Testimony of Eva Nagel, member of BDM –
the Association of German Girls from April 1996
“On April 19, 1942, I learned that the next day we were to perform a very important task, and that it was necessary to be on time and with impeccable uniforms at the outlet of the street leading to Giżycko. Tension was great because none of us – our group had eleven BDM girls – she did not know what was going to happen.”
“Maybe the Führer will be passing through it? – I thought. Next day, after appearing in the indicated place, it turned out that there were also eleven dressed up boys (members of the Pimpfe children’s organization). To our great surprise, we learned that we would go to Hitler’s quarters to wish the Führer his anniversary! Then three gray Mercedes-Benz arrived and took us to Gierłoż, where we waited for the development of events.”
“The ceremony lasted for a short while, when they set us up in two ranks in a large semicircle: girls in the front, boys in the back. After a moment, we saw Hitler approaching with the entourage. For two voices we sang the spring song “Alle Vögel sind schon da” (All the birds are here already) with the refrain “Wünschen dir ein Gutes Jahr, lauter Heil und Segen” (We wish you a good year, a lot of health and happiness).
After the meeting with the Führer we were invited for a meal to a restaurant car, where together with several officers we consumed cocoa and biscuits. The wagon was called “America” - perhaps it came from the place of the unhappy peace agreement in Versailles. Then we returned to Kętrzyn. We have proudly talked about our experience on many occasions. “
Konrad Mendel’s memories from March 1996
With the Kassel Tiger to the Wolf’s Lair.
“As I recall it well, it was about April 15, 1942. Me and six of my colleagues from the Henschel arms factory, under the direction of engineer Arnoldt, got on the train to Kassel-Unterstadt to a special train to Rastenburg, now Kętrzyn. Our train consisted of a platform with a tank and a wagon with a workshop. It was a special experience for us that we rode a fast train. During the last few months we have been working intensively on the new version of Tiger heavy tank.
Now it was to be presented to Hitler and military experts, while we were making the last corrections during the journey, I must mention that the competitor of our “Tiger” was the tank of Professor Ferdinand Porsche. The show was to take place on April 20, Hitler’s birthday. The Wolf’s Lair railway station appeared early in the morning on April 19. So we still had enough time to check everything and test the “Tiger” in the area intended for that purpose.
I remember that there were minor problems with the engine radiator. The final test was carried out on the military field near Kętrzyn. In the evening we returned to the station to stay on the train in which we arrived. It arrived on the 20th of April, the day of the presentation. Around 9.00 we were at the training platform. The tension was high, we really wanted everything to succeed.
At 11.00 a dignified committee appeared. I recognized Hitler, Speer, Rommel and Göring. The honorable role of the tank presentation, which lasted about 2.5 hours, fell to my friend, Georg Schönbach – in the picture on the left, directly next to Hitler. When Schönbach stopped, the Minister Albert Speer, responsible for the arms industry, boarded the tank to see it from the inside. My late colleague Finis, he told after years that Hitler personally – I do not remember – asked us to let each of us to make a wish for his birthday.
In a short conversation, he asked us to do our best to let the new “Tiger” appear on the front soon. After congratulations, a short party was organized in one of the barracks, where Hitler was also present for a moment. Everything was perfect: great mood, good food, decent beer. The return journey began the next day. It lasted a lot longer than a trip to the Wolf’s Lair, because the transports heading for the front were given priority.
We were very proud of our meeting with Hitler. But at home, we could not talk about it too much – everywhere was said: “The enemy is awake.” In the May issue of “Henschelstern” – it was a newspaper coming out of the Henschel und Sohn armaments factory in Kassel – a report from Hitler’s meeting with employees appeared but there was no mention of a new tank in Rastenburg. “
Memories of Dietmar Pertsch
Author of such studies as: “The Jewish world in feature films and TV games“, Tübingen 1992, “German-Polish meetings in the mirror of literature“, Berlin 1996.
“A visit of the youth choir in Hitler’s headquarters on the occasion of his birthday and the presentation of this event in the NSDAP film chronicle was something big in that days. It is difficult to remember about this event after 54 years, undoubtedly for the thirteen-year-old boy, who believed in national socialism, it was a great significance.
On the occasion of the 450th anniversary of my school in Rastenburg, I spoke to a school friend who was one year younger, who also belonged to this choir and asked him to tell me his version of that event, for him only two things had value and stuck in his memory. Before the performance of our choir we were served a delicious cake and cocoa in the Führer restaurant car, and secondly that Hitler gave him a weak and flaccid hand, which was different than one would expect from the great leader.
Certainly my memories are not free from gaps and inaccuracies, however, they are more accurate, since April 21 father asked me to write a report from this event (unfortunately it was missing), which I called “Meeting with the Führer“. It was reproduced by my father, who as a head of local NSDAP district used it for propaganda purposes. I will try to describe this event as I remembered it at the time.”
A visit to Wolf’s lair
I was a keen member of the boys’ Nazi organization ‘Pimpfe‘. For a boy raised in the national socialist spirit, attending an elite school, belonging to the Nazi youth organization was a piece of freedom: here I was out of my father’s ruthless and strict control. Twice a week we had an afternoon training, two-week summer camps in Masuria and singing in a choir – for the little Dietmar there were undoubtedly the most beautiful experiences in entire childhood.
Our choir had a rich song repertoire. Verry often, we practiced the folk repertoire of Ännchen von Tharau like “Country of dark forests“, “Five wild pigs have come” and popular military songs: “Denn heute gehört uns Deutschland und morgen die ganze Welt” (Today we have Germany and tomorrow the whole world), “Denn heute da hörtś uns Deutschland …” (Today Germans are listening to us …).
In March 1942, our first soloist and at the same time the head of the Gosch choir told us that some of us, on the birthday of the Führer, would present him some folk songs. We were chosen according to the height: we had to be, fortunately for me, little boys (for girls, apparently, opposite). For a selected 11 boys and 11 girls, a period of intense rehearsal began. The entire repertoire was repeated and repeated, including the standard National Socialist program. Everything was perfectly prepared, everything was going to be the best … until a disaster happened: It turned out that Peter Gosch had too many years (seventeen, it seems to me), and he was too tall for beeing a part of it. So he had to be replaced by a much lower Hans-Georg Timm, with whom in a hurry, the whole program was practiced. – Fingers crossed for the show!
April 20 – a great day! Dress-up uniforms, hair combed, hands washed, nails cleaned, bouquets of flowers prepared. Around 9.00 we were driven by cars to Gierłoż, 8 km away. In the forest we passed three guardhouses and stopped in front of a humble barrack, which, if I’m not mistaken, was called a casino. Accompanied by two adjutants of Hitler, we went inside. Here, eating breakfast and waiting for the main ceremony to begin, we talked with adjutants about our, as it seemed to me, common interests: characters from the novel of Karol May. It lasted a bit, but it did not bother us, firstly because we could cut an interesting discussion with the personalities from the closest vicinity of Hitler, secondly we understood well that the Führer finally decided about the fate of the whole world: what could a moment of patience mean ?!
After breakfast, we went to a designated place to meet with Hitler. – And here was the “historical moment”: He came out of the barrack, and his entourage, about ten men, followed him. Among them there was only one prominent: Dr. Ley – “Organizer of the Reich”. They approached us. – Very stressed Hans-Georg Timm, the “reserve player” of our choir, stood at attention, saluted and recited the learned sentence: “Mein Führer, I am reporting 11 boys and 11 girls“. Then he made the right turn back, marched a few steps towards our host and announced the title of the song … oh my goodness! – other than we practiced: “All the birds have already arrived“. We started singing – it did not work out well. Then two sweet boys handed Hitler flowers, then girls did the same. We were jealous that the girls were in a better position, because they were in the first row. No wonder that the German tour guide titled “Wolfsschanze im Bild: eine Chronik” (Wolf’s Lair in photography: chronicle), bought during my second visit at Wolf’s Lair in 1996, I find signatures for two photographs taken on that day: “Team of a German girls from Rastenburg hands azaleas and wishes at Hitler’s 53th birthday” – we, boys, were smaller and bearly seen at the photograph. “
“Only those who were closest to the Führer or handed him flowers, could have been patted by him on the cheek or received the honor of shaking his hand.”
“[…] Hitler invited us to the restaurant car and returned to the barracks with his entourage. … Finally! Sweets: cocoa and tasty cakes. Two days later, we could see in German cinema one German weekly chronicle (Deutsche Wochenschau), which was usually devoted to the events on the Eastern Front, but this time also the next anniversary of Hitler’s birth. The preliminary part of the chronicle was devoted to NSDAP members, who together with wounded and widows contemplated the 9th Bethoven Symphony performed by the Berlin philharmonics under the baton of Wilhelm Furtwänger. In the following sequences, Himmler, Ribbentrop, Göring, Ley and Raeder were shown with a measured step one by one approaching Hitler, handing him presents and making birthday wishes.
In the last part of the chronicle, the same men were shown, listening to the boys and girls choir of Kętrzyn. To our surprise, we have found that the background music has been completely changed. The girls were perfectly visible, while the boys could not be recognized. At the end, Hitler’s struck by the close-up and the confident faces of the boys, the German hope, was shown to him. The whole scene was a perfect assembly and, as we would call it today, evident manipulation.
Later, we realized that Goebbels, as the “protector of the German film”, gave its operators and editors guidance on how to optimally use movie sequences for propaganda purposes. After all, he did not study Soviet silent films by Eisenstein and Pudowkin for nothing.
We did not feel cheated at the time. We were proud that we were taking part in an important event that we saw the Führer!
Even today, I hear the voice of my friend who gave Hitler flowers: “I will never wash my hand shaked by the Führer!“