Schoolteacher Herbert was a passionate National Socialist as were his daughters, Irmgard and Erika. His son, Manfred, joined the Waffen SS at the age of eighteen and saw his first action in Dieppe. Captured by the Russians at twenty-one, he spent five years in the Gulags of Siberia and in the Lubyanka in Moscow. Erika, fleeing from the Russians during the trek of women and children, was one of only four women to make it to the West. Irmgard and her two little girls were driven out of their home by French troops; they spent weeks on the road.
Although disillusioned and feeling betrayed by their government, all rebuilt their lives.
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A Duty Of RemembranceThe Story of my German Family
By Gudrun Moore
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2010 Gudrun Moore
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA History Lesson
A short history of Germany is necessary to understand what is meant by the term 'Third Reich'. The First Reich existed in the middle ages when the German nation was called the Holy Roman Empire, the Second Reich came into being in 1871 after Prussia had defeated France, it was led by Bismarck. 'Both had added glory to the German name' (W.L.Shirer). A helpless Weimar Republic followed the disaster of the First World War and 'a Third Reich restored it, just as Hitler had promised'.
Martin Luther was a very important figure for the Germans not only because he started the reformation and not only because he translated the Bible into the vernacular, thereby creating a modern German language, but by expressing a hatred for Rome in his passionate sermons he awakened a budding feeling of nationalism in the German speaking people. Unfortunately he sided with the rulers and not with the peasants in the peasant uprisings by emphasizing St. Matthew's admonition: 'Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's.' The uprisings failed and the masses had no voice during the time of political absolutism that followed. Then the tragedy of the Thirty Years War ensued.
It ended with the peace treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and confirmed about three hundred princes as absolute rulers of their small states with a German emperor largely in the role as a figure head. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Germany had had many free cities without any allegiance to a ruler. These cities had been rich and commerce and learning and the arts had thrived in an era of peace and enlightenment. After the peace of Westphalia serfdom was brought back, self government of the towns was rescinded, the middle class almost disappeared, universities and schools were closed and the country sank into another dark age. Any emergence of German nationalism or patriotism was brutally subdued. Acceptance of autocracy and blind obedience became ingrained into the German consciousness. When in England and France ideas of democracy and rule by parliament rose and later manifested themselves, the many tiny German states, mired in backwardness and ignorance, did not follow. They remained static in their isolation.
The American Declaration of Independence allowed in 1774 that the 'free communication of thoughts is one of the most precious rights of man'.
The French Assembly approved in 1789 the Declaration of the Rights of Man, emphasizing the equality of all men thereby repudiating the rule of the divine right of absolute monarchy and giving the people of France their freedom. These ideas naturally had a great impact on German intellectuals, but the public remained largely ignorant of these revolutionary thoughts for many more years because writers who espoused these ideas publicly were quickly and locked up. Many decided to leave their country and to live and write abroad.
By the early eighteenth century Prussia had become a state to be counted. By the time of Frederick the Great it had become one of the ranking military powers. The King ruled absolutely, aided by a blinkered bureaucracy and an army that enforced his laws ruthlessly. Obedience, work and sacrifice were the catchwords for the populace. "Gelobt sei was hart macht", 'Praised be what makes you tough', was the mantra fed to the people.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century voices for a unified nation became heard. The teacher F.L Jahn had witnessed the defeat of Prussia by Napoleon in 1807 and that became the spark for him to work for the unity and freedom of Germany. He became the 'Turnvater' Jahn, founder and 'father' of the German Gymnastics and sports movement. His importance can be gauged by the fact that there are hundreds of sports clubs to this day that bear his name. Jahn believed that physical exercise was not only good for the individual but that gymnastics and open air games including marching could also be a patriotic exercise. Gymnasts and students came together in the volunteer Luetzow corps to fight Napoleon in 1813; Jahn was one of the commanding officers. After Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig, Jahn demanded freedom of speech, a constitution and the unity of the Fatherland. Soon after the former members of the corps founded the German Student Society.
The following years were momentous years. The industrial revolution changed the economic climate, liberal revolutions and declarations of independence for many smaller states changed the face of Europe. Finally in 1848 a constitutional Monarchy was declared by liberal representatives and a somewhat unified Germany established. But it fell to Bismarck, the Junker from Prussia, to finally unite all of Germany. In 1862 when Bismarck became Prime Minister of Prussia he declared, 'that the great questions of the day will not be settled by resolutions and majority votes - that was the mistake of the men of 1848 and 1849 - but by blood and iron.'
Bismarck built up the Prussian Army and had no problem dissolving parliament when they refused to allocate more funds. The 'Iron Chancellor' then went to war and Prussia eventually annexed all northern German states into the North German Confederation. The rulers of the southern states were still feuding with the French and definitely no friends of the Prussians, but Bismarck made deals with them and finally won them over. In 1871 the German princes offered the imperial crown to King Wilhelm I of Prussia and the Second Reich had begun. Austria was excluded.
A Reichstag was elected but possessed few powers. Not even the chancellor had to answer to it; he answered only to the Emperor, the King of Prussia, who ruled his militarist empire by 'God's Grace alone and not by parliaments, popular assemblies and popular decisions'. The state was glorified and hailed as the supreme power. The subjects were just that. One H.Treitschke, a professor of History, lectured in Berlin, "It does not matter what you think, so long as you obey."
By the time the twentieth century arrived much of the western world had accepted the ideas of democracy, but in Germany the ideas of the sovereignty of parliament and political freedom had not yet caught a broad foothold. The industrial revolution had made a prosperous middle class and they did not want to rattle the status quo.
Just before the First World War the Social Democrats despite persecution by Bismarck and the Kaiser had become the largest single party in the Reichstag and demanded parliamentary democracy. They were unsuccessful until after the disaster of the First World War. In November 1918 Germany under pressure from its military leaders had acceded to President Wilson's fourteen conditions of an armistice. Wilhelm II abdicated, and a German Republic was proclaimed on November 9, 1918. In February 1919 the National Assembly voted Friedrich Ebert as its first president. A constitution was written and the German Democratic Republic, also known as the Weimar Republic, was born.
The following years were tumultuous; the people found it hard to accept Germany's ignominious defeat and blamed their new government for the ensuing difficulties and problems. Different political parties and interest groups were feuding, armed veteran corps of different leanings overthrew local governments and each other; many political leaders were murdered. The Treaty of Versailles with all its restrictions and its reparation payments threw Germany into poverty and chaos. A galloping inflation and growing unemployment caused enormous hardship and discontent in Germany. The chaotic times were a fertile ground for a rising radical nationalistic movement.
In 1923 members of the National Socialist German Workers' Party attempted to take control of the Bavarian government. Adolf Hitler, Austrian born and a former corporal in the German Army, started an uprising in a popular beer hall where a Bavarian politician was to make a speech. Hitler and General Ludendorff, a hero from the Great War, organized a march through Munich the next day but they were met with police resistance. Ludendorff was ordered to house arrest and Hitler was imprisoned. There was, however, much popular support for this new movement.
Hitler, a fiery speaker and a gifted orator, made good use of the Munich events and his ensuing imprisonment in later public speeches which were enthusiastically attended by ever growing crowds. He blamed trade unions, Communists, and above all the Jews for Germany's humiliating defeat in the Great War and for the social disorder and economic crisis the country subsequently found itself in. He stressed that he believed that it was Germany's destiny to rise again and lead all of Europe. He attracted millions of Germans with his promise of work for all and social justice.
A surprising development occurred in 1930 when the hitherto small National Socialist German Workers Party won 107 seats in the Reichstag, making it the second largest after the Social Democrats. During the next election the Nazi Party garnered even more seats. Hindenburg was again elected president. His new Chancellor, von Papen, gained support when he succeeded in having the rest of the war reparations cancelled. Von Papen resigned but negotiated secretly with Hitler and exerted great influence on the eighty six year old Hindenburg who declared Hitler Chancellor of the Reich on January 30, 1933. The Third Reich had begun.
Luther had admonished the people to render unto Caesar whatever Caesar thought was Caesar's. Militaristic Frederick the Great, the philosopher king, flute player and music maker, a friend of Voltaire, fondly remembered by the people in many tales and anecdotes as 'Der Alte Fritz', and autocratic Bismarck, the tough practitioner of 'real-politik', had both demanded subservience of Germany's citizens. Deference, obedience and unquestioning acceptance of their authoritarian superiors seem to have been ingrained in the people. Hitler found an unwary populace swept away by his promises for a great Germany unquestioningly ready to be led by their Fuehrer.
Chapter TwoAdolf Hitler
He was born April 20, 1889, the son of a small Austrian customs official and the official's second cousin. Quite early he showed that he had a mind of his own. His father wanted him to become a civil servant. Little Adolf rather than submit to his father's wishes, decided not to study and eventually provided good reasons for his father to relinquish his ambitious plans for his son. After his father died his education was basically abandoned. At sixteen Adolf left school for good. For the next three years he lived the life of a loafer in Linz and Vienna, all the time supported by his family. His mother died in 1908 and the penniless nineteen year old moved to Vienna. After being rejected as an artist due to lack of talent, and from becoming an architect due to lack of education, Adolf, rather than studying the necessary courses which were made available to ambitious men and women by the Social Democrats and trade unions at that time, lived for the next four years as a penniless tramp, working at odd jobs, sometimes as a sign painter, sleeping in flophouses, eating in charity soup kitchens. He never attempted to get a regular job because he looked down on blue collar labourers. Convinced that he was destined to a higher calling, he suffered his vagabond existence experiencing misery and destitution with "hunger as my faithful bodyguard."
The large city of Vienna had great libraries and Hitler read voraciously, mostly German history and mythology and much about the emerging Pan- Germanism. He became a devotee of Wagner's world of Germanic gods and heroes, and soon obsessed with everything German. He also devoured anti-Semitic literature. In his mind grew the conviction that the multitudes of Slavic races that peopled the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Jews were subhuman and in his frequent angry outbursts he declared that he hated them all and that they had no place in a German speaking world.
He began to observe groups of people, unions, and political movements. He read political press, analyzed speeches and party organizations, studied its psychological and political techniques and he came soon to see what made a party successful. Hitler was a realist. He stated that a winning party must know how to create a mass movement; it must know the effective use of propaganda on the masses and it must know the use of spiritual and physical terror. These were all observations that he so successfully used later on in his own party.
Hitler, realizing that his life hitherto had been less than successful, left Vienna in 1913 and went to live in Germany. When the First World War broke out, he saw a chance to start anew. He petitioned King Ludwig III for permission to volunteer in a Bavarian regiment, the request was granted. Hitler became a good soldier and was twice decorated for bravery.
When the war was over, Hitler stayed with the army and became an education officer, euphemism for informer, a duty that required to attend official functions of diverse parties which abounded after the war in Munich. On one of these occasions, he listened to a speech made by the founder of the German Workers' Party, an Anton Drexler, a locksmith by trade. He was intrigued and soon joined the party. He was member number seven. The other party members were a newspaperman, an economist, a poet, a journalist, and the war veteran Ernst Roehm. The party wanted to combat the Marxism of free trade unions and to agitate for a 'just' peace for Germany. Opposing the timid Drexler, Hitler soon took over propaganda. In a speech in the famous Hofbrauhaus, he outlined the 25 points of the German Workers' Party. The first one demanded the union of all Germans in a Greater Germany. The second one demanded the abrogation of all the treaties signed in Versailles. Other points stressed that Jews were to be denied office, press and eventually citizenship. Other socialist points demanded abolition of incomes not earned by work, nationalization of trusts, abolition of land rents and land speculation, death penalty for traitors, usurers and profiteers. One point called for the maintenance of a sound middle class. The last point, number 25, insisted on the creation of a strong central power of the state. Not long after the party's name was changed to National Socialist German Workers' Party.
Hitler organized the storm troopers, the SA, lead by Roehm, which protected his fledgling party at speeches and rallies. Looking for a symbol that would unite the masses he rediscovered the ancient sign of the swastika. Hitler himself designed the emblem emblazoned in black on a white circle displayed on his new red flags and insignias.
In the summer of 1921 Hitler took over the leadership of the party. He quickly established the Fuehrerprinzip, the leadership principle, which was to be the first law of the National Socialist Party (Nazi Party) and then the Third Reich.
The new party expanded quickly under Hitler's organization and propaganda. Herman Goering joined, as did Rudolf Hess, Alfred Rosenberg and Streicher, the newspaperman, later followed by Gregor Strasser and the fanatical nationalist, Joseph Goebbels.
Hitler masterfully used the destitution and the general discontent of a population stuck in economic hopelessness, witnessing at the same time the injustice of immense riches being accumulated by captains of industry who profited by the inflation that bankrupted the rest of Germany. The people became aware of the lack of power and direction of the Weimar Republic and became an easy target for Hitler's magnetic oratory and his fiery expression of his vision of a new Germany.
Hitler never left anything to guesswork as to what he thought and where he wanted to take the new Germany. He expressed all his ideas in his book "Mein Kampf" that he wrote while in prison in Landsberg in 1923. He always insisted that Germany must expand to the east - largely at the expense of Russia - in search of Lebensraum. He blamed the economic and financial bankruptcy of Germany squarely on the Jews and he lay blame for the degeneration of German mores and morals on the "debauched and decadent" works of literature and the arts produced largely by the Jews.
Excerpted from A Duty Of Remembrance by Gudrun Moore Copyright © 2010 by Gudrun Moore. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: A History Lesson....................1
Chapter 2: Adolf Hitler....................8
Chapter 3: Haefner Family....................14
Chapter 4: Ernst Family....................34
Chapter 5: Gustel Recalls His Early Years....................56
Chapter 6: Irmgard....................76
Chapter 7: Erika....................94
Chapter 8: Manfred Tells His Story....................114
Chapter 9: Gustel In The Military....................137
Chapter 10: Herbert And Trudel....................159
Chapter 11: Gustel In Poland....................163
Chapter 12: Manfred As Soldier....................173
Chapter 13: Erika Teaches School....................197
Chapter 14: "The Fateful Year"....................202
Chapter 15: Gustel In The Einsatzkommando....................207
Chapter 16: Gustel In The Gestapo....................237
Chapter 17: Gustel In The East Again....................256
Chapter 18: Gustel In Greece....................278
Chapter 19: The End Of The War For Herbert....................295
Chapter 20: Gustel In Austria....................316
Chapter 21: Erika And The End Of The War....................344
Chapter 22: Gustel And His End Of The War....................351
Chapter 23: Irmgard And Her Girls....................361
Chapter 24: Gelbingergasse 39....................384
Chapter 25: Jahnstrasse 15....................399
Chapter 26: Erika And Charles....................423
Chapter 27: Gustel As Prisoner Of War....................430
Chapter 28: I Meet Opa Ernst....................448
Chapter 29: Papa At Home....................453
Chapter 30: Manfred As Prisoner Of War....................462
Chapter 31: The Family....................488
Chapter 32: Manfred In Schwaebisch Hall....................498
Chapter 33: An Austrian Connection....................506
Chapter 34: Gustel's Trial....................520
Chapter 35: The Sum Of My Father....................539
Chapter 36: The Last Chapter....................545