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Nazi war mascot was Jewish

Discussion in 'History of Germany during World War II' started by Kelly War44, Jun 15, 2007.

  1. Kelly War44

    Kelly War44 New Member

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    IT looks like a typical wartime photo. In fact it is evidence of one of the most remarkable stories of the Second World War that has only just emerged. The smiling soldiers are members of a Latvian-based SS death squad that hunted down Jews for Nazi Germany. The boy is their mascot who was lauded in propaganda newsreels as “the Reich’s youngest Nazi”. But the filmmakers didn’t know the little boy was, in fact, Jewish. He had seen most of his family massacred by men — possibly from the same military unit. The lad survived the war by hiding his identity and later emigrated to Australia where he raised a family of his own. Now Alex Kurzem has broken 60 years of silence to tell his story in a book written by his son Mark. Alex was born Ilya, the eldest child of Solomon and Hana Galperin from the village of Koidanov in what is now Belarus, then part of the Soviet Union. On October 21, 1941, the Jewish men of the village were rounded up and executed by a Latvian militarised police unit. The women and children were also rounded up but sent back to their homes when a sudden rainstorm struck. “My mother had said, ‘We are all going to die tomorrow’ but I didn’t want to die,” he recalls. That night Alex, who was five or six — he cannot remember his exact birthday — fled in his nightclothes through a small hole in a fence. He says “I fell asleep by a tree and woke the next morning to the sound of screams. If only I had not looked, but I could see soldiers forcing people down a hill, using bayonets. Then I saw my family. I wanted to call out, I wanted to go to my mother, but I couldn’t. The soldiers shot my mother and put bayonets into my brother and sister. I had to bite my hands to stop myself screaming.”

    Alex lived in the woods for nine months, eating mainly berries and sheltering under a greatcoat he took from a dead soldier. He also begged at farmhouses until, in July 1942, he was handed over to a Nazi patrol. He was lined up with other civilian prisoners but impulsively ran forward to the soldiers and begged on his knees for bread. The soldiers were from neighbouring Latvia — possibly the very same men who had earlier massacred Alex’s family. The patrol’s commander, Sergeant Jekabs Kanis, took pity on Alex who, despite his Jewish ancestry, had “typically Aryan” blond hair. The orphan was given the name Uldis Kurzemnieks, in honour of Kurzeme, the west Latvian region where the soldiers originated, and he was adopted by the unit as its mascot. In 1943 the unit was given SS status and new uniforms, so the soldiers clubbed together to give Alex, by now seven or eight, his own miniature uniform complete with replica gun. Alex even featured in a German newsreel where the Latvians boasted of him being “the Reich’s youngest Nazi”. The film is typical propaganda but Alex, young as he was, realised he was living a double life. He witnessed bloody massacres of Jews and Soviet citizens suspected of opposing the Nazis. He admits: “I hated the soldiers’ brutality but at other times I loved being the centre of attention. All the time I was terrified they would discover my real identity and I would be shot for my faith.”

    By 1944 the tide of the war had changed and the Soviets began reconquering Latvia. Alex was sent to live with a prominent Latvian family. They survived the war and in 1949 emigrated to Australia and his name was anglicised to Alex Kurzem. He later settled in Melbourne, worked as an electrician, married and had three sons. It took Alex and one of his sons, Mark, many years and frequent trips to Belarus and Latvia to piece together the full story. At one point Alex received hate mail from fellow Jews who claimed he was an accomplice of the Nazis — not one of their victims. But now his life is studied by Australian children learning about the Second World War and post-war migration Down Under. It is a remarkable and ultimately inspiring memoir of a tragic time.
    By TIM SPANTON
    June 15, 2007
    The Sun
     
  2. Kelly War44

    Kelly War44 New Member

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    Alex Kurzem Today
     
  3. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Great to read, and a very lucky kid at the time .. :eek:i:
     
  4. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    Amazing stuff, but weirdly commonplace at the same time. One in particular of the Wehrmacht's most talented military high commanders in the field - (whose name escapes me atm !.... Russian campaign... I'll look it up ok !) - was also Jewish, and I'm sure countless others...
     
  5. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    'Could have been Erhard Milch I read about in an Eastern Front book. A half Jewish Field Marshall.
    Anyway the full scope can be seen here:


    [FONT=verdana,futura,arial,helvetica][SIZE=+1]Jews in the Nazis’ Ranks [/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=verdana,futura,arial,helvetica][SIZE=-1][/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=verdana,futura,arial,helvetica][SIZE=-2]By Dennis Gura
    [/SIZE][/FONT][​IMG] [FONT=verdana,futura,arial,helvetica][SIZE=-2][/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=georgia,times new roman, times,serif][SIZE=-1]Bryan Mark Rigg’s most controversial assertion is "Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers’" least relevant matter. In a complicated opening chapter, he claims that 150,000 individuals (almost exclusively male) served in the German military who were, by Nazi racial standards and laws, Jews of some quantity. By his calculations, perhaps as many as 6,000 "full" Jews (with four Jewish grandparents) were in the Wehrmacht — but the greater number comes, of course, from the highly assimilated, aggressively nationalistic, and thoroughly acculturated "quarter" and "half" Jews, those with one or two Jewish grandparents respectively. (The mathematics is darkly amusing: two half-Jewish parents make up one half-Jewish child.)
    His numerical assertions aside, Rigg tells a deeply disturbing story. His 430 interviews with still-living Nazi-defined Jewish Wehrmacht veterans, and a wealth of both primary and secondary research reveal both a willing naiveté on the part of "ordinary" Germans, and Germany’s enthusiastic collaboration and participation in unadulterated evil. Hitler’s pseudoscientific racial madness coexisted with a cumbersome yet efficient bureaucratic death machine. Careful gradations of Jewish racial profiling and extensive discussions concerning the disposition of the various degrees of partial Jews occupied the minds of Nazidom’s leadership. More time was devoted, for example, at the Wannsee Conference to the status of the mixed Jews (the so-called Mischlinge) than any other element of the "Final Solution."
    An entire bureau was created to deal with the Mischlinge. The one "hero" in this sad story is Bernhard Losener, the desk officer for racial law at the Reich Ministry of the Interior. Until overruled by Martin Bormann in December 1941, Losener consistently advocated a separate status for the Mischlinge that would exempt them from the more arduous and deadly Nazi racial legislation.
    Those same laws addressed the peculiarities of an assimilated Jewish population. Converts to Judaism were treated legally as Jews, and formally documented as such. SS Gen. Curt von Gottberg, a notorious commander in White Russia who supervised the unbridled massacre of both partisans and Jews, and was an early and avid Nazi, lobbied on behalf of his "half-Jewish" nephews. Consequently, they received a "German Blood Certificate" in 1940, the highest form of exemption from the racial laws. But, as was Hitler’s prerogative, the certificate was conditional, and to be reconsidered at the war’s end.
    Hitler personally reviewed and signed the various instruments of exemption. As the war wound on, his demands for documentation grew more complex, and his attitudes towards the Mischlinge hardened. He would review the military records, read the letters of recommendation and carefully study the photographs that partially Jewish aspirants to Wehrmacht would submit in the hopes of gaining rank and protecting family members. But usually to little avail. Mother and fathers, sisters and brothers would be either drafted into forced labor battalions, shipped east or, if from a military background, into the "Straight to Heaven Detachments."
    The ordinary German of Jewish extraction just wanted to be like everyone else, only more so. They wanted to live, love, be patriotic Germans, and earn distinctions. However, even with protective documents, they were still Jews. Early on, Rigg sets the tone of his story:
    "After I interviewed half-Jew Heinrich Hamberger in Munich, his girlfriend recommended that he take me with him that evening. He immediately tried to hush her, but she insisted, saying, ‘The young American would find it interesting.’ He explained that his army buddies met in a pub once a month. After discussing the matter, he agreed to take me there, but only on two conditions: first, under no circumstance would I tell anyone about his Jewish descent, and second, I would tell them I studied something else besides Mischlinge who fought in the Wehrmacht. I agreed.
    "A few hours later, we entered the pub. Loud voices greeted us, and the smell of smoke smarted our nostrils. I felt odd sitting among these old men singing, drinking and telling war stories. I watched the years melt away as they relived the ‘good old days.’ After a while, Hamberger left me alone and I started to talk with his former company commander. He wanted to impress upon me how honorable the Wehrmacht had been. I just listened. During our conversation, I told him that during my studies I had come across an anomaly that Jews and men of Jewish descent had fought in the Wehrmacht. ‘Have you ever heard about this?’ I asked. The commander looked around, spotted Hamberger on the other side of the room, and nodded his old, scarred head. He lowered his raspy voice to a conspiratorial tone: ‘Don’t tell Hamberger, but we know he’s a Jew.’ I acted surprised and promised not to tell. This event illustrates the universal fear present among many Mischlinge who feel insecure about their ‘Jewishness’ and cower at being labeled ‘Jewish.’"
    Many important insights issue from the grasping of the obvious. Obviously, there were many nationalist, militant Germans with partial Jewish backgrounds. Some, like half-Jew Field Marshall Erhard Milch, and quarter-Jew and Nazi Party member Franz Mendelssohn (a descendent of the famous Moses) participated at the highest levels in German military life. Most however, like the pseudonymous Hamberger, just tried to survive their own little part of hell. And in "Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers," Rigg maps out for us more of the contours of Lucifer’s domain.

    http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=8654
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  6. Kelly War44

    Kelly War44 New Member

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    Good read that dave:thumb:
     

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