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  1. #1

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    Von Shirach and Axmann - meetings and correspondence

    Well I come from a long military line going back over half the Christian age. The family name came to the UK with the Norman invasion in 1066 but has roots older than that in central France. The other side of the family goes back to the earliest records and has always been involved in the military.

    The family has served the crown pretty much since it invaded. Be that fighting in the Crusades up to ladies in waiting to the late Queen Mother. On the losing side in the civil war and all the way through the Napoleonic wars, the Boar war the Indian mutiny, the war of Independence, the boxer rebellion basically any conflict and we were there.

    World war two the family was in every theater, 9 uncles and 2 grand parents, with the most notable being Great Uncle Pat who made fame with his adventures in Crete, Patrick Leigh Fermor – the film ‘Ill Met By Moonlight’. Who I had lunch with last year after the Armistice parade in Athens; which he was too frail to attend.

    My late Father left the army joined the TA and was a cadet instructor. My earliest memories are of him and the other instructors coming home and talking about the war, he served in Far East and they across the whole globe. My uncle Jim, the cadets stores sergeant, joined the army at the age of 14 in 1887 and talked and talked about his time in WW1 endlessly

    My Grandfather, a lifer in the army, serving in WW1 with Jan Smuts in German South West Africa, he was stationed in India and Ceylon ( as was ) as a Major and later Colonel in the Royal Engineers, my mother was born there and bought up in the last days of the raj before the start of WW2. His last words to me as a boy of 10 were ‘Follow the Colours my lad, follow the Colours’, which I did. I have his medals and citations, and although I should hand it in his service revolver from WW1.

    I arrived in the June of 1958, I was taken to my first Armistice parade in the November and I have not missed one since. My mother insisted and my father would not have believed a family member would not go.

    So what has all this to with collecting HJ. Well I suppose you could call it genetic, or maybe because my first girl friend at school her father being a former HJ had something to do with it. Or the man who serviced my Fathers car, ex-RAD and HJ, or the ex-Latvian SS guy who worked in a local shop, or knowing one of the cameramen from Riefenstahl ‘Olympiad’ living next to the local pub....who knows.

    Back then these guys were the teachers and Doctors; the average guys around towns across the country that we all knew; the ‘real’ vets were the boys from WW1 and before. Remember WW2 was about long ago as the Falklands are today.

    I have no idea why that part of Buckinghamshire should have had so many guys like this around, I know there was an Italian POW camp nearby and I knew many of them that stayed on after the war, but Germans I have no idea why. Especially as Bletchley park was less than a mile from our house.

    So when other kids were getting action man toys for Christmas I was getting bayonets and badges. They got bikes and go karts I got books on military history. I got my first army dagger at the age 12 and for my 21st a chained SS.

    All the local junk shops and markets had WW2 stuff and could not shift it, I spent every penny I had on it and I bought some right old rubbish as well as some nice rare bits, although that was not known at the time of course. Everyone knew that anything military was of interest and that meant that when people cleared out sheds and garages all the old 'crap' headed my way. My poor mother was driven to distraction. She drew the line at fire arms and I was not allowed to keep either of the K98's or the Luger that I was given. My first HJ item came that way, it was a tinnie, 1938 I seem to recall.

    One school project I did was a series of interviews with boys from WW1 with photos and with tape recorded interviews with several of them – I still have the old reel to reel tapes somewhere and several sets of the 'pip squeak and wilfred' medals and pay books, along with letters home and all sorts of personal stuff that they gave me. No one was really that overly interested in it back then. These were the days when Armistice parades were attended by very few and frowned upon by the many.

    I realised pretty early on that these men were not immortal and one day they would all be gone. I started to talk to as many as I could, making notes and copying photos, with my uncles captured war booty Lieca of all things. Before long I looked towards the German forces and started to write to many of them, finding them was not so easy back then and I am still grateful to the then West German government for their help in tracking down many of my requests.

    At first I went for the big names Dönitz - Speer - von Manteuffel - Warlimont – Galland and so on all of whom replied and were helpful and polite. Rommels son, Manfred, refused to tell me what he has in the family bank vault of his fathers – the rumours are many and varied.

    I had a polite refusal from Riefenstahl and not so polite refusals from the Russians on behalf of Hess, one letter returned ripped into shreds, which I still have somewhere

    I wrote to both Axmann and von Schirach, of the two von Schirach was the most charming, when in one letter he realised that I was just 14 years old he expresses his shock and praises me on my knowledge of the subject. His English was simply stunning. Axmann was a stern abrupt man, and when he finally agreed to see me on a trip to Germany he was taken aback because he realised that I had been a teenager when I asked him so many questions. I always felt he was a game player, changing his story to fit the occasion but I could be wrong. He never refused an answer to anything I asked, although in his last few years he became a little confused with dates and names.

    So my personal specific interest in HJ stems from von Schirach himself. He encouraged me in so many ways, he said always ask questions and believe nothing about WW2 unless it comes from a man who was there, quote ‘time will add vitriol to an already poisoned era’ His views on post war reconstruction and His youths’ part in it would do more than turn a few heads these days I am sure.

    I have two copies of his 1938 book which he signed in 1973, when I was in Germany just a year before he passed away, one dedicated to me and the just signed. I have a Christmas card and many letters from him as well. Of all the top brass survivors I spoke to or wrote to he was the most open.

    I still write to a few vets although most are now fading slowly away. I had a bequest in a will just after Easter from an HJ in Munich who I have known for over thirty years,, it was a photo of a girl he loved in 1941 who was killed in an air raid in 1944, he carried it all his life in his wallet. He said I was the only person who would understand the need to preserve it and the memory of what he felt through what he called ‘the years of joy and terror’. How do you value an item like that, how do you present that to future generations? On ebay or to a dealer a worthless piece of paper, yet having known the man, having seen his almost boyish laughter at a distant memory and the tears when talking of fallen friends it is a priceless gift that in many ways is the crowning item in my collection.

    So here we are many years later, too many years I feel sometimes, I still collect the odd bit here and there. I have boxes and boxes of the stuff I have no room for. I do not know how many books and files of photos and letters. I have sold off bits and pieces over the years, the last of the daggers went last year – medical bills. But most of it will stay with me; it will give me something to do in my old age sorting it all out. If I have enough marbles left to do it

    Some of us are born collectors, some of us are collectors by choice, and then there are those of us that are almost part of a collection that never seems to end................!


  2. #2

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    My talk with Axmann was mainly about Werewolves and the collapse of Germany, he refused to talk about Hitler and the last two days in the bunker. He talked about the politics more than anything else. Friendly and polite but strict and tense, I always thought he feared further harassment

    von Schirach was a totally different man. He was very open and proud of his time in the HJ, he was incredibly bitter at loosing it - something I did not know. Our letters drifted over many topics, and over the two days I went to see him our conversation covered so much ground. So I will do my best to get something down on paper. Unless you have specific questions to help me focus it a bit if I can.

    Both men asked that nothing was taped sadly, and the one photo I have of vS and I is somewhere in the packed and stored stuff in the UK. I think I have one of the books here somewhere that I could photo and post - finding things is an issue as I am untidy at heart

  3. #3

    Von Shirach and Axmann - meetings and correspondence

    I've started this thread with Tony's permission in order that he can tell us more about his correspondence and meetings with Baldur von Shirach and Artur Axmann. If anyone has specific questions Tony is happy to answer where possible.

  4. #4

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    Hi Tony
    I understand that axmann lost his right arm during combat on the eastern front this is a serious injury was his life at risk when this happened , what age was he and how did he cope with the loss ..

    thanks steve

  5. #5

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    did you ever find out off schirach what led up to him losing the HJ and being replaced by axxman and what he thought of axxman as his replacement

  6. #6

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    I'm curious as how both feel about National Socialism en what it did to the kids so many years after the war.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by zander View Post
    Hi Tony
    I understand that axmann lost his right arm during combat on the eastern front this is a serious injury was his life at risk when this happened , what age was he and how did he cope with the loss ..

    thanks steve
    This is from memory so I might not be 100% on the actual wording. My note books are not here with me.

    When I met him I went to shake hands with my right hand and he just looked at me and smiled. He said it was not a problem and that Hitler on at least one occasion had forgotten as well.

    We did not talk of the action. I think he must have been around 28-29 when it happened.

    I was there for a little over an hour and I wanted to discuss the end of the war.

    Asking questions of men who history had judged and punished is hard, an inquiry can easily sound like an accusation. The opening hand shake did make it possible later to ask:-

    Q " Did your own front line experience make you rethink the use of the HJ in the final battles both at the Seelow Heights and in the streets of Berlin "?

    A " No " He replied.

    Q " While the Waffen SS foreign legion members from across Europe fought to the last in the battle for the Chancellery were there at any time any foreign youth involved it that fighting "?

    A " Not that I recall, but in those days it was more than possible "

    Q " Were children of men serving in Waffen SS foreign legions encouraged to become Werewolves "?

    A " Yes, but with limited success, they wanted to go West "

    Q " Is it true that the Russians showed no mercy to HJ when they encountered them " ?

    A " None what so ever "

    Q " Was the use of boy soldiers in the final battle, when all was clearly lost done to buy time for the escape from the Bunker or for other military reasons "?

    A " It was not clearly lost to everyone until the very end, by then it was to late to stop it, it would have made no difference to the break outs from the Bunker "

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by stuart View Post
    did you ever find out off schirach what led up to him losing the HJ and being replaced by axxman and what he thought of axxman as his replacement
    Thats a long one to answer, I wil need a day or soon that. Needless to say that Bormann features heavily in the answer.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by patrick1974 View Post
    I'm curious as how both feel about National Socialism en what it did to the kids so many years after the war.
    von Schirach stated that 'His boys' won the peace. Without the training and skills that they gained in the HJ they would have soft in mind and spirit as well as business and not been able to rebuild Germany. Although the training was to rebuild conquered nations rather than the home land.

    " National Socialism was the calling of its time and place in history not a policy, in the same way that the Bolsheviks had been in 1917 "

    I did not discuss this with Axmann.

  10. #10
    Very interesting answers from Axmann. What time period did your discussions with v. Schirach concentrate on Tony? What kind of things did you ask him?

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