One of most politically-charged sporting events took place in New York’s Yankee Stadium on 22 June 1938 – a boxing match between the then heavyweight champion of the world, Joe Louis, the ‘Brown Bomber’, and the German, Max Schmeling, the unwilling darling of the Nazi Party.
Born in 1905, Max Schmeling had advanced through the boxing ranks within Germany and Europe and even impressed Jack Dempsey, heavyweight champion, in a friendly fight during the champion’s tour of Europe. But to be a true star of the boxing world, one had to conquer the US. And it was to America, the 23–year-old Schmeling travelled in 1928.
The Low Blow Champion
It was an astute move, and the young German was soon a sensation winning his initial fights on American soil. In 1930, the reigning heavyweight champion, Gene Tunney, retired and Schmeling was pitted against fellow-contender, Jack Sharkey. Schmeling won the fight but not in a manner that he would have liked – Sharkey had knocked the German to the floor but was disqualified for throwing a punch below the belt, leaving Schmeling floored and clutching his groin. Thus, with Sharkey disqualified, Schmeling had become World Heavyweight champion by default. The press derided Schmeling’s victory, calling him the ‘Low Blow Champion,’ a nickname that must have hurt. Sharkey’s team, feeling grieved, demanded an immediate re-match.
As heavyweight champion, the only German to have been so, Max Schmeling dispatched a boxer called Young Stribling, before facing Sharkey again in 1932. This time the fight went to 15 rounds, and Sharkey, to the astonishment of neutral onlookers, was given the fight on points, stripping Schmeling of his title. ‘We woz robbed,’ screamed Schmeling’s Jewish trainer, Joe ‘Yussel the Muscle’ Jacobs. The newspapers, and even the mayor of New York, agreed.
On 31 May 1962, a man who seemed from the outside quite an ordinary person, even banal, was hanged in Ramla prison in Israel. It was, and still is, the only time the Israel state has executed a person. Tall, slim, bespectacled and with a receding hairline, his external persona was indeed very mundane but this was no ordinary person. The man in question was 56-year-old Adolf Eichmann, responsible for the logistical management of the mass deportations of Jews to the Nazi death camps.
Born 19 March 1906 in the town of Solingen in western Germany, Eichmann was brought up in a middle class Lutheran environment. (Eichmann kept his faith right up to the late 1930s, long after it was fashionable for Nazis to denounce religion).
Following his mother’s death in 1914, Adolf Eichmann’s father, an accountant, took his two sons to live in Linz, Austria, the town that Adolf Hitler always considered his home. Eichmann’s early life was certainly ordinary, dropping out of his studies to become a mechanical engineer and drifting from one job to another before finding more permanent employment as a travelling salesman for an Austrian oil company.
The Jewish Expert
Eva Braun was born 6 February 1912. She first met her future husband, Adolf Hitler, while working as an assistant and model to Hitler’s official photographer, Heinrich Hoffman. It was 1929 and she was 17, Hitler 40.
At the time Hitler had taken upon himself the responsibility of looking after his 21-year-old niece, Geli Raubal. The exact relationship between uncle and niece has never been properly ascertained except that Hitler was overly-possessive and jealous of the company she kept. On 18 September 1931, Raubal committed suicide by shooting herself with Hitler’s pistol.
Hitler’s relationship with Eva Braun began soon after Raubal’s death and possibly before. Raubal’s jealousy of Braun has been mooted as a possible cause of her suicide.
The Invisible Woman
Germany, as a nation, never knew of Braun’s existence as Hitler went to great lengths to keep her hidden from view. He was, as he often remarked, primarily wedded to the German people and wanted to maintain his popularity amongst German women, whose adoration for Hitler sometimes contained a sexual dimension.
Three mountain scene watercolours are up for auction in Shropshire, UK this Thursday, 27 September 2012. As works of arts they are pleasant enough to the eye but, being almost instantly forgettable, don’t linger too long in the memory. Painted almost a century ago in Vienna, they were probably sold to a middle-class family or a local business where, hung on a wall, they were promptly ignored for years to come. But this week, they are expected to fetch about £2,000 each. The price tag reflects not the works’ artistic value but the notoriety of the man who painted them – for they were created by a young Adolf Hitler.
So how did the future dictator start off as an artist?
‘Artist? No, never as long as I live’
Hitler fared poorly at school. One teacher in Hitler’s Austrian hometown of Linz later described the schoolboy as ‘argumentative, autocratic, self-opinionated, and bad-tempered and unable to submit to school discipline.’ Art was the one subject Hitler enjoyed but when, as an 11-year-old, he approached his father and declared his ambition to become an artist, Hitler Snr took it badly. ‘Artist? No, never as long as I live.’ (Pictured – the first of the three watercolours on auction. Please click to enlarge).
Originally published on 18 July 1925, Adolf Hitler’s semi-autobiographical rant, Mein Kampf, sold moderately at first. A second book, a follow-up written in 1928, was never published. However, by the end of 1933, Hitler’s first year in power, Mein Kampf had sold over a million copies. By 1939, at the outbreak of war, it was outselling all other titles in Germany with the exception of the Bible. Honeymooning couples were given a copy of Mein Kampf to savour, and no patriotic German home could be seen without a copy taking pride of place on the bookshelves. Although Hitler later claimed he regretted writing it, Mein Kampf made the German dictator a very rich man.
Now, 87 years on from its first appearance, excerpts from Mein Kampf are set to be published in Germany by a British publisher, Albertus Press. The book has not seen the light of day in Germany since the end of the Second World War but, contrary to popular belief, it is not banned there. Using the Swastika and the Nazi salute for non-educational purposes are forbidden in Germany but not the purchase or reading of the central ideological tenet of Hitler’s thinking. However the state of Bavaria, which seized the copyright to Mein Kampf after the war, has steadfastly refused to re-publish the book fearing it could fuel racial tensions and be exploited by neo-Nazi groups.
‘The unreadable book’
Alois Schicklgruber’s only claim to fame was that he was the father of Adolf Hitler.
Born 7 June 1837, Alois Schicklgruber was the son of a 42-year-old unmarried farmhand by the name of Maria Anna Schicklgruber. The identity of his father remains uncertain: on Alois’ birth certificate the space for the father’s name was left blank and the word illegitimate was scrolled across the certificate.
When he was five-years-old, Alois’ mother married Johann Georg Hiedler. Five years later, following his mother’s death, the 10-year-old Alois went to live with his stepfather’s brother, his uncle, Johann Nepomuk Hiedler.
Aged 13, Alois found employment as an apprentice cobbler before joining the Austrian Customs Service at the age of eighteen, an organization that was to remain his employer for the rest of his working life.
Schicklgruber becomes Hitler
Alois changed his name to Hitler, a variant of his stepfather’s name, Hiedler, in January 1876. Johann Georg Hiedler had died nineteen years earlier but his name was added to the birth certificate as the father of the 39-year-old Alois. Thus Alois Schicklgruber became Alois Hitler.
Alois married three times, the first time in 1873 to Anna Glassl, 14 years his senior. But immediately Alois began having a series of affairs, including with one Franziska ‘Fanni’ Matzelberger, a household servant.
In 1923, the future Nazi minister for propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, wrote a novel. Recently, a carbon copy bearing the author’s corrections and amendments, came up for auction in Connecticut. 158 pages long, Michael Voormann: A Man’s Fate in the Pages of a Diary is written as a diary and is both autobiographical and a tribute to Goebbels’ friend, Richard Flisges, to whom the novel is dedicated.
Goebbels and the First World War
One imagines there’s a degree of envy here – born on 29 October 1897, Goebbels was old enough to fight in the First World War but was rejected due to his clubfoot. (Throughout his life he had to wear a special shoe to compensate his shorter leg.) After the war, he sometimes liked to pretend that his disability was in fact a war wound. In his novel, Michael, in common with Flisges, sees active service on the Eastern Front during the Great War. Michael’s war record reflecting Goebbels’ wishful thinking.
Michael returns to a democratic Germany, seeking revolution and answers, but not sure where to find it. Michael is a socialist and a Christian, attempting to write a play about Jesus (as indeed Goebbels had) and describing Jesus as one of the greatest men to have lived.
Hitler’s book of accounts up for auction
Hitler’s personal account book is to be sold at auction in Connecticut. This 175-page handwritten ledger covers his expenses for the period 1 April 1944 to 16 April 1945, 14 days before his suicide in his Berlin bunker.
The journal, which the auction house, Alexander Autographs, claims has never been seen before, contains hundreds of entries, written in Hitler’s hand, detailing a whole range of expenses and cash payouts. Neatly organized, each page includes the date, a description, and the amount spent. Each expense is categorised and include ‘Theatre and Music, Education Facilities, Health, Paintings & Art, Buildings, Emergency Contributions, Donations, and Miscellaneous’, the latter being the most commonly used.
On 10 May 1941, occurred one of the most bizarre incidences of the Second World War – the appearance in Scotland of top-ranking Nazi, Rudolph Hess.
Hitler and Rudolph Hess
Hess was one of the original members of the Nazi Party, joining in 1920. Three years later he was involved in the failed Munich Putsch and, for his part, was imprisoned alongside his leader, Adolf Hitler. Devoted to Hitler, Hess acted as scribe as Hitler dictated his biographical Mein Kampf. Upon their release, Hess became Hitler’s private secretary and in 1933 was promoted to deputy leader of the Nazi Party. In 1939 Hess was appointed second-in-line to Hitler as Head of State, second only to Hermann Goering.
Hess’s Flight to Scotland
Although a fervent and ideological Nazi, Hess felt that, as fellow Anglo-Saxons, Britain and Germany should not be at war with one another. Thus, on 10 May 1941, he took it upon himself to fly single-handedly the one thousand miles from Augsberg in Germany to Scotland with the express purpose of negotiating a peace between the two nations. Stocked-up with money, a gun, camera, maps, twenty-eight medications and various homeopathic remedies, Hess took off. Around 11 pm, after a five-hour flight, Hess jettisoned his plane and parachuted out, landing awkwardly and breaking his ankle. He had landed on Floors Farm, near the village of Eaglesham in Renfrewshire, eight miles south of Glasgow.
In January 1945, with the Soviet Red Army bearing down on Germany, Hitler left his HQ in East Prussia and moved back to Berlin and into the Reich Chancellery. A month later, he went underground into the Chancellery’s air-raid shelter, a cavern of dimly-lit rooms made of solid, high-quality concrete.
During his last few months, Hitler’s health deteriorated rapidly. In February 1945, after so many years of shouting and screaming, he had to have an operation on his vocal chords which, following the operation, obliged him to stay silent for a whole week.
Despite the implorations of his staff, Hitler refused to leave Berlin and when, realising the war was truly lost, he decided to end his life. Shuffling around with a stoop, Hitler looked much older than his fifty-six years. A new pain in his eye required daily doses of cocaine drops, and, perhaps from the onset of Parkinson’s disease, his left hand shook constantly. His eyesight had become so poor he had to have his documents written in extra-large print on specially-made ‘Fuhrer’ typewriters.
He ate poorly – devouring large portions of cake. He’d fallen out with many of his senior colleagues – in particular Hermann Goring and Heinrich Himmler, both of whom he accused of treachery and ordered to be arrested and court-martialled. Goebbels, however, remained loyal to the last, broadcasting to the nation, demanding greater effort and sacrifice against the enemy.
Hitler the General