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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Uriah

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The Schwartzeis Saga: A Family Trying to Make Sense of Confusing Times


Monday 1st June


Rain is pouring down on the house in Berliner Straße as it has been for some days. It is a dismal start of summer, and that is reflected in the subdued mood in the lounge room where the family is gathered. Hermann Schwartzeis tosses his newspaper onto a small table and grunts, getting everyone’s attention.

“A load of rubbish as usual. I really don’t know why we keep paying for newspapers”.

“Would you like me to cancel the deliveries, Hermann?” asks his wife.

“Of course not. We need to be kept informed what the press is saying, even if it is rubbish. There might be a jewel hiding in there, though that seems unlikely. I mean, the writer of this article about the “Volksgemeinschaft” welfare project has no idea of history. He thinks this is a new discovery! Am I the only person in Berlin who can remember before the last war? Back then every philosopher was talking about Volksgemeinschaft. During the war it was called “Burgfrieden”, but it was the same thing – everyone pulling together for the common good.

And I am not too sure that this initiative is as charitable as the writer claims – I see an ulterior motive behind it. But it will help the poor, and from a business perspective it is wonderful – more stability, higher birthrate, more productivity.”



The badge of the NSV, the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt​

“I’m a member of the NSV” interjected his daughter, pointing to the badge on her lapel. “We do a lot of good work, from helping the disabled to running the “Winterhilfe” program”.

“I don’t doubt that, Ilse. But the creation of the NSV has meant that all other charities have had to close – all their work is now carried out by an organisation run by Nazi party: that is what upsets me. I don’t like the way they have spread into every corner of our lives.”

Ilse’s husband Erich steers the conversation away from what could be a touchy subject.

“The issue of the government’s quality control policy looks good for everyone in business. Not so much for its own effects, but the opportunities it opens for various projects to improve production methods. Though we have suffered a little from a reduction in orders for uniforms for the SS.”



The 21cm Mörser showing the revolutionary dual recoil system​

“I’m afraid the Heer has higher priorities than outfitting Himmler’s private army.” Oberst von Willemburg smiles – like most regular army officers he is unhappy at the growth of the SS. “Purchases of the 3.7cm anti-tank gun were cut as well. Our evaluation of equipment needs means that our budget is better directed at purchasing Krupp’s 21cm Mörser 18. And that means we need to also increase the number of SdKfz 8 artillery prime movers available.



A heavy half-track, the SdKfz 8, is needed to transport the largest artillery pieces​


“Is there any news from Rudolph? I had a letter some weeks ago, but nothing since.” Ilse has obviously decided not to defend her membership of the NSV.

“I have received a letter, but it is now a week old. Not much news: he is with Badoglio in Addis Ababa. I assume his letter told you of the victory parade into the capital?” Ilse nods.



General Badoglio and his troops in Addis Ababa​

“In over half the country, organised resistance is over, though Rudolf says that some sort of guerrilla warfare is going on, a group calling itself the “Arbegnoch”. The Emperor fled some time ago, heading for Britain, and took the gold reserves with him. There are some regular forces in existence, but it is hard to see the Italians having much more to do.



Ethiopian Resistance fighters: the Arbegnoch​

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rudolf back in Berlin in a few weeks – his editor at the “Berliner Illustrirte” won’t keep paying him to report “Nothing has happened”.

Any other news? I heard some talk of government turning its attention to the Luftwaffe, but other than the opening of a few new airbases in the west I didn’t see what it achieved.”

Sigmund Schwartzeis asks “Anything in your newspaper about the situation in Spain? No? Maybe the press doesn’t find it important enough, but in the diplomatic world all sorts of rumours are swirling around. Since the election of Manuel Azaña at the beginning of May there have been some disturbing events. For example, a few days ago there was rioting in Albacete and the Civil Guard opened fire, killing about 20 peasants.



Civil Guards prepare to put down unrest in Albacete​

I don’t know a lot about Spanish politics, it is not really my area, but I can tell you that the Auswärtiges Amt is starting to pay a lot of attention to that country.”

“That may be so, Sigmund”, replies his father. “But I doubt that anything that happens in Spain will ever affect us. They are always having revolutions and uprisings – I wouldn’t worry too much about it. If that is all the news, then I will be off. The business won’t run by itself!”
 

stnylan

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They (the Nazis) are getting very insidious.
 

Uriah

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The Schwartzeis Saga: A Family Trying to Make Sense of Confusing Times


Wednesday 1st July 1936


A glorious summer’s day at last. It is close to 6PM but the Schwartzeis family is still outside in garden. While the older members are sitting around a table in the shade, the younger ones are either lying on the grass or lounging on deck chairs, absorbing the last of the sun.

“We had better get the business discussion over and done with quickly” says Margarethe Schwartzeis. “Before Hermann falls asleep”.

“Sleep? After a hard day at the office am I not allowed to close my eyes for a few seconds? There has been a lot to do, like the renewal of the promissory notes for Metallurgische Forschungsgeschellschaft m.b.h.. As a supplier of goods to the government we often get paid in them and there is a lot of paperwork involved in converting them into Reichsmarks. Nobody realises the amount of work required to keep the business running. For years I have worked …”​


While the Metallurgische Forschungsgeschellschaft m.b.h may have been an imaginary company, its promissory notes could be exchanged for real money

Frau Schwartzeis simply talks over her husband.

“Apart from the renewal of the MEFO Bills, anything else of importance?”

Her son Erich is first to reply. “Nothing to report from Wilhelmshaven. The Kriegsmarine seems to have enough on its hands supervising the construction projects already in progress. I did notice that some new armament factories opened in Hannover. Something to do with the final part of the re-armament program started back in 1933.”

“Those weren’t the only new factories.”

Every one turns to look at Erich’s wife Ingrid: she rarely contributes to the family business discussions.

“I had lunch with my father last week, and he was saying that apart from the MEFO Bills that are giving Hermann so much to do, there has been a lot of things happening. There are new armaments factories in Oberschlesien, and some other factories finished in Brandenburg. What interested my father was that the Heer has decided to replace its entire fleet of light utility vehicles. It is sticking with Stöwer, but a completely new model. I think it is called the “Kübelwagen”.​



The Kübelwagen is a vast improvement on the Stówer 1500​

“You’re right Ingrid.” Günter von Willemburg looks around the group before continuing. “It is a massive order. Tens of thousands of vehicles to be delivered, probably over several years. I don’t think that Stöwer likes them being called “tub cars”, but nobody calls them the full name, “Kübelsitzwagen”.

But that is not the only big order. Some time ago Karl was praising the new aircraft from Willi Messerschmitt. Well, it has already been superseded. Messerschmitt has developed the Bf 109B and it will be that model that will be backbone of the Luftwaffe and form most of its Jagdgeschwader. Production of the earlier model has been halted and all aircraft factories are retooling. The first aircraft should be already be in service.



The Bf 109B: the future backbone of the Jagdkorps​

In fact, additional production is being diverted to the Bf 109B. Perhaps the new factories mentioned by Erich. Though there are also increases in more traditional equipment: horse drawn artillery transport for example.”



A leFH18 10.5cm howitzer being pulled by a team of horses: it will be some time before the Wehrmacht can replace the horse as the main method of artillery transport​

“I wondered about that” says Herr Schwarteiz. “We had a substantial increase in leather sales to manufacturers of traces and other gear for horse teams.”

Karl von Willemburg, having waited patiently for his grandfather to speak, get his chance.

“No-one at our training aerodrome has really mentioned the switch from the Bf 109A to the Bf 109B. Probably because the chances of our seeing one of the new aircraft is about nil. It will take a long time for them to replace the existing He 51 fighters. And anyway, the big topic of conversation for weeks has been the plane crash that nearly killed General Wever. How that ground crew could allow his “Blitz” to take off with the gust locks still on beyond belief. It is a miracle he survived, but it will be a long time before he is fully recovered, if ever. The very day his pet project got the stamp of approval from the Reichsluftfahrministerium! Those trainees who want to fly bombers are really keen to see what designs are submitted to the competition. The specifications for the heavy bomber “Bomber A” are pretty high (we need something to match the latest British bomber, the Vickers Wellington) and it will be wonderful to see what our best aircraft designers can come up with. A pity that General Wever may never get to fly the result of his efforts .”



The unarmed Wellington bomber prototype K4701: the design has been approved for production​

Karl’s twin interjects.

“Your competition might end with a design, but the engineering students at TH Berlin are talking of nothing but Professor Focke’s latest invention: the Focke-Wulf 61 autogyro. We think it should really be called a “hélicoptère” – the first operational aircraft to use rotors to lift and thrust. This aircraft can take off vertically, it can hover. It is the way of the future for sure.”



The Focke-Wulf 61 takes to the air​

There is a pause as the group contemplated what such an aircraft might look like and what it might mean for transport. And for the profits of Schwartzeis Lederarbeiter und Stoffhersteller GmbH.

“I have one item, though it is nowhere as exciting as a new aircraft.” Sigmund Schwarteis seems resigned to the fact that diplomacy will never be considered interesting to outsiders.

“The British have been dominating trade negotiations with the Dutch and the government has decided that this cannot continue. I understand, though nobody is saying so publicly, that there are concerns that oil and rubber imports, critical to our military program, could be under threat. Anyway, a lot of effort is being put into demanding increased trade with the Dutch.”



Rubber production in the Netherlands East Indies​

Sigmund was correct: nobody found his information very gripping.

“Nothing from Rudolf this month”. Herr Schwartzeis speaks again. “I think he is on his way home. The Italians have defeated the Ethiopians and there is only some mopping up to do. I saw in the paper that Emperor Haile Selassie is now in London. I suppose he will hope to return to Abyssinia, but realistically the rest of the world has accepted Italy’s victory. Britain and the USA have dropped all sanctions against the Italians, and it can only be a matter of time before the League does too.



Emperor Haile Selassie arrives at Victoria Station​

Which reminds me: there are still a few stories coming from Spain. It is hard to tell what is happening, but I saw that on the 16th José María Gil-Robles y Quiñones, leader of the Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas party, made a speech in the Cortes Generales, claiming that in the previous 48 hours no less than 49 people had been killed and 90 churches set on fire, half of them completely destroyed. If this keeps up, the army may have to step in. And then all hell will break lose!”



A church burns in Spain: tension is rising across the country​

“Hermann! Language please”. Margarethe takes over the conversation. “Time to discuss something else I think. What do you all think of the government’s decision to introduce the death penalty for child kidnapping? Do you think it was because of the Lindbergh kidnapping? It was only a few weeks ago that the kidnapper was electrocuted in the USA. And to think he was a German!”



The convicted Bruno Hauptmann is strapped into the electric chair​

A heated discussion begins, with the need to protect children, the evils of capital punishment, the wonders of forensic investigation and the courage of the Lindberghs all getting a mention. That passes the time until the temperature drops low enough to drive the whole family inside for dinner.
 
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One must watch one's language
 

Uriah

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The Schwartzeis Saga: A Family Trying to Make Sense of Confusing Times

Saturday 1st August 1936


As dusk deepens across Berlin, a solitary figure sprints down the Berliner Straße. The runner barely slows as he turns into the Schwartzeis residence, navigates the front door and finally bursts into the dining room.

Günter von Willemburg pulls out his pocket watch – unlike most men who fought in the last war, he has never acquired the habit of wearing a watch on his wrist.

“Kept in after school, Kurt? I didn’t know the Technische Hochschule was so strict.”



Oberst von Willemburg’s fob watch – a reminder of his service during the last war​

“Sorry for being so late. I was listening to Edmund Germer talking about the latest developments in generating light from metallic vapour. He had been working on a mercury lamp that gave off a horrible green light but the government has given him funds and facilities to produce a commercially viable “fluorescent tube”. It looks as though his research has been successful – he hints that his new tubes will be on sale in a few months. They would be perfect for our workshops – he showed us a prototype and it gives of a clear, white, steady light and so ….”



Edmund Germer: a graduate of the Berlin University, he returned to give students an exciting lecture on the future of lighting​

“That is all very interesting, liebchen” interrupts his mother, “but I think your father wishes to discuss the momentous events in Spain”.

“I do, but that is an interesting piece of news. Not only may it be a good investment for our excess capital, but the mere fact that the government is pouring money into developing technology to improve production methods is something to think about”.

Before we get to that development and what it might mean for us, I should welcome Rudolf back to Berlin. Are you missing Ethiopia?”

“Not a bit”. Rudolf appears tanned and fit. Life as a foreign correspondent obviously suits him.

“With the Treaty of Addis Ababa the world will now forget about events in that part of the world, even if the Italians are still fighting rebels throughout the country. Spain is the flavour of the month, and I am pretty sure when I go into the office on Monday that I will be told to book a flight to Spain.”



Crowds cheer Il Duce in Mogadishu​

Rudolf pretends not to notice that his mother looks less than happy at the prospect of her oldest son again entering a war zone.

Herr Schwartzeis turns to his youngest son. “The government has been very secretive about its dealings with the Spanish, both the government and the rebels. Can you shed a little light on what is happening, Sigmund?”

“I can, but I must insist that this stays within this room. If it were known that I was revealing any information about Germany’s involvement with the rebels it could be extremely dangerous for me. Heydrich and his Sicherheitsdienst der Reichsführers-SS are said to be merciless when they discover breaches of secrecy.



A sight becoming more common: men of the Sicherheitsdienst der Reichsführers-SS conduct a raid on suspected spies and traitors​

The past few weeks have been hectic in the Auswärtiges Amt. Nobody predicted this revolt – not even Canaris and his hundreds of Abwehr agents. So when the news broke on the 17th we had to scramble to get a policy together. Minister von Neurath was instructed to contact General José Sanjuro y Sacanell, in exile in Portugal but then that idiot was killed trying to fly to Spain in an overloaded light plane. So now we are dealing with the two other leaders of the rebellion: Generals Emilio Mola and Francisco Franco Bahamonde.



General José Sanjuro y Sacanell, 1st Marquess of the Rif​



Emilio Mola Vidal, 1st Duke of Mola, Grandee of Spain​

Now this is what must remain confidential. Do you all swear to keep it secret? Good.

Have any of you heard of the Sociedad Hispano-Marroqui de Transportes? No? I am not surprised – it is not really a business, just a name used to provide support to the rebels. That company using requisitioned aircraft from Deutsche Luft Hansa, has flown General Franco and thousands of his men from Africa to Seville. “Unternehmen Feuerzauber” it was called.



Spanish-Moroccan troops are loaded on a German Ju-52 to be flown to the mainland​

That was not all – there is another more secret operation, “Unternehmen Ursula”. Even I do not know what it is, other than it has something to do with submarines. Everyone involved had to sign an oath stating "Mir ist bekannt, daß jeder Bruch der Schweigepflicht, auch in geringster nur angedeuteter Form, über Seeebiet und alle Ergebnisse der Unternehmung (Ursula) wegen Landesverrat gemäß Paragraph 88 usw. Reichsstrafgesetzbuch mit dem Tode bestraft wird. Die Schweigepflicht hierüber gilt lebenslänglich".

You can see why I am worried. The death penalty for any breach, in any way – and it lasts for life!

You would think that is enough, given that the Chancellor has stated to the world that Germany is strictly neutral as far as Spain is concerned. But that is not even the most alarming.

Weeks ago the Wehrmacht was ordered to put together, under the utmost secrecy, a unit to be called the “Condorgruppe”. All “volunteers” of course. It is commanded by General Hans-Karl Esebeck and comprises two divisions, I think the first and second panzer divisions, and two Luftwaffe geschwader: one fighter and one dive bomber. I can tell you what planes have been sent – I accidentally saw the order movements while in someone else’s office. The bombers are from I/StG 232 and the fighters from I/JG 232. 55 He 46C-1, 52 He 51C and some of our most modern fighter aircraft: 11 Bf109A and 10 Bf 109B. It is a huge force, maybe enough to change the course of the Civil War and it is already on its way to Spain!”



A He 46C bomber is prepared for a training mission: soon its pilots will get combat experience​

Erich Schwartzeis interrupts.

“That explains the mysterious goings-on in the Nordsee ports! There have been whispers for days of cargo vessels getting orders from very high up to load materials for unknown destinations, and several loading docks have been closed off and surrounded, not by the normal guards and police, but by SS troops trucked in from Berlin.

I can tell you one thing – we are definitely sending arms to someone. From my time in the Freikorps I know what crates of military items look like and I have seen truckloads of uniforms, heavy machine guns, mortars, rifles and other items. As well as much larger things – maybe disassembled aircraft or artillery pieces?”



It is not hard to work out what this crate contains​

In the silence that followed his interjection, a faint sound can be heard coming from the corner of the room where the housekeeper, Hilde, is sitting. She is hunched over, tears covering her face as she sobs uncontrollably.

“What is it Hilde?” Frau Schwartzkeis hurries over to the crying woman, a quick glance ensuring that there is no comment from the rest of the family.

“It is my Siegfried, he is so young, I cannot lose him”

“What do you mean Hilde? Why would you lose your son?”

Suddenly realising that she is the centre of attention, Hilde pulls herself together. She wipes her eyes and then, in a voice that she is obviously struggling to control, explains her reaction to the news.

“My younger son, Siegfried, he is not as clever as his brother, but he is good with his hands. Even as a boy he could mend his toys after he had broken them. When he left school he was looking for a trade and I suggested that he become a mechanic – there is always work for a good mechanic. For once he listened to his mother. But getting a secure apprenticeship was impossible: he could not get a Lehrlingsvertrag from any reputable employer – it has been so hard since the recession in the late 20s. So he enlisted and applied for a mechanic’s position. Almost straightaway he was assigned to Werkstatt-Kompanie X, Panzer Regiment 3, in Meiningen/Thuringia, not far from the rest of my family in Saxony. This year the unit was moved south to Bamburg, as part of Panzer-Brigade 2. And that is part of the 2nd Panzer Division!


Hilde’s son and his fellow soldiers before his unit “volunteered” for a secret mission​

I got a very short letter the other day but I didn’t know what it meant. He just said not to worry if he didn’t write for a while as he was going on a “training exercise”. He ended it by saying “Hasta la vista!” He must have been trying to send me a message and I was too stupid to understand! And now he is off to fight in a war in country full of foreigners!”

She again starts to cry, but softly. Margarethe keeps holding her, but nods at her husband to say something comforting.

“Don’t get upset Hilde. I am sure that even if your son has been sent to Spain, that as a mechanic he will be far from any fighting. Vehicle workshops are hardly mobile! He will be secure in the rear, with the staff officers and the cooks.

Feeling he has done his duty, Hermann turns back to his youngest son. “Anything else Sigmund?”

“The only other thing was that the rebels asked for docking rights in German ports. It was granted, quietly of course. I suppose it will be mainly used for cargo ships – nearly the entire navy has stuck with the Republicans.

Oh, I nearly forgot. we signed the Montreux Convention allowing Turkey to rearm the Turkish Straits. Italy isn’t happy – they will not be allowed to send warships into the Black Sea anymore. And I doubt that the Russians have given up their ambition to control the straits.”



The Montreux Palace hosts the delegates discussing Turkish control of the Dardanelles and Bosporus​

“This is nowhere as important as everything we have talked about so far” says Ingrid Schwartzeis. “But my father is happy that Sweden has agreed to increase exports of tungsten to our steel makers. He says the growing demand for tungsten steel for armaments has been really hard to meet but this should ease the shortage. He told me that the government is starting to stockpile the excess.”

“Another sign that Herr Hitler is preparing for a time when Swedish tungsten is not available.” Hermann Schwartzeis frowns. “He is definitely building up for something. Did anyone else see that a new armoured division is to be formed? That is the fourth, and I doubt that we need panzer divisions for defence.”

“I was aware of it.” replies Günter von Willemburg. “Getting another panzer division was a big success for those in OKH who support the theories of General der Panzertruppe Lutz and his deputy, Heinz Guderian, as well as Oberstleutnant i.G. Nehring. You may not be aware that the demands for more tanks has meant that some factories have had to cancel production of anti-tank weapons. In fact factories have been ordered to retool to produce the new Bf 109B fighters. The Wehrmacht is slowly gearing up.”



The Directorate of Motorised Forces in 1936​

Sigmund looks reflective. “And the speed of the government in not only supporting but sending troops would suggest that this is more than just a token gesture to the rebels. Someone wants to use this conflict to test our men and equipment. There is a risk of diplomatic tension, but I expect von Neurath will use his skill to deflect any real damage.”

Günter von Willemberg takes over the discussion.

“I suspect that von Esebeck is under orders to not be too active: nobody will want the war to end too quickly. Spain is perfect place for weapons testing, as well as to try out some of new tactics our commanders have been developing.”

The table is silent as everyone contemplates the situation: the Wehrmacht is to use the territory and population of a far away country as subjects for an experiment.

Slowly the conversation starts again, with those who had been present at the opening ceremony of the Olympic games keen to provide their accounts of the festivities. But despite the excitement and pride of hosting the world’s most prestigious sporting event in their city, all present have one thought at the back of their minds: what will the results of the Spanish experiment be used for?
 

stnylan

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The family is rather adept at starting to isolate themselves from the moral imperative of having to choose a side.
 

Uriah

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They (the Nazis) are getting very insidious.
There are many adjectives to describe the Nazis, but I don't think I have seen them described as insidious before.

One must watch one's language
Always, but particularly on the Paradox forums

The family is rather adept at starting to isolate themselves from the moral imperative of having to choose a side.
I don't want to make them fanatical Nazis, but to portray them as violently anti-Nazi would be unrealistic. From my reading, most Germans were happy for Hitler to take power, if only to provide stability. When he was in power, he was popular because the economy took off, some of the most disliked terms of the Versailles treaty were abrogated and Germany's status in the world improved. Some were against him on principle, but they were a minority. I think an awful lot just concentrated on their own position and ignored the wider implications, or thought some of the more violent promises were just wild statements that were never meant to be put into action.
 

stnylan

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I don't want to make them fanatical Nazis, but to portray them as violently anti-Nazi would be unrealistic. From my reading, most Germans were happy for Hitler to take power, if only to provide stability. When he was in power, he was popular because the economy took off, some of the most disliked terms of the Versailles treaty were abrogated and Germany's status in the world improved. Some were against him on principle, but they were a minority. I think an awful lot just concentrated on their own position and ignored the wider implications, or thought some of the more violent promises were just wild statements that were never meant to be put into action.
Oh I think this is an excellent portrayal about how a family (and a people) can eventually end up in a place they would rather not be.
 

Uriah

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The Schwartzeis Saga: A Family Trying to Make Sense of Confusing Times


Tuesday 1st September 1936


It being a working day, the Schwartzeis family’s monthly meeting does not start until after dinner. As usual, Erich Schwartzeis and his wife Ingrid have travelled from their home in Wilhelmshaven to attend. Not that such a trip is unusual: in charge of all contracts with the Kriegsmarine, Erich must often discuss business in Berlin, both with senior naval offices and, more importantly, his father.

Frau Margarethe Schwartzeis welcomes the family and ushers them all into the parlour where coffee and cakes are already set out. While her husband is still making himself comfortable in his favourite armchair, she starts the discussion.

“I hope that despite the distraction of the Olympic games during the first two weeks of the past month that you have some other news for us. I know that Hilde has some very interesting information, but as that might take some time, is there anything else that needs to be addressed?”

Her husband looks a little disgruntled that he has missed his chance to commence proceedings. “Not much here in Berlin. I heard a new synthetic oil plant has begun operations in the east of the city, but all people wanted to talk about was the Olympics here in Charlottenburg. How can we do business when every fool is suddenly an expert on the long jump or fencing?”



The Reichsportsfield: the Olympiastadion, the Maifield and the Waldbühne amphitheatre​

“You should attend some lectures at the university, Großvater”. Kurt smiles at the thought of his cantankerous grandfather meeting some of his more bohemian friends.

“A few of the sporty types went to some of the Olympic events, but there were far more interesting things happening. At least for us in Engineering. There has been a huge amount of excitement generated by the latest experiments on rockets. There is a society at the Technische Hochschule called the “Verein für Raumschiffahrt” and one of its leading members is Willi von Braun, a graduate of the Hochschule. He is absolutely convinced that someday we will use rockets to go into space, even to the moon. Somehow he has got a lot of support from a source in the Wehrmacht and he and others have been doing a lot of work on rockets using a liquid propellant. He has even been given a rocket testing ground out at Reickendorf, near the old Luftschiffhafen. It is now called the Raketenschießplatz Tegel. I suppose there is a military use somewhere, but from what I hear, all the work so far is to get a rocket big enough and fast enough to overcome the pull of gravity and head for outer space.



An early rocket test at the Raketenschießplatz​

In my own area, electrical engineering, I suppose there was some talk of the Olympics. Not the games, but the television broadcast. I suppose some of you have heard of the Deutsche Fernseh-Rundfunk? No? Well, television is like radio but with pictures, like a movie. There have been some broadcasts, maybe three times a week, but the receivers are very expensive and the transmitter, Fersehsender “Paul Nipkow” does not have much range, so not many people are aware of it.”



Elsa Erster presents an early television broadcast from Fersehsender “Paul Nipkow”​

He sees that eyes are starting to wander and his grandfather in particular is starting to look bored.

“The point is, while the Olympics were on, you could go to one of several places around Berlin and actually watch events on television! This is a real breakthrough – thousands of people have seen what can be achieved! I would not be surprised to see that in a few years there will be as many fernsehapparat as there are radios today!”

There are several doubtful faces.

“But what would be the point?” asks Kurt’s father. “Why look at a little box when the radio tells you everything that is happening? And if you want to see it, then there are plenty of movie theatres showing newsreels like Fox Tönende Wochenschau or UFA Tonwoche.



News at the cinema​

If you want to know of some real technical developments, you should get up to the north coast. Deutsche Werke shipyards have, so a confidential source tells me, completed the first stage of studies into an aircraft carrier for the Kriegsmarine, and have started research into an improved design, bigger, faster and able to carry dozens of aircraft. Now there is something you can actually appreciate, something you can reach out and touch.”

“There are some interesting political events, even if you can’t touch them.” Sigmund Schwartzeis leans forward. “The government has called all those of German ancestry, all Volksdeutsche, to return to Germany, to leave the country of their birth. Already some have responded to the call. We may need them: apart from the new synthetic oil plant there are more factories coming into operation in Niedeschlesien and, with the Rhineland under our control, construction of more in Moselland. As well as huge storage silos in Oberschlesien. For tungsten ore apparently. All this will require workers, at the same time as the Wehrmacht is calling up more men.

The only other news from the diplomatic front, while it may not have an immediate effect on us, is that in Greece General Metaxas has declared that from now he will rule as a dictator.

What may be more relevant is that we are getting numerous reports that in Spain so many volunteers have arrived from other countries that the Republican government has started to form “International Brigades”.”



British members of the International Brigades​

“Which is a good point to bring up Hilde’s information.” Margarethe Schwartzeis holds up a letter which has obviously been read many times, and which appears to be tear stained. “She has asked me to tell you its contents as she feels a little too emotional”.

“Liebe Mama,

A brief note to let you know I am safe here in Spain. Sorry to have left with so little warning, but there was a complete ban on all contact with anyone once we got the order to move. If they ever find out that I sent you that note I’ll be in real trouble.

On Friday 17th July we left Bamburg in secrecy and went by rail to some northern port – nobody said which one. The docks were isolated as we loaded onto ships and we set sail immediately. We went through the Ärmelkanal at night and then steamed through the Golf von Biskaya. There was some delay – nobody really knows why but there was a rumour that the Spanish had stopped a German boat a few days before and that we were to be “escorted”. I never saw another ship, but a friend of mine swore he saw a submarine in the distance. Who knows? Would we send submarines so far from home?



Moving any heavy equipment can lead to problems, as with this Panzer II being unloaded after the trip from Bamburg​

The trip was quite relaxing, but over quickly. On 16th August we landed at a place called “A Coruña” in Galicia. On the north coast of Spain, near the Atlantic. Then the real work started, at least for us mechanics. We had to get all the vehicles ready to head east as fast as possible. It took more than a week of hard work in the Spanish sun which I can tell you is a lot hotter than the one in Germany!

We are now about to move out, heading towards the Asturias, if you know where that is. I think the front line is near Oviedo, a port on the coast. There will be no rest for me on the trip, the roads here are atrocious. It won’t be long before some of our equipment is so badly damaged it can’t be repaired.



Spain: Hilde’s son has landed with Condorgruppe at A Coruña​

Apart from that, everyone is in good spirits. We have already seen our aircraft flying overhead – they are based to the south somewhere – I think airbases near a town called Leon.

That’s all for now – I have to give this to a friend who is being shipped back to Germany. Silly idiot didn’t move his hand fast enough and got it smashed by a sledge-hammer when fixing a tank. Not sure when I can write again. Now we are more organised and moving towards the enemy the censors have got really strict which is why I am sending this with Heinrich. If the next letter seems a bit less informative, you’ll know why.



Brute force is useful when repairing a panzer, but you do need to be keep your hands away from heavy tools​

But don’t worry, I am fine, I am eating well and getting a good suntan. So far no danger at all, and the officers all seem very confident.

Pass on my love to all, and let them all know I am well. Best you don’t tell too many people exactly where I am and what is happening. If it gets back here I could be in real trouble.

Siegfried”

“Interesting” says Günter. “Soldiers always find a way to get information home. Remember the code we used when I was in France, Ingrid? I suppose that within the next week or so our troops will be in combat. That will be an exciting time for all of us at the WaffenAmt – to get reports of how our equipment stands up to combat conditions. Though from what young Siegfried says before then we should get some information on how the vehicles stand up to the more testing conditions in a country without the modern road system we enjoy”.

“Thank you, Hilde for sharing your son’s letter.” Frau Schwartzeis smiles at the housekeeper. “I think that is enough business for tonight. I am afraid, Karl, we do not have a fernsehapparat, but perhaps we could listen to some music on the radio while we finish our coffee.”
 

stnylan

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The slightly crabby moaning about the Olympics reminded me of much the same that I heard from certain folks about the 2012 Olympics in London: some things never change.
 

Uriah

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There may be a short break in transmission as a result of the Black Ice update. It is not save game compatible and though I could have used the old version I hate using outdated mods - no option but to replay as closely as possible. Luckily I keep detailed notes. I have a couple of installments ready, but need to catch up before I can spare the time to publish.
 

Uriah

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The Schwartzeis Saga: A Family Trying to Make Sense of Confusing Times



Monday 1st October 1936


Summer is over, but the autumn is proving just as enjoyable to the inhabitants of Berlin, and especially to those living in the large house in the Berliner Straße. They are sitting patiently while Herr Schwartzeis shuffle some sheets of paper.

Finally he seems satisfied that he has them in order.

“Welcome back everyone. Good to see you could all tear yourselves away from work or study to do your bit for the family business. We need it more than ever, now that the Deutsche Arbeitsfront has been increased in size. Our wages bill has gone through the roof! Still, we have been able to increase working hours a little, and the complete absence of strikes or other nuisances is a relief. It has brought more stability to the economy, and I understand it has allowed more research to be carried out.



The organisation of the Deutsche Arbeitsfront in the workplace​

I suppose even the appointment of Herbert Backe as Domestic Minister is good for business, with his efforts to retain production efficiency, but I still dislike the man”.

“There is rumour running around the campus” interjects Kurt von Willemburg, “that the University of Göttingen refused to accept his doctoral thesis. How embarrassing for a man who holds himself up to be an expert on agriculture!”

“There is no need to spread gossip, Kurt”. His grandmother, Frau Schwartzeis frowns. “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all”.



Robert Ley, head of the Deutsche Arbeitsfront, Albert Speer and Herbert Backe in Berlin​

“But the man is nothing but a Nazi party apparatchik” replies Sigmund, backing up his nephew. “He is completely unqualified for the job.”

His mother is not impressed. “Using fancy Russian words doesn’t impress me, young man. Good manners still count, even if only in this house.”

“To get back to the point” continues Hermann Schwartzeis “the announcement that the Heer will give preference to diesel engines over petrol should not affect our business at all. Have any other developments occurred over the past month?”

“There have been some improvements in mining techniques”. Kurt is not at all subdued by his grandmother’s rebuke. “Some of the engineering lecturers have spoken at length at how the new methods will decrease the Reich’s dependence on imports of raw materials.”

“I will admit that slipped my mind. I’ll get the head of manufacturing to prepare some costings for modifying the lighting systems in our factories. Assuming the benefits are as good as you promised, I expect we will go ahead with the work. Hilde, has your son managed to get any other letters to you?”



A state of the art factory using soft blue fluorescent lamps and natural light​

“Yes, Herr Schwartzeis” Hilde rummages in her apron for an envelope, then pulls out a much handled letter. “He says that the censors have decided that as the government is denying any involvement in Spain at all, that they don’t need to monitor mail to relatives. Though I think Siegfried is still being discrete. Much of the letter is personal, but there is this one section where he talks about what is happening”.

“At the beginning of September General Esebeck decided Condorgruppe was ready to move, and both divisions packed up and started to head east, towards the front line. The gossip is that our ultimate objective is the port of Bilbao.

We reached the front line in about a week. I call it a front line, but it was really just a scattering of enemy troops. No real fighting, just a few shots fired and they fled. We passed through Oviedo, and then 1.PzD moved along the coast road while we in 2.PzD were sent up the mountain roads a bit inland. If the roads on the coast were bad I don’t know what you call those we have been using the past week. Tracks? We are travelling with an Italian mountain division, 4a Divisione Alpina “Cuneense”, and they are able to move faster than us, despite (or perhaps because of) their almost total lack of vehicles.



“Condorgruppe” moves east and into contact with the enemy​

There have been a few casualties, but barely a dozen according to the medical staff I have spoken to, and only one of them in combat. Most of the damage we have taken were caused by these roads. A few tanks have been scrapped, and quite a lot of other equipment. 1.PzD is in action, against a large group of Spanish and foreign volunteers. But that was on the coast, somewhere called Cantabria. From what I can gather, we were supposed to hit the enemy from the south, but we are still struggling through the mountain paths. At our current speed it will be more than a week before we reach the fighting.

The General could probably do with our division a lot sooner. Even though 2a Divisione Alpina “Tridentina” is attacking with us, as well as a Spanish division, there are an awful lot of enemy troops and they are set up behind barbed wire defences. We are not being told much, which would seem to show that things are not going all that well.



Alpini move up an artillery piece in the battle for Cantabria​

The main thing is that there is no need to worry about me – I am well away from the front. And no worries about being bombed. The only planes we ever see are our German fighters and bombers. The worst danger I face is collapsing from exhaustion – the backlog of vehicles awaiting repairs is growing daily. We really need something more able to deal with rough conditions: our tanks are wonderful on flat smooth terrain, but these conditions are proving too much for both the crews and the vehicles.”



Citizens in Santander, capital of Cantabria, prepare air-raid defences: German bombers are almost unopposed​

“That is all he says about the fighting – he is really interested in when I can send him a parcel of food and some more comfortable socks.”

“Thank you, Hilde.” It is Günter von Willemburg who is first to speak. “That is very useful. We have heard much the same through official channels about the problems with travel on the Spanish roads, and the number of breakdowns. A lot of production that should be going to new units is being requisitioned for the Condorgruppe.”



Losses in Spain are small, but attrition is taking its toll on equipment​

“Well, whatever problems that may cause you, Günter” Margarethe Schwartzeis says, smiling at Hilde “I am just glad that Siegfried is safe for the present, and in no danger for the future.”

“Of course I am glad of that as well” adds her husband. “But I am very interested that so much equipment is having to be replaced and repaired. I would imagine that if the motor vehicles are suffering so badly, that the horse-drawn units must be going through a lot of gear. I think we might consider increasing production at our leather works. If any new contracts are up for tender, we need to be ready to meet the demands of the Heer!”

On that positive note the meeting breaks up. Several of those leaving look thoughtful. While Condorgruppe’s activities seem fairly routine, there is one question that is unanswered. Why such a small commitment? If we want to support the rebels, why not send more? Could it be that this is nothing but a live fire exercise for the Heer and the Luftwaffe?
 

Uriah

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The Schwartzeis Saga: A Family Trying to Make Sense of Confusing Times



Sunday 1st November 1936

Although October was generally dry and cool, the end of the month brought heavy rain that has persisted into November. While it is barely 5 o’clock in the afternoon, the lights are burning in the Schwartzeis house on Berliner Straße. Not the bright white fluorescent lights that now illuminate the work areas of Schwartzeis Lederarbeiter und Stoffhersteller GmbH but a warmer, more mellow glow.

“You may as well draw the curtains now, Hilde, and then we can start. I would like to get the business part of the evening over before dinner”. Frau Schwartzeis looks pointedly to her left, where her husband is sitting. “There is a lot to discuss, particularly from Spain.”​



Condorgruppe in Spain: two panzer divisions with fighter and bomber air support
“Yes, of course. Efficiency in all things, that’s what I always say.

I see that a few weeks ago General Franco took over as leader of the Nationalists, naming himself “Generalissimo” and “Caudillo”, as well as “Jefe del Estado”. To be expected I suppose: the whisper is that Herr Hitler favours him and all our assistance is going to those rebel forces under his command.​



Supporters of General Franco celebrate his assumption of power​

Perhaps Hilde you could bring us up to date on events in Spain, assuming that is that your son is still able to get news past the censors.”

“Thank you, Herr Schwartzeis.” Hilde already has a small bundle of letters in her hand. “Siegfried has been very kind to me, writing regularly”.

“If he is still stuck in the Asturian mountains he probably has nothing better to do!” laughs Rudolf Schwartzies.

“Rudolf!” His mother glares at him. “Your time in Abyssinia did not improve your manners! Hilde’s son is away at war. I will not have you mocking him!”

“It is alright, Frau Schwartzeis”. Hilde continues scanning the page in her hand.

“Siegfried was very busy while in the mountains, with a lot of vehicles being damaged and some destroyed. Even those had to be salvaged for parts, so everyone in the Werkstatt was working all day and half the night.”​



Some tanks, such as this Panzer I, could only be used for spare parts​

Rudolf looks suitable embarrassed, while his mother looks triumphant.

“While they were stuck in the mountains the other division, 1.PzD, tried to take Cantabria with the help of some Italians, but they were beaten back.” Hilde flips a few pages. “Several hundred men were lost, as well as some tanks and planes. But about three weeks ago 2.PzD came down onto flat ground and joined in a fresh attack on Cantabria. Siegfried said the men were unhappy because an Italian general, Balbo, was in charge of the attack, not General Esebeck. Especially as we had two divisions in the attack, both panzers, and the Italians only one mountain division, “Tridentina”. In any case, we won the battle: according to what Siegfried was told by the crews who brought back some damaged tanks the enemy would have folded long ago except for the International Brigades, units made up of volunteers from around the world.”



US volunteers of the “Abraham Lincoln” Brigade in Spain​

Sigmund Schwartzeis leans forward. “Excuse me, Hilde, but I should point out here that some of those volunteers are German. The Auswärtiges Amt is aware of a considerable number of citizens who are travelling to Spain. It was decided that it was not politically expedient to block such departures, but needless to say, should they return they will be detained.”

“Heavens!” Hilde looks shocked. “So some of those firing at our soldiers may be Germans? What could bring someone to do such a thing?”



The joint attack on Cantabria was successful, after the earlier defeat​

“Where was I? Oh yes, they took Cantabria and had a few days’ rest, then they headed east again, to Bilbao. In this battle General von Esebeck was in command, even though another Italian division was helping. He said this was the “Cuneense” division. Fighting was fairly intense and losses are starting to mount up. Some aircraft have been lost as well, even though the enemy doesn’t seem to have any fighters. Siegfried say the planes are pretty fragile and even small arms can bring them down if they fly low, which they have to do to hit their targets.”

Hilde pauses, suddenly aware that her mistress’s grandson would soon graduate from his Luftwaffe flying school and would in all probability be flying one of those fragile planes.



A few lucky pilots in Spain already have the new Bf 109B, though they are not identified as German​

“Well that’s about all. He says spirits are high, despite the casualties. His main complaint is that the tanks keep breaking down, but he also mentioned that light anti-tank weapons can pierce the tank armour, even of the more modern ones. It made me glad he repairs the tanks, not drives them.”

Sigmund Schwartzeis smiles at her, his reassuring diplomat’s smile at full strength.

“We are all glad he is safe and in good spirits, Hilde. I can tell you that the government is fully supportive of his efforts in Spain. You won’t read about it in the papers or hear it on the radio, but Germany has expressed complete support for the Nationalists as they are now called. More uniforms, weapons and other equipment are on their way to equip the Spanish fighting to overthrow the Republicans.”

“That is not the only government activity, Sigmund” his father adds. “Der dicke Hermann has assumed control of the economy with his “Four Year Plan”.

Most of those in the room smiled: Hermann Göring was well known to all, even those who took little interest in the internal affairs of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei.



“Der dicke Hermann” with the Führer (with Baldur von Schirach, head of the Hitler Youth, and Martin Bormann) at Obersalzburg, where they had met to discuss the Four Year Plan​

“Production will need to increase across the board” says Günter von Willemberg with a serious face. “Four new infantry divisions have been formed: they will need a huge amount of gear to get up to strength. Though it seems as if we have a lot of equipment stockpiled. Orders for SS uniforms mortars and heavy trucks have been cancelled and less coastal artillery and support equipment will be purchased. The funds are being directed to getting more Panzer IIs (I suppose to replace those lost in Spain) and to start production of the Junkers 87 close support aircraft: the “Stuka”. The WaffenAmt has come to the same conclusion as your son, Hilde. The Heinkel 46C is not up to the job and must be phased out as soon as possible”.



Junkers has put the Ju 87 into full production​

“If you think amount of activity is impressive, you should have been up north. The shipyards have been having almost continuous celebrations for the past month. Ship after ship has been completed, all of them modern destroyers. Let me see if I can remember them all.” Erich Schwartzeis furrows his brow as he concentrates.

“First was “Paul Jacobi”, then “Theodor Riedel” and “Wolfgang Zenker” on the same day. I think it was “Hans Lody” and the last one was “Bernd von Arnim”. No rest for the shipbuilders though: work on the “Scharnhorst”, “Gneisenau” and “Admiral Hipper” has been speeded up.”



A postcard issued to commemorate the launch of Zerstörer Z5 “Paul Jacobi”​

Young Karl von Willemburg is impressed. “Whew! Five ships in a month! That’s a whole flotilla – the Kriegsmarine is getting to a respectable size. Though I suppose even when the big ships are finished we will only be about a quarter of the size of the Royal Navy. I can’t wait for our first carrier though – I wonder how they will select who will be trained to fly off the “Grad Zeppelin”?”

“You need to get your Luftwaffe wings first” laughs his brother. “Don’t get ahead of yourself!”

“That is what worries me” says their grandfather. “All this activity and expansion – the economy is growing, yes, but the government is putting huge demands on our factories and workers. Not to mention the amount of raw materials needed. We have plenty of coal and steel, but a lot of things need to be imported. Like hides and cloth for instance. The problems I have in obtaining enough skins and woollen material suitable for uniforms and seat covers are driving me to distraction! You would not believe the telephone conversation I had with some idiot Austrian linen manufacturer …..”


The rest of the evening passed slowly, with little of interest to anyone who was not a dealer in leather and similar raw materials.
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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I think I can believe the telephone conversation he had :)
 

Uriah

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The Schwartzeis Saga: A Family Trying to Make Sense of Confusing Times



Tuesday 1st December 1936


Gusts of wind are driving sleet along the Berliner Straße in Charlottenburg, but inside the Schwartzeis house all is still and warm. The family has finished dinner and are sitting in varying degrees of wakefulness in the lounge, some drinking coffee, some cradling glasses of Herr Schwartzeis’ favourite after-dinner liqueur – purely to aid the digestion of course.



Vugelbeertroppn – supposedly good for the digestion​

“Let’s get things moving” urged Erich Schwartzeis. “I have to get back to Wilhelmshavn in the morning, so I don’t want to be up too late. Work has started on a new “Nürnberg” class cruiser, the “München” and I need to get on top of our delivery schedules for the contracts I won”.


The first of the "Nurnberg" class cruisers​


“I am sure that you worked hard to get those contracts Erich”, his father replies, “but I think you will find that the profits we will make fitting out the four new divisions that were formed during November will dwarf those you make on one ship.”



Recruitment posters are everywhere: “The Guarantee of German defence!”​

Forestalling Erich’s response, his mother steers the conversation away from potentially stormy waters. Erich’s efforts to show that he is good a businessman as his father have led to some furious arguments, and she has no wish to have a repeat.

“Other than Wehrmacht orders and contracts, any other news?”

“On the diplomatic front, not much.” Sigmund Schwartzeis is grinning, well aware of his mother’s motivation and the competition between his father and his older brother. “The focus on the Condor Legion and our Spanish intervention has been successful and we should gain long-term benefits. I am not sure what is actually happening on the ground in Spain however.” He looks questioningly at the housekeeper, Hilde, who is as usual sitting quietly by the door.



There is very little effort to disguise the origin of the Condor Legion​

“My son has written, but there is little news. He says he is eating well, but I am not sure if those Spanish spices are good for him. And the weather is turning cold, especially where he is near the mountains. From what I can work out, there has not been a lot of fighting as the enemy abandoned Cantabria, the town our soldiers were besieging. The government soldiers have pulled back to Bilbao, a major port on the coast, and it will take a while for General Esebeck to get organised for an attack. At least I think that is what he means. I find it all a bit confusing, but the main thing is that Siegfried is still safe.”



Although Bilbao is, for the moment, safe from ground attacks, the threat from the air is constant​

“Of course it is, Hilde” smiles Frau Schwartzeis. “But if that is all, perhaps Erich would like to retire early for his long trip home. And I could do with an early night myself. That second glass was a bit much for me”.

With that she and Erich leave the room, and what conversation there is turns to less weighty matters.
 

Uriah

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Sorry if anyone is waiting for an update, but I have been trying for several days but cannot access my photo sharing site. Photobucket says that after 2 days! of outage "most" customers are OK, but I can't log in. And I am a paying customer! They have said a power outage is to blame, but how any business that relies on data storage and transmission does not have a rigorous power back-up plan is beyond a simple person like me. Apparently the power failure damaged some hardware, but again, even I protect my hardware from surges, outages etc.

And they reckon private enterprise is always better than public service! Maybe a little less profit and a bit more back-up.
 

Uriah

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The Schwartzeis Saga: A Family Trying to Make Sense of Confusing Times


Friday 1st January 1937

Although the New Year is barely an hour old, the lights are on in the Schwartzeis house on Berliner Straße. Inside the family is seated around the dining table, and the empty dishes show that they have been eating the traditional midnight meal of Roter Heringssalat with boiled potatoes in their jackets, presumably hoping that it will bring good luck for the coming year.



Roter Heringssalat mit Pellkartoffeln: a meal to welcome the New Year​

“Ah!” Herr Hermann Schwartzeis pushes his chair back from the table and surreptitiously loosens his belt. “You cannot beat a good pickled herring.”

There is a chorus of agreement and all look with appreciation at the housekeeper, Hilde, whose recipe has been used to greet every Neujahrstag in the Schwartzeis family for decades. She smiles but says nothing.

“But seeing there is none left, and we are all sitting here wide awake, I suppose we might as well review the events of the past month, in fact the events of the whole of 1936. Who would think it was a year ago that we started these family discussions?”

Erich Schwartzkreis sips some of his champagne that remains from toasting the New Year before responding.

“A couple more destroyers completed this month, with the workers and equipment transferred to the “München”. A lot of shipbuilding this year, with every dockyard at full production the whole time. A couple of big ships launched, but close to a dozen smaller vessels, and that is not including submarines. The Kriegsmarine may still be small by world standards, but it is rapidly growing.”



Construction of the “Scharnhorst” is proceeding at full speed but completion is still many months away​

“I think it would be fair to say that any company that supplies goods or services to the Wehrmacht has been flat out all year” comments his brother-in-law, Oberst Günter von Willemsburg. “No new units created the past month, but the army has grown considerably over the past year. In just twelve months the Heer has gone from 465,000 men to almost 750,000! The Luftwaffe has not increased by anything like that rate, but it has concentrated on replacing out-dated aircraft. Next year I think we will see an explosion in the number of geschwader.”



Hundreds of thousands of new soldiers have been added to the Heer​

Günter’s son Karl looks pleased: as a trainee pilot in the Luftwaffe, the prospect of new positions flying the most modern aircraft appeals to him.

“My concern”, interrupts Hermann Schwartzeis, “is that the economy is struggling to keep up with the demands of the Wehrmacht. More and more factories are being built, but none of them have been switched to military production as they are needed to provide goods for export to pay for raw materials, or to offset the greater demands placed upon the workforce and society in general. Where will it end? What about the effect of having regular speeches from the Chancellor? Anyone think it will enthuse the people? Or is it just a waste of time?”



The Führer has decided to make regular speeches to motivate the population​

“I think”, says Sigmund Schwartzeis “they will be very popular with the average voter. And wildly successful in motivating members of the Nazi party. In my position in the Auswärtiges Amt I meet with some powerful figures from the party, and they have been particularly active in government affairs since that announcement. The appointment of Willi Messerschmitt’s company as the government’s official aircraft designer is a direct result of the Führer’s speeches. Whether it will allow the government to switch factories from the production of luxury goods to military hardware remains to be seen.”



Willi Meserschmitt discusses aircraft design with Reichsminister Göring​

“There has been another government announcement Hermann, though it was not given much publicity. Germany is to give more power to foreign nationalists, presumably to encourage some of them to return to the Reich. I think that might give an indication of our policy towards our neighbours with significant German populations. Austria and Czechoslovakia must be concerned. And the MEFO bills have been renewed, so that means that more funds are going to be spent on the Wehrmacht in the coming year.”

“I am not sure if it is related, but another panzer division is to be sent to Spain. With more aircraft.” Adds Rudolf von Willemburg. “And I might as well tell you all now, that I will be going with them. My editor has decided that the readers of the “Berlin Illustrirte“ want to know how the “volunteers” are going. I leave in a few days.”



The “Berlin Illustrirte Zeitung” has already shown an interest in the Spanish Civil War​

“You are going by sea?” Rudolf’s mother looks alarmed.

“Of course” Rudolf replies. “How else can I get to know the soldiers and airmen? The time on the transport ship should allow me to make a few good contacts.”

“Don’t worry, Ilse” Erich reassures his sister. “It is an open secret in Wilhelmshaven that U-boats will shadow the troopships all the way. No enemy ship will be allowed within kilometres of the convoy.”

Hilde takes advantage of the slight pause in the conversation.

“When you get to Spain, can you speak to my son Siegfried? Can you make sure he is safe?”

Most of the family look surprised: it is most unlike Hilde to push herself forward.

“I will, if I am anywhere near him. But I am afraid I don’t actually know where I am going. Nobody knows. It is all very secret. We don’t know our destination, nor when we are expected to arrive. Security is tight, and anyone who does know is well aware of the penalties for careless talk. Believe me, I have tried to find out, with no luck.”

Rudolf’s father is less worried than his mother. “I am not sure that you will have much to report. There doesn’t seem to be much happening in Spain at the moment.”

“If the weather there is anything like here, they are all too busy trying to keep warm.” Frau Schwartzeis takes control of proceedings. “But that is enough of such gloomy talk. Who wants the rest of this champagne?”
 

Uriah

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The Schwartzeis Saga: A Family Trying to Make Sense of Confusing Times


Monday 1st February 1937

The windows of the Schwartzeis house shiver as another gust of wind slams along Berliner Straße. None of the inhabitants are bothered by the winter storm outside: the house is solidly built and a roaring fire keeps the cold at bay.

Sipping his cup of freshly made coffee, Kurt Schwartzeis looks around and asks “Have any of you ever tried drinking soluble coffee?”

His mother looks up. “What are you talking about Kurt? Some chemical project at the Technische Hochschule?”

“No, it is way of making coffee from a powder. You just add hot water and the coffee is ready in an instant. Some of the students have got hold of some from the Nestlé company in Switzerland and they reckon it saves so much time.”​



Max Morganthaler, a Nestlé chemist, makes coffee
“I have tried some sort of ready-to-drink coffee powder” says Oberst Günter von Willemburg. “During the last war. The Americans had it and our unit somehow got hold of some. It was quick to make, but it tasted awful.”

“That was what got Nescafé working on it. The Brazilians had too many coffee beans and they asked them to develop a better product. One of Nestlé’s chemists, Max Morganthaler, has come up with something they are calling “Nescafé” and it will hit the markets within a year.”

“It will never catch on” states Frau Schwartzeis. “Not in Europe.” She sips her coffee with appreciation. “The Americans might tolerate something like that, but not any civilised person.”​



Nestlé advertises its new product: “Der Blitz-Kaffee ohne Kanne!”
She looks around to see if anyone disagrees, and finding nobody prepared to argue with her continues.

“Though if Herr Göring’s Four Year Plan continues we might have to change. Hermann tells me the pressure to work faster and faster is getting quite tiring”.

“True, my dear, but thankfully not much happened in the past month. That gave us a bit if time to sort things out at the factories. But any news from Spain? I heard Rudolf had arrived safely, but nothing more. And surely Hilde’s son Siegfried has been in contact?”

Ilse von Willemburg, Rudolf’s mother, is first to speak.

“Rudolf did arrive safely, and his letters say he is well. Though they are so brief that it is hard to tell if that is true or if he’s just keeping me happy. His secret destination was Cadiz, and the unit he sailed with is the second panzer division.”

She stops suddenly and puts her hand over her mouth.

“Oh no, I think that is supposed to be a secret too!”.

Her husband, Günther, puts his arm over her shoulder. “Don’t worry, Ilse, nobody here is going to inform on you. Keep going. What has our son been up to?”​



Buildings in Cadiz still show the effects of Republican bombs and shells

“He was in Cadiz for a week or so while the division’s equipment was unloaded. He had plenty of time to play tourist, and said that the damage from government bombing and bombardment from the sea last August was still visible. After everything was unloaded and they were organised, they all moved south, towards Gibraltar. He said that there are a lot of aircraft covering their every move, and the front is a long way away, in Grenada. Which is a relief, at least for now.



Residents of Gibraltar watch as German tanks and aircraft approach the British enclave
“What about in the north, Hilde? Any news from your son?”



The attack on Bilbao​

“I got two letters. In the first, he told me that Condorgruppe North was advancing on Bilbao, after spending a week or so preparing. It was not expected to be easy, as the enemy had had a while to prepare defences and had their backs against the wall. Then he wrote after the city had fallen: a longer letter because he had spend a night drinking with some of the soldiers who had been in the fighting and he was telling me what they said. Let me see ….

She shuffles the sheets of paper she holds.

“Here it is.

“We drove cautiously into the city, keeping an eye out for snipers and for hidden guns. At first there wasn’t much opposition: the sight of the tanks was enough for most of the enemy to pull back. And the bombers had done a good job of blasting any obvious strongpoints.

But when we got deeper into the city we hit the roadblocks. They were everywhere, piles of rocks and furniture piled up across every street. At first we just drove up to them, but that was a mistake. We immediately came under fire not only from the front, but from the sides as riflemen appeared on the roofs around us. And not just riflemen – women too! There were lots of women fighting, and they knew how to shoot.

A few tanks were lost, mostly swarmed by infantry, but a couple were hit by light anti-tank fire. The Panzer I’s were the most vulnerable – their armour is really pathetic.

It was a shock to meet such strong resistance, but it didn’t last. As soon as we recovered from the shock and started to concentrate our fire, they disappeared. Only to reappear around the corner, at the next roadblock.



Bilbao was a series of roadblocks​

That was what it was like for several days – stop and start, stop and start. Sometimes the roadblocks were more substantial, but then we just waited for artillery to be brought up. Or for some dive-bombers to arrive. Slow progress, but every time we stopped we killed a few more of the enemy, and finally they had had enough. A few hard-core fighters, but it didn’t take long to mop them up. Bilbao was ours.”

Siegfried is now in the hills to the south of Bilbao. Our soldiers have surrounded the enemy in the mountains, trapping them. I am not good at geography, but my son says we now control the whole northern coast of Spain, which I suppose is a good thing.”



Republican forces trapped in the hills south of Bilbao​

“That is good news, Hilde, and we are glad your son is still safe. Anything else?”

“Well, he did hint at some problem with fuel. Nothing clear, just something about waiting for deliveries holding up the advance.”

That gets the attention of Hermann Schwartzkries.

“That is what I have thought for the past couple of weeks! There have been queues to get petrol and diesel all around Berlin, and some of our factories that have their own generators have had to halt operations because they could not get fuel. There have been rumours that the rapid increase in production and the incredible increase in the size of the armed forces have been draining the national fuel reserves. It would appear that keeping three armoured divisions supplied at combat levels is too much for our refineries, or at least for our oil supplies.”

His youngest son, Sigmund, replies.

“I think you may be right, father. Last week we were told to line up some urgent meetings with our Venezuelan counterparts, to get them to agree to sign an agreement to supply oil. They were only too pleased, as we will provide them with a range of manufactured goods. I did wonder what the rush was, but now we know.”

“I don’t suppose it relates to the beginning of the second year of Göring’s Four Year Plan, does it?” Hermann Schwartzeis asks.

His other son, Erich, answers.

“No, but it does place a greater demand on our manufacturing capacity. There is a limit to what we can produce. The demands of the Wehrmacht are enormous, but it is also essential that the population not suffer hardship. Things are stable now, but we all remember how fragile that stability can be. We don’t want the streets to be a battlefield again.”

“Nor does anyone. Could that explain why the Heer has announced the completion of its new training package for Military Police?” Günter von Willemburg smiles as he speaks, but it is not clear that he is really joking, and the thought of the army deploying troops to put down dissent puts a dampener on the conversation.

“No – such a thing could only happen in a Communist country.” Adelaide Schwartzkries fills the gap. “I heard a whisper at a diplomatic function that some sort of purge is taking place in Russia.”

Her husband Sigmund looks surprised that she gained any information from the cocktail party, but confirms her news.

“Yes, facts are hard to pin down, but there has definitely been a number of arrests of Trotsky supporters. Some of them have been accused of spying for us!” He smiles at the thought. “I expect that the show trials will find them all guilty of something that has the death penalty. The word is that this is just the start – that the real objective is the army. We will just have to wait and see.”



Grigoriy Zinoviev, a member of the first Politburo and one time head of the Communist International, was one of the first to be executed​

On that dismal note several of the family point out that the hour is late and they have to work in the morning. The group breaks up, as some head upstairs to their bedrooms, while others brave the cold to reach their cars. Only Hermann Schwartzeis remains, thinking deeply about the news he has heard. Finally, shaking his head at whatever conclusion he has reached, he too calls it a night.
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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Instant coffee - a true abomination
 

Uriah

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The Schwartzeis Saga: A Family Trying to Make Sense of Confusing Times


Monday 1st March 1937


Although it is still cold in Berlin, the sky is a clear pale blue. The Schwartzeis family, standing in the garden of the house in Berliner Strasße, have no difficulty in detecting a small group of dots on the horizon. (There are no high-rise buildings to block the view in Charlottenburg). As the dots grow bigger, the faint sound of a dozen BMW VI engines can be heard. This increases to a roar as the dots turn into aircraft, long thin and with beautiful clean lines.

“Magnificent!” breathes Karl von Willemburg. “You can see why they call them “Flying Pencils”. And not only are they beautiful, but they fly like fighters – nimble and sensitive to the controls. At the training school everyone wants to have a flight in one.”



A “Fliegender Bleistift” flies over the Schwartzeis house​

As the Dornier 17s disappear over the city centre, the family resumes their seats on the lawn.

“I can see why the Luftwaffe wanted to display their latest bomber” says Ilse von Willemburg, Karl’s mother. “My son has not stopped talking about them since it was announced that they were to be the Luftwaffe’s standard fast bomber.”

“That may be, Ilse.” Sigmund Schwartzeis, Ilse’s brother, has a cynical smile on his face. “But I suspect that the idea for this display originated in the Ordenspalais rather than the Luftwaffe. This looks like the work of the Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda. Minister Goebbels is making a name for himself for grabbing every opportunity to push his messages.”



The Ordenpalais: headquarters of Goebbels’ Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda​

“I don’t know where they will find any factories to produce enough of these planes to be significant”. Herr Hermann Schwartzeis looks serious. “The economy is under incredible strain. I hear that the construction of a tungsten storage facility was cancelled as the demand for factories increases. Fritz Todt has set up an organisation to carry out huge engineering projects for the state, but it will be some time for it to get much done.”

“Don’t forget, dear, that the Generalbevollmächtigter für die Regelung der Bauwirtschaft (what a pretentious title!) has already opened two factory complexes in Niederbayern”. Hermann’s wife Margarethe continues “I have been trying to get access to some factory space in that region, but demand is so high that the prices are out of our range. Even though the Wehrmacht pushed successfully for research into military production, everyone supplying equipment to them is struggling to keep up.”



Like Goebbels., Fritz Todt is not one to let an opportunity for good publicity to escape him.​

“It will not be sorted out soon” adds her son Erich. “The Kriegsmarine has started construction of another panzerschiff, the “Blücher”. The same class as the “Deutschland”, it will suck up a huge amount of material.”

“Yes, the Wehrmacht is making the economy boom, but I still worry about demand being so much higher than supply. I don’t want a repeat of the inflation of the early 20s.” Hermann Schwartzeis frowns. Then his tone becomes more positive. “How are Rudolf and Siegfried doing in Spain?”

“Not much from Rudolf” says his mother Ilse. “General Hoth spent so long preparing to join the assault on Malaga that the Nationalists captured by themselves. Now the target is said to be Almeria on the coat or Grenada inland, but 3.Panzer Division has not moved from its “temporary” base north of Gibraltar.

My son does say that he is enjoying himself, that the weather, even in February, is quite pleasant, the food is good and the locals, to use his own words, “extremely friendly”. I just hope he is doing some work, or his editor will wonder if the magazine is just paying for its reporter to have a Mediterranean holiday.”



Hoth and 3.PzD continue to sit north of Gibraltar​

Everyone looks at Hilde, the housekeeper.

“I have only had the one letter from Siegfried but he seems to be doing about as much as Rudolf. Though the weather is much worse in the north. He talks of rain and mud, and that it is hard to get the vehicles anywhere. That might be why General Esebeck is also doing little: Siegfried says there has been much talk of taking the city of Huesca, but nothing is ever done.”



Condorgruppe Nord prepares to move on Huesca​

“I suppose we mustn’t be too critical” says Günter von Willemburg. “Those of us who have experienced fighting in bad weather know that it is hard to get troops into the right position. And it must be worse in a place like Aragon. I suspect that the road network between Bilbao and Huesca is not all that good, and that getting enough supplies for two armoured divisions is a problem.

Still, I do wonder what Hoth is doing in the south. Perhaps he is just getting used to command in a war-zone. Whatever he is up to, he had better get his division into action or he will get a blast from Berlin! The war in Spain has already been going for months and, while Franco’s forces are on top, progress is slow.”

Sigmund von Willemburg leans forward. “I have heard, Papa, that the thinking at the highest levels of government is that we should not be too anxious to get this war over. That some of our most experienced military experts are studying not only the effectiveness of our equipment, but also developing tactics that get the best out of our tanks and planes. Sounds a bit callous, using the population of another country to try out our military, but it rings true to me.”



Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Barrosso, General Franco and Commander Carmenlo Medrano study a map, unaware that their German allies may not be as committed to victory as they are.​

Hermann Schwartzeis is frowning again. “I am afraid you may be right – when negotiating with OKH I have noticed that they are quite happy to sign long-term contracts. Years rather than months. If what you say is correct, then we could be seen to be profiting from the misery of the Spanish people. But our business is built around supplying the Wehrmacht, and I cannot see how we can stop providing goods that are desperately needed by soldiers like Hilde’s son.

A difficult thing to decide, but I see no option but to simply meet our obligations to our families and those of our employees. There is nothing we can do – if the government wishes to prolong a war then that is what will happen.”

Nobody wishes to add to that statement, and one by one the family drifts inside, each with their own thoughts.