MY THREE NAZIS

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Their names are Hermann Rosencranz, Karl Munch and Walter Schieber.  Karl’s last name has an umlaut over the u, which changes the pronunciation, but WordPress makes no provision for umlauted u‘s, so you’ll have to remember Munch doesn’t rhyme with lunch.

I call them Nazis because of three small red books I happen to have.  The first one was given to Hermann in Munich on June 30, 1936.  His party membership number is 3483589.

IMG_0879On the frontispiece inside, under a swastika and seal, is the name of the organization that issued the small red book: National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. [National Socialist German Workers Party.]

IMG_0880 The second small red book was given to Karl on September 4, 1934. His party membership number is 717410.  Karl was born earlier than Hermann and joined the party earlier, too.  You can see that his number is lower. Hermann’s book is dirtier and duller in color, though. He may have perspired more heavily. Or dropped it somewhere. It’s hard to believe that either of them would have been sent into the dirt and sweat of battle. Perhaps they were World War I veterans.  But they were both too old to fight in 1939.

IMG_0878The third small book is Walter’s.  His party number is 557979.  He was born 29 years after Karl, and 21 years after Hermann. The very low number he was given when his book was issued to him on June 30, 1941 may therefore have been one that had been retired after the death of its original owner and was now being put back in service with Walter.

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A brief pause for back story.  How did these three National Socialist Party membership books make their way into one of my bookcases, where they now repose quietly on top of a small paperback copy of Marlene Dietrich’s ABC  which I purchased in New York City for 50 cents in 1961?   I can tell you why I put Hermann, Karl, and Walter with Marlene. It’s because their books are the same size, and — more fancifully — because all four of them spoke the same language.  It also pleases me that the three Nazis were politically poles apart from this German-born woman who bravely entertained American troops at the front wherever and whenever Army regulations permitted.

But I can only surmise how the three red books reached America at the end of World War II.  My second husband was the youngest of three brothers — and too young for either enlistment or the draft. (Probably also too near-sighted.)  But the middle brother was drafted, and then trained as an Army weather man.  He was therefore in Europe, although not on the front lines, after D-Day.  It’s my guess he picked up the three red books, and maybe more than three, as small compact souvenirs to bring home when the war was over.

My former brother-in-law is now 91 and living abroad with his Dutch-born wife in an assisted living facility near her daughter and other family, so I can’t easily ask him if I’ve guessed right.  The first I personally knew of the three red books was when my second husband showed them to me, twenty years after the end of the war.  He had no use for them even then, and left them behind when we eventually parted after our children were grown.

That was in 1987.  I have jettisoned a lot of stuff since then. However, I still hang on to Hermann, Karl and Walter and have sometimes asked myself why.  There are probably two reasons, one less important than the other.  The lesser reason is that I never really learned German, therefore cannot read what Hitler had to say in these little red books, and want to know — before passing the books on to someone else. [Bill thinks they might be worth something, but I’m not so sure of that.  It’s all so long ago now that at least some uneducated young people have never heard of the Holocaust and others who have heard of it deny it ever really existed. So who would want to pay good money for my three Nazis?]

German was supposed to be my second foreign language for earning a doctorate in English, and I did get through the reading exam — a paragraph on the novels of Sir Walter Scott written in German. But only by spraying myself heavily with Arpege beforehand, saving up all the vocabulary I didn’t know (which was a lot), and then summoning the young proctor of the exam, who was permitted to give help with “one or two” words per exam-taker.  Overcome by fragrance, he as good as translated a third of my paragraph for me.  So I’m not really in great shape vocabulary-wise to share Hitler’s message with anyone.

But now there’s this blog, which has at least three German-speaking followers, and the occasional German “visitor” too!   Perhaps one of you — and you know who you are — would be good enough to translate, or summarize, the Fuhrer’s words for us in the comment section below. Feel free to editorialize as well, and as much as you like!

IMG_0881 IMG_0882 IMG_0883However, the more important reason I can’t let go of Hermann, Karl and Walter is that they were three flesh-and-blood human beings, with birthdates, and handwriting, and faces as real as if they’d been photographed yesterday. (Hermann even appears to be slightly smiling.)  And these three men, who probably had wives and children, would have looked at me, if I had been so unlucky as to be a little girl in Europe, and seen only a specimen of vermin to be exterminated as efficiently as possible.

IMG_0886 IMG_0887 Hermann died on March 1, 1943.  It’s pencilled in at the top of the page.  (I do know what “gestorben” means.)  He was 57.  If he hadn’t died during the war but lived on and on, so that I could confront him now, in the flesh instead of in his photograph, he would be 128, which is of course impossible.  I have his photograph, though.  I’m still alive, and he’s just a photograph.  I know it’s ridiculous that this gives me some satisfaction, some sense of vindication. But it does.

Karl is “gestorben” too.  It happened in November 1943.

IMG_0891 IMG_0892 He died at 65.  He would be 136 today.  I have a feeling Karl was more ruthless than Hermann.  He seems more smug in his photograph.  Of course, feelings are subjective. And photographs lie. I know that.  But I hate Karl more than Hermann.

When Bill read the first draft of this post, he stopped at that sentence, the one just before this one. ‘Hate’ is a pretty strong word,” he said. “You mean ‘dislike,’ don’t you?”

No, I don’t mean “dislike.”  It’s senseless, it’s illogical, I wasn’t there, it’s an accident I even know Hermann and Karl and Walter existed. All the same, when I look at their photos there’s real hate in my heart.  Perhaps I should think of them as victims, too. Brainwashed by rhetoric, mesmerized by a charismatic leader.  That doesn’t cut it for me. This isn’t about Germans, or Germany, or the language, or Angela Merkel (whose well cut jackets I quite admire).  It’s not about Bach or Beethoven or Brahms. I’d love to visit today’s Berlin before I die.  But Hermann and Karl and Walter looking out at me from the pages of their small red books,  those three I can’t forgive.  They are the faces of perps — perpetrators of a twentieth-century genocide I may have escaped but which tangled my growing-up years in ways too complex to tease out in the short space of a post.

Walter, the baby of the group — born in 1907 and only 32 when Hitler marched into Poland — does not have “gestorben” written in his book.

IMG_0897 IMG_0898Although photographed in civilian dress, Walter was probably mobilized when Germany went to war.  He was young enough, and also the only one of my three to have received an award: something in “Bronze” on April 1, 1940.

IMG_0899While Walter may not have been classified as “gestorben,” he must have been separated from his red book at some point after March 1943. Beginning in April of that year, there are no more stamps in the book showing he paid his monthly party dues.  And something did happen on April 29, 1943;  not knowing the language, I cannot tell you what.  Again, perhaps a German-speaking follower or reader can explain to us what this cryptic notation inscribed on the inside cover of Walter’s book may mean:

IMG_0896If he survived the war and life after war, Walter would be 107 today.  Remotely possible, although not very likely.  And in truth, what could I possibly say to such an extremely aged man in such a fantasy reality?  I may know what “gestorben” means, but I can’t speak his language. And I’m sure he never learned mine, or not enough to understand me and my feelings.  Especially as I don’t really understand me and my feelings either, when it comes to Hermann, Karl, Walter and the three red books.

Given the date of my birth, I know I was beyond fortunate to have been born where I was born, a whole ocean away from the murderous venom that was flooding Europe during the years of my childhood — the very same years when Hermann, Karl and Walter were dutifully paying their party dues. But my good fortune changes nothing.  I have been on the moving walkway at Yad Vashem, hearing the endless litany of names of little children like me, starved, gassed or slaughtered by other Hermanns, Karls and Walters — names, names, names echoing through a dark and starry universe.  It’s therefore ironic that these three Hitler loyalists should come to rest with me and my hostility as I grow old, that I should be the curator of their last effects.

I began this piece thinking such artifacts might be of general interest. Having written it, I suspect I was wrong. The feelings these three red books incite in me draw so heavily on the past and on my ethnicity (if you can call it that) that they may be incommunicable. If so, it seems only sensible to put Hermann, Karl and Walter back in the bookcase and leave them be.

You can’t win ’em all.  As Hitler (and perhaps Walter) finally learned.

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14 thoughts on “MY THREE NAZIS

  1. Hi, I have translated the text into English, but I have not found it easy to find the right words and not to feel dirty after writing down this cruel and manipulative propaganda.
    Kind regards
    Trina

    So here is the text:

    Foreword/Preface

    Partymember, don’t under any circumstances ever forget that you are a representative of the national-socialistic movement, actually of our world view(/ideology).
    Strangers will judge our movement after the image they will get of you.
    Therefore be a National-Socialist in all your conduct, in all you do and do not do.
    Be an example (role model) for others in boldness, willingness to sacrifice yourself and discipline.
    As a person (human being) be industrious, diligent and modest. Treat your subordinates as fellow citizen and not as pack animals, don’t look at them as objects to exploit, but as fellow fighters and collaborators in the fight for preservation and struggle for existence of our entire people (nation). Do not treat them in any way you yourself as German and National-Socialist would not like to endure and therefore never feel about yourself as their slave-keeper but always only as their leader. Don’t ever forget that not only the others owe something to you, but that you owe them the same.
    Whatever you do, act, as if the fate of your whole people was resting on your shoulders alone, and do not expect anything of others you yourself are not willing to do or give, remain the model for your fellow people at all times! As leader be hard in the performance of your duties, determined in standing up for (representation of) the necessary (what needs to be done), be helpful and good to your subordinates, never be petty in assessment (judging) of human weaknesses, be great in recognizing the needs of others and be modest (undemanding) concerning your own. Never get drunk.
    Fulfill all your obligations towards the movement and keep in mind (consider) that the greatest deeds can only be achieved (the greatest goals can only be reached) by people, when they are ready/willing to subordinate their own self to the greater shared (common) value. Act for your party-comrades and your fellow people, as you would like to see in them to act. Look even onto the lowest of your people as a carrier of your blood, with whom fate has united you inseparably, and therefore value the lowest of the street cleaners higher than the king of a foreign country.
    Never forget that the freedom of a people is their highest good on earth, that there is no life without it and that it’s loss can only be made up for (be righted) through (self-)sacrificing fight and not by talking and hard work alone.
    Take into consideration that a fight for freedom can never be fought by classes, but only by a people (nation)! To overcome classes and to create a people (nation) ready and able for the highest good is the mission of your movement.
    When fighting for the National-socialistic German Worker’s Party your are fighting for your people (nation).
    Munich, the 9th of January 1927

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    • Thank you so very much, Trina, for your kind and generous translation. It must have been time-consuming, but I do appreciate it very much, and found it extremely interesting, despite its obsession with German “blood” and nationhood. I’m sure other non-German-speaking readers of this blog will also appreciate your efforts.

      If I could briefly prevail on you just once more, do you have any idea what the abbreviated notation in Walter’s book, dated 29-4-’43, might mean?

      I do wish you would pursue the English-language blog I believe you once began, and then seem to have abandoned, according to your Gravatar. Alas, I cannot read “Trinaswelt” and therefore cannot follow it. Be well….. 🙂

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      • Hi,
        I have tried to figure out what the notation in Walter’s book might mean but have simply not found any explanation for it. However, I will keep it in mind.
        My English blog still exists, it’s called northgermanyblog.wordpress.com.
        Thank you for your response and I really do like to follow your blog!

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      • Well, Walter’s separation from his red book will have to remain a mystery. At first, I thought the “Br. Haus” might refer to some detention or capture by the British, but 1943 was too soon for that. On a cheerier note, I have re-followed your English-language blog now that I know its name, and have just read about your trip home from work and walk with the dog. Wonderful photos! Also about your May lunch of quark, blueberries and strawberries: yummy! 🙂

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      • Thanks for reading my blog! I am wondering myself what might have happened to Walter. There is no known abbreviation ‘Br’ in German.

        If I can help you with any more translations, I will be glad to do it! 🙂

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  2. Hello Nina,
    I can’t help but feel a chill run up and down my spine when I read (and re-read) this entry… Thank you for taking time to write down & share your thoughts on what is not an easy topic.

    I often think: if this world becomes overrun by zombies, I will be more afraid of “normal” people – for many reasons… 😉

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    • Dear Takami. I wish I did have “thoughts” about this “topic.” But as you have seen, I don’t. How can one rationally explain why otherwise “normal” people would succumb to this poisoned view of life? There’s been a lot written about the terrible effect on the German economy and on life for the German people that resulted from the draconian reparations inflicted on Germany by the victors after World War I — effects that made ordinary citizens susceptible to Hitler’s message(s). There’s also Hannah Arendt, writing at Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem about “the banality of evil.” Certainly, Hermann, Karl and Walter do look “banal” rather than inhuman. But none of that makes the frightening mystery of what happened rational. Since I don’t believe in zombies, I can’t speak to their overrunning the world. I leave all that to you young ‘uns…. 🙂

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    • Thank you, James, for your empathetic response. It’s a relief to learn I wasn’t entirely mistaken in posting about these three. And yes, Trina’s contribution was indeed a great assist in penetrating the message of Nazi-ism.

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  3. bob

    Hello,
    An interesting post and a great translation. We thank the brave German Lady above (Trina 59) that worked through her angst, to share with non-german speakers, what was actually written down on the pages. As to the “Br. Haus…” mystery… there are 3 keys (you have quite politely placed on the table) that can be used for our discernment.

    1. You’re already “half way home”, with the german word “gestorben” which means of course, deceased, died, etc.

    2. You’ve stated that these are war souvenirs, picked up by an American Service Man during the end of world war two, in Europe (ie France/Germany usw.)
    – A lot of GIs (like your brother-in-law) that fought into Germany, ended up in the Southern part of the country, or Bavaria. the capital of which of course, is Muenchen or Munich, as we English speakers would call it. It is not hard to
    believe that while located in Bavaria, these young soldiers were stationed near or in the Capital City.
    – Munich- The “Hauptstadt der Bewegung” , was the title of this Capital of German Fas*cism, the Cogs of the NS Party Machinery whirled in Munich, day and night – Dues collection, as can be related, was the primary function of this Organization (would love to see the rest of the booklet with all the paid stamps. I’m sure these guys were “paid up” so to speak.

    3. Our final key is where the 2nd photo you posted, at the top of this post, comes in. The address for the booklet is”Reichsleitung Muenchen Brienner Strasse 45″… back then everyone in the city knew this address…the HeadQuarters of the Party, aka The Br(aunes) Haus or Brown House (ala Brown Shirt Palace)

    The rest of the inscription is cryptic, but now we can deduce what is going on here:

    Gestorben (deceased in) March 1943 …and (your suspicions are correct) he was indeed parted with his booklet, as all of the booklets of the deceased party members (or so the command was but rarely followed) were to be returned to the Braun Haus, for storage and archive. W. Shieber’s red party membership booklet was returned to the NS Party HQ (the Brown House) in Munich on 29 April 1943 …

    or “H brt. Br. Haus v(on) 29.4.43”

    Thank you for posting. as stated, would be nice if you could scan the dues stamps in the back and show them, as well.

    hope this helps,
    Bob

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    • Great addition to the story, Bob! Thank you so much for your attentive and careful sleuthing. Yes, there are many dues stamps in all three books, but my technological skills are insufficient to “scan” them into a reply to a comment. If you can tell me enough about why you’d like to see them for me to make another short post about the dues based on your request, I will photograph the dues pages for you and upload the photos into the WordPress Media files for this blog. Thanks again for your wonderful comment. 🙂

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  4. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to know more about these people and understand their lives and why they had joined the NAZI party? Maybe they were evil zealots; perhaps they were ordinary Germans who for some reason felt obliged or even compelled to join the party. A quick browse on Wikipedia reveals that at its height, 10% of the German population were members of the party.

    What’s clear is that large numbers of people can be easily swayed into doing evil, and that this is surprisingly and chillingly easy to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, yes and yes. My view is that large numbers of people want to be in the favored group, irrespective of the ethics of so doing, whether to advance themselves socially, professionally, politically, or to avoid ostracism for not being in the favored group. I would have guessed more than 10% were party members. But if the Wikipedia statistic is correct, many more than 10% were almost certainly party sympathizers and supporters. Most people are more concerned with their own well-being, however shallowly that is perceived, than with more humane values. That goes for human beings everywhere, not just in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s.

      Thanks for finding and reading a piece already buried pretty deep in TGOB’s inventory of past posts.

      Liked by 1 person

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