoon, before moving on to Salzburg.
Just in passing, Alyosha, the son, was an engineer, and he very cleverly constructed an observatory in the attic. By winding a handle, the two sides of a section of the roof (it had wooden shingles) opened to reveal the sky. His telescope gave a very clear picture of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons. This was the first time I had seen them. Now, of course, our satellites make trips out there to photograph the smaller ones at close quarters. We can even observe the 300 Km high ejections of dust from the many volcanic craters on the small moon Io.
Edi Hebra’s grandfather had been an eminent physician at Vienna University. He created quite a stir among his colleagues, when he infested himself with the then incurable scabies, later applying a remedy to eradicate the creatures. A bust was erected to his memory. The Nazis, seeing the name Hebra, thought it was Jewish, and removed the monument, but later, after a great deal of fuss, it was replaced.
Before the Anschluss with Hitler’s Germany in 1938, one of Edi’s two brothers – his first name eludes me at the moment – used to heckle speakers at Nazi meetings. An example:- “They have said we are second class!” the speaker would rant. (Many tried to copy Hitler.) “That is not so….” Then von Hebra would interrupt, shouting, “You are right! You are not second class! You are third class!”
Within a day or so of the German occupation of Austria, Heinrich Himmler had 67,000 people arrested, including von Hebra. Once a month, Edi used to take his brother a packet of comforts. That is, until after the 1944 bomb attack on Hitler, when, instead of the prison authorities taking the parcel for his brother, he was handed a box containing his brother’s ashes. He had been guillotined. It was in this connection that Lilo first mentioned the name FREISLER to me, he apparently having ordered Hebra’s death, but I haven’t checked this.
Roland FREISLER. A former Communist, Freisler had been trained in Russia. He constantly humiliated eminent prisoners, such as making them stand in court holding their trousers up, their braces or belts having been removed. He behaved more like a vicious prosecutor than a judge. It was rumoured that he had been killed by the German resistance, but later I heard that he died from an air-raid bomb. I had not researched his end, but have just read in the interesting epilogue to ‘Missie’ Vassiltchikov’s diaries that Roland Freisler was hearing the case against Dr Fabian von SCHLABRENDORFF, a renowned member of the resistance against Hitler. It was the 3 February 1945. Due to winter conditions, there had been no air-raids on Berlin for a couple of months. Suddenly one of the heaviest occurred, causing 2000 deaths and 120,000 made homeless. It worked out at one death per tonne of bombs dropped. One of the bombs set the Gestapo headquarters in the Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse on fire, while another hit the People’s Court, where Freisler, together with the prisoner, officials and the public were sheltering in the air-raid cellar. Freisler, still clutching the brief against the prisoner, was found to be dead, a beam having fallen on him. This saved Schlabrendorff’s life. He spent the rest of the war (three months) in concentration camps, but survived.
BBC Television has, on occasions, shown Freisler in action in the Volksgericht or People’s Court. This film was originally intended by the Nazis to be distributed as part of their terror campaign, but even they realised it would be counter-productive, and it was not shown.
Whenever Edi met the village midwife, he would shout, “Zurück stopfen!” – “Stuff ‘em back!” The editor of a new magazine invited his readers to suggest pictures they would like to see. Edi sent a postcard asking for photos of hanged Gauleiters. (Nazi District Leaders.)