January 30: “Machtergreifung” - “Seizure of Power”


In the German language, January 30 has been marked by the term “Machtergreifung,” or “seizure of power.” But power was not seized by Hitler; it was instead handed to him when Reich President Paul von Hindenburg appointed the Nazi leader Reich chancellor.

EU Has Sent €3.6 billion to Ukrainian Military, Mostly from Germany


Soon after Russia began its major offensive on Ukraine last February, the EU made the historic decision to use money from a relatively new fund, known as the European Peace Facility, to back Kyiv. It was the first time it had been used to supply lethal weapons to a third country.

Since then, the EU has committed some €3.6 billion in collective funds to the Ukrainian military, which pays for a combination of lethal and non-lethal aid. Contributions to the European Peace Facility are calculated according to each country’s economic output. As a result, Germany, which has the largest GDP in the bloc, contributes the most.

The EPF can also be used to reimburse member states for aid they have individually sent to Ukraine. For example, Poland — one of Ukraine’s biggest military backers — has indicated it will seek EU funds to cover the cost of Leopard 2 tanks Warsaw wants to send to Kyiv.

Robert Clary (1926-2022)

The Washington Post:

Robert Clary, a French-born survivor of Nazi concentration camps during World War II who played a feisty prisoner of war in the improbable 1960s sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes,” died Nov. 16 [, 2022] at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 96.


Mr. Clary was the last surviving original star of the sitcom that included Bob Crane, Richard Dawson, Larry Hovis and Ivan Dixon as the prisoners. Werner Klemperer and John Banner, who played their captors, were European Jews who fled Nazi persecution before the war.

Mr. Clary remained publicly silent about his own wartime experience until 1980 when, Mr. Clary said, he was provoked to speak out by those who denied or diminished the orchestrated effort by Nazi Germany to exterminate Jews. Twelve of his immediate family members — his parents and 10 siblings — were killed under the Nazis . . .

Clary was liberated from Buchenwald on April 11, 1945. Clary was the only family member to survive.

Hogan’s Heroes ran for 168 episodes (six seasons) from 1965-1971, on the CBS network. It was the longest broadcast run for an American television series inspired by WWII.

Although the show was completely unrealistic, I loved it. It made me laugh then and does so now.

Tatjana Patitz (1966-2023)


Tatjana Patitz, the quietest and perhaps the most intense of the original supermodels, has died. She was 56. A representative for the family stated that the cause of death was metastatic breast cancer.


[T] here was a certain element of mystery to Patitz’s beauty, something in the gentle oval of her face and the shape of her eyes that spoke of self-possession and passion. “Tatjana was always the European symbol of chic, like Romy Schneider-meets-Monica Vitti,” remembered Anna Wintour, chief content officer of Condé Nast and global editorial director of Vogue. “She was far less visible than her peers—more mysterious, more grown-up, more unattainable—and that had its own appeal.”

May her memory be a blessing.

The Guardian

Was Churchill Involved in the Bombing That Almost Killed Hitler?

The Mirror reports that recent documents show that Winston Churchill was in on the July 20, 1944 plot (Valkyrie) to kill Adolf Hitler during WWII. According to the newspaper, MI5, the UK security service, dumped piles of top secret wartime files on the internet during the pandemic lockdown:

Britain’s top espionage expert, the former Tory MP Rupert Allason who writes under the name Nigel West, said: “This is of enormous historical importance.”

West has a new book coming out on the subject. It is scheduled for release on February 6, 2023.


I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Berlin twice. The first time was in the early 1980s and the second time in 2018. The transformation was dramatic.

Berlin: Before the Fall of the Wall

I visited Berlin in the early 1980s. Berlin was then a divided city. I stayed in the Western zone near the Kurfurstendamm, which at the time was the heart of Berlin. I took a one day bus tour to the East. We crossed through Checkpoint Charlie. The bus was thoroughly searched by East German border guards. In contrast, the American military just let us pass freely.

The West was vibrant with shops, restaurants and people everywhere, In contrast, buildings in the East still showed signs of the bombing it received in the war. There were Soviet style memorials throughout East Berlin.

Our East German guide was openly dispirited and seemed to be reciting a script he was told to speak, especially when he spoke of “warm relations” with the then Soviet Union. At the end of the day, I was glad to be back in the West where I felt free and comfortable

Berlin in 2018


In 2018, I went back to Berlin to see an undivided, transformed and reinvented Berlin. The German capital was still under construction 73 years after the end of WWII. I stayed near the Kurfurstendamm so I could compare my experience today with the early 1980s. My hotel — Pension Peters — is a small owner-managed hotel, where I felt more like a temporary resident in a nice Berlin neighborhood rather than a tourist.

I saw the transformation of Berlin immediately. The Kurfurstendamm is no longer the center of town. The heart of Berlin today is in the former East, which was a shambles when I was last there. The Kurfurstendamm is now a nice shopping street in lovely Berlin neighborhood called City West but is no longer the heart of the capital.

The Heart of Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie was then nothing more than a tourist attraction with actor guards who, for a few Euros, posed with you for a nice picture, as shown above. There’s even a “Checkpoint Charlie” McDonald’s across the street. It certainly no longer inspires fear.

The heart of Berlin is dominated by the Brandenburg Gate and government buildings, including the embassies of the four former occupying powers: the United States, Great Britain, France and Russia.

Berlin is no longer occupied but the former occupiers are nearby as if to say: “We are watching.” Each of the four embassies has a rich history.

The Soviet Union was first of the four major occupiers to move into a post-War embassy in Berlin. The Russian Embassy in Berlin was closed in 1941 when the two countries went to war. Its reconstruction was the first project of the post-war years in the East Berlin. The embassy’s official grand opening was held on the national holiday of the former USSR, on November 7, 1951. It’s Europe’s largest embassy which sends a message all by itself. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, it became the Russian Embassy. ( See also Rick Steves Berlin (p. 105). Avalon Publishing. Kindle Edition. )

The United Kingdom (UK) came next. The UK’s impressive new embassy was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on July 18, 2000.

France occupied its new embassy in October 2002. However, France formally opened it on January 23, 2003. That date was chosen as it was the 40th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty between Germany and France, declaring friendship between France and the former West Germany. French President Jacques Chirac presided. Marking the occasion, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Chirac issued a declaration affirming Franco-German friendship and their joint determination to “re-found Europe”.

The United States was the last of the four major occupiers to move into a post-War embassy in Berlin. The history of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin is especially complicated. During WWII, the U.S. Embassy in Berlin was severely damaged by Allied bombing. After the war, the embassy ended up just barely inside East Berlin in divided Berlin’s Soviet zone, straddling the demarcation between the Soviet and American sectors.

The Berlin Wall made the site of the former U.S. Embassy, still owned by the U.S. government, an inaccessible vacant lot. It was part of the security zone separating east and west Berliners. In 1967, the East German government demolished the ruins of the US Embassy building. However, the site became accessible after the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989. Even so, it remained a vacant lot until the 2004 groundbreaking for construction of a brand new U.S. Embassy. The newly constructed embassy opened on July 4, 2008.

The Brandenburg Gate is nearby. This is the center of Berlin. Since the 18th Century, the Brandenburg Gate has been a site for major historical events and today is an important symbol of the history of Europe and Germany.

Also nearby — and not to be missed — is Germany’s parliament — the Reichstag — which was opened in 1894 and remained in service until 1933, when it was severely damaged after being set on fire. The Reichstag fire occurred one month after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. After World War II, the building fell into disuse; the parliament of the German Democratic Republic (the Volkskammer) met in the Palast der Republik in East Berlin, while the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany (the Bundestag) met in the Bundeshaus in Bonn.

The building was not properly restored until after German reunification on October 3, 1990. And what a glorious restoration it was. The German government chose British architect Norman Foster to lead the effort. Foster constructed is a large glass dome atop the Reichstag with a 360 degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The debating chamber of the Bundestag, the German parliament, can be seen below. A mirrored cone in the center of the dome directs sunlight into the building, and so that visitors can see the working of the chamber. The dome is open to the public and can be reached by climbing two steel, spiraling ramps that are reminiscent of a double helix. The Dome sends a message that the people are above the government, as was not the case during the Nazi era. After its completion in 1999, it once again became the meeting place of the German parliament: the modern Bundestag. The views are impressive. Entry is free but advance registration is required

Other Berlin Sites

I also enjoyed visiting:

  • Hitler’s Bunker ( Führerbunker), where Adolf Hitler committed suicide at the end of the war. It’s now an ordinary parking lot. Germany doe not want to create a shrine out the place where Hitler perished.
  • Topography of Terror (Nazi Forced Labour Documentation Centre) has interesting exhibits documenting Nazi crimes. During the Nazi era, the headquarters of the Secret State Police, the SS and the Reich Security Main Office were located at the site.
  • The German History Museum for its candid exhibits about Hitler and the Nazis era.
  • Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, the site of the main political prison of the former East German Communist Ministry of State Security, the Stasi. I found the visit informative and chilling. East Germany went from one form of oppression to another form of oppression. It’s sad, terrifying and once again demonstrates what unchecked power
  • Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial) has almost 3,000 symbolic pillars next to the U.S. Embassy in the heart of Berlin. It was designed by New York architect Peter Eisenman, who is Jewish. It opened in 2005. Eisenman explains that the “project manifests the instability inherent in what seems to be a system, here a rational grid, and its potential for dissolution in time.” The Memorial brings home the magnitude of the Holocaust.

Germany is creatively and thoughtfully reinventing its capital city. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and hope to return to see more of Berlin and how it evolves.

I don’t have any photos of my visit before the Berlin Wall fell. However, my 2018 photos are on on my photography website.

Books: Volker Ullrich’s Two-Volume Biography of Hitler

Volker Ullrich, a German historian, is the author an excellent two-volume biography of Hitler in German. Jefferson Chase translated both volumes into English.

The first volume Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939 (German: Adolf Hitler: Die Jahre des Aufstiegs 1889-1939), published in German in 2013, was published in English in 2016 and covers up to 1939.

The second volume Hitler Vol II: Downfall 1939-45 (German: Adolf Hitler: Die Jahre des Untergangs 1939-1945) was published in English in 2020 and covers the remainder of his biography.

The book became a bestseller in Germany upon its publication.

I am sharing here three quotations showing:

  • The establishment of the Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich was well-known as was its sinister purpose;
  • Hitler had broad support in German society at the time in support of his aims; and
  • Without Hitler, there would have been no Holocaust.

In other words, one person can make a big difference, in this case to the world’s detriment.

Reviewing the second volume of Ullrich’s biography of Hitler, Jennifer Szalai, a New York Times book critic said that “the narrative moves swiftly, and it will absorb even those who are familiar with the vast library of Hitler books.” I agree.

At a press conference in Munich on 20 March [1933], Heinrich Himmler announced the establishment of a concentration camp in a former munitions factory near the small city of Dachau. Initially, as a state facility, Dachau was guarded by Bavarian police, but on 11 April the SS assumed command. The Dachau camp became the first cell from which a national system of terror germinated. It was a kind of laboratory, under the direction of the SS, where experiments could be carried out with the forms of violence that would soon be used in the other concentration camps within the Reich. The German media reported extensively about Dachau, and the stories that were told about what went on there acted as a powerful deterrent to opposition to the Nazis. “Dear God, strike me numb / Lest to Dachau I do come” was an oft-repeated saying in the Third Reich.

Ullrich, Volker. Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939, Location 9939. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The second volume of this biography covers Hitler’s “years of downfall.” It encompasses the relatively brief period from his unleashing of the Second World War in the summer of 1939 to his suicide in the air-raid bunker of the Reich Chancellery in the spring of 1945. It has been said, correctly, that Hitler and National Socialism “found themselves” in the war. As a magnifying glass does with sunlight, armed conflict focused the criminal dynamics of the Nazi regime and the man at its head. War gave Hitler the opportunity to act on his ideological obsessions and realise his homicidal aims: the conquering of “living space in the east” as a basis for German domination of first Europe, then the world; and the removal of Jews from Germany and, if possible, the whole European continent. On the other hand, as we will see, Hitler would never have been able to realise these goals as much as he did without willing helpers in almost all the institutions of the Nazi state and broad parts of German society.

Ullrich, Volker. Hitler: Downfall (p. 1). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition (footnote omitted).

Without Hitler, this much is certain, there would have been no Holocaust. His fanatical anti-Semitism was the engine driving genocide. While it may have been difficult to tell sometimes when Hitler was play-acting, the Führer was always deadly serious when he vented his maniacal hatred of Jews.

Ullrich, Volker. Hitler: Downfall (p. 611). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Ian Kershaw: Hitler Biographer

Sir Ian Kershaw is an English historian whose work has chiefly focused on the social history of 20th-century Germany. He is regarded by many as one of the world’s leading experts on Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, and is particularly noted for his biographies of Hitler.

I am sharing here two quotations from one of Kershaw’s books about Hitler:

The first argues that Hitler’s rise to dictatorship might not have happened. This shows the importance of constant vigilance.

There was no inevitability about Hitler’s accession to power. Had Hindenburg been prepared to grant to Schleicher1 the dissolution that he had so readily allowed Papen2, and to prorogue the Reichstag for a period beyond the constitutional sixty days, a Hitler Chancellorship might have been avoided. With the corner turning of the economic Depression, and with the Nazi Movement facing potential break-up if power were not soon attained, the future – even if under an authoritarian government – would have been very different. Even as the cabinet argued outside Hindenburg’s door at eleven o’clock on 30 January, keeping the President waiting, there was a possibility that a Hitler Chancellorship might not materialize. Hitler’s rise from humble beginnings to ‘seize’ power by ‘triumph of the will’ was the stuff of Nazi legend. In fact, political miscalculation by those with regular access to the corridors of power rather than any actions on the part of the Nazi leader played a larger role in placing him in the Chancellor’s seat.

Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris (p. 424). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

The second quotation is about the opening of the Dachau Concentration Camp. Dachau is a small town just outside Munich. Kershaw explains that ordinary Germans knew of the camp’s existence. There was even a press conference about the camp’s opening and people feared being sent there. In other words, ordinary Germans knew no matter what some said after the war. Dachau is small. It is impossible to believe that town folk did not know what the camp was about.

Just outside the town of Dachau, about twelve miles from Munich, the first concentration camp was set up in a former powder-mill on 22 March3 . There was no secret about the camp’s existence. Himmler had even held a press conference two days earlier to announce it. It began with 200 prisoners. Its capacity was given as 5,000. It was intended, stated Himmler, to hold the Communist and, if necessary, Reichsbanner and Marxist (i.e. Social Democrat) functionaries. Its establishment was announced in the newspapers. It was meant to serve as a deterrent, and did so. Its dreaded name soon became a byword for the largely unspoken horrifying events known or presumed to take place within its walls. ‘Keep quiet or you’ll end up in Dachau’ was soon to join common parlance. But apart from the political enemies and racial targets of the Nazis, few were disconcerted at the foundation of the camp, and others like it. The middle-class townsfolk of Dachau, watching the column of their Communist fellow-citizens from the town being marched to the nearby camp as political prisoners, thought them troublemakers, revolutionaries, ‘a class apart’, simply not part of their world.

Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris (p. 464). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition (footnotes omitted).

Kershaw’s two-volume biography of Hitler is superb:

Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris: 1889-1936: Hubris

Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis

I have a few photos of the former camp on Flickr.

  1. Kurt von Schleicher was a German general and the last chancellor of Germany (before Adolf Hitler) during the Weimar Republic. A rival for power with Hitler, Schleicher was murdered by Hitler’s SS during the Night of the Long Knives in 1934. ↩︎

  2. Franz von Papen was a German conservative politician, diplomat, Prussian nobleman and General Staff officer. He served as the chancellor of Germany in 1932, and then as the vice-chancellor under Adolf Hitler from 1933 to 1934. ↩︎

  3. Dachau opened on March 22, 1933. ↩︎

Book: ‘The Diaries of Friedrich Kellner’

I recently read the second and final volume of the biography of Adolf Hitler by German historian Volker Ullrich. It is entitled Hitler: Downfall: 1939-1945. Roger Abrams, writing in the New York Journal of Books, calls Ullrich’s work “a remarkable treatise on the malevolence of power in modern times.”

Early in the volume, Ullrich commends the diaries of Friedrich Kellner. Kellner was a court official in the western German town of Laubach who had no special access to wartime information. Kellner was repulsed by the Nazi regime and kept detailed diaries based on what he read in the German press and by talking to people. He hoped his diaries would be a warning to future generations about blind faith.

Ullrich explains that Kellner’s diaries:

show that it was entirely possible for normal people in small-town Germany to see through the lies of Nazi propaganda and learn of things like the ‘euthanasia’ murders of patients in psychiatric institutions and the mass executions carried out in occupied parts of eastern Europe."1

The Kellner diaries were published in 2011 in German and now are available in English. The diaries are also the subject of a touching 2007 TV documentary on YouTube created by Kellner’s American grandson.

  1. Ullrich, Volker. Hitler: Downfall (p. 6). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. ↩︎

Audiobook: ‘The Liberation of Paris: How Eisenhower, de Gaulle, and von Choltitz Saved the City of Light’

The Liberation of Paris is a gripping book that is packed full of interesting details about Nazi-occupied Paris and its last commander Dietrich von Choltitz.

At the end of WWII, Adolf Hitler ordered Choltitz to hold Paris, but if that wasn’t possible, to destroy it. Although General Choltitz had been very loyal to Hitler, he could not bring himself to obliterate the City of Light. He ultimately surrendered Paris to French forces on August 25, 1944. He’s been called the “Saviour of Paris” for preventing the destruction Paris.

After his surrender, Choltitz was held for the remainder of the war in London and the United States and was ultimately released from captivity in 1947. He died in Baden-Baden in 1966.

The author of this exceptional book was the distinguished political scientist and biographer Jean Edward Smith. Smith’s work includes highly regarded biographies of Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower. He died on September 1, 2019 at the age of 86.

The audiobook is ably narrated by Fred Sanders, who has narrated many fine audiobooks including Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance.