- Dec 22, 2007
The Schwartzeis Saga: A Family Trying to Make Sense of Confusing Times
Monday 1st June
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!”