Tuesday, 27 June 2017
The Defiance of August Landmesser
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
In this famous photograph, a man identified as Landmesser refuses to give the Nazi salute, defiantly crossing his arms. It was taken on the 13th June 1936. It shows a large gathering of workers at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg, for the launching of the navy training ship Horst Wessel.
August Landmesser was a worker at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany. In 1931, hoping it would help him get a job, he joined the Nazi Party. In 1935, when he became engaged to Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman, he was expelled from the party. They registered their marriage in Hamburg. However, the Nuremberg Laws enacted a month later prevented it. On 29th October 1935, Landmesser and Eckler's first daughter, Ingrid, was born.
In 1937, the couple tried to flee to Denmark but were caught. She was pregnant again, and he was charged and found guilty in July 1937 of “dishonouring the race” under Nazi racial laws. He argued that neither he nor Eckler knew that she was fully Jewish, and was acquitted on 27th May 1938 for lack of evidence, with the warning that a repeat offense would result in a multi-year prison sentence. The couple publicly continued their relationship, and on the 15th July 1938, he was arrested again and sentenced to two and a half years in Börgermoor, a concentration camp.
Irma Eckler was detained by the Gestapo and eventually, in February 1942, it is believed that she was taken to the Bernburg Euthanasia Centre, where she was among the 14,000 killed. Post-war documentation pronounced her legally dead, with a date of 28th April 1942.
As for Landmesser, in February 1944, he was drafted into a penal battalion, the 999th Fort Infantry Battalion. He was declared missing in action, after being killed during fighting in Croatia on 17th October 1944.