The golden gun of notorious Nazi Hermann Göring is up for auction.
Rock Island Auction Company in Illinois is putting the gold-plated semiautomatic pistol of Göringup for bid in September. The gun, a Walther PPK, has an estimated price of $250,000 to $400,000.
Rock Island Auction said the gun once owned by Hitler’s right hand man, whose name is sometimes Anglicized as Goering, is “possibly the most historic Walther factory engraved pistol that we ever offered for sale.” It’s one of nearly 3,000 items, mostly antique guns, up for auction from September 9 through 11.
The engraving on the gun, which was made in 1939, is a traditional Germanic oak leaf and acorn pattern, according to Rock Island Auction, with Göring’s initials in gold letters as well as his family crest of a fist holding a ring.
Göring was an ace fighter pilot for Germany during World War I who became one of the most powerful Nazi leaders in World War II and a close friend of Hitler. He was in charge of the Luftwaffe, the German air force, which pummeled London during the Blitz and other European cities throughout the war.
The man with the golden gun liked to surround himself with the trappings of wealth and luxury and was infamous for looting the treasures of Jews during the Holocaust.
Göring was convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg but committed suicide before his scheduled execution.
A German soldier during World War II offers an inside look at the Nazi war machine, using his wartime diaries to describe how a ruthless psychopath motivated an entire generation of ordinary Germans to carry out his monstrous schemes.
Berlin was a stout place for a fight. It was large, modern and well-planned, which had allowed it to remain less damaged than other German cities, even though it had been heavily bombed. Still, by 1945, approximately 25 percent of Berlin had been destroyed by air raids, but its essential services had never been overwhelmed. Because of its sturdy construction, a great effort would be required to capture the capital city.
The same factors that made Berlin so bomb-resistant also helped it resist ground attack. Throughout the city, large apartment buildings stood on strong, deep cellars. Wide boulevards and avenues at regular intervals served as firebreaks and would also serve as killing zones against Soviet tanks and infantry. Natural obstacles within the city made it even more defensible. The Spree River cut from the northwest part of the city through its center to the southeast. Berlin’s southern approaches were guarded by the Teltow Canal. The center of the city, the heart of the capital, lay in a ‘V’ surrounded by the Spree River and the Landwehr Canal.
Many of the city’s defenders were fighting for survival in the hope that they could delay the Soviets long enough for the Western armies to occupy more of Germany and, hopefully, Berlin. That was a hope that would never be realized, however. Berlin was defended by the LVI Panzer Corps under General Karl Weidling. At the start of the Soviet offensive, the LVI Panzer Corps was still not fully manned and consisted of only two divisions, the recently formed Muncheberg Division and the 20th SS Panzer Division, whose strength had been severely depleted during futile counterattacks at Kustrin. Eventually, the corps would consist of five divisions. When it fell back into Berlin, it lost contact with one division, so the last battle was fought with four divisions, as well as those forces already in the city–a total of 60,000 men and 50 to 60 tanks.
The Soviet armies were well-trained and well-equipped. Their plan was to surround and capture the city on the sixth day of the offensive. By the 11th day, the Red Army was at the Elbe River. Contrary to the Soviet plan, Berlin did not surrender until May 2, a full 17 days after the offensive began. The American and Soviet troops first met on April 25 at the Elbe River, 10 days after the offensive began.
While it is difficult to say exactly how many Soviet soldiers actually participated in the assault on Berlin, the Berlin Medal was awarded to nearly 1,082,000 troops. That means the Soviet forces had more than 10 times the men the Germans had during the fight for the city itself. Even so, it took the Red Army from April 21, when it first reached the city, until May 2 to capture Berlin–a total of 12 days.
The length of time required to capture the city can be explained by the desperate German resistance, the difficulties involved in street combat and the Soviet soldiers’ knowledge that the war was all but over. Soldiers have no desire to die, and it is difficult to motivate them to take extra chances if they feel that their deaths would be meaningless. The Soviet soldier had nothing to gain or prove by dying for the motherland so late in the war. Even so, losses among the three Red Army fronts involved in the operation from April 16 to May 8 totaled more than 300,000 men–over 10 percent of their total strength.
One German soldier who fought during the battle for Berlin was Siegfried Knappe. At the time of the battle, he was a major and the operations officer of the LVI Panzer Corps. Knappe, along with Ted Brusaw, has recently written Soldat, a book on his experiences in the German army from 1936 to 1949.
WWII: How were the defenses of Berlin laid out?
Knappe: The defenses of the city consisted of three rings with nine sectors. The outer ring was about 60 miles in circumference and ran around the outskirts of the city. It mainly consisted of partially dug trenches and hastily emplaced roadblocks. The middle ring was about 25 miles in circumference and made use of already existing obstacles such as the S-Bahn [surface railway] and solidly built houses. The inner ring was the center of the city and consisted of massive government buildings. In addition, there were six bombproof flak towers. Eight of the sectors, labeled A through H, radiated in a pie shape through all three defensive rings. The ninth, Z, was located in the center of the city. Sector Z had its own defensive force consisting of Hitler’s SS guard units. Beyond the flak units there were no regular army units to speak of in Berlin until we arrived.
WWII: How many experienced soldiers did you have in the LVI Corps?
Knappe: I have a report here that gives a good answer to that question. It says that the fighting power when we had all five divisions was the equivalent of two divisions.
WWII: How many men would that be?
Knappe: About 40,000 men if both divisions had their full peacetime complement. The report also says that other units in Berlin were the equivalent of two to three divisions and that the Waffen SS was the equivalent of half a division. All together it says about four to five divisions consisting of 60,000 men with 50 to 60 tanks.
WWII: How good were the other units?
Knappe: Their fighting ability was limited. Some were Volkssturm [Home Guard] and Hitler Youth, and their equipment was very limited. Others, such as the anti-aircraft units, were limited in their mobility. They all tried but were not trained or equipped for infantry fighting. The Russians say in their literature [that we had] 180,000 men.
WWII: That would make it seem like a bigger victory.
Knappe: Yes. They may have come up with that number by taking the number of divisions and using their peacetime complement. But we were not even close to that.
WWII: Did you ever think that you had a chance to win the battle?
Knappe: No. It was clear from the beginning that we had no chance. We were only delaying until the Western powers could get to Berlin.
WWII: Did you ever talk among yourselves and say, ‘We can hold the Russians for a week,’ or some other time period?
Knappe: No, we didn’t put anything in time limits like that. We knew that we could hold out long enough for the Western powers to get to Berlin.
WWII: How did you, as a major, become a corps operations officer? In addition, you mention that the 20th Division was commanded by a colonel, but that is normally a major general’s position. Was that fairly normal during that time of the war–to have a much lower ranking officer in those positions?
Knappe: Yes, during that time of the war crazy things were happening. As I mention in my book, I almost became the commander of a division as a major!
WWII: In Berlin, how did you communicate with and control the troops?
Knappe: We started out with the Berlin civilian telephone system. As quickly as we could, we got our own net, but we did not have all of the communications equipment that we needed. So, we were glad to have the civilian telephone system available.
WWII: How much control did you really have over the troops?
Knappe: We had good control over the troops in Berlin. We lost control over the 20th during the fierce fighting outside of the city, just like the Ninth Army lost control over us. We just didn’t have all of the wireless that we should have had. All of our communications was with makeshift stuff, but we still could manage.
WWII: During World War II, the German army had a lot of ad hoc units. The Muncheberg Division was one of those, and they seemed to have done a very good job from the Seelow Heights, when they first entered combat, until the very end in Berlin. How was the German army able to do that?
Knappe: It was our training. There were still enough well-trained officers and noncommissioned officers that it could work, even at the end of the war. All of them had gone through the same training.
WWII: How could they develop unit cohesion when they were thrown together and then almost immediately sent into combat?
Knappe: That was a function of the officers and noncommissioned officers. Until Stalingrad we didn’t have to do that, but after it became a regular occurrence with all of the losses and retreats. Everyone knew that if they kept together and fought together they could evade captivity or being killed.
WWII: How was the Muncheberg Division formed? Did they take individual soldiers or did they try to keep them in groups?
Knappe: Everyone knew that there would be a big fight for Berlin, and the home units got orders to send everybody to the city of Muncheberg, which is where the name came from. The general staff decided what would be needed to start a new division there. The materiel, artillery, communication equipment and anything else that would be needed was identified and arranged to be sent to Muncheberg. A division staff had already been appointed, and they were there to receive the equipment. So, when the men arrived, the equipment was organized and waiting for them. I did this in France when the Sixth Army was lost at Stalingrad. I went to France, and the people that I needed of all ranks came for a battalion of artillery plus 250 horses and the guns.
WWII: You mention in your book that the Soviets lost an opportunity to seize Berlin sooner than they actually did. Could you expand on that?
Knappe: The time that I was talking about, when they could have had Berlin much earlier than they did, was after the initial breakthroughs in our outer defenses. There was a period of time where our defenses looked like a dumbbell. One end was circling the [Adolf Hitler’s] bunker and one end was circling the Olympic Stadium, which included the Pichelsdorf Bridge, where we were going to break out from, with a very long, narrow strip between the two on either side of Heerstrasse. They could have very easily attacked the bunker area by driving east, straight down Heerstrasse. In fact, they had individual tanks crossing Heerstrasse all the time. We were able to keep in contact with the units around the Olympic Stadium by the subway tunnel that ran under Heerstrasse. Every time I updated the situation map I always wondered why they didn’t realize what they could do. We just didn’t have enough troops to defend everywhere. The Russians just kept attacking where we were the strongest. They kept trying to get to the center of the city by the shortest way when the longer way would have been a lot easier.
WWII: You went into Hitler’s bunker a number of times during the battle. Initially, the guards took away your pistol, but toward the end they stopped searching you and you were able to take your pistol in. You say in your book that you had the opportunity to shoot Hitler, and while you thought about it you decided not to. Could you elaborate on that?
Knappe: If I had shot him it would not have changed anything because the fighting was all but over.
WWII: After all of those years of Hitler being Fuhrer, what caused you to change your mind about him? Did the change occur in a day or two, or was it something that you had been thinking about for some time?
Knappe: It was not a sudden change. It was something that had started right after Stalingrad. It was not just me but a general feeling among the front-line officers. We could see what was really happening.
WWII: What made you think about killing Hitler when the opportunity was presented?
Knappe: Probably his statement to General Weidling when Weidling was asking him for permission to break out and for him to go with us. General Weidling told me that Hitler had said that he did not want to die in the street like a ‘Landstreicher.’ Landstreicher does not have an exact translation into English, that is why my book uses the word ‘dog,’ but a Landstreicher is someone like a hobo or panhandler. Both of us had seen hundreds of German soldiers die in the streets during the war, and now Hitler was saying that he did not want to die like they died. My brother died from his wounds that he received in Russia. So, both of us were very upset by Hitler’s use of this word. It was just such an unbelievable comment, especially to make that type of comment to a soldier. It wasn’t until this time that I finally began to realize what sort of man we had been fighting for.
WWII: So, it was that one statement?
Knappe: Yes. I just had this impulse to shoot him. I wasn’t worried about being executed afterwards, for I thought that I was a dead man anyway. We had recaptured some places from the Russians during the war and whenever we did, we almost always found that the German officers had been executed. So, I thought that the Russians would execute me after I was captured. Unconsciously, I realized that I couldn’t afford to make Hitler into a martyr. This would have created another Dolchstosslegende or’stabbed-in-the-back legend.’ [Joseph] Goebbels [Hitler’s propaganda chief] would have made the most out of it. I’m sure that he probably would have said that if the Fhrer had not been killed by a general staff officer he would have found some way to save the German people.
WWII: You mention in your book that you ate in the bunker when everyone was eating their last meal, before they were going to try to break out, and that you sat at the same table as Martin Bormann, Hitler’s personal secretary. There have been stories for years that Bormann survived the war and has been seen. What do you think happened to him?
Knappe: He is dead. He was fat and untrained. If you are in a battle situation you have to be trained. You need to know what to do when someone is shooting at you. He would not have known what to do when the shooting started. I am sure that he was shot somewhere in the city. There have been several reports from people in that group that he was shot after crossing a bridge. But of course no one in the group checked on him. Everyone was just interested in themselves, and besides, no one had any love for him anyway.
WWII: You were the one who typed the order from General Weidling directing any German soldiers who were still fighting to stop after the surrender?
Knappe: That’s correct. A Russian writer, Ilya Ehrenburg, incorrectly reported that a blond female secretary typed the order. I was blond at the time, but that was the only similarity. [Ilya Ehrenburg was one of the Soviet Union’s top propagandists during the war.]
WWII: After the surrender, you went into a prison camp in Berlin and were transferred to a prison camp in Russia for five years?
Into the White, was a 2012 Norwegian film quite loosely based on real events from World War II’s Norwegian Campaign, when the Allies tried to keep the German’s from engulfing Norway in their quickly spreading military conquests.
The film is a fun and captivating dramatization of how the crews of a German Heinkel He 111 bomber and a British Blackburn Skua (which had shot down the German bomber and crash-landed soon after) survived in the remote Norwegian wilderness in late April 1940.
There are, needless to say, many discrepancies between the movie and the actual events, but both the true story and the fictionalized one are fascinating tales during a tumultuous time.
After Germany had invaded Poland and the British and French were officially at war with the Third Reich, very little conflict ensued between these countries. All had begun to shore up their defenses against each other and naval combat was beginning to break out in the Baltic and North Seas. This is mostly due to the German’s attempts to keep their supply of desperately needed Swedish iron ore flowing into their war machine.
Much of this iron came via Norway. The northern port of Narvik was of special importance because of the iron that could be shipped from there when the Baltic Sea was frozen and treacherous during the winter.
As Europe descended into war, Norway began mobilizing its army, navy, and air force to guard against any parties violating its neutrality. The British and Germans grew more and more bold in doing just that to take hits at each other with navy and aircraft. By early 1940, Hitler was resolved to invade Norway to secure its strategic importance for their war effort against the Allies.
The entire Norwegian Campaign lasted from April 9th til June 10th 1940 until the German invasion of France shifted the bulk of the Allied forces South and Norway was captured, their government went into exile in London.
Despite all the horrors of war, some cooperation between enemies happened way out in the wilderness, if only for survival.
The Heinkel bomber flown by Lieutenant Horst Schopis was shot down by Captain R.T. Partridge and his radio operator R.S. Bostock in their Skua. Schopis’ tail gunner Hans Hauck was dead on impact, but Schopis, along with Unteroffizier Josef Auchtor and Feldwebel Karl-Heinz Strunk, the remaining survivors of his crew, now faced the vast, cold unknown.
They weren’t alone, however. Partridge and Bostock had crash-landed on a frozen lake not too far away after engine failure.
The two crews were nearest to Grotli, Norway, but surrounded by mountains and lakes, and miles from any road.
While trying to bring his sputtering plane into a safe landing, Partridge spotted an old reindeer hunter’s cabin not too far away. They hiked there through the snow, only to soon be set upon by the German crew with pistols and knives at the ready.Thinking quickly and trying to break down the language barrier in a mix of German and English, Partridge convinced the Germans that he and Bostock were survivors of a downed Vickers Wellington Bomber (and not the aces that had brought their plane down).The film adaptation of these events goes quite off course from this point. It portrays both crews staying in the cabin together, the British indignantly sitting as POWs while starting to warm up to their roommates and all cooperating more together over a series of many stormy nights while the food quickly runs out.
In truth, according to Schopis’ memoirs, Partridge had suggested on the first day they met, that the German’s stay in the cabin and the Brits look elsewhere for shelter. That night, the British stumbled upon the Grotli Hotel, closed for the winter, but offering shelter from the harsh weather.The Germans arrived the next morning, and all shared breakfast together.
Partridge and Strunk left that day to search for people and, hopefully, save both crews from dying before they would be eventually found dead after the seasons had finally changed.
They quickly found a Norwegian ski patrol, close enough to the hotel that Bostock could hear the shot being fired which he assumed was FeldwebelStrunk killing his captain. But it was Strunk who lay dead, reportedly shot by the ski patrol as he reached for his pistol
Schopis and Auchtor were taken into custody by the Norwegians, turned over to the British, and eventually sent to a POW camp in Canada where they spent the remainder of the war.
Partridge and Bostock, quite under suspicion for their cooperation with Germans, managed to convince the Norwegians they were, at least, English by showing them their uniforms’ tailor labels and a half crown coin. And through a huge stroke of luck, the commander of the ski patrol happened to have some mutual acquaintances with Partridge.
The two British flyers were set free and hiked to Alesund, a town on the Norwegian coast, many miles away and under heavy German attack. The ship that was supposed to evacuate them and other British soldiers never arrived, so they boosted a car and drove to Andelsnes, to the Northeast, where they managed to secure passage back to England.
In June 1940, while assaulting the German battleship Scharnhorst, Partridge was shot down and captured by the Germans, spending the rest of the war as a POW. Bostock, flying again in a Blackburn Skua, was killed in the same battle.
Many years later, in 1977, Schopis received a phone call from Partridge, and the two met as friends in their hometowns of Munich and London.
Partridge’s Skua was recovered and sits on display at the Fleet Air Museum in Yeovilton, Somerset England. Schopis’s wrecked Heinkel still waits, lonely atop the mountains near Grotli, Norway.
As a young man, Joseph Goebbels was a budding narcissist with a constant need of approval. Through political involvement, he found personal affirmation within the German National Socialist Party. In this comprehensive volume, Peter Longerich documents Goebbels’ descent into anti-Semitism and ideology and ascent through the ranks of the Nazi party, where he became an integral member Hitler’s inner circle and where he shaped a brutal campaign of Nazi propaganda.
In life and in his grisly family suicide, Goebbels was one of Hitler’s most loyal acolytes. Though powerful in the party and in wartime Germany, Longerich’s Goebbels is a man dogged by insecurities and consumed by his fierce adherence to the Nazi cause. Longerich engages and challenges the careful self—portrait that Goebbels left behind in his diaries, and, as he delves deep into the mind of Hitler’s master propagandist, Longerich discovers first—hand how the Nazi message was conceived. This complete portrait of the man behind the message is sure to become a standard for historians and students of the holocaust for years to come.
Erwin Rommel was a complex man: a born leader, brilliant soldier, a devoted husband and proud father; intelligent, instinctive, brave, compassionate, vain, egotistical, and arrogant. In France in 1940, then for two years in North Africa, then finally back in France again, at Normandy in 1944, he proved himself a master of armored warfare, running rings around a succession of Allied generals who never got his measure and could only resort to overwhelming numbers to bring about his defeat.
And yet for all his military genius, Rommel was also naive, a man who could admire Adolf Hitler at the same time that he despised the Nazis, dazzled by a Führer whose successes blinded him to the true nature of the Third Reich. Above all, he was the quintessential German patriot, who ultimately would refuse to abandon his moral compass, so that on one pivotal day in June 1944 he came to understand that he had mistakenly served an evil man and evil cause. He would still fight for Germany even as he abandoned his oath of allegiance to the Führer, when he came to realize that Hitler had morphed into nothing more than an agent of death and destruction. In the end Erwin Rommel was forced to die by his own hand, not because, as some would claim, he had dabbled in a tyrannicidal conspiracy, but because he had committed a far greater crime – he dared to tell Adolf Hitler the truth.
In Field Marshal historian Daniel Allen Butler not only describes the swirling, innovative campaigns in which Rommel won his military reputation, but assesses the temper of the man who finally fought only for his country, and no dark depths beyond.
An amazing biopic of Rommel. Only dedicated students of World War II history will have any idea about this charismatic leader – Butler sheds new light on the story of this fascinating man in an extremely readable book. – BOOKS MONTHLY UK
A complex man emerges from the pages of “Field Marshal: The Life and Death of Erwin Rommel.” Author Daniel Allen Butler assesses both the temperament and the battlefield brilliance of World War II Nazi Germany’s “Desert Fox” in this 600-page, hardcover book with 16 pages of photographs. The writer describes Rommel as a born leader, superb soldier, devoted husband and proud father. The field marshal is also characterized as being intelligent, instinctive, courageous, compassionate, vain, egotistical and arrogant… In the end, Rommel was compelled to commit suicide at age 52 in 1944, not because he was involved in an assassination plot against Hitler as some would claim, but because he had committed a far greater crime: he had the fortitude to face the Führer and tell the truth.
– Toy Soldier Model Figure Magazine
“…an in depth study of a complex man whose battlefield acumen was mixed with blind obedience to Hitler, an obedience he eventually foreswore at the cost of his life. – WWII History