When it comes to modern history, http://www.Amazon.co.uk ebooks fall short of the true to life living history stored in the memory of ageing relatives. As a historian, talking with neighbours, chronicling their lives or maybe the lives of work colleagues or family members, can help to map the history of the modern world from the view point of ordinary people. Cold historical facts are often politically motivated accounts influenced by ‘the winner’ and rarely provide the full story. Very few historical accounts provide any insight into how events effect average working person. However, as fact is often better than fiction, life accounts provide the sugar as well as the spice necessary for a complete, animated story.
First, they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
TIME Magazine 28th August 1989
The above poem comes from a man who declared that he “would rather burn his church to the ground, than to preach the Nazi trinity of ‘race, blood, and soil.’”
In 1933, Niemoller organised the Pastor’s Emergency League to protect Lutheran pastors from the police. In 1934, he was one of the leading organisers at the Barmen Synod, which produced the theological basis for the Confessing Church, which despite its persecution, became an enduring symbol of German resistance to Hitler.
Rev. Martin Niemoller was protected until 1937 by both the foreign press as well as influential friends in a Berlin suburb where he preached. Eventually, he was arrested for treason. Possibly due to foreign pressure, although Niemoller was found guilty, initially he received only a suspended sentence. He was, however, then almost immediately re-arrested on Hitler’s direct orders. From then on, until the end of WW II, he was held at the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps, narrowly escaping execution toward the end of the war. [From Charles Colson’s Kingdoms in Conflict]
After the war, Niemoller emerged from prison to preach again. He was instrumental in producing the “Stuttgart Confession of Guilt”, in which the German Protestant churches formally accepted responsibility for their complicity in allowing the suffering caused by Hitler’s reign. In 1961, he was elected as one of the six presidents of the World Council of Churches, the ecumenical body of the Protestant faiths.
Niemoller became a pacifist and an advocate of reconciliation. He received the Lenin Peace Prize in 1967, and the West German Grand Cross of Merit in 1971. Martin Niemoller died in Wiesbaden, West Germany on Mar 6, 1984, at the age of 92. [From the Encyclopaedia Britannica].
Patron saint of students, science and learning
Saint Albert Church, Riga, Latvia
7 January 1924 to 9 February 2017
Leaving for Belgium
“Most Latvian soldiers in Germany were at first kept in British prisoner-of-war camps in Germany. In the fall of 1945 most of them were transferred to a POW camp 2227 at Zedelghem in Belgium. They had naively expected the Western Allies to understand the reasons why they had fought on the side of the Germans. Instead of understanding, they at first received beatings, and occasionally they were used for live target practice by the guards. They were released during 1946 when the Western Allies concurred that the Latvians were not Nazis despite their SS uniforms.”
— Visvaldis Mangulis in Latvia in the Wars of the 20th Century
POW camps in and around Zedelgem
Camp 2227, which was generally used for Baltic soldiers, was not the only camp in the area. Camp 2226 was used for Germans; other Zedelgem camps were used for other nationalities or for segregating POW’s by military rank. The following is a page from an inventory of POW camps which includes Zedelgem—the POW population across all camps totalled 63,459, including more than 16,000 in Camp 2227.
Homeland Longing – Alberts Graudins (POW)
Sound of sad songs,
Of my distant homeland.
An endless longing gripped me,
oh dear departed days of peace,
Clouds slide quietly,
I rush to thee my greetings.
Slipped hidden behind, my documents to elope this land,
to return to where I felt your love.
Faded night, out go the stars,
Lights go out once happiness is unbraided.
The Goddess drips her reward, or else showers it in dreams,
Beyond mother, what will I become?
Krempel is a municipality in the district of Dithmarschen, in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.
I, and my fellow prisoners of war, are being processed. We were hoping to have been allowed back home before now. Hitler is dead but our war time ordeal is not over.
My camp in Denmark was not a real camp. It had been an old base of some sort, possibly a small run way. There were no buildings left standing to provide us with any shelter from the weather or the night cold. There was no where to wash or to eat, there was nothing.
We were interned on a strip of land that had water to three sides. There was only one way in and one out of that camp, requiring a very small guard.
When it rained, we got wet. When the wind blew, we got cold. There were not even any trees to shelter under. Eventually, canvass tents were delivered but as the ground was concrete, it was impossible to erect them. The Americans had not thought of that, or maybe they just had not seen our concrete camp. The best we could do was shelter under the loose canvas like kids playing under a blanket.
Every now and again, a group of American soldiers would drive out to look at us. They came in Jeeps with music playing loudly from a radio. They would shout out and holler, just having a good time because the war was over. We envied them, driving up and down with their legs dangling out of the Jeep. Our officers would never have allowed us to act like them. We would not have been allowed music or to muck about whilst in uniform. We always had to be serious. We were never allowed to be boys.
I saw my first black man outside that camp. He was an American. He came with a group of Yanks to look at us.
At first, we thought he was a burn victim. We thought the man had been caught in an oil fire, thought he had been in the water when a ship went down. We thought the burning oil had stained his hands and face. None of us had ever seen a black man before. When our guard told us the man was born that way, everyone wanted to see him. Someone was always looking out ready to shout if a black man came near. We were as curious about black American’s as they were about us.
We moved from Heides, Germany, to Kűmpel on the other side of Lunhden.
Two days completely without food. I was in a particularly bad mood on Ligo evening (June 23 mid-summer festival, Ligo svētki) with nothing to eat and nothing to celebrate.
A local person has come to help us, supplying us with a little food. I am not sure if she was sent or just came. Since eating we have been able to walk-on quite well. That local old woman has boiled us soup every day since. The allied army must have recruited her, someone must be paying for our food.