What About the Nazis – Chapter 9
What was Hinterstoder doing from 1938 to 1945? Hitler annexed Austria on March 12,1938 in what was called the “Anschluss”. Overnight Austria ceased to exist and became Germany.
Hitler reviews German troops entering Vienna in 1938. Austrian citizens acclaimed this by 99.7% approval rating.
I was born in September 1943 in Linz, Ober-Donau, Germany (used to be and is now Ober Österreich) because it was already annexed to the Third Reich by that time. In case you wondered how the Third Reich became known as the Third Reich and what happened to the first and second, it goes back nearly two millennia. The Romans, under Caesar, had unified Europe prior to his assasination in 44 BC. In 476 Emperor Romulus Augustulus at age 16 presided over the fall of the Roman Empire by abdicating to Odoacer, a Barbarian, who became King of what was left of the Roman Empire. In 800 Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse) the Carolinginan crown barrer, became Emperor of what would become the Holy Roman Empire. He and his armies had encampments within a days march from Hinterstoder, in Salzburg, where you can still dine at restaurnts where he dined. The precise term Holy Roman Empire was not used until the 13th Century, and included Germany, parts of France, Austria, and extended into northern Italy. That was the First Reich. Hitler was more fond of dating the First Reich from 1152, the reign of Friedrich Barbarossa, to 1806 with the disbanding of the Holy Roman Empire. That Empire ceased to exist because Napoleon overran it with his armies, divorced Josephine, his first wife, moved into Schönbrun Palace in Vienna, and married Marie-Louise of Austria.
The Second Reich was the Hohenzollern rule of Germany that started in 1870 under Otto von Bismark to the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1919. In the aftermath of World War I Germany and Austria became an economic and political disaster because the Treaty of Versailles was a poorly designed and executed attempt to destroy Germany and Austria economically. Most historians now feel this was the root cause of the rise of Adolf Hitler and World War II. Germany was unable to make the Versailles required reparation payments. In response, the French and Belgians sent in troops to force payment, so the Germans started to print money with which they could repay their Versailles obligations. This has been and continues to be a common government solution to the need for money. But instead of solving the problem it just creates hyperinflation. In 1922 a loaf of bread cost a million marks, and people started to use the paper money to wallpaper their houses. Although that stabilized, but a new world crisis came about on October 24, 1929. The US stock market crash gave the final blow to the country. Millions of people lost their jobs. In 1930 the German government collapsed which gave more power to Hitler’s NSDAP (German Worker’s Party). The Weimar Republic, headed by Paul von Hindenburg, could not withstand the pressures brought to bear by the economy, the people’s frustration, and the Nazi Party. When one man came along that promised stability, jobs, rule of law, food in people’s mouths, and the restoration of Germany’s greatness, it was a no brainer. Hitler created the Third Reich. Many of his initial promises came to bear fruit. Jobs returned, people had more than enough food, the People’s Car (Volkswagen) ordered by Hitler and was designed by Ferdinand Porsche (yes that Porsche) provided a car that almost everyone could afford. With it came the Autobahn, also a Hitler initiated program, that made traveling through the Third Reich easier and faster (no speed limits), and prosperity once again blessed the country. It lasted from 1933 to 1945, which didn’t come anywhere near the thousand years he promised.
My father arrived in Hinterstoder when it was already annexed to Germany. He was very lucky to get out of Romania, as he had a death sentence on his head. In 1942 he became the town doctor of the most idyllic place on earth, Hinterstoder. The reason for this was because the existing town doctor went into the German Army to become the doctor of a so-called Concentration Camp in Mauthausen, Linz. Vladimir, my father, was a young doctor, who escaped from the Russians, just by luck, as they wanted to hang him for crimes against the people (see chapter 4). Those crimes included immunizing the Romanian children against various infectious diseases, cleaning up the fecal contaminated water sources in the Romanian countryside, providing adequate food for the war affected senior citizens that could not provide for themselves, all of which he was ordered to cease and desist by Moscow. As happenstance happened to be he was the product of a Greek Orthodox mother and a Jewish father. That was a sufficient percentage which qualified him as a candidate for interment in the Camps that Hitler had created to resolve the “Jewish Problem”. The first camp was Dachau, northwest of Munich, which opened in 1933 but didn’t take Jews until after 1935 when the Nuremberg laws were passed which defined what constituted being Jewish. Vladimir managed to keep his Jewish heritage a deep, dark secret from the German Authorities. He even converted to Catholicism in an effort to keep his secret hidden.
He did whatever he could to stay under the radar. This included hanging a picture of the Fürer in his office, as was required by all business establishments, including a doctor’s office. Since Vladimir was an artist he thought that doing a charcoal in his own hand would give an additional verification to claim some German heritage. At the end of the war, with Hitler’s suicide, and all the news of the Nazi atrocities, that drawing turned out not to be such a good idea. He took the portrait out of the frame and as he didn’t want to destroy something he had worked on so diligently, that was after all a work of art with historic significance, he hid it in the office of the Secretary of the Duke, Herr Weinbergmeier, in the Prielervilla behind wood paneling. Time passed and he forgot about it. I was back in Hinterstoder a few years ago and Graf Eulenburg gave me a tour of the renovated villa where we spent 10 years of our lives. When we came to the room where the drawing was hidden, he shared the story of finding Hitler’s charcoal portrait in a wall behind wood paneling that was replaced to install heating elements. The room was the office of the secretary of the Duke, Herr Weinbergmeier. “He must have been a Nazi!” he exclaimed. I was too dumbfounded and too surprised to respond, and never told him that it was my father’s drawing and he was definitely No Nazi!
I made every effort to find the charcoal but it simply disappeared, but I do remember it and this is a close approximation of what it looked like done by another artist. Seeing it adds a chilling emotion to the story! If I ever find it I shall replace it here.
Hinterstoder was a small community, mostly farmers. There were no Jews there, at least not acknowledged. The Death Camps were highly secret. Any questions or discussions were immediately cut off and hushed. Although the people knew that Jews were dispossessed of their assets and rounded up and forced to do labor, that they were put to death by the millions was not known by the people and if it was mentioned it was dismissed as communist propaganda, especially in small towns.
The Swastika Flag affixed to the old iron cross on the peak of the Grosse Priel.
The HJ (Hitler Jugend -Hitler Youth – pronaunced HaYot) was the only legal male young people’s organization and membership was mandatory for any boy age 14 to 18. It started out rather blandly in 1922 as a sort of Boy Scouts with camping, hiking, and outdoor activities, but it morphed into a paramilitary organization whose motto was “Blood and Honor”. The intent was to foster a patriotic bond to the Vaterland and an organization from which the next generation of German soldiers would come. I was too young, but my cousin was inducted into the HJ at age 14, however my aunt, his mother, quickly sent him to live with our family in Hinterstoder. Although there were HJ activities in our town as well, they focused more on the outdoor boy scout activities, rather than the military training that occurred in Linz were he came from. The bonus for me was that I got the older brother I never had. We built model airplanes which we launched from the balcony of the Prielervilla, climbed cliffs searching for the elusive Edelweiss flower, and had a grand time.
After the war General Eisenhower made sure that the atrocities committed by the Nazi hierarchy were documented on film and widely publicized. I remember, as a child, listening to very animated discussions of the townspeople, including my parents, voicing disbelief that this actually happened. It was shocking to them when the proof started to be revealed and sink in that this indeed did happen. I vividly remember my mother’s raised voice proclaiming, “Dass tut man nicht!” (that is not allowed to be done). My father was indeed lucky!
There were however people that knew, people that worked in those camps, and people that were in the SS and sworn to secrecy. One such person was Harro Schulze-Boysen. He and his wife Libertas had a Hinterstoder connection. For you to fully understand the whole story and implications with Hinterstoder, I need to go back a hundred years to explain the circumstances which led to their tragic deaths.
From previous chapters in this book, you will recognize the name Eulenburg. It was Duke Eulenburg who was the generous donor of our living arrangements in Hinterstoder, for the duration of the war and seven years thereafter, while we lived in the Prielervilla, the hunting lodge of the Eulenburg family.
The Eulenburg family has a long and complex relationship to Hinterstoder and an important influence on German history.
Kaiser Wilhelm II, who had Enlish heritage, as his grandmother was Queen Victoria, acceded the throne of Germany in 1888, and imediately dismissed the Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, the military genious that had unified the German states into one powerful country. Wilhelm was born in a difficult breech birth that gave him an Erb’s palsy, a nerve injury affecting all the nerves that contolled the arm. As a consequence, he had a withered left arm, something that affected his physical and emotional development. On his ascent to be the Emperor of Germany, he surrounded himself with military and aristocratic advisers, one of them was Philipp zu Eulenburg, a Junker family member (the wealthy landed nobility which were the power brokers of the times). They had ties to the German house of the Hohenzollern, the royalty to which Willhelm was born. Philipp, Prince zu Eulenburg, was a well educated and historically savvy and wise individual who became the closest confidant of Wilhelm II. Wilhelm was a frequent guest at the Eulenburg estate, Liebenberg Castle.
Liebenberg Castle 1912
The circle of Eulenburg friends and family became very comfortable for the Kaiser and several of them also became confidants of the Kaiser. All was going well, but along came a jounalist who accused Prince zu Eulenburg to be homosexual even though he was married and had children. This became known as the Eulenburg affair and was a major scandal that affected the monarchy significantly. It is difficult to refute an accusation like that. It is like trying to answer the question as to when did you stop beating your wife? Additionally, homosexuality was not accepted and even illegal in turn of the Cenury Germany. Several army officers and some of the members of the Liebenberg Round Tabel, as it became known, as the homsexual circle around the Kaiser, were implicated. The military officers were court marshalled and several of them committed suicide. As always sex sells and the press had a heyday with all the titilating details of the trials. One story that particularely stirred the pot was an event attended by the Kaiser where a high ranking government official was made to perform a Pas Seul (a solo ballet dance) dressed in a Tutu. He was so animated, and probably embarassed that he fell dead during his performance. During one trial of another accused high ranking officer, his wife was interrogated on the witness stand as to their sexual practices, to which she responded that they only had sex once on the night of their wedding. That was taken as proof that he was gay.
Prince Eulenburg fell ill and his trial was delayed and eventually dismissed. There were even rumors about the Kaiser, but no proof was ever produced. The whole affair had international attention. It never was proven and the journalist later retracted his accusations and called it the biggest mistake of his life. But the damage was done and Prince Eulenburg had lost his influence at the Kaiser’s court.. Some say this was in part responsible for Germany becoming involved in World War I, because Prince Eulenburg had a moderating influence on the Kaiser who was rash and clumsy in worldly affair. However, despite this, Liebenberg still continued to be have some influence on German government. As the family had property in Austria, specifically Hinterstoder, there was a steady stream of family and friends of the Eulenburgs to travel to the country to hunt and fish and just enjoy the beauty of the alps.
After World War I, the Kaiser was seen as the Emperor who lost the war. And with that he also lost the confidence of the ruling class and had no choice but to abdicate as Emperor. To replace the monarchy, The Weimar Republic was formed under General Hindenburg, a trusted and ranking officer of the army. Toward the early 1930’s Hindenburg became increasingly unable to face the challenges of dealing with the world economic crisis as it affected Germany. There was increasing civil strife and unrest. In 1933 Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by the aging Hindenburg.
Prince Philipp zu Eulenburg grandaughter, Libertas Victoria Haas-Heye, grew up at the family estate, Liebenberg Castle near Berlin and like the rest of the family had been to the hunting lodge in Hinterstoder. She had joined the Nazi party early in 1933. She met an SS officer, Harro Schulze-Boysen, whom she married in 1936 at Liebenberg Castle where Herman Göring attended and gave away the bride.
Harro was not happy with the way things were heading in Germany and he covertly worked against the Nazi dictates. This was especially easy as his job at the SS, gave him access to many of the state secrets. He and his young 29 year old wife, Libertas, founded a covert anti-Nazi organization called the “Rote Kapelle” (the Red Orchestra). The group was active in distributing anti-Nazi leaflets, helping people marked for death to escape via an Underground Railroad-like network, inciting civil disobedience and informing other governments of Nazi atrocities. Many of his contacts were US intelligence agents. Libertas had a job with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a publicist and undoubtedly that was another route to get secret information out. On August 31,1942 Harro was arrested and just eight days later Libertas too was arrested. The accusations read: High treason, military espionage, and helping the enemy. It was a death sentence for both Harro and Libertas. He by hanging and she by decapitation carried out at Plözensee Prison, in Berlin, on December 22, 1942. Two more victims of National Socialism, a sad ending to a Christmas Angel as noted in the Death Order below.
It states “In the Name of the German People! The verdict in the punitive action against and then lists all the names. In those that have + after the name, it signifies the death sentence.
A Commemertive stamp of the Deutche Demokratische Republic honororing the founders of the “Rote Kapelle” heroes who faught against Fascism and war who were murdered by the Nazi’s in 1942. This Stamp was minted on the 40th anneversary of their execution.
Hinterstoder had sacrificed enough for the Reich. Both commoners and the Hinterstoder aristocracy had suffered loses, and people were getting fed up with the war, the return of Hinterstoder boys in body bags, the bombings that even Hinterstoder had to indure. Toward the end, the Americans even dropped bombs on Hinterstoder, although nothing important was hit. The rationing of food, gasoline, clothing, and practically everything became more than an inconvenience. Although the town government was structured by Nazi protocol, there was no fanatical adherence to National Socialism in Hinterstoder, and no citizens were tainted by war crimes. People just wanted to get back to what they were doing before the war, tending their animals, growing crops, being innkeepers, serving tourists, something that totally disappeared during the war. When the end came it was more a relief than a loss.