Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The SS - Himmler at Posen

Spreading the Truth

Himmler and Kaltenbrunner visit Mauthausen 1941
On 4th October 1943 at the town hall of Posen[i] Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuhrer der SS, gave a speech detailing the atrocities that were happening in the death camps in the Eastern territories. This speech was not meant for public edification[ii];

'A glorious page in our history and one that has never been written and never can be written.'[iii]

He informed his audience that the SS was strong enough to carry this burden on their shoulders for the good of the German people.

‘We together – carry for our people the responsibility……….and then take the secret with us to the grave.’[iv]
Himmler was not speaking to the uninitiated on this day; his audience comprised of senior SS leaders; which included all but four of his senior officers[v]. Kershaw (among others) suggests that the reason for the speech and the one two days later, to a different audience, was to stress the joint responsibility of the leaders of the regime for the horrors of the death camps.

The speech was wide ranging, covering a number of topics in detail.
The Jews

‘I mean……….the extermination of the Jewish race.’[vi]

Page 65 of speech
There can be no doubt, to anyone knowing the relationship between the Reichsfuhrer and his master that if Himmler knew of the extermination of the Jews, then Hitler knew too. Like many other of Hitler’s subordinates Himmler was in thrall to his master and under no circumstances would he have undertaken a project of this magnitude without Hitler’s direct approval. It was only at the end, as Himmler saw the death throes of the Nazi regime and desperate to save his beloved SS, that he betrayed Hitler.
Himmler approved of the hardness of his men; that they were able to kill without compunction. He made an oblique reference to the SS involvement in the Night of the Long Knives. He also agreed that some Jews might be considered acceptable by people, who presumably did not realise the danger posed by this alien race, and should not therefore be considered for Endlosung[vii];

'The eighty million worthy Germans, and each one has his one decent Jew.'[viii]
Indeed there were Jews who were exempted from the destruction raining down on Jewry, and Erhard Milch, Luftwaffe Field Marshall was one such; and the dead Heydrich was believed by the regime to have been another.

Posen Town Hall
Himmler claimed that if they had not removed the Jews from Germany the authorities would have been faced with Jewish saboteurs and agitators fomenting trouble; causing distraction from the great task of winning the war. The Jewish uprising in Warsaw earlier in the year no doubt coloured his thinking; he may have been referring to it when he said;
‘We had the moral right, we had the duty to our people to destroy this people [the Jews] which wanted to destroy us.’[ix]
The inhumanity of the speech gives an insight to the character of the man making it; a man, whose relationships with his staff were based on his own insecurities and need to bully his inferiors into acquiescence.

Himmler prided himself that the SS had not enriched themselves from the destruction of the Jews
‘The riches which they owned we have taken from them. I have given strict orders, which Obergruppenfuhrer Pohl has carried out, that this wealth should naturally be delivered to the Reich. We have taken nothing.’[x]

Oswald Pohl
This statement of course was incorrect; many SS men within and without the camps had enriched themselves by stealing from the dead and dying, the displaced and the imprisoned. And of course the SS itself benefitted from the thefts, monies being paid into a secret account in Berlin.
There were also distributions of watches, pens, clothing and other items to members of the Waffen SS. As early as 1939 Himmler arranged for winter kit for his troops, using furs appropriated from Jewish women held at Ravensbruck concentration camp.
Slave Labour

Himmler critiqued the policies of his own staff in the WVHA[xi] who, rather than looking after the welfare of the slave labourers, allowed the maltreatment that killed so many.
'At that time [1941] we did not value the mass of humanity as we value it today, as raw material, as labour………….is now deplorable by reason of the loss of labour, is that the prisoners died in tens and hundreds of thousands of exhaustion and hunger,’[xii]

Mass graves at Dora-Central
From automatically killing those they despised and hated the Nazis moved to working their slaves to death, in the concentration camps and in off-shoot camps like Dora-Central, where slaves died working on the wonder weapons, the V1 & V2 rockets. Prisoners were used to make uniforms, make arms and help the war effort.
‘Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our Kultur: otherwise, it is of no interest to me. Whether 10,000 Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interests me only in so far as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished.’[xiii]

The Germanisation of Europe

Obergruppenfuhrer Wolff
Lebensborn was an organisation set up by Himmler under the aegis of the SS in 1935. It provided care for women having children fathered by SS men[xiv]. In 1938 it was transferred from RuSHA[xv] to the Personalstab RFSS under Karl Wolff. After 1939 the organisation undertook responsibility for the children of Poles, who had the valuable characteristics of Aryans that were so important to Himmler’s racial theories. These children were forcibly removed from their parents and given to German couples[xvi] and Germanised.
In this speech Himmler defended this practise in passing;
'Whatever we find in the way of good blood from our race we will take, if necessary, by stealing children and raising them ourselves.'[xvii]
This of course included the children of Lidice, stolen from their families as part of the retribution for the death of Reinhard Heydrich.

The practise was continued throughout the occupied territories during the war. Himmler himself early in 1943 had taken a fancy to two young blonde, blue-eyed Russian boys, who were cleaned up and given a little schooling before joining Himmler and his staff on his train Heinrich[xviii]. After a time the boys were then placed in school for indoctrination and Germanisation.
The Future of the SS

The speech also covered the growth of the SS and its guiding principles;
'One principle must be absolute for the SS man: we must be honest, decent, loyal and comradely to members of our own blood and to no-one else.'[xix]
And Himmler’s vision for the future; the SS must be ready to take over all the senior roles in a Nazi ruled Europe;

'In twenty to thirty years we must really be able to present the whole of Europe with its leading class.'[xx]
In the future Himmler’s ongoing programme of infiltrating all the machinery of government, with members of the Order of the SS, would result in the SS reigning supreme.

‘This Germanic Reich needs the Order of the SS. It needs it at least for the next few centuries.’[xxi]
Along with his master Himmler truly believed that the war would be won; not all of his audience were as convinced. And this despite admitting that the Nazis had persuaded themselves that the Soviet show trials in 1937 had been a blunder of the highest order;

‘During the Moscow trials……….we were persuaded……..in the SS that Stalin had made his greatest blunder. That was an out and out error on our part.’[xxii]

And More

Albert Speer 1933
Two days later Himmler gave what amounted to the same speech to the Reichsleiters[xxiii] and Gauleiters[xxiv], an audience who were later in the day also addressed by Albert Speer[xxv], Admiral Donitz and Field Marshall Milch. According to Speer the audience got blind drunk afterwards, possibly horror struck at the vistas opened up by Himmler; implicating all Nazi senior officials in the Holocaust.

The following day the Reichsleiters and Gauleiters attended Hitler at the Wolfsschanze, where the Fuhrer knew that his audience had been made aware of their complicity in the horrors ongoing in the death camps. Hitler was ordering these Nazi senior officials to undertake all out war to ensure Germany’s survival.
‘The entire German people know that it is a matter of whether they exist or do not exist. The bridges have been destroyed behind them. Only the way forward remains.’[xxvi]
He threatened that without a Nazi victory there would be nothing left of Germany; only the triumph of her enemies.

Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka - Yitzhak Arad, Indiana University Press 1999

Documents on the Holocaust – Ed. Yitzhak Arad, Israel Gutman, Abraham Margaliot, University of Nebraska Press 1999
The Origins of the Final Solution – Christopher R Browning, Arrow Books 2005

Hitler – a Study in Tyranny – Alan Bullock, Penguin Books 1962
The Face of the Third Reich – Joachim Fest, Penguin Books 1970

The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume 3 – Raoul Hilberg, Holmes and Meier 1985
Nazi Aggression & Violence Volume 1 International Military Trials Nuremberg, United States Government Printing Office 1946

Hitler 1936-1945 Nemesis – Ian Kershaw, Penguin Books 2001
Heinrich Himmler – Peter Longerich, Oxford University Press 2011

Heinrich Himmler – Roger Manvell & Heinrich Fraenkell, Greenhill Books/Lionel Leventhal Ltd 2007
The SS Alibi of a Nation – Gerald Reitlinger, Da Capo Press 1989

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – William L Shirer, Book Club Associates 1985

[i] Capital of the Warthegau province, in west central Poland
[ii] The speech was however recorded; listen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yi9hT8ES2g for part of the recording.
[iii] Nemesis - Kershaw
[iv] The Origins of the Final Solution - Browning
[v] Kaltenbrunner, Wolff, Daluege (already on sick leave at this time) & Globocnik; Wolff claimed that he knew nothing of the Holocaust despite being Chief of the Personalstab RFSS
[vi] The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich - Shirer
[vii] The regime’s term for the killing of undesirables, who included not only Jews, but also Gypsies, homosexuals, asocials, Communists and Jehovah’s Witnesses among others
[viii] Documents of the Holocaust – Arad, Gutman, Margialot
[ix] Hitler – Alan Bullock
[x] The Destruction of the European Jews - Hilberg
[xi] SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (SS Main Economic and Administrative Department) – head Oswald Pohl
[xii] The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich - Shirer
[xiii] Nazi Aggression & Violence Volume 1 International Military Trials, Nuremberg
[xiv] In and out of wedlock
[xv] Rasse-und Siedlungshauptamt-SS (SS Race and Settlement Main Office),
[xvi] Many never to see their families again. For more on this subject see Lebensborn - Clay and Leapman
[xvii] Heinrich Himmler - Longerich
[xviii] Named after an ancient Germanic king
[xix] The Face of the Third Reich - Fest
[xx] Hitler - Bullock
[xxi] The Face of the Third Reich - Fest
[xxii] The SS - Reitlinger
[xxiii] The political rank below Hitler; Himmler was one.
[xxiv] The second highest political rank; Nazi official in charge of a Gau.
[xxv] Who was later to claim no knowledge of the subjects under discussion
[xxvi] Nemesis – Kershaw

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

100 Years War - Charles Duke of Orleans III

Return to France

Charles d'Orleans in the Tower of London
he English, prodded by their ally Philip of Burgundy, finally agreed to accept the sum of 200,000 ecus for Charles
[i], who was released on 5th November 1440 having spent over half his life in exile from home. A number of his estates were sold to pay the monies owing, but even so it was not until 1514 that Louis XII[ii] paid the outstanding amount. Charles’ brother Jean was not released until 1445. Jean d’Angoulême stayed as hostage until the majority of the ransom was paid.

Charles’ third marriage was to Marie of Cleves, the 14 year old daughter of the Duke of Cleves. The couple were married on 27th November 1440 at St Omer; three weeks after Charles return from England. The marriage was arranged by Philip of Burgundy, Marie’s uncle. Marie’s dowry was swallowed up as part of the ransom payment. The newly wedded couple moved to live at the chateau of Blois, which Charles rarely left and spent much of his time beautifying the chateau and adding to his library. Like her husband Marie was a poet, who also enjoyed hunting and dancing.

Family Troubles

Charles and Marie
Charles did not get on with his nephew the French king, as he believed that Charles VII could have done more to arrange his release, although the king did contribute to his ransom. In turn King Charles was suspicious of the relationship between Charles d’Orléans and the Duke of Burgundy. Despite the fact that Charles was third in line to the French throne he was not involved in state matters.

In the spring of 1442 a conference at Nevers, Charles, in accordance with his promise to the English, tried to create an accord between the two nations. The capture of Pointoise the previous autumn had boosted the French king’s confidence.

In 1450 the French recovered Normandy, with towns surrendering as soon as the army hove into sight. The English stronghold of Aquitaine was now little more than a pale around Bordeaux. In 1453 the last of the English strongholds outside the Bordeaux area, Castillon, fell and with it the last of the great English leaders Lord John Talbot. And in that year his Valois inheritance struck Henry VI; his first bout of madness ensued.

Francesco Sforza
Francesco Sforza, married to Bianca the illegitimate daughter of the last Visconti Duke of Milan, marched on the city and entered it in 1450, following a series of political and military victories. He proclaimed himself duke. Through his mother Valentina, daughter of the first Duke of Milan, Charles laid claim to the Duchy of Milan, but he could not afford the troops to press for his rights[iii]; nor to the title of Count of Asti that he had inherited from her.
Any lingering hopes that Charles may have had, of taking the duchy from Sforza, were dashed by a treaty made by the Dauphin, Louis[iv], with the Duke of Milan. Charles’ claim was to be reinstituted by his son, when he was king of France.

In 1454 Charles and Marie travelled to Nevers to meet with the Duke and Duchess of Burgundy, the Duchess of Bourbon[v] and the representative of the Duke to discuss the marriage of the Duke of Burgundy’s heir to the daughter of the Duke of Bourbon. The marriage took place at the end of October.

Louis XI
On 22nd July 1461 King Charles VII died and was succeeded by his son, Louis XI. A difficult man, Louis was at outs with not only the Pope but also the Duke of Orléans, the Duke of Burgundy, the Duke of Brittany, the Count of Charolais[vi] and the Duke of Bourbon.
In addition the Lorraine faction were incensed that the king had not done more to help restore the Duke of Lorraine’s daughter Margaret of Anjou and her husband Henry VI to the throne of England[vii]. Instead Louis was hoping through his connections to the Earl of Warwick, known as the kingmaker, to wed his daughter to the new English king Edward IV.

Edward IV
Warwick had been an avid supporter of the new king and instrumental in raising this second son of the Duke of York to the throne, following the decisive battle of Towton on 29th March 1461. But instead of following Warwick’s preferred policy Edward became infatuated with an older woman and married Elizabeth Woodville on 1st May 1464. Thereafter the English became too embroiled in their own civil war; the War of the Roses, to worry about the problems involved in reclaiming France.

The French king was able to consolidate his power, partly based on an innovation of Charles VII; in 1444-5 he established a standing army, while eliminating the lawless companies that were the scourge of Europe. The risk of a repeat of an English resurgence became remote and then non-existent.
A Son and Heir
Charles finally became the father of a son on 27th June 1462 at the age of 68; the boy was named after Charles’ father Louis. Louis was the second child of the marriage, his sister Marie was born on 19th December 1457. King Louis grudgingly attended the christening as the child’s godfather, but was infuriated by the infant’s wetting him. He left the chateau before the ceremonial dinner was served.

Jeanne as Queen of France
On 10th May 1464 an envoy arrived from the king, proposing a betrothal to the newly born Princess Jeanne[viii], who was endowed with a dowry of 100,000 livres. At the age of two, Louis was betrothed to his cousin; his relatively impoverished father signed the contract on the 19th. Some years after Charles’ death the king confided to an adviser
‘I have resolved to make the marriage of my little daughter Jeanne and the little Duke of Orléans because it seems to me that the children they will have together will cost nothing to feed.’[ix]
The couple’s youngest child Anne was born two years after Louis in 1464. By this time Charles was crippled with gout and rheumatism. There were rumours about the paternity of Charles’ children. The immediate family accepted the children and the issue was not raised when Louis became king in 1498; although Louis XI insinuated that he had doubts about Charles’ ability to father children;

‘As feeble and poisoned[x] as he is he has still made his wife pregnant.’[xi]
Commenting to the Milanese ambassador that Charles was aged and without much sense; it is noticeable that the madness prevalent in the Valois family was apparently not passed on to Louis.

Death of a Duke
By the end of August 1464 Louis XI was in a difficult position vis-à-vis his nobles. His policy of alliance with England through a marriage with Edward having been dealt a death blow; he was now struck by rumours that he had attempted to assassinate the Count of Charolais. The Duke of Burgundy was unsure whether the king would come after him next. In October Louis attempted a reconciliation with his uncle, who failed to respond positively. By now the king had the Duke of Brittany in open rebellion[xii] and a potential conflict with the Duke of Burgundy in the offing.

In December 1464 Charles was summonsed to a meeting at Tours by the king, two months after Anne’s birth. He arrived by water on the 20th December. The meeting of French nobles was to discuss the Duke of Brittany’s revolt. Louis claimed that he had no desire to ruin the Duke of Brittany;
‘I tell you that if I had conquered his province and got into my hands everything but one castle……….and he wished to come to grace and mercy, I would accord it to him in such a manner that everyone would know I had no desire for his destruction.’[xiii]
Charles spoke favourably of the rebels and the king chastised his uncle before his fellow magnates. A humiliated and exhausted Charles started on his journey home. He reached Amboise, where he died on 5th January 1465, nearly fifty years after his capture at Agincourt.

Louis XII
The children were left to the guardianship of their mother. Charles’ son Louis became king of France on 7th April 1498 following the death of the childless Charles VIII, son of Louis XI. And in 1515, after Louis’ death, Charles great-nephew François 1 became king of France.
Throughout his adult life Charles appeared a gentle man whose ambition, if it ever existed, was excised from his character during his years of imprisonment. It is possible that Charles’ vainglorious actions in 1415 could be attributed to pressure from the Count of Armagnac; forcing Charles to act the role of inspiring figurehead of the Orléans-Armagnac faction.

Louis XII – Frederic J Baumgartner – MacMillan Press Ltd 1996

The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005
The Reign of Henry VI – RA Griffiths, Sutton Publishing Ltd 1998

The Fifteenth Century – EF Jacob, Oxford University Press 1997
Louis XI – Paul Murray Kendall, Sphere Books 1974

A History of France 1460-1560 – David Potter, MacMillan Press 1995
Isabel of Burgundy – Aline S Taylor, Madison Books 2001

A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, Pan MacMillan Publishers Ltd 1979

[i] 80,000 on release and the remainder payable within six months.
[ii] Charles’ son
[iii] Even if successful Charles would have been totally out of his depth in the Byzantine world of Italian politics
[iv] Louis was also in contact with the Earl of Warwick
[v] The Duke of Burgundy’s sister
[vi] The Duke of Burgundy’s son and heir
[vii] The Duke of York installed himself as Edward IV on 4th March 1461, following a series of battles with the Lancastrian forces of King Henry VI
[viii] Jeanne was crippled and sterile, lame and very thin. The marriage was annulled in 1498 so that Louis could produce an heir to the throne.
[ix] Louis XII - Baumgartner
[x] Charles claimed that Francesca Sforza was having him poisoned over the dispute as to who should be Duke of Milan
[xi] Louis XII - Baumgartner
[xii] Having been accused of treasonous correspondence with England, following a dispute over feudal authority in Brittany
[xiii] Louis XI - Kendall