When 55 badly wounded foreign service-men were taken ashore on Gibraltar in , the British military hospital tended to their terrible injuries and saved the lives of all but five.
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Their home country was so grateful that its leader gave medical staff its highest honour. The Third Reich awards, complete with swastikas and a certificate from Hitler, were presented to those who saved German sailors bombed on the pocket battleship Deutschland during the Spanish Civil War in Some of these rare medals are preserved in army regimental museums, The Times has learnt. Get The International Pack for free for your first 30 days for unlimited Smartphone and Tablet access.
Iron Cross | German military award | woodcnilithibi.ml
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Along the way, Rigg, who is of German extraction and was raised as a Protestant, has discovered that he too has Jewish ancestry. Like many of the families he has visited, Rigg had distant relatives who were killed for being Jewish--and others who died fighting in battle for Nazi Germany.
The old soldiers give Rigg both documents and their stories of war, peace and suffering. He says many still struggle with a question that is a challenge to history: If I fought in the German army while my mother died in a Nazi concentration camp, am I a villain or a victim? Many of the men Rigg meets cling to Nazi terminology, describing themselves as half-Jewish, half-German.
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Sometimes they weep as they reminisce, these Germans now in their 70s and 80s, many of whom killed on the battlefield for a monstrous regime while their families were being killed by it. When I come, it is as if they have opened up a coffin they thought they buried so long ago. Hitler personally signed declarations for all 77 on the list asserting that they were of German blood, thereby exercising his right of exception under Nazi legislation that barred anyone with a Jewish grandparent from becoming an officer.
Deciding exactly who was to be classified a Jew stirred great internal debate among Nazi leaders.
Hitler loathed Jews, but he also needed experienced commanders and fighters. A private!
Medals And Decorations Of Hitler's Germany
He said there were at least a dozen exception lists approved by Hitler--naming ranking officials not only in the armed forces but in the civilian administration that worked with the military. One German civilian of Jewish heritage was in charge of key factories in the tank-making industry, he said. I never imagined there were that many people, particularly that many officers. One veteran interviewed by Rigg was a religious Jew, now 82 and living in northern Germany, who assumed a non-Jewish identity, became an army captain, married a Jewish girl from his hometown and successfully remained a practicing Jew within the German army for the entire war.
Schmidt thought his case was rare.
Related Medals and Decorations of Hitlers Army
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