Archive for November, 2015

Spain’s Nazi volunteers defend their right to recognition – and German pensions

November 30th, 2015

In total, Germany is still funding more €100,000 (£70,000) a year in pensions to the Blue Division. The payments, which typically run to around €400 per month, go mostly to men who were injured in the course of duty, and in some cases to their relatives. MP Andrej Hunko, the Left-wing MP whose parliamentary question brought about the revelation from Angela Merkel’s administration, now wants the arrangement halted.

But volunteers at a museum in Madrid that commemorates the 47,000 Spaniards who fought on the Eastern Front insist that however history may now interpret events, the payments are entirely legitimate.

“It’s a pension for maimed soldiers, a normal humane thing,” said Ignacio Martín, whose late father, Carlos Martín Monasterios, was unable to use his right arm properly due a shrapnel wound suffered while fighting for the Germans between 1942 and 1943.

Alfonso Ruiz (centre) and Juan Serrano (right) in a recent reunion

The pensions stem from a 1962 agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and Franco’s Spain, under which Spain also agreed to pay money widows of Germany’s Condor Legion, the unit sent by Hitler to assist Franco’s side in Spain’s 1936-1939 civil war.

A source from Spain’s labour ministry told The Telegraph that, unlike Germany, Spain no longer honoured the 1962 deal and had not paid these pensions since Franco’s death in 1975. “Some applications have been received but they were rejected,” the source said.

‘People were really hungry, especially in the cities. If Franco hadn’t sent the division, Hitler would have invaded Spain’

For Alfonso Ruiz, vice president of the Blue Division Foundation which runs the museum, the criticism of Blue Division pensions is disrespectful to men who showed bravery in fighting for a cause they believed in. “It’s a disgrace that they want to take away pensions of no more than €400 a month from these men when immigrants just turn up in this country and get more.”

Mr Ruiz, whose father is among the estimated 200 volunteers who remain alive, said that since he took over day-to-day control of the foundation in 2011, he had taken care to sever any remaining links to far-Right organisations.

This included the remnants of the fascist Falange, whose blue shirts gave the name to the division. “People come in here expecting to see skinheads but it’s nothing like that,” he said.

Survivors meet on February 10 each year to mark the date in 1943 of the Battle of Krasny-Bor, when 70 per cent of the men in service were lost trying to halt the Soviet offensive around Leningrad. “I tell the younger people not to sing [the Falangist anthem] ‘Cara al sol’ and not to stiff-arm salute. But if some of the veterans do so, what can I say to men who are more than 90 years old?” said Mr Ruiz.

With Spain on its knees after the civil war, many Blue Division volunteers felt that they were helping General Franco to keep it out of the Second World War.

‘We were not Nazis, but we were Germanophiles’

“If Franco hadn’t sent the division, Hitler would have invaded Spain,” said Mr Serrano, who has not personally received a pension, but who is sympathetic to the cause of those who do. “Everyone in my house was with the Falange; I had grown up drinking that in.”

Historians have suggested that the Spanish soldiers, though guilty of a share of atrocities in the harsh conditions of the Eastern Front, conducted themselves better than their Nazi allies.

But when fortune began to turn against Hitler’s forces, however, Mr Serrano noted a change in attitudes towards him and his comrades. “The second time I was injured, a Madrid military hospital refused to even treat me. Our efforts were only ever recognised by Germany.”


World War Two

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

Royal Navy detonates huge WWII German mine in Solent

November 27th, 2015

The Royal Navy has released footage of the moment it blew up a 1,500lb German mine in the Solent.

The mine was reportedly found by a crane barge that was dredging the strait.


The moment of the controlled explosion in the Solent

The device, which dated from the Second World War, was towed to open water before being detonated.

The video of the explosion shows the power of the mine blowing up a plume of water high into the air.

These mines were laid in their thousands during WWII but are rarely encountered these days – it’s only the second one we have dealt with in three years

Petty Officer (Diver) Richard Ellis, Bomb Disposal team leader

In a statement Petty Officer (Diver) Richard Ellis said: “These mines were laid in their thousands during WWII but are rarely encountered these days – it’s only the second one we have dealt with in three years. The other one was in the mouth of the Thames.

“The mine was in quite good condition, and they were engineered to a very high standard which is probably why it has stayed safe all these years.”

The explosion created a plume almost 1,000ft high.

Bomb squad called in after mother finds her flower vase was an unexploded WW2 shell
Unexploded Second World War bomb near Wembley Stadium poses ‘genuine risk to life’


World War Two

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

German ‘Nazi grandma’ sentenced to 10 months in prison for Holocaust denial

November 24th, 2015

Haverbeck was dragged back into court after she went on television in April to declare that “the Holocaust is the biggest and most sustainable lie in history”.

Unapologetic for her comment, she had told the court cheerfully, “yes I said that indeed”, according to media reports.

Haverbeck went as far as to challenge the court in the northern city of Hamburg to prove that Auschwitz was a death camp, prompting ruling magistrate Bjoern Joensson to say “it is pointless holding a debate with someone who can’t accept any facts”.

“Neither do I have to prove to you that the world is round,” he added.

Issuing his ruling on Thursday, Mr Joensson said: “It is deplorable that this woman, who is still so active given her age, uses her energy to spread such hair-raising nonsense.

“She is a lost cause,” he added.

Nevertheless, the recalcitrant Holocaust denier is not without supporters.

At the trial anti-far-right activists had arrived in force to occupy most benches in the courtroom, Haverbeck’s supporters were shouting outside: “Let us in.”

She left the courtroom to applause.

“Of course” they won’t accept this sentence, the Tageszeitung newspaper quoted her as saying.

Some 1.1 million people, most of them European Jews, perished between 1940 and 1945 in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp before it was liberated by Soviet forces.


World War Two

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

Anne Frank publishers locked in copyright battle

November 23rd, 2015

This co-authorship idea is strongly contested, and has not yet been established in court.

Annemarie Bekker, spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Stichting, which runs the massively popular Anne Frank House and its archives, protested: “Is Otto Frank co-author of the diary of Anne Frank? No, Anne Frank is the sole author of the diary versions A and B [her own, edited version], and the short stories. There is no co-author in these writings, not Otto Frank or any other person.

“Otto Frank is the curator of the commercial edition of the diary published in 1947. For this edition, Otto Frank drew on his daughter’s first and rewritten version, but they are and remain exclusively Anne’s diary entries and short stories.”

Her organisation has spent five years preparing “an elaborate web version of the diary intended for publication once the copyright expires” – adding that this “will always take place within the framework of the law”.

Meanwhile in France, academics, lawyers and a politician are also mounting a challenge, believing that such important historical documents should be openly accessible. French politician Isabel Attard pledges to publish the diary material online on January 1 2016 on her website.

“According to his own account, Otto Frank did not write this book with her daughter,” she wrote. “He was given it when he returned from the camp … Can censoring passages of an existing book be regarded as the creation of a new work? It is up to a judge to decide.”

Olivier Ertzscheid, a lecturer at the University of Nantes, decided to post the diary on his blog to alert the public to the issue this month but withdrew it after a warning letter from a French publisher.

“On January 1, we will publish the original document in Dutch online, and we are also working on a new translation,” he said. “I am not against authors’ rights, but the endless extension of these. In my opinion, suppressing passages does not make you a co-author.”

Yves Kugelmann, spokesman for the Anne Frank Fonds, said: “I understand that people in general think that every copy will be in the public domain after 70 years, but you have to check which rights are applicable in each territory.

“Legally speaking, he [Otto Frank] is co-author of his own book, and this will be protected until 2050.”

He added that the father’s edition has, in any case, been superseded by a 1991 edition which the body claims is in copyright for even longer. The foundation says it uses funds raised to support charities such as UNICEF.

The unauthorised versions next year will have company. Sources say that Cambridge University Press – in collaboration with the Anne Frank Fonds – is preparing a new, academic version of Anne Frank’s two versions of her own diary.


World War Two

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

Nazi holocaust documents found: 6,300 files discovered behind wall of Budapest apartment

November 22nd, 2015

Carefully removing each brick, the couple eased out some 61 kilogrammes (135 pounds) of dusty papers, many with bits of plaster caked on, but all more or less intact.

With the ink still readable – thanks to a lack of air in the cavity and nicotine from the heavy-smoking former owner – the yellowed papers were given to the Budapest City Archives.

Istvan Kenyeres, head of the archives, was amazed.

“Most wartime papers are more faded or rotten than medieval documents, on bad quality paper due to the rationing,” he said.

“The content and scale of the finding is unprecedented,” he said. “It helps to fill a huge gap in the history of the Holocaust in Budapest.”

Since September, restorers at the archives have been literally ironing the papers to study them, pausing occasionally when they spot someone famous among the scrawled names.

The May 1944 Budapest census was to identify houses to serve as holding locations for Jews before moving them to a planned walled ghetto in the city’s seventh district.

Two months earlier Nazi Germany had occupied Hungary and deportations in the countryside to the gas chambers of Auschwitz began almost immediately.

The forms found in the Budapest apartment contain names of each building’s inhabitants, and whether they are Jewish or not, with total numbers of Christians and Jews marked in the corners.

“Jewish people filled in the forms honestly, they refused to believe where this might end up,” said Kenyeres.

Shortly after the census, around 200,000 Jews were moved into some 2,000 selected buildings, “Yellow Star Houses” with the Star-of-David Jewish symbol painted on the doors.

“Thanks to the Berdefys, we know that if a lot of Jews lived in a building then it likely became a Yellow Star House,” Kenyeres said.

In late 1944, they were crammed into the ghetto, where some died of starvation or were shot next to the river – a poignant memorial of abandoned iron shoes today marks the spot.

The arrival of the Russian army in January 1945 saved the rest though, and unlike the Jews from outside the city, most of Budapest’s Jewish population survived.

An estimated total of 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished in the Holocaust, most in Auschwitz.

Kenyeres said that an estimated 23,000 more documents may still be out there which would give further valuable insight into what happened in 1944 and would also be digitalised and made available to the public if they turned up.

“People should look behind their walls, you never know in Budapest what could be there.”

Inside the far-Right stronghold where Hungarian Jews fear for the future


World War Two

Australian Air Force and Navy uncover remains of 1943 WWII plane

November 20th, 2015

On 21 September, the Royal Australian Air Force collaborated with a Navy diving team to locate the remains of a sunken World War II aircraft.

The plane, the Catalina A24-25, had been used to fly long-range missions against Japanese submarines and shipping vessels. It crashed on 28 February, 1943, killing all 11 military personnel on board.

The Catalina was originally found about 56 kilometers south of Cairns in 2013, but coordination challenges delayed further investigations by two years.

In an official statement, the Royal Australian Air Force said that it intended to “leave the aircraft where it lies as a mark of respect to the crew whose remains are likely to be entombed in the wreckage.”

This newly released footage of the September expedition shows divers swimming through the wreckage.


World War Two

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

Germany could send troops into streets for first time since war

November 20th, 2015

20.20

The first explosion went off near the Stade de France, where president Francois Hollande was at a football match between France and Germany. One person was killed in the blast. The body of a terrorist was found at the scene wearing a suicide belt filled with shrapnel.

20.25

Shortly after the first explosion at the Stade de France, gunmen with Kalashnikovs launched an attack at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant on Rue Bichat, in the city’s 10th arrondissement, killing 15 people and injuring 10.

20.30

The attackers drove about 500 yards to the Casa Nostra pizzeria in Rue de la Fontaine au Roi and opened fire on diners on the terrace of the restaurant, killing at least five people and injuring eight.

20.30

Another explosion went off outside the Stade de France when a second suicide bomber blew himself up.

20.35

Militants launch an attack on La Belle Equipe in Rue de Charonne, spraying the terrace bar with bullets and killing 19 people in gunfire which witnesses say lasted “two, three minutes”.

20.50

Three black-clad gunmen wielding AK-47s and wearing suicide vests stormed Le Bataclan during a concert by American rock band Eagles Of Death Metal. At least 89 were killed and more than 100 others injured during the shooting. The attackers were heard mentioning Syria and Iraq during the massacre.

20.53

A third suicide bomber blew himself up on Rue de la Coquerie, near the Stade de France.

21.00

The first reports came in of the Bataclan massacre and within 10 minutes there was confirmation that a hostage crisis had developed at the theatre.

21.57

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter: “I am shocked by events in Paris tonight. Our thoughts and prayers are with the French people. We will do whatever we can to help.”

22.00

An emotional French president Francois Hollande, who was earlier evacuated from the Stade de France, closed the borders and declared a state of national emergency. The French military were called into the centre of Paris.

22.16

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Twitter: “My thoughts are with the people of Paris tonight. We stand in solidarity with the French. Such acts are heinous and immoral.”

22.28

French emergency services activate Plan Rouge to tackle the large numbers of casualties.

22.30

Parisians used the #PorteOuverte hashtag to search for or offer safe places for those fleeing the violence. The hashtag was soon trending.

22.43

A new toll of at least 35 dead.

22.46

President Obama delivered a speech at the White House, expressing solidarity with the people of Paris and calling the attacks terrorist acts. “Those who think that they can terrorise the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong.”We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberte, egalite, fraternite, are not just the values French people share, but we share.”Those go far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening.”

23.30

Reports emerge of French taxi drivers turning off their meters and offering passengers free rides home. A citywide curfew was put in place, the first since 1944.

23.30

Police storm the Bataclan, ending the siege. Two terrorists die after activating their suicide vests and a third is shot dead by officers.

Midnight

The death toll reached at least 120.

Saturday, November 14

00.46

At least 1,500 soldiers have been called upon to patrol the streets of Paris.

03.30

Schools, markets, museums and major tourist sites in the Paris area are closed and sporting fixtures cancelled.

09.50

Hollande calls the attacks “an act of war… committed by a terrorist army, the Islamic State, against France, against… what we are, a free country”. He declares three days of national mourning.

09.50

Isil claimed responsibility, saying in a statement issued in Arabic and French that the attackers had targeted “the capital of abominations and perversions and those who carry the crusader banner in Europe”.

10.30

Gatwick Airport north terminal was evacuated after a suspected firearm was discovered. A 41-year-old French national was taken into custody for questioning. He was later charged with possession of an air rifle and a knife.

11.00

David Cameron warned the UK “must be prepared for a number of British casualties”, and condemned the “brutal and callous murderers. The Queen also sent a message of condolence to Mr Hollande, saying she and the Duke of Edinburgh had been “deeply shocked and saddened by the terrible loss of life in Paris”.

12.00

By noon on Saturday French officials had put the provisional death toll at 127 people from the combined attacks, with 180 injured and 99 people in hospital in critical condition.

13.30

One of the bombers was identified by his fingerprints as a young Frenchman flagged for links with Islamic extremism. He is later named as Ismaël Omar Mostefaï, 29.

17.00

A number of people are arrested in Brussels in relation to the Paris attack. Belgian prosecutors later confirmed they have opened an anti-terrorist investigation based on a car that was hired in Belgium and was found near the Bataclan concert hall.

18.00

One Briton is confirmed to have died and “a handful” of others are feared to have been killed. The British victim was later named as Nick Alexander, who was selling band merchandise at the Bataclan.

18.23

Francois Molins, the Paris prosecutor, said 129 people were confirmed dead and 352 people were injured, with 99 in a critical condition.

Sunday, November 15

10.30

Home Secretary Theresa May indicated the British death toll in the Paris attacks may rise as she said the government has concerns about a “handful” of UK citizens. She said that British police and intelligence agencies were “working day and night to keep people secure”.


World War Two

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

How Care packages sent by ordinary people helped save British lives after World War Two

November 16th, 2015

The shortages were so severe that to assist their allies over the Atlantic, the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe (CARE) programme was established to allow US citizens to dispatch food and basic supplies to relatives – and strangers – living amid the rubble of Europe.

The programme was designed not merely to distribute luxuries, but life-saving necessities. During the first two years of operations more than 6.6 million packages were posted from America, 400,000 of which arrived in England – including several sent to the Anstis family by an uncle living in New York. The recipients say they have never forgotten those who reached out during their time of desperate need.

Seventy years on, Europe finds itself in the grip of the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War and once more CARE is working to save lives amid the chaos. The programme has grown into the charity CARE International UK which is supported in this year’s Telegraph Christmas Appeal.

Since the Syria crisis started, CARE has been working to distribute emergency food and hygiene parcels to the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes.They are the victims of a very modern conflict, of course, but those British recipients of 70 years ago say they see close parallels between the plight of today’s refugees and that of their own generation.

“The refugees today are equally desperate to those poor souls who crossed Europe at the end of the Second World War,” says Mr Anstis. “Our job today is to accommodate them in all sorts of ways.”

Anstis, a retired architect and lecturer, grew up in Greenford in the West London suburbs and was six-years-old when hostilities erupted in 1939. His father, Herbert, a teacher and veteran of the First World War, remained in Britain working on the Home Front, but still the family found themselves constantly uprooted. In total, Anstis attended 13 different schools throughout the war.

“Our family was repeatedly evacuated,” he recalls. “Not in that picturesque situation of poor little toddlers with their gasmasks at railway stations. People were moved around with such rapidity.”

It was during a stay in one such temporary abode in Banstead, Surrey, in April 1942 that a bomb was dropped on an adjoining house during a Luftwaffe raid. “I woke to find myself covered in plaster and glass,” he says. “All the doors were gone and tiles and windows and ceilings. The rest of that night was spent cowering.”

It was not just food and safe accommodation in short supply but every basic necessity, including fuel. “Every winter during the war was very cold. We became used to chilblains and having frozen feet. When we got into bed we would put every available blanket and coat over us to make a sort of warm tunnel.”

The family only ate chicken once a year, for Christmas dinner, and even then it was an old broiler deemed long past its use. It is no surprise that Mr Anstis can still taste that tinned turkey today.

But the contents alone were not what made the packages so exotic. Similar to the modern refugees dreaming of a new life in Europe, America appeared to war-weary British eyes as a land of unimaginable plenty.

“It was very exciting to have these travel-stained parcels that had come all the way from New York,” he says. “At that time America was a great place of glamour and promise that was unrealisable.”

Tim Thomas, a now 73-year-old who was evacuated from Swansea to Wiltshire during the Blitz, can also still remember the excitement of receiving the CARE food parcels which were sent by a stranger in Boston called F. Prescott Fay. For his family, the steak and kidney pie, coffee, tea, powdered milk, tinned vegetables and peaches that came through the post several times a year were the pinnacle of luxury compared to the tapioca and corned beef they ate during rationing.

“We were very poor and very skinny,” Thomas says. “If that whole period has left me with anything it’s that feeling that a total stranger held out his hand in generosity when we needed help.”

Migrants and refugees prepare to board a train heading to Serbia from the Macedonian-Greek border near Gevgelija

Nowadays, the CARE packages being distributed to the never-ending lines of refugees snaking through the Balkans are rather more regimented in their contents. Each adult emergency package boasts 2,240 calories worth of non-perishable food items and high-energy sweet and savoury biscuits, as well as sanitary towels and basic first aid; with baby food, nappies, wipes and disinfectant distributed to young families.

Special winter CARE packages containing emergency shelter material such as sleeping bags and plastic groundsheets, warm clothes and waterproofs are also now being handed out as the cold starts to bite.

“I despair at the current refugee crisis,” says 79-year-old Janet Stevenson, a mother-of-two and grandmother-of-five who clearly recalls her own CARE packages which arrived at the school near Reading she attended as a child.

“It needs tackling at source but how you do it I don’t know. I just think it’s so tragic. I just want to help.

As Mrs Stevenson knows, it is not just the provision of basic items which makes the packages so important. The CARE parcel received by Mrs Stevenson ended up beginning a 60-year-long friendship with the US schoolgirl Shirley Meissner who helped send it over. The pair even met face to face in Virginia in 1986, before Shirley died five years ago.

Even during the greatest time of need, Mrs Stevenson – who nowadays donates to CARE through a seperate entrepreneurship scheme the charity runs – was never starving. Her father, a Gallipoli veteran tended an allotment throughout the war and could even on occasion venture to the end of the garden and wring a chicken’s neck – something the battle-scarred soldier loathed doing.

But she says her memories of such straitened times still stay with her today. “Even now I hate waste; I don’t waste anything – certainly food. Those are the values you learnt and they never leave you.”

There are other values, too, which those who experienced the kindness of strangers 70 years ago hold dear to this day.

“You can’t do much to help other people,” Mrs Stevenson says. “But you do what you can.”

To make a credit/debit-card donation call 0151-284 1927; go to telegraph.co.uk/charity; or send cheques/postal orders to Telegraph Christmas Charity Appeal, Charities Trust, Suite 20–22, Century Building, Tower Street, Liverpool L3 4BJ


World War Two

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

British and Japanese veterans shake hands in Second World War reconciliation event

November 12th, 2015

Mr Welland presented Mr Urayama and Mr Mikio Kinoshita, who served as a sergeant in the Japanese Railway Construction Army on the infamous Burma Railway, with photos of the Battle of Kohima memorial.

In return, Mr Urayama gave the British veteran a specially made tie, while Mr Kinoshita presented him with a traditional wooden doll made by his daughter.

Mr Welland, from Colchester, served in a special forces unit in Norway before being transferred to the Far East with the Royal Berkshire Regiment and sent to halt the Japanese advance into India.

The twin clashes of Imphal and Kohima were fought between early April and late June 1944 and involved heavily outnumbered British and Indian troops desperately fighting to deny the Japanese attackers the high ground.

The Japanese were forced to retreat south and the battle is considered the turning point in the land war in south-east Asia because it demonstrated that the Japanese were not invincible.

Mr Welland admitted that he suffered nightmares for many years after the war and recalled stepping over countless bodies on the battlefield. He travelled to Japan for the first time last year after meeting the daughter of a Japanese veteran at a meeting of the Burma Star Association.

The year, he attended a Remembrance Day memorial service on Wednesday at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in the Hodogaya district of Yokohama, and said he intended to return to build bridges with more Japanese veterans in the future.

“I want to keep doing things like this for a few more years, if I can,” he said. “It just keeps getting better.”


World War Two

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

Armistice Day 2015 is observed around the world, in pictures

November 11th, 2015

Tributes will be paid today to the millions of British servicemen who have died in conflict since the start of the First World War. Here is a selection of photographs from around the world of this year’s Armistice Day commemorations.

Above: Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall attend the Remembrance Day National Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra

Picture: Tim Rooke/Rex


World War Two

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in WWII News | Comments Off

Archives

Categories