From the Pete Grafton Collection
The German Experience
Photo-snaps from The Third Reich to the Munich Olympics
Breslau: following the end of the Second World War, and national boundary changes, Breslau became part of Poland and is now known as Wroclaw.
Plön, in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany, is on the shore of the Great Plön Lake. The Wehrmacht barracks at Stadheide near Plön on 30 April 1945 became the temporary headquarters of the remaining members of Hitler’s cabinet, following the suicide of Hitler in Berlin. On Ist May Admiral Dönitz, the new head of the Third Reich moved into the barracks, but with advancing British troops, fled to Flensburg. On 8th May, 1945 the German Forces of the Third Reich unconditionally surrendered. The Second World War in Europe was over.
The German Experience should also include photos from the post Second World War German Democratic Republic (DDR). At the time of the 1990 re-unification the West German population was 63 million, and the East German population 16 million. Photo snaps from the totalitarian DDR are rarely found in bric a brac shops in Germany, or elsewhere. However, there are strong visual similarities of the German National Socialist (Nazi) years and the East German State Socialist years: constant photos of the leaders: Hitler and Ulbricht; goose-stepping soldiers; mass rallies and gatherings and mass gymnastics in both the German National Socialist regime and in the east German “Democratic” Socialist regime.
If as a German citizen you were born in 191o in eastern Germany, and were 80 and still alive in eastern Germany in 1990, you would have lived through a country ruled by an autocratic militaristic monarch, rarely constrained by a fledgling democracy, followed by 14 years of Weimar democracy, followed by 57 years of totalitarianism (12 of those under National Socialism, and 45 under Soviet socialism). No other part of a country in western Europe, including the Spain of Franco, and the Italy of Mussolini, experienced such a long period of totalitarianism.
The German Experience: Recommended viewing and reading
The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918 – 1945 by J.W.Wheeler-Bennett, Macmillan, London 1953. An essential book in understanding how the German military were the power behind the throne, not only in side-lining Kaiser Wilhelm II (who they regarded as militarily incompetent) before and during the First World War, but also in covertly supporting the Weimar Republic (including secret joint military exercises (including chemical warfare exercises) with the Russian Bolsheviks, and then in 1933 allowed Adolf Hitler to become Chancellor, believing they could control him for their own military aims. It was Hitler who ended up controlling them. The German military class ended up being comprehensively crushed in 1945, never to recover, unlike 1918 when, as a group, they remained unscathed.
Conscience in Revolt, London 1957. First published in Germany in 1954 as Das Gewissen Steht Auf, Mosaik-Verlag, Berlin. An account of the various groups and individuals who, at risk to their lives, protested against and opposed Hitler and the National Socialists. Note the name of Willy Brandt above, who went on to become Chancellor of the German Federal Republic in 1969.
After Hitler by Jürgen Neven-du Mont, Pelican Books, 1974. First published in Germany as Zum Beispiel 42 Deutsche, Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung, 1968. West Germans talk about the Second World War and their life in the Federal Republic since the end of the war.
The Arran Series
Near Lochranza, May 2003.
photos Pete Grafton
Coming in late April, 2017
America at Home: The Kodachrome Slides
1: The 1950s