German Jewish Family’s Experiences under Hitler part 2
This is the second extract 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.
Sachsenhausen Concentration-camp Account
Incidentally, the concentration-camps were expected, as far as possible, to be self-financing, consequently they sometimes embraced a factory for employing their slave-labourers.
Von der Grün, on page 220, gives a statement of account for the KZ-Sachsenhausen:
In the spring time, in the spring time,
The only pretty ring-time,
Hey ding a ding a ding,
Hey ding a ding a ding,
Sweet lovers love the spring.
Slave Labour. It seems that every ‘great’ civilization, from ancient times on, has had to resort to slave-labour. The Nazi period saw it happen in Germany. The British bought slaves from the native chiefs on the West Coast of Africa, and shipped them to the West Indies in atrocious conditions, chained down in low-ceilinged holds. The London docks were also dug out manually by ‘slaves’. These were the unpaid, half starved English convicts, who had probably stolen in the first place in order to provide for their families. Their wives often had to resort to prostitution to feed their children. The only difference between their conditions and those of Stalin’s prisoners in the Gulags was that England did not have such severe winters. There were, however, those who could not cope, and placed their arm on a railway track to sever it. A one-armed man could not use a pick and spade.
I was reminded of this when reading Antony Beevor’s book Stalingrad. The Russian special snipers’ unit had more volunteers than they could use. They were specially trained to work in pairs. Two men, wearing white overalls as camouflage, would take up positions as near to the enemy as possible. One would search for a victim with a telescope, while the other had a rifle. Whether that also had telescopic sights, I do not know. The German soldiers knew about these men, and in desperation, when they could no longer stand the conditions, would hold a hand above their cover, hoping that it might be shot. An SIW (self inflicted wound) was punishable by death, but they hoped to escape the penalty if this was counted as a wound from the enemy.
The conditions included hunger in arctic temperatures, masses of lice, no washing facilities, finding their frost-bitten toes missing in the morning due to mice having eaten them, the masses of piled up, frozen bodies unable to be buried (including the many who were executed by the SS and the Feldgendarmerie) and wounded men left on trucks to die in the open as the medical units had no more room for them. If they were away from buildings, many, including those with dysentery, tried to survive by packing together in open dugouts. Due to the snipers, they dared not show anything above ground level. Those who were able, defecated onto shovels and hurled it over the rim of the trench. When men knew that they were in a position to move back from the front, then, as described above, some attempted to get their hand wounded by the enemy.
In this work, at times I have described how the western European idea of justice being administered by courts strictly adhering to the rule of law governing submitted evidence, broke down in Nazi Germany. (Shown by Haffner – see bibliography). In 1933, the party immediately scrapped the German legal system as it had been known, and substituted their own “law”. This worsened during World War 2, when even that was not observed. The police set up their own public gallows. My grandfather was at Königswinter, not far from Cologne, where such arbitrary murders were carried out.
Our system of government, and its attendant system of justice, has been hard won during the centuries. The Nazi events in Germany show us how easily, and wilfully, such a constitution can suddenly be destroyed. It can also be destroyed by people not realizing this, with their negligence a contribution. The young who do not vote, or take an interest in the government of their country, are inviting these conditions.
When I was aged 75, I wrote in this work a list of historical events, using my then lifespan as a measure going back in time. The final one which I calculated brought me back to the death of King Henry VIII in 1547. That was only six of that lifespan away. I thought I would employ that method again when recently I discovered, in the 18th century, that the English were still burning women at the stake. Men were hanged for forging coins, but women were burnt. The incineration of females had originally been due to a sense of modesty on the part of the male law-givers. Men were often hanged, drawn and quartered. One could not decently do that to a woman, so they burnt them instead.
A woman put to death in this manner in March 1789, and for this offence of coining, was Christian MURPHY, aged nineteen. She was the last, as an Act of Parliament in 1790 repealed the law allowing this form of execution. (My thanks to criminologist Stewart EVANS, my niece Rosemarie’s husband, for obtaining the date for me.) I am now aged 81, so this means the execution occurred just over two-and-a-half times my present lifetime back. My great-grandfather, #6 Daniel HOWELLS, the Welshman from Cilycwm, Carmarthenshire, was born in 1827, just thirty-eight years after Murphy’s death.
Next to ‘conspiracy-theory’, the favourite excuse of the English is, ‘Oh, that was a long time ago.’ When measured in terms of my own lifespan, I do not accept that. For example, the burning of women, the frequently foul conditions of transportation to the colonies of men and women sentenced for petty crimes, and the all too often starvation situation when they arrived there, the savage cat-o’-nine-tails flogging of our soldiers and seamen, the convict dock-excavations in London, when some placed their arms on railway lines as a self-inflicted wound to escape the conditions, the West African killings and plundering of works of art by British officers, the Boer War concentration camps where women and children starved to death, the Amritsar massacre of the Sikhs by General Dyer’s men, etc., was not ‘a long time ago.’
Perhaps young British people will say that it has nothing to do with them, just as the majority of present day Germans, who were not alive during the Nazi period, might think that that was ‘a long time ago’, and has nothing to do with them. (There are signs in modern Germany that they are now facing their past. The Jewish museum in Berlin is one of them.) Unfortunately, most human beings do not seem to learn from history, and go on repeating the same mistakes throughout the centuries. In several countries we see emerging neo-fascist groups. Minorities? Yes, but remember Hitler’s party was one once..
MY RELATIVES VOTE NAZI.
During the earlier part of this century, my relatives in England and Germany were not anti-black as such. It was part of the order of affairs at the time, that the white man was the colonial ruler, and blacks were the workers in the empires. Naturally they did not mix socially. No thought was given to the matter. It was simply the status quo. In 1914, when Father and Grandfather were interned in Ruhleben Camp at Spandau, the Germans set aside a fenced-off area for coloured people. The thought of putting blacks and whites together was just ‘not done’. A white man would not treat his worst white enemy by caging him with coloured people. Not at all PC (politically correct) as we would say today. A notion like PC simply did not exist among the middle classes. It had not been invented.
There seemed to have been an anti-semitic feeling in Germany, but probably in the days of the Pankow school opening in 1910 (described above), it was no stronger than in England during my youth. It did, however, increase post World War I with the influx of Jews from Poland and Russia. Mother’s friend Gerda SELPIN, wrote to her that her husband Richard REUTHER, the Opera coach was having trouble on that account in the early ‘twenties. Hitler took over a readymade anti-semitic situation, and built on it.
To return to Gellately again for a moment. His appraisal as to why the German people took Adolf Hitler to their hearts is very well and sympathetically outlined in the first few pages of his book Backing Hitler. He re-creates for me the atmosphere I sensed in my grandparents’ house.
Having pointed out that Germany was a modern mass-media society, including the use of the newspapers, cinema and radio (Hitler provided cheap wireless sets for the majority of the people), Gellately lists some of the items reported, and with which my grandparents would have agreed as being good for the country. For example, the boot-camp for delinquents, and a “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” approach to repeat offenders. Preventive arrests and the use of “work therapy” on criminals, drunks and layabouts, supposedly led to crime-free streets, a return to good order, and restoration of tried-and-true German values. All these matters were played up in the German press.
This is what most of my relations desired – not all that terrible, untidy, Weimar democracy, with its strife, unemployment, hooliganism, drunkeness, etc. This had been caused by the war, which was not lost due to the brave, undefeated German soldiers like their Lambert and other relations, but by a stab in the back coming from ‘Jewish Bolsheviks’. They wanted every aspect of their lives to have a Pankow Girls High School sense of order, a sense of real German values. Now, Adolf Hitler, himself a soldier from the war, and wearing the same Iron Cross First Class as was awarded to Lambert, was giving it to them. Moreover, they had the welfare state which the British did not acquire until after World War 2. Many of the British continued to live in loathsome, verminous slums.
Gellately shows how, at the beginning of Hitler’s ‘reign’, the concentration camps were looked on by many people as a temporary necessity for re-educating Communists. Fresh air and labour, would bring these people, who had been led astray, back to real German values. In 1933, there was a great hysteria about Communists, and their supposed attempt to take over the German nation. When people like the Kaumanns read that the Führer was getting the police to arrest these subversive people, like the great majority of people, they were delighted. The fact that the prisoners were being held by the police without trial, and were sent to concentration camps, did not seem to concern them. They completely failed to understand the collapse of the judicial system and its significance. The pfennig had not yet dropped. People did what people the world over do, they saw what they wanted to see, and what suited themselves directly.
The above showed that, when law and order broke down, the police not so gradually bypassed the judiciary. I still find it difficult to believe how the people were willing to allow this to happen. As the Professor points out, unlike the French and Russian revolutions, the Nazi revolution was almost by assent of the population. I am sure, had my grandparents been questioned about the breakdown of the judiciary and its control and influence, they would not have been able to give satisfactory answers. The same can be said about the people of my native country, England. We are governed by procedures which have developed over a period of a thousand years, including the sacrifices made by those who died during the various civil wars. Now we have those who wish to subordinate these procedures to a main European State, linking with people who have no feeling for them – in fact are completely unaware of the possibilty that such an ‘organically’ grown constitution could exist.
In 1933 in Berlin, just before the elections, Mother stood with her brother Lambert reading the names of the candidates posted on one of those cylindrical advertising display-stands. Uncle, in some despair, asked her which of the almost forty parties shown should one vote for. Aside from all these Splitterparteien (Splinter-parties), the two main parties which were literally slugging it out, were the Communists and the Nazis. The Kaumanns voted for the latter, who were against foreign ‘Bolschevissmus’, and those very left-wing indigenous ‘Reds’ of a type such as the late Rosa Luxemburg and the late Karl Liebknecht, who would destroy the middle classes. Moreover, Hitler was a nationalist and would make Germany ‘great’ again. They did not look too closely at atrocities committed against Jews and the SA leaders like the homosexual Ernst Röhm, or rather, they allowed the signifigance to pass over them. One must also remember that they were of a generation which had taken on board the massive casualties of WW1, and were used to accepting such statistics, which for self-preservation they had to let roll over themselves unheeded.
The mention of statistics brings to mind that in the now defunct Communist Soviet Union, the propaganda-machine of the Stalin-cult during that dictator’s reign of terror, demanded that every clever saying should be presented as coming from that man himself. A general (sorry – I have forgotten his name!) said, and it was then quoted as Stalin’s utterance, ‘When one man dies, it is a tragedy. When a million men die, it is statistics.’ Having, during World War 2, stepped over the dead and dying, which has been my unfortunate experience, I find the present day news-coverage of railway and airplane crashes so overdone, that it somehow lessons the sympathy, or even empathy, one might otherwise have for the event. This seems to me to be another symptom of the encapsulating shopping mall culture.
On the 15 Sept 2002, The Sunday Times published an article with the headline, “Russians find giant mass grave of 30,000 Stalin victims.” They were executed by the NKVD, the secret police of our World War 2 ally, Communist Soviet Russia. The deposit was on the outskirts of St Peterberg. Mark FRANCHETTI, writing from Moscow, mentions that the number of bodies might surpass the numbers contained by two other graves discovered in 1992. They were at Levashevo, near St Petersberg, and Butovo, near Moscow, and held 25,000 people each. The head of the NKVD was Nikolai ‘the bloody dwarf’YEZHOV, who is thought to have been responsible for the deaths of one million people between 1936 to 1938. In a previous book, I wrote that I thought the Nuremberg trials consisted of one set of gangsters sitting in judgement on another set of gangsters. I am still of that opinion.
Ernst Röhm. I was aged twelve when Ernst Röhm died, and I recall asking Mother what this was all about. As she explained the situation to me, there was a look of disquiet on her face, and I sensed an anxiety. The man was Hitler’s best friend, and he was betraying him. Therefore he had been shot. This information she had acquired from her parents. I expect their ‘genuine’ source was Dr Josef GOEBBELS, the Minister for Propaganda, whose massaging utterances were swallowed hook line and sinker by the majority of the German people, especially during Hitler’s early annexations and war successes..
I thought this rather odd. In England, you didn’t get shot if you betrayed a friend. But, you see, all countries before this present global age, were markedly different. That made travel much more interesting. It also meant I had to behave and speak differently in Opa’s and Oma’s house to the way I spoke and behaved in Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house. ‘Things’ were different in Germany to what they were at home in Essex. People wore different style clothing; in England the bath was cleaned with Vim, in Germany with Imi; in England red cabbage was used as a pickle, in Germany it was cooked (and I loved this with boiled bacon); in England we had Dundee cake, in Germany Pflaumenkuchen with whipped cream; in Germany, at Christmas, goose stuffed with prunes and apples was the equivalent of England’s turkey with sage-stuffing. I thought about these things, and my twelve-year old mind just added being shot for the betrayal of a friend to the German list, while in England you were not. I did, however, feel that it was a very severe punishment, and I continued to be puzzled by it.Walking in the centre between Adolf Hitler, on the left, and the black uniformed SS-officer on the right, is Ernst Röhm, the commander of the SA ‘Brownshirts’. One of his officers, in that uniform, walks to the left of him. The armband which all are wearing, has a white disc with a black swastika superimposed. The band itself, which photographs black, is actually a bright scarlet. The SS-officers, beneath the Nazi swastika badge at the top of their caps, have a silver death’s head. It was two SS-officers, in the police cell at Munich, who made Röhm remove his shirt before shooting him. Hitler had been staying at the Hotel Dreesen, just across the Rhine from my grandparents’ dwelling at Königswinter, when he left to go to Bavaria to supervise the killing of Röhm and his fellow SA-officers. As mentioned in the text, it was also at the Hotel Dreesen where Hitler and the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, four years later, signed the Godesberg Agreement. The Union Flag of Great Britain flew next to the Swastika Flag of Nazi Germany as the pair agreed to the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia.
There seems to be a strong likelihood that Adolf Hitler’s father, Aloïs, was the illegitimate son of Nathan ROTHSCHILD , the Viennese member of the Jewish banking family. The latter boasted how successful he was in seducing the servant girls, ‘jumping from bed to bed like a mountain goat.’ Adolf’s grandmother, Maria Anna Schicklgruber, a peasant cook employed in that household, became pregnant. Hitler’s English nephew, William Patrick Hitler, during the 1930s, dropped hints to journalists regarding the Jewish connection.
I have recently come across this story in full detail in Jim Marrs’s Rule by Secrecy, mentioned in my Book List. See his page 167 in the hardback edition. I do not have the disc space to give more information, but we know that Hitler mixed very much with members of the Jewish community during his Vienna days, that they purchased his paintings. This confirms my experience in 1944 in Naples, when I knew a Signora GRIFO, a Viennese who had married a Sicilian. She was Jewish. Her flat was furnished with her mother’s furniture and hangings. I noticed a small pen and wash drawing of an architectural subject, very competently done, hanging on her sitting room wall. I asked her whether she knew who the painter was. She said not, and was surprised when I pointed to the signature: A HITLER.
The name had once been Hiedler, but the poor handwriting of a parish priest resulted in Hitler being transcribed. Incidentally, on the whole, the Rothschild families of Europe, although Jewish, were left very much alone by the Nazis.