My musings on the pictures and the past
Hermann “The German” Göring (ok, his nickname was actually “Gering”, but that’s another story) was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Europe, and the most prominent defendant at the Nuremburg trials.
Few people, however, know that Hermann had a brother, Albert, who did things a little differently.
Born in March 1895, Albert bore a remarkable resemblance to his godfather, leading to rumours that they were father and son. That godfather, Ritter Hermann von Epenstein, was Jewish. As a result, in contrast to Hermann, Albert spent the years of Nazi power as a Jewish sympathiser despising the party, but protected from the Gestapo by his brother.
Albert was able to use his family name in his protests. He supposedly joined a group of Jewish women who had been forced to scrub the streets. When questioned by the officer in charge, after producing his identification and refusing to leave, the officer stopped all of the women from scrubbing, not wanting Hermann’s brother to be a part of it.
Of course, small protests, while noble, didn’t save any lives. Albert stepped up his activities and started helping people out of the country, by forging his brother’s signature or playing on his vanity (Hermann enjoyed showing how much power he had by releasing prisoners). He once even went outside the family, convincing Reinhard Heydrich to release some resistance fighters. After being made a manager at a Skoda factory in Czechoslovakie he authorised minor acts of sabotage, and requested slave labourers from concentration camps who would be allowed to escape before they ever made it to his factory.
Despite his kindness and bravery, risking his life against Nazi oppression, Albert Göring was imprisoned at the conclusion of the Second World War for his name alone, and struggled to live out a life in Germany. But one story tells his contempt for Nazism like no other. Standing on a balcony in Romania, two German soldiers recognised him. Saluting him with “Heil Hitler”, Göring replied “you can kiss my arse”.
His resistance, if not as extensive, was at least comparable to the likes of Oskar Schindler, but his name cannot be forgotten or forgiven. Only this year, almost 70 years after the fall of the Nazi’s, are Yad Vashem considering honouring him. To my mind, it’s long overdue.
I recently took a trip to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, home of and monument to John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. Aside from having just about the most British name I can think of, I thought maybe I should make he and his most famous victory the subject of my first post.
Churchill was a favourite of James II, and had supported him through exile as well as having a key role in the suppression of the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685. However, only three years later James’ religious zeal had made Churchill anxious, and he supported the invitation to William of Orange to take the throne before defecting to the revolutionary cause. His switch of allegiance caused distrust at court, particularly with William and Mary, and he was arrested for treason – a situation not helped by his correspondence with the exiled James.
Of course, you don’t give a giant estate to a traitor, so clearly Churchill was released as evidence against him was discredited. He was thus in position in 1702 to command the allied forces against France in the War of the Spanish succession. His leadership was limited, as he could only command Dutch forces (in addition to his own) in battle, and had to gain consent for his manoeuvres outside of it. Nevertheless, he achieved some early victories. Unfortunately, Austria was in danger of being forced out of the war.
To reinforce the Austrian forces, Marlborough at first followed an approved plan before sneaking away from the Dutch at Moselle. As his army raced along the Rhine into Germany, he had bridges constructed as if to attack Strasbourg, luring the French army of Villeroi into chasing and causing the plan to attack Vienna to hesitate with uncertainty. Marlborough managed to cover 250 miles in only five weeks, an amazing feat considering the numbers that had to be moved and the transport available. Marlborough used new two-wheeled carts, which could travel at a much higher speed, and kept his troops fresh by rising before dawn and finishing the march before 9am. Eventually, he arrived outside of Blenheim and drew the French into open battle – something they hadn’t lost in fifty years.
In a strong defensive position, Marlborough confounded the French by attacking, pressing hard at the villages of Blenheim and Lutzingen, at each end of the French line. Desperate fighting ensued, and French Marshal Tallard moved troops away from the centre of his line to reinforce the villages, and in the process overcrowding them so that his soldiers couldn’t shoot their attackers without shooting each other. This was the mistake Marlborough had been waiting for, and he crossed the River Nebel to attack the centre. The French were pushed back, and Tallard desperately tried to recall his reinforcements to no avail. Marlborough turned to secure Oberglau before smashing through the French line. As the French troops retreated in confusion and disarray around 3000 drowned in the Danube, while Tallard surrendered. Marlborough had destroyed the legend of French invincibility, and though the Wars of Spanish Succession raged on for another 18 years, he had earned his own legend.
Of course, the Churchill line continued. One of his descendants, Winston, went into politics. I wonder what became of him…?
Hello to you, whomsoever you happen to be that has stumbled upon my musings. I read a lot of history, and fill most of the rest of my time watching films. Rather than lose friends and alienate people I thought I’d throw my moronic ramblings here, in my little corner of the interweb. That way my friends don’t have to politely pretend that they’re so interested, and anyone of a like mind (yep, all three of you!) can find me!
So, this will hopefully be a pretty even split between any interesting historical tidbits I happen upon, and my (un)informed opinion on what to watch at the cinema. With the occasional “other” piece thrown in about whatever takes my fancy.
So, that’s me in a nutshell, hopefully I had you at hello? (And yes, this blog will be peppered an annoying amount with film quotes. I apologise in advance).
Now, what shall I actually write about…