NEWSLETTER No 393
The evening's DDH talk was presented by Brigadier General Albie Gotze entitled "My experiences in the Ossewa Brandwag."
The Ossewa Brandwag was an organisation that was created during the Great Trek centenary celebration. Originally the purpose of the OB was to preserve the culture and national traditions of the Afrikaner and to enshrine the ideals of the Voortrekkers. It did, however, degenerate into an underground paramilitary organisation.
Our speaker is a first generation of German extraction who eventually became a fighter pilot on the side of the Allies. He explained that his sympathies at the beginning of the war were with Afrikaner Nationalism.
His father was born in Germany and did his national service in 1890 in the Prussian Army before moving to South Africa. His father married an Afrikaner woman and became a staunch Nationalist. Our speaker's Grandfather and his three brothers, all living in the Cape Colony were members of the Boer forces and classified by the British as traitors. He is unsure if they went to a concentration camp during the British occupation. After matriculating Albie moved to Johannesburg to seek employment and it was here that he met with young men of similar persuasion. In 1940 all "right thinking" Afrikaners were opposed to the war and ardent Nationalists that soon became drawn to the ranks of the OB. The Commandant General at the time was Dr. JF van Rensburg when our speaker was recruited into the Maraisburg Commando under the command of General Johannes van der Walt. Van der Walt was the world wresting champion who came to a tragic end in 1942. He was shot whilst trying to escape from the police, over 50 000 people attended his funeral.
Albie underwent training twice a week in isolated areas; the methods used were at times brutal. As there were no arms available rifle training was conducted with broomsticks. Other weapons used were knuckle dusters and coshes. Fights between OB members and soldiers were frequent and many people injured. Our speaker was becoming disillusioned by this stage and realising that he would be severely punished if he failed to partake in any further OB was in a dilemma.
When the OB started the bombing and sabotage campaigns on electric pylons and government buildings resulting in people being killed, Albie decided he had had enough. The only alternative was to join the forces and this he did in 1942.
The Main Talk was by Gilbert Torlage, entitled: "Weisse Rose, Honorable Treason".
He described the resistance of a group of university students against Hitler and the Nazi regime, in Munich during 1942/1943. The group was led by brother and sister Hans and Sophie Scholl. There were five Scholl children: Inge , Hans , Elisabeth , Sophie , and Werner . Hans and Sophie initially enjoyed being part of the Hitler Jugend, and the outdoor life. But gradually as the emphasis changed and control from above became stricter they became disillusioned.
Hans was an accomplished guitarist and singer. He was instructed not to play "foreign" folk songs. Jews began to disappear, followed in 1938 by Kristallnacht. Hans enrolled as a medical student in 1939, and became one of a group who were interested in poetry and philosophy.
The critical year is 1941. The Wehrmacht invades Russia, and is stopped at the gates of Moscow. Losses are enormous, caused especially by the dreadful winter of January 1942.
The anti-Nazi feelings of the students begin to harden. In May 1942 Sophie [21 years] enrolls at the university, and joins them. They are much influenced by Kurt Huber, professor of psychology. In late 1942 Hans and his friends are deployed to the Eastern Front for their military service. The war situation on the Eastern Front deteriorates, and by December catastrophe looms at Stalingrad.
Meanwhile, the Weisse Rose group have printed and distributed pamphlets criticizing Hitler and the Government. They have expanded their activities to several towns in Germany - Ulm, Stuttgardt. They also mailed pamphlets out with specially overprinted 8pfn stamps [which turns out to be a fatal error].
On 31 January, 1943 the army under Paulus was destroyed at Stalingrad. The Weisse Rose group now produced another pamphlet in large numbers. They spread copies all over Munich, and even painted slogans on the pavements and walls.
On 18 February Hans stood on the balcony above the stairwell in the university and tossed pamphlets down onto the floor below. A janitor, Jacob Schmidt, saw him and reported it to the Gestapo. Hans and Sophie were arrested and interrogated by Robert Mohr. They were put on trial in the Justice Palace under the judge Roland Freisler. They and Christoff Probst were sentenced to death by guillotine, and the punishment was carried out on 22 [less than a week after their arrest].
Other members of Weisse Rose were arrested, tried, and executed: Kurt Huber and Alexander Schmorell [July, 1943], Wili Graf [October 1943]. Hans's mother and father were arrested and imprisoned. They survived the war and were liberated by the US Army in 1945. Werner was killed on the Eastern front in 1944. Inge after the war wrote a book about Hans and Sophie , and later two films were made [1982, 2005]. Elisabeth too survived but faded into obscurity.
Roland Freisler was killed in February 1945 in an air raid by the US air force. Robert Mohr survived the war, dying of old age in 1977. He always expressed admiration for the courage and sincerity of Sophie [who he had tried to persuade to recant and swear loyalty to the Nazi state. He failed].
Weisse Rose wanted the war and slaughter to stop, and the Nazi party to reverse its policies. Of this there was no possibility. Their sincerity was doomed.
Phil Everitt thanked the speakers. There was a linkage between the talks; resistance against the government
and its policies. Yet they were so different; Albie's was a lighthearted, "I was there", how he came to join the SAAF and ended up flying over Normandy on D-Day.
Gilbert's was a sad and moving story, about the sincerity and morality of youth, an epitaph for young people.
THE SOCIETY'S NEXT MEETING;
THURSDAY - 9 October 2008 19.00 for 19.30
Usual Venue: Murray Theatre, Civil Engineering Building, Howard College Campus, UKZN
DDH: Peter Ardington will describe the Battle of eNdondakusuka and the consequences.
MAIN TALK: Steve Watt will present his talk on Deelfontein; a Hospital in the Karoo. A cemetery today.
SOUTH AFRICAN MILITARY HISTORY SOCIETY OVERSEAS BATTLEFIELD TOUR, MAY 2009:
We need a minimum of 15 per 'leg' to make this viable. A 50% non-refundable deposit must be paid by mid-November 2009. Please contact Ken Gillings if you are interested (email@example.com / 083 654 5880 / 031 702 4828).
14 May - Fly Johannesburg - Cairo. Meet RBL guide. One night half board in Cairo (4 star - don't even think abut anything lower!) Dinner beside the Nile.
* Cairo - Egyptian Museum.
* Pyramids and Sphinx.
* Drive to El Alamein (4-5 hours) & overnight. Half board.
16 May - El Alamein area
* War Cemetery
* Battlefield area. Lunch provided.
Drive to Mersa Matruh & Overnight. Half board
17 May - Packed lunch provided.
* Drive to Libya (Bardia) & overnight
Desert tour by 4WD vehicle (packed lunch provided) to include:
* Tobruk defences
* Knightsbridge & Gazala battle
* Knightsbridge Acroma War Cemetery, plus, if time & energy permit,
* Sidi Rezegh
Return to Bardia & overnight. Half board.
Return to El Alamein - it may be possible to fly to Italy from here, if not
Drive to Cairo RBL guide departs. Fly to Italy
Day 1 (19 or 20 May) Arrive Naples (or Possibly Rome if flights don't fit) Meet new RBL Guide - drive to Cassino area (via Caserta). Two nights half board (3-star - same standard elsewhere in Italy).
Day 2 - Cassino battlefield area including 6 SA Armd. Div area.
Day 3 - Drive to Rome. Two nights half board.
Day 4 - Free day in Rome or optional city tour.
Day 5 - Drive to Florence. One night half board
Day 6 - Optional Florence tour or free day until late p.m. Drive to Castiglione, north of Florence. Two nights half board.
Day 7 - Castiglione area, including South African Cemetery an 6 SA Armoured Div Front Oct 44 - Apr 45). Monte Stanco/Monte Sole.
Day 8 - Drive to Po valley/Adige valley area. Overnight near Verona. Half board
Day 9 - Two options. Either:
* Return to SA, or
Europe Leg (Optional)
* Fly to UK - Overnight in Union Jack Club, London. Two nights B&B. (We get a special price)
Day 10 - Free time London. Opportunity to visit Imperial War Museum. Persuade SA High Commission to give you a reception?
Day 11 - To France via Dover/Calais and drive to Somme area with RBL guide. Two nights half board in Arras area (2-star family run hotels)
Day 12 - Battle of the Somme 1916 to include:
* Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.
* Delville Wood including SA Memorial & Museum.
* Butte de Warlencourt.
* Optional visit to L'Historiale de la Grande Guerre - Péronne
Day 13 - Battle of Arras 1917. 9th (Scottish) Div Memorial. Drive to Ypres. Two nights half board.
Day 14 - The South African Brigade in 3rd battle of Ypres including:
* Passchendael Memorial Museum, Zonnebeke.
* Tyne Cot
* Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate.
* If time permits - Messines Ridge - SA actions in Mar 1918.
Day 15 - Return to UK. Overnight in Union Jack Club London. B&B.
Day 16 - Return overnight flight to SA.
Day 17 - Arrive JHB.
KZN 40TH ANNIVERSARY LUNCH
This event proved to be a tremendous success and was well attended. Congratulations were communicated from our National Chairman in Johannesburg. It was a great pleasure to see so many society stalwarts that have been absent for some time for various reasons.
Poppy Day Collection: The South African Legion needs volunteers to collect at various points throughout KZN. A list will be circulated at the next meeting. If you are not attending the meeting and wish to assist, please inform Bill Brady or Ken Gillings and your contact details will be forwarded to the Legion.
At this time in history (September).
1828 - Assassination of King Shaka kaSenzangakhona at kwaDukuza.
1855 - Sevastopol falls during the Crimean War.
1901 - Battles of Ithala and Fort Prospect.
1943 - Mussolini is rescued.
1944 - V2 rockets launched against London
1950 - Death of Jan Smuts
1952 - West Germany pays Israel 540 million dollars for Nazi atrocities.
1977 - Death of Steve Biko.
1979 - Lancaster House conference on future of Rhodesia opens.
1983 - Death of John Vorster.
South African Military History Society / firstname.lastname@example.org