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Elizabeth Custer

Elizabeth Custer was the wife of General George Armstrong Custer. She followed him as he moved about on military assignments, and after his death she was instrumental in shaping his public memory. She also campaigned for better benefits...

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Greatscape

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The Great Escape : Stalag Luft III, Sagan : March 1944

Allied aircrew shot down during World War II were incarcerated after interrogation in Air Force Prisoner of War camps run by the Luftwaffe, called Stalag Luft, short for Stammlager Luft or Permanent Camps for Airmen. Stalag Luft III was...

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The Lives of the Twelve Caesars Claudius by Suetonius

Having thus established himself in power, his first object was to abolish all remembrance of the two preceding days, in which a revolution in the state had been canvassed. Accordingly, he passed an act of perpetual oblivion and pardon for...

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Edward Vincent Sullivan

Ed Sullivan was a legendary showman who grew up in Port Chester. His career and his decision-making were influenced by his upbringing in what was a small Westchester village when the Sullivan family lived there. Ed Sullivan. Courtesy...

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Edward Vincent Sullivan

Edward Vincent Sullivan

Ed Sullivan was a legendary showman who grew up in Port Chester. His career and his decision-making were influenced by his upbringing in what was a small Westchester village when the Sullivan family lived there.

Ed Sullivan. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Early Life

Edward Vincent Sullivan and his twin brother, Danny, were the third and fourth children born to Elizabeth Smith Sullivan and Peter Sullivan, who lived on 114th Street in Harlem, a neighborhood that was a mixture of Irish and Italian immigrants. Ed’s twin died before the boys celebrated their first birthday in 1902, and after losing another child in infancy, Peter Sullivan decided to move the family out of the city. He chose Port Chester, New York, to be their new home.

Ed was the middle child of the surviving five children; he had an older sister, Helen, an older brother, Charles, and two younger sisters. In his autobiography, Always on Sunday, Sullivan wrote: “I still recall the excitement of Helen, Charles, and me en route to Port Chester, when we first saw cows grazing in the country fields.” The family lived on the top floor of a two-family house at 53 Washington Street. At the time of their arrival, Port Chester was a small village, with tree-shaded streets, a village smithy and a doctor who made house calls via a horse-drawn carriage.

The entire family loved music, and someone was always playing the piano or singing. A phonograph was a prized possession; the family loved playing all types of records on it. His mother hoped that Ed would master an instrument, and she gave him money for piano lessons when she could. Ed dutifully left the house, but he went to the nickelodeon near Liberty Square instead!

While father Peter worked as a customs agent, the children understood the importance of contributing to the family income. When Ed was still in grammar school, he and Charles would meet after school and walk the three miles to the Apawamis Club in Rye, where they served as golf caddies for 35 cents a round.

Ed and his siblings attended St. Mary’s Catholic School and then Port Chester High School. Sullivan was a gifted athlete in high school, earning 12 athletic letters. He played halfback in football; he was a guard in basketball; in track he was a sprinter. With the baseball team, Ed was catcher and team captain, and he led the team to several championships.

Baseball made an impression on him that would affect his career as well as the culture of America. Sullivan noted that in high school sports integration was taken for granted: “When we went up into Connecticut, we ran into clubs that had Negro players. In those days this was accepted as commonplace; and so, my instinctive antagonism years later to any theory that a Negro wasn’t a worthy opponent or was an inferior person. It was just as simple as that.” Later, when Sullivan was a successful producer of his own television program, he defied the wishes of advertisers who wanted white talent only, and he had everyone from Nat “King” Cole and the Supremes to Pearl Bailey on his program. These performers got the same handshake or kiss on the cheek as any of the white performers. By giving black talent equal status with white, Sullivan was instrumental in diversifying American entertainment.

As the United States prepared to enter World War I, Sullivan wanted to be part of the action. He was turning 16, and when he was turned down by the local draft board, he traveled to Chicago, thinking that no one would know him there and he would be too far away for his family to stop him. Recruiters in Chicago would not accept him without proof of age, so he got a job as a busboy and worried about what to do next. After about six months, he contacted his brother Charles for money to buy a ticket home, and he returned to Port Chester. His father was so overcome with emotion at Ed’s return that Ed escaped punishment for running away.

He returned to high school and continued to play sports and also wrote about sports for the school newspaper. During his senior year, he approached the Port Chester Daily Item and asked them to run a column on high school sports that he would write. The editor agreed, and he was paid on a per column basis. Though an uncle offered to pay for Sullivan to attend college, Ed had tasted the life of a newspaperman, and he wanted to begin work right away. And who could blame him? One of his early stories for the Item was an interview with Babe Ruth who was in town for an exhibition game.

Early Career

In 1919 he was hired by The Hartford Post. That paper folded almost immediately, and Sullivan moved on to The New York Evening Mail. When the Evening Mail closed, Sullivan worked for a succession of newspapers, including writing for the Associated Press. He eventually found a home at The Evening Graphic, where he wrote for the sports section, eventually becoming the sports editor. When Walter Winchell moved from the Graphic to the New York Daily News, Sullivan moved into Winchell’s spot, writing about Broadway and show business celebrities.

Eventually the Graphic folded, and Sullivan’s column, “Little Old New York,” was picked up by the New York Daily News, where he found a home and stayed for 40 years—throughout all of his years on television. His last column appeared in the paper the day after he died.

Like newspaper people today, Ed Sullivan found he needed to find ways to make additional money. He wrote screen plays for B-level movies at one time, and then in 1942 started doing a radio show, “Ed Sullivan Entertains.” Modeling himself very much after Winchell, who headquartered at the Stork Club, Sullivan based his shows at El Morocco. He also began producing vaudeville shows, serving as master of ceremonies as well. He was also a willing volunteer, and he put together benefit shows for various causes. During the war years, he was particularly in demand for this work.

In 1947 he was serving as master of ceremonies of the Harvest Moon Ball, an annual event sponsored by the New York Daily News, which was held at Madison Square Garden. CBS was televising the event—their very first remote broadcast—when CBS executive Worthington Miner saw ability in Sullivan and hired him to host a show CBS wanted to launch called “Toast of the Town.” Sullivan was 46 when he first hosted the program, and soon found himself not only the talk of the town but the talk of the whole country. The show ran on CBS from June 1948 to 1971, a very successful 23-year run of what Sullivan pronounced as “a rilllly big shew!”

Sullivan served as both host and impresario for “Toast of the Town,” nailing down the guests he wanted to have on the air. Long before “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent” was even a glimmer in any producer’s eye, Sullivan was picking and choosing acts, and he soon became known as a starmaker. If you appeared on Sullivan, your future as a performer was secure. In 1955 the title of the show was changed to “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Mr. Sunday Night

The show was broadcast from CBS Studio 50 at 1697 Broadway at 53rd Street, and eventually settled into its long-running time slot—Sunday night from 8-9 ET. When asked by a reporter from The Coronet to explain his success, Sullivan shared his secret: “Open big, have a good comedy act, put in something for children and keep the show clean. I believe in getting the best acts I can, introducing them quickly, and getting off.” In short, he believed in something for everyone. He also gave credit to the medicine men who used to stop in Port Chester to peddle their wares: “Those medicine men were my first contact with great showmen. They had pace and great authority with an audience.”

Between 45 and 50 million people tuned in weekly to see live performances of the biggest music acts, performances of numbers from Broadway musicals, an array of stand-up comedians, magicians and jugglers, as well as ventriloquists, dog acts, Chinese tumblers and drill teams. But Sullivan had his “misses” as well. He tried to introduce opera to middle America, but families either changed channels or quickly turned off the set.

Steve Allen actually was first to bring Elvis Presley to television, and when he beat Sullivan in the ratings, Ed was on the phone to Presley’s manager within 24 hours. Presley was booked immediately for three Sullivan appearances, and for a princely fee. The Fab Four, the Beatles, appeared on Ed Sullivan’s show on February 9, 1964, in a television moment that anyone alive at the time will not forget.

Ed Sullivan with The Beatles, 1964.

Sullivan became a legend, but the key to his success was booking legends, and sometimes legend-to-legend battles occurred. If a singer insisted on introducing a new song when Sullivan expected him to perform an old favorite, then that performer (including Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan and Bo Diddley) soon found he wasn’t invited back.

Sullivan himself received mixed reviews. Critics described him as “wooden,” and said that his eyes “popped out of their sockets” and that he looked like a man “sucking a lemon.” He was awkward and could garble almost anything at any moment. One night he offered, “Right here in our audience, the late Irving Berlin!” And he introduced one musical theater star as “now starving on Broadway.” While his mannerisms and awkwardness were pure Ed, some of his physical traits had an explanation. In 1956 he had been in a serious car accident; his sternum and ribs were crushed inward, and his front teeth were knocked out. When asked how to explain Sullivan’s success, comedian Alan King said: “Ed Sullivan does nothing, but he does it better than anyone else on television.”

In 1971 CBS cancelled the show because they were looking to find a younger audience. Sullivan felt so betrayed that he refused to do a final show for the season. However, he and CBS finally agreed to a truce, and Sullivan subsequently produced and hosted a number of specials.

Personal Life

On April 28, 1930, he married Sylvia Weinstein. They had one daughter, Betty, who eventually married “The Ed Sullivan Show” producer, Bob Precht. For many years, Ed and Sylvia lived at the Demonico Hotel in New York City, and he was said to call Sylvia after every show to get her comments.

While Sullivan’s life was mostly centered in Manhattan in later years, he returned to Port Chester occasionally to help out with local benefits. In 1965 he was honored by the village with Ed Sullivan Day, and it was celebrated with a big parade.

Sullivan died of esophageal cancer (age 73) at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital on October 13, 1974. His funeral, attended by 3,000 people, was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He was then returned to Westchester, where he is interred in a crypt at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale.

Ed Sullivan brought popular culture to all of America at a time when families were excited to gather around the living room television set just to see what Mr. Sunday Night had to offer them. It was always a really big show.

The Lives of the Twelve Caesars Claudius by Suetonius

The Lives of the Twelve Caesars Claudius by Suetonius
  1. Having thus established himself in power, his first object was to abolish all remembrance of the two preceding days, in which a revolution in the state had been canvassed. Accordingly, he passed an act of perpetual oblivion and pardon for everything said or done caring that time; and this he faithfully observed, with the exception only of putting to death a few tribunes and centurions concerned in the conspiracy against Caius, both as an example, and because he understood that they had also planned his own death. He now turned his thoughts towards paying respect to the memory of his relations. His most solemn and usual oath was, “By Augustus.”

He prevailed upon the senate to decree divine honours to his grandmother Livia, with a chariot in the Circensian procession drawn by elephants, as had been appointed for Augustus, and public offerings to the shades of his parents. Besides which, he instituted Circensian games for his father, to be celebrated every year, upon his birth day, and, for his mother, a chariot to be drawn through the circus; with the title of Augusta, which had been refused by his grandmother. To the memory of his brother, to which, upon all occasions, he showed a great regard, he gave a Greek comedy, to be exhibited in the public diversions at Naples, and awarded the crown for it, according to the sentence of the judges in that solemnity. Nor did he omit to make honourable and grateful mention of Mark Antony; declaring by a proclamation, “That he the more earnestly insisted upon the observation of his father Drusus’s birth-day, because it was like wise that of his grandfather Antony.” He completed the marble arch near Pompey’s theatre, which had formerly been decreed by the senate in honour of Tiberius, but which had been neglected. And though he canceled all the acts of Gaius, yet he forbade the day of his assassination, notwithstanding it was that of his own accession to the empire, to be reckoned amongst the festivals.

  1. But with regard to his own aggrandizement, he was sparing and modest, declining the name of emperor, and refusing all excessive honours. He celebrated the marriage of his daughter and the birth-day of a grandson with great privacy, at home. He recalled none of those who had been banished, without a decree of the senate: and requested of them permission for the prefect and the military tribunes of the praetorian guards to attend him in the senate-house; and also that they would be pleased to bestow upon his procurators judicial authority in the provinces. He asked of the consuls likewise the privilege of holding fairs upon his private estate. He frequently assisted the magistrates in the trial of causes, as one of their assessors. And when they gave public spectacles, he would rise up with the rest of the spectators, and salute them both by words and gestures. When the tribunes of the people came to him while he was on the tribunal, he excused himself, because, on account of the crowd, he could not hear them unless they stood. In a short time, by this conduct, he wrought himself so much into the favour and affection of the public, that when, upon his going to Ostia, a report was spread in the city that he had been waylaid and slain, the people never ceased cursing the soldiers for traitors, and the senate as parricides, until one or two persons, and presently after several others, were brought by the magistrates upon the rostra, who assured them that he was alive, and not far from the city, on his way home.
  2. Conspiracies, however, were formed against him, not only by individuals separately, but by a faction; and at last his government was disturbed with a civil war. A low fellow was found with a poniard about him, near his chamber, at midnight. Two men of the equestrian order were discovered waiting for him in the streets, armed with a pike and a huntsman’s dagger; one of them intending to attack him as he came out of the theatre, and the other as he was sacrificing in the temple of Mars. Gallus Asinius and Statilius Corvinus, grandsons of the two orators, Pollio and Messala, formed a conspiracy against him, in which they engaged many of his freedmen and slaves. Furius Camillus Scribonianus, his legate in Dalmatia, broke into rebellion, but was reduced in the space of five days; the legions which he had seduced from their oath of fidelity relinquishing their purpose, upon an alarm occasioned by ill omens. For when orders were given them to march, to meet their new emperor, the eagles could not be decorated, nor the standards pulled out of the ground, whether it was by accident, or a divine interposition.
  3. Besides his former consulship, he held the office afterwards four times; the first two successively, but the following, after an interval of four years each; the last for six months, the others for two; and the third, upon his being chosen in the room of a consul who died; which had never been done by any of the emperors before him. Whether he was consul or out of office, he constantly attended the courts for the administration of justice, even upon such days as were solemnly observed as days of rejoicing in his family, or by his friends; and sometimes upon the public festivals of ancient institution. Nor did he always adhere strictly to the letter of the laws, but overruled the rigour or lenity of many of their enactments, according to his sentiments of justice and equity. For where persons lost their suits by insisting upon more than appeared to be their due, before the judges of private causes, he granted them the indulgence of a second trial. And with regard to such as were convicted of any great delinquency, he even exceeded the punishment appointed by law, and condemned them to be exposed to wild beasts.
  4. But in hearing and determining causes, he exhibited a strange inconsistency of temper, being at one time circumspect and sagacious, at another inconsiderate and rash, and sometimes frivolous and like one out of his mind. In correcting the roll of judges, he struck off the name of one who, concealing the privilege his children gave him to be excused from serving, had answered to his name, as too eager for the office. Another who was summoned before him in a cause of his own, but alleged that the affair did not properly come under the emperor’s cognizance, but that of the ordinary judges, he ordered to plead the cause himself immediately before him, and show in a case of his own, how equitable a judge he would prove in that of other persons. A woman refusing to acknowledge her own son, and there being no clear proof on either side, he obliged her to confess the truth, by ordering her to marry the young man. He was much inclined to determine causes in favour of the parties who appeared, against those who did not, without inquiring whether their absence was occasioned by their own fault or by real necessity. On proclamation of a man’s being convicted of forgery, and that he ought to have his hand cut off, he insisted that an executioner should be immediately sent for, with a Spanish sword and a block. A person being prosecuted for falsely assuming the citizenship, and a frivolous dispute arising between the advocates in the cause, whether he ought to make his appearance in the Roman or Grecian dress, to show his impartiality, he commanded him to change his clothes several times according to the character he assumed in the accusation or defense. An anecdote is related of him, and believed to be true, that, in a particular cause he delivered his sentence in writing thus: ” I am in favour of those who have spoken the truth.” By this he so much forfeited the good opinion of the world, that he was everywhere and openly despised. A person making an excuse for the non-appearance of a witness whom he had sent for from the provinces, declared it was impossible for him to appear, concealing the reason for some time: at last, after several interrogatories were put to him on the subject, he answered, “The man is dead;” to which Claudius replied, ” I think that is a sufficient excuse.” Another thanking him for suffering a person who was prosecuted to make his defense by counsel, added, ” And yet it is no more than what is usual.” I have likewise heard some old men say, that the advocates used to abuse his patience so grossly, that they would not only call him back, as he was quitting the tribunal, but would seize him by the hem of his toga, and sometimes catch him by the heels, to make him stay. That such behaviour, however strange, is not incredible, will appear from this anecdote. Some obscure Greek, who was a litigant, had an altercation with him, in which he called out, ” You are an old fool.” It is certain that a Roman knight, who was prosecuted by unscrupulous enemies on a false charge of obscenity with women, observing that common strumpets were summoned against him and allowed to give evidence, upbraided Claudius in very harsh and severe terms with his folly and cruelty, and threw his style, and some books which he had in his hands, in his face, with such violence as to wound him severely in the cheek.
  5. He likewise assumed the censorship, which had been discontinued since the time that Paulus and Plancus had jointly held it. But this also he administered very unequally, and with a strange variety of humour and conduct. In his review of the knights, he passed over, without any mark of disgrace, a profligate young man, only because his father spoke of him in the highest terms; “for,” said he, ” his father is his proper censor.” Another, who was infamous for debauching youths and for adultery, he only admonished “to indulge his youthful inclinations more sparingly, or at least more cautiously ;” adding, “why must I know what mistress you keep?” When, at the request of his friends, he had taken off a mark of infamy which he had set upon one knight’s name he said, “Let the blot, however, remain.” He not only struck out of the list of judges, but likewise deprived of Roman citizenship, an illustrious man of the highest provincial rank in Greece, because he was ignorant of the Latin language. Nor in this review did he suffer any one to give an account of his conduct by an advocate, but obliged each man to speak for himself in the best way he could. He disgraced many, and some that little expected it, and for a reason entirely new, namely, for going out of Italy without his license; and one likewise, for having in his province, been the familiar companion of a king; observing, that, in former times, Rabirius Postumus had been prosecuted for treason, although he only went after Ptolemy to Alexandria for the purpose of securing payment of a debt. Having tried to brand with disgrace several others, he, to his own greater shame, found them generally innocent, through the negligence of the persons employed to inquire into their characters; those whom he charged with living in celibacy, with want of children, or estate, proving themselves to be husbands, parents, and in affluent circumstances. One of the knights who was charged with stabbing himself, laid his bosom bare, to show that there was not the least mark of violence upon his body. The following incidents were remarkable in his censorship. He ordered a chariot, plated with silver, and of very sumptuous workmanship, which was exposed for sale in the Sigillaria, to be purchased, and broken in pieces before his eyes. He published twenty proclamations in one day, in one of which he advised the people, “Since the vintage was very plentiful, to have their casks well secured at the bung with pitch :” and in another, he told them, “that nothing would sooner cure the bite of a viper, than the sap of the yew-tree.”
  6. He undertook only one expedition, and that was of short duration. The triumphal ornaments decreed him by the senate, he considered as beneath the imperial dignity, and was therefore resolved to have the honour of a real triumph. For this purpose, he selected Britain, which had never been attempted by any one since Julius Caesar, and was then chafing with rage, because the Romans would not give up some deserters. Accordingly, he set sail from Ostia, but was twice very near being wrecked by the furious north-wester, upon the coast of Liguria, and near the islands called Stoechades. Having marched by land from Marseilles to Boulogne, he thence passed over to Britain, and part of the island submitting to him, within a few days after his arrival, without battle or bloodshed, he returned to Rome in less than six months from the time of his departure, and triumphed in the most solemn manner; to witness which, he not only gave leave to governors of provinces to come to Rome, but even to some of the exiles. Among the spoils taken from the enemy, he fixed upon the pediment of his house on the Palatine, a naval crown, in token of his having passed, and, as it were, conquered the Ocean, and had it suspended near the civic crown which was there before. Messalina, his wife, followed his chariot in a covered litter. Those who had attained the honour of triumphal ornaments in the same war, rode behind; the rest followed on foot, wearing the robe with the broad stripes. Crassus Frugi was mounted upon a horse richly caparisoned, in a robe embroidered with palm leaves, because this was the second time of his obtaining that honour.
  7. He paid particular attention to the care of the city, and to have it well supplied with provisions. A dreadful fire happening in the Aemiliana, which lasted some time, he passed two nights in the Diribitorium, and the soldiers and gladiators not being in sufficient numbers to extinguish it, he caused the magistrates to summon the people out of all the streets in the city, to their assistance. Placing bags of money before him, he encouraged them to do their utmost, declaring, that he would reward every one on the spot, according to their exertions. During a scarcity of provisions, occasioned by bad crops for several successive years, he was stopped in the middle of the forum by the mob, who so abused him, at the same time pelting him with fragments of bread that he had some difficulty in escaping into the palace by a back door. He therefore used all possible means to bring provisions to the city, even in winter. He proposed to the merchants a sure profit, by indemnifying them against any loss that might befall them by storms at sea; and granted great privileges to those who built ships for that traffic.
  8. To a citizen of Rome he gave an exemptions from the penalty of the Papia-Poppaean law to one who had only the Latin rights of citizenship, and to women the rights which by law belonged to those who had four children: which enactments are in force to this day.
  9. He completed some important public works which, though, not numerous, were very useful. The principal were an aqueduct, which had been begun by Gaius; an outlet for the discharge of the waters of the Fucine lake, and the harbour of Ostia; although he knew that Augustus had refused to comply with the repeated application of the Marsians for one of these, and that the other had been several times intended by Julius Caesar, but as often abandoned on account of the difficulty of its execution. He brought to the city the cool and plentiful springs of the Claudian water, one of which is called Caeruleus, and the other Curtius and Albudignus, as likewise the river of the New Anio, in a stone canal; and distributed them into many magnificent reservoirs. The canal from the Fucine lake was undertaken as much for the sake of profit, as for the honour of the enterprise; for there were parties who offered to drain it at their own expense, on condition of their having a grant of the land laid dry. With great difficulty he completed a canal three miles in length, partly by cutting through, and partly by tunneling, a mountain; thirty thousand men being constantly employed in the work for eleven years. He formed the harbour at Ostia, by carrying out circular piers on the right and on the left, with a mole protecting, in deep water, the entrance of the port. To secure the foundation of this mole, he sunk the vessel in which the great obelisk had been brought from Egypt; and built upon piles a very lofty tower, in imitation of the Pharos at Alexandria, on which lights were burnt to direct mariners in the night.

The Great Escape : Stalag Luft III, Sagan : March 1944

The Great Escape : Stalag Luft III, Sagan : March 1944

Allied aircrew shot down during World War II were incarcerated after interrogation in Air Force Prisoner of War camps run by the Luftwaffe, called Stalag Luft, short for Stammlager Luft or Permanent Camps for Airmen. Stalag Luft III was situated in Sagan, 100 miles south-east of Berlin, now called Zagan, in Upper Silesia, Poland. It was opened in 1942 with the first prisoners arriving in April of that year, and was just one of a network of Air Force only PoW camps. The Germans treated captured Fleet Air Arm aircrew as Air Force and put them all together. There is no obvious reason for the occasional presence of a non-airman in the camps, although one possibility is that the captors would be able to spot “important” non-Air Force uniformed prisoners more readily.

Conditions and Kommandants

It must be made clear that the German Luftwaffe, who were responsible for Air Force prisoners of war, maintained a degree of professional respect for fellow flyers, and the general attitude of the camp security officers and guards should not be confused with the SS or Gestapo. The Luftwaffe treated the PoWs well, despite an erratic and inconsistent supply of food. Prisoners were handled quite fairly within the guidelines of the Geneva Convention, and the Kommandant, Oberst (Colonel) Freidrich-Wilhelm von Lindeiner-Wildau, was a professional and honourable soldier who won the respect of the senior prisoners.

He was 61 when the camp opened in May 1942, a capable, educated man who spoke fluent English. Having joined the army in 1908, and after being wounded three times in WW1, winning two Iron Cross awards, he left in 1919 and worked in several civilian posts, meanwhile marrying a Dutch baroness, whilst trying to steer clear of Nazi politics. Eventually he joined the Luftwaffe (the least Nazified of the three German forces) in 1937 as one of Goering’s personal staff. Refused retirement, he found himself posted as Sagan Kommandant, with Major Gustav Simoleit as deputy. The first Kommandant, Colonel Stephani, had been quickly replaced when found to be unsuited to the task.

Security was strict, but life was not intolerable, except for those for whom escape was a restless itch… this was reckoned to be just 25 percent of the camp population, and only 5% of those were considered to be dedicated escapers. The others would, however, work in support of any escape attempts.

After several major expansions, Luft III eventually grew to hold 10,000 PoWs; it had a size of 59 acres, with 5 miles of perimeter fencing.

Elizabeth Custer

Elizabeth Custer

Elizabeth Custer was the wife of General George Armstrong Custer. She followed him as he moved about on military assignments, and after his death she was instrumental in shaping his public memory. She also campaigned for better benefits for military widows.

Although she is strongly associated with the West through her life with Custer, Elizabeth considered Westchester County her home for almost 50 years. Her connection to Westchester was rooted in a childhood friendship with Sarah Bates, one of several Bates children with whom she had grown up in Monroe, Michigan, who eventually settled in Bronxville. Libbie Custer started coming as a frequent visitor and eventually bought the first of two homes she owned in the area.

George Armstrong Custer and Elizabeth Bacon Custer. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

How She Met Custer

Libbie Custer was the only daughter of a wealthy and well-respected judge in Monroe, Michigan. George Custer (1839-1876) was a young man attending West Point when he began visiting his half-sister who lived in Monroe, and he met Libbie on one of his visits. Her father did not feel a common military man and son of a smithy was right for his daughter, so he asked Libbie not to see or write to Custer.

If the country had not been entering the Civil War, George Custer’s military fate would have been very different; he graduated at the bottom of his class at West Point, but military officers were badly needed so Custer was pressed into service and he proved his value through his fearlessness. Custer soon became known for numerous daring exploits. He was featured in Harper’s Weekly, one of the most prestigious publications of the day. This kept him in the public eye and heightened his standing among residents of Monroe, which probably explains Libbie’s willingness to continue the relationship from afar, with messages traveling via a go-between, young Monroe resident Nettie Humphrey.

In September 1863 George and Libbie met again at a masquerade ball in Monroe. Afterward, Custer wrote to Judge Bacon for permission to correspond directly with his daughter. Shortly after this, Custer was promoted to Brevet Brigadier General, and Judge Bacon relented. Libbie and George corresponded for a time, and were married on February 9, 1864.

Life with Custer

When the Army reorganized after the Civil War, Custer was assigned to the Seventh Cavalry, and he was returned to his former rank of Lieutenant Colonel; his promotion to general had been intended for the war years only. The Custers did not like to be separated, so Libbie stayed at forts near where George was assigned. Libbie wrote: “It is infinitely worse to be left behind, a prey to all the horrors of imagining what may be happening to one we love.”

Other officers’ wives stayed at the forts some of the time, and the Custers’ rooms, or their tent, if staying on the plains, was frequently the center of camp social life. Libbie often accompanied the cavalry for the first day of each march; then someone would escort her back to the fort where she was staying.

In 1873 Custer and the Seventh Cavalry were sent to the Northern Plains where there were several skirmishes with the Lakota in the Yellowstone area. Then in 1874 Custer broke a treaty the U.S. had signed with the Lakota in 1868 by leading an expedition into the Black Hills. Gold was discovered on the expedition and when the news got out, the Black Hills Gold Rush began. Since the 1868 treaty had signed the entire area over to the Lakota, tensions between the U.S. and the Plains tribes became more inflamed, and violence and acts of depredation on both sides were common.

Tensions continued to rise, and led to the campaign of 1876. The campaign was part of the Grant administration’s plan to round up all the remaining Lakota and Northern Cheyenne Indians and force them to report to their designated reservations. However, Sitting Bull, the leader of the Lakota, had called together a large gathering of Plains Indians to discuss what to do about the white men; it was this group of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians whom Custer battled at Little Bighorn.

The American plans for the maneuver involved a three-pronged attack, and though an order of attack had been carefully planned, Custer impulsively moved his group forward before the other soldiers were in place. The results were disastrous. On June 25, the Indian tribes massacred Custer’s entire group, including several Custer family members: Custer, two of his brothers, a brother-in-law and his nephew all died. When the military finally discovered what had happened, the men were quickly buried in shallow graves at the site. (Custer’s remains—what little was left of him—were eventually exhumed, and he was reburied at West Point.) News of the massacre did not reach Libbie and others at Fort Abraham Lincoln in Bismarck, North Dakota, for three weeks.

This circa 1908 view of Lawrence Park shows Elizabeth Custer’s house at right. Photo courtesy Bronxville Public Library Local History Room.

Widowed at 34

Libbie was only 34 at the time of her husband’s death. Widows at the time generally remarried, as they had few other options. Libbie returned to Monroe, Michigan, but she soon saw that her financial situation was grim. Her military widow’s pension was $30 per month, and after cashing in George’s $5,000 life insurance policy, she was left with only $4,760, as the company had deducted $240 because Custer was in a dangerous line of work. She sold one of Custer’s horses and auctioned off interest in a family farm, but she knew it wasn’t enough to last long. At first Libbie accepted cash gifts from family and friends, but she wanted a better solution.

While women of the day were not supposed to work, Libbie felt that if any place offered her better opportunity, it would be New York. In 1877 she found a part-time job as a secretary at the Society of Decorative Art, an organization that trained impoverished gentlewomen in practical arts (such as needlework) so they could earn a living. (The organization was founded by Candace Wheeler, who went on to be a partner of Louis Comfort Tiffany.) Libbie remained in her position for over five years.

In 1881 she traveled to Washington to ask for increases in military widows’ pensions. Because women weren’t supposed to talk about money, this was a difficult effort for her, but she was effective. In 1882 her pension increased to $50; by 1890 the government was paying widows $100 per month in benefits.

Elizabeth Custer and Westchester

As adults, members of the Bates family who had grown up with Libbie in Michigan had established themselves in Bronxville, which meant that Libbie became a frequent visitor. The first to arrive was Agnes Bates (Mrs. Arthur Wellington); Agnes then persuaded her older sister Sarah and her husband WilliamVan Duzer Lawrence (also from Monroe) to buy property in the area.

Cover of The Book of Words for the Westchester County HIstorical Pageant.

William Lawrence had netted good profits from a pharmaceutical company he ran in Canada, and since Sarah was eager to return to the United States, Lawrence purchased a farm near the train station where he intended to build a family home as well as a community for artists and writers. He loved the natural landscaping of the area, now known as Lawrence Park, and he had the streets laid out according to the natural flow of the land. Lawrence also brought in another fellow from Monroe, architect William A. Bates (no relation to the other Bates family) to help develop the community.

After visiting frequently, Libbie finally bought land in Lawrence Park in 1896. Her first house was at 20 Park Avenue, next door to Agnes Bates Wellington. In 1902 she built a bigger home nearby at 6 Chestnut, and named it Laurentia in honor of Sarah and William Lawrence. After living there for a few weeks, she began to rent it out for extended periods of time. If the house was rented during periods when she wanted to be in Bronxville, she took up residence at the Hotel Gramatan.

Perhaps because she traveled, often to speak about Custer, she may have considered Bronxville a quiet get-away; however, she did some entertaining there and was often invited to area socials and teas in the area. In 1909 she helped organize a four-day event to raise funds for what would become Lawrence Hospital. One of the events was a historical pageant about Westchester, for which she wrote a section of the script. The event was held on Memorial Day in a large outdoor amphitheatre built on an estate adjoining Lawrence Park. More than 300 costumed citizens, including Libbie, performed scenes depicting the early settlement of Westchester. New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes and area dignitaries joined an audience of several thousand to see what was described as the “largest production of its kind ever held in the county.” Libbie Custer eventually served as a member of the hospital board.

Her Role Defending Custer’s Honor

Shortly after Custer’s death, Libbie had been approached by a writer who wanted her to help him write a book about her husband, but after initially agreeing, Libbie realized that the best thing to do was to write the book herself. Detractors, including President Ulysses S. Grant, denounced Custer for having moved forward at Little Big Horn ahead of time, thereby causing his soldiers to be massacred. Libbie quickly rose to his defense, speaking publicly and eventually writing about her life with him. Her first book was Boots and Saddles (1885), followed by Tenting on the Plains (1887) and Following the Guidon (1890).

Mrs. Custer wrote “The Presentation of the Fatted Calf” for the Westchester County Historical Pageant.

By 1885 she began to receive book royalties. In 1886 her stepmother left her a $5,000 trust, and by 1890 her military pension had risen to $100. All these pieces together finally provided Libbie with income for a decent lifestyle.

She worked tirelessly to raise money to erect monuments in Custer’s honor. Her efforts were nationwide, but there were also a few local ways Custer was honored. There is a Custer Place in Bronxville, and before the United States entered World War I, youths in the neighborhood were encouraged to join “Custer’s Cadets.” The group drilled twice weekly, using wooden rifles, at Christ’s Church in Bronxville.

Her Final Years

Until 1930, Libbie maintained a residence in Bronxville, but during her later years she lived primarily in New York City, residing at 71 Park Avenue. She was in poor health during her final years, but on days when she was feeling well enough, the New York Times reported that she could be seen strolling along Park Avenue with an aide or going to the Cosmopolitan Club.

On May 12, 1933, a report in the New York Times cited details from Elizabeth Custer’s will, dated November 18, 1926. The article reported that the table on which Lee’s surrender was signed at Appomattox and two flags of truce, “one made of a white linen towel and the other of a white handkerchief” that were used on that occasion and had been given to George Custer by Ulysses Grant, were already in the Memorial Hall of the War Department building, and the will specified they should remain there. Today, however, these items are part of the collection on view at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian. Custer’s sword and uniforms and a large oil portrait of him that adorned the wall in the living room of the Chestnut Avenue house in Bronxville are also at the Smithsonian. At least one of Libbie’s own dresses from her time in the West can be seen on occasion at the Women of the West Museum in Los Angeles.

Because Elizabeth Custer was so devoted to maintaining Custer’s image, historians avoided stirring up trouble during her lifetime. Only after her death in 1933 did historians begin to re-examine what happened at Little Bighorn. Elizabeth Custer is buried at her husband’s side at West Point.

Bohemian Pants will Keep You Comfortable in All Situations

Bohemian Pants will Keep You Comfortable in All Situations

Admit it. You need to look great, but it is also essential that you are in clothing that may keep you more comfortable at the same time when you are traveling. Most people usually do not realize that there’s a type of clothing that’ll meet every need in regards to traveling in style you might have. This clothing comprises comfortable bohemian elegant slacks for traveling and there are a number of styles and colour patterns available that you pick from. Only imagine having the ability to travel across nations or across town while never feeling as even though your garments that fit some areas of your body too closely restrict you.

The cozy bohemian smart slacks for traveling which you find today is a design which has been passed down only they have been made more beautiful and fun to wear. They’re made from polyester and a bit of spandex in a few circumstances, however they are available in other materials too.

You can select from bold patterns, solid colours, or patterns which are light in color. If you prefer the patterned trousers, a basic solid color shirt will compliment it totally, especially should you decide on one of the pants styles or a long dress. A few of the very popular styles are the American Hippie style pants and harem trousers. However, should you’re feeling that maybe your hips are excessively big to wear a billowy form of pants, additionally, there are several designs that are not dissimilar to the legging style slacks.

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There are comfortable bohemian elegant trousers for journey available for both men and women. The pants designs of the men are largely available in solid colors, but you’ll find many with a pattern that will make a statement. Nearly all of the designs are designed to billow out of the waist to the ankle. Some also have ties round the waist in addition to springy in order to adjust exactly how tight they may fit your waist and others may even have the denim appearance without the denim tightness.

On top of that, your children may benefit from the bohemian fashion clothing at the same time and they’ve just as many choices regarding colors and fashions as you do.

Would you wear comfortable bohemian chic trousers for traveling with a daring monochrome zigzag pattern to the? How about a pair of pants that had a Navajo layout on them. Would you need them to be tight around your ankles or loose fitting in the waist all the way down to resemble the look and comfort of a skirt while being a pair of pants? A solid colour pair of pants that goes with anything or a rainbow of colours in a single pair of pants that want a solid color shirt? The choice is yours and the chances are endless.

Selecting comfortable bohemian smart slacks for travel is a great way for anybody who really wants to relax. They are not only great for traveling conditions. They make excellent lounge throughout the home pants and you could also wear them out if you like to. They are informal clothing which work in many different situations. They’re a style which will set you apart from all others, no matter what exactly you’re going to do today and where you are. So, how are you going to wear your bohemian trousers today?

GONE WITH THE WIND

GONE WITH THE WIND

As Part 2 opens, Scarlett is shown picking cotton in the fields at Tara. Later, when she goes inside, a Yankee straggler comes in and tries to steal what’s left of their money, but Scarlett kills him and takes all of his looted money.

The war is finally over!! (1865) Frank Kennedy wants Suellen to marry him, and Ashley comes home to Tara. But there is trouble, the Yankee carpetbaggers and southern scalawags have raised the taxes on Tara. Now they are $300 — an unreachable amount of money. Ashley and Scarlett talk at the barn. Scarlett confesses her love for him again He says that he admires her fearlessness. They kiss, and then Scarlett asks Ashley to run away, then he says that she can’t go because she has too much honor to leave Tara. Emmy Slattery and Mr. Wilkinson come to Tara and offer to buy it from them. Scarlett tells them to leave. Gerald gets on his horse to chases them away, but he falls off and dies from a fall while he is jumping.

Scarlett decides that she’ll go see Rhett in Atlanta and ask him for the $300. She dresses up in a dress that she made out of curtains. Rhett is in jail, and he says that he can’t get his money out because it is hidden in Europe. After this Scarlett runs into Frank Kennedy. She marries him for the $300 , and then she starts a lumber business with Ashley. As Scarlett is on her way to the mill, she is attacked by hobos, but Big Sam saves her life.

Later that night, the women are all together, and India tells off Scarlett for all of the things that she has done. The husbands have gone to the woods to attack the men who attacked Scarlett. Rhett tries to save them from doing it but it is too late, Ashley was shot and Frank Kennedy was killed. (Poor Scarlett, widowed again!) Rhett makes up a lie to tell the Yankees of them being at Belle Whatley’s house, so that they can get back inside without Ashley getting arrested. Melanie invites Belle to her house to thank her for saving Ashley’s life.

Scarlett and Rhett are talking and he again asks her to marry him, and this time she says yes. They go on a grand honeymoon to New Orleans. Scarlett wants to go back to Tara. They go back, and build a mansion in Atlanta. They have a baby girl named ‘Bonnie Blue’ Butler. Scarlett doesn’t want to have anymore children because she is still in love with Ashley. They separate, and Rhett goes to see Belle and she convinces him to go back, because the Bonnie needs him. Rhett gets drunk one night after Melanie’s party and he wants to rid Ashley in Scarlett’s mind forever. This is the famous ‘carry her (to bed) up the Grand Staircase’ scene.

The next morning he apologizes then says he is going to London and taking Bonnie with him. Bonnie hates it there and says that she wants to go home and see her mother. Rhett takes Bonnie home, and then says he’s leaving. Scarlett tells him that she is pregnant, they both say that they don’t want the baby and Rhett says maybe Scarlett will have an accident. As he says this she falls down the stairs. Scarlett lost the baby. After some time, Mellie tells Rhett that Scarlett is better. They are on the patio talking and watching Bonnie, when Bonnie decides that she will jump. But she does not make it and dies, just like Gerald.

Mammy calls on Mellie to help her, because Scarlett and Rhett are both distraught. But Mellie is very ill, and falls when she is at their house and never recovers. Mellie dies shortly after. Scarlett realizes as Mellie dies that her love for Ashley never existed, and that she really loves Rhett. She rushes home to tell him, but it is too late. He has already made up his mind to go to Charleston. Scarlett begs him not to go, “where shall I go …. what shall I do?” But Rhett says, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Scarlett believes that she needs to get him back so she says she’ll go to Tara to think, to the place that gives her strength. “After all,” Scarlett says, “tomorrow is another day.”

Man Of History

Man Of History

Barack Obama, an African-American, steps into the vortex of power as America’s 44th president, with high hopes of bringing change not just to his country but the whole world.

It was a momentous event presaged by black civil rights leader, the late Martin Luther King Jnr, 46 years ago. And the outpouring of emotions, the joy, the celebrations all over the world, from Kenya, his father’s birth place to Japan, Indonesia, from the streets of New York, to London, Berlin and Paris—all underscored its historic significance. As Barack Obama, 47, stepped forward to be sworn in as America’s first black president on 20 January, hope in a new global chapter under his leadership was unmistakable. More than two million people crammed into Capitol Hill and other streets of Washington to watch Obama’s inauguration and listen to his speech. On television worldwide, about 1.5 billion watched the event. Such is the awesome response to Obama the world over.

Even in the Arab world where America is intensely disliked because of the foreign policy errors of past administrations, there is hope, as is the case in other parts of the world, that with Obama as the leader of the free world, change will come. And his middle name, Hussein, also makes him difficult to hate in the Muslim world. Salah al-Mohaisen, a Saudi man who runs a jewelry store in Riyadh said he was overjoyed at Obama’s election. “I feel that he could understand Arab suffering” he said, in apparent reference to the suffering of Palestinians, under Israel occupation.

In Iran, many of the citizens hope Obama will bring about a significant change in US policy and perhaps restore diplomatic relations between both countries. Muna Abdul Razak, a 37-year-old primary school teacher in the Northern Iraqi city of Mosal expressed the hope that “Obama will be more responsible than Bush who destroyed Iraq. “Everybody likes him. I am hopeful that he is really going to change things for the better, by transforming US policy towards the Middle East’’.

That the emergence of Barack Obama is not just a welcome departure from the brutish politics and war mongering that his predecessor, George W. Bush represented, the ascent of an African-American as president shows the country has buried many decades of racism and is poised to turn a new chapter of racial harmony.But the success story of the 47-year-old junior senator from Illinois began with the keynote address he read at the Democratic Convention in Boston in the summer of 2004. Before then, he was largely unknown outside his state of Illinois, where as a youth he cut his teeth as a community mobiliser. But that changed moments after he mounted the podium and delivered a moving speech about the American spirit and the artificial divisions working against the realisation of its full destiny.

“I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on earth is my story even possible,” the young senator said.

Many who listened to his speech truly thought that he had a great future in politics, but not many would immediately tip him for the presidency. But Obama on 10 February 2008 announced his candidacy for the US top job. He had not even spent a full term as senator. He alluded to his inexperience when he said, “I know I haven’t spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I’ve been here long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.” He faced Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, in the contest for the Democratic Party’s nomination. All political pundits and pollsters pointed to a Hillary Clinton victory against a man still seen as a political upstart.

But against all odds Obama prevailed. He trounced Clinton in the opening caucuses at Iowa, built up momentum and eventually beat her to the party’s ticket. His giant killing did not end there. For the presidential election proper he was up against Republican opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona, who had spent close to 25 years in Congress. Though so much capital was made of Obama’s inexperience, he ran an aggressive, effective and technology-driven campaign, reaching out to Americans from all races and age, preaching the gospel of change. In mobilising Americans for the change he envisions, Obama also raised an unprecedented campaign funds of close to a billion dollars, from the people. He drove the point home that four more years of a Republican administration would be suicidal for the American people, as the ruling party had failed spectacularly to manage the economy, resulting in massive job and home losses. He made a good job of convincing Americans that McCain is not different from Bush

The rest is history. Four more years of an administration akin to that of Bush was inconceivable for Americans and so on 4 November, they gave Obama a landslide victory. His ascendance also redefined America’s electoral geography, as he won in states hitherto dominated by the Republicans.

A Night to Remember

A Night to Remember

In the crow’s nest, Fleet sees a large iceberg dead ahead and signals the bridge. He quickly reached above him and rang the bell three times. This was to signal that there was something out ahead. Fleet reached for the telephone and waited until it was picked up below. When it was answered he asked “Is there someone there?” “Yes” replied Officer Moody. “What do you see?” “Iceberg right ahead” Fleet answered. “Thank you” Moody replied as he hung up the phone. Sixth Officer Moody relays the message to Murdoch who instinctively orders “Hard-a-starboard” and telegraphs the engine room to stop all engines, followed by full astern. He also closes the watertight doors.

Titanic slowly begins to veer, but an underwater spar from the passing berg scraps and bumps along the starboard side for a 300-foot distance fully opening five forward compartments to the sea, as well as flooding the coal bunker servicing the No. 9 stokehold.

11:42 p.m. Aside from the men on the bridge and those closest to the impact, few realized that anything had happened. George Symons, just off duty as lookout, was lying in his bunk and thought that the anchor had dropped and the scraping sound he had heard was the chain running out of the ship. Henry Sleeper Harper, of the American publishing family, sat up in his bed and saw the iceberg pass his window, pieces of it crumbling as it went by. There were huge chunks of ice on the deck that people were kicking around as if it were a game.

Almost everyone in the first-class smoking room stood up from their seats when the jarring motion disturbed the room. Quartermaster George Rowe, located on the poop deck at the very stern of the ship, felt the jarring motion and, seeing the iceberg, walked to the rail to watch it pass.

11:55 p.m. The post office on “G” Deck forward is already flooding. After a quick inspection of the damage by Wilde, Boxhall and Andrews, Captain Smith knows the worst…that Titanic was sinking and the more than 2,200 people on board were in extreme peril.

Bruce Ismay, who had been asleep in his luxurious suite on B-deck, had also been awakened by the strange noise caused by the iceberg. Without bothering to change out of his nightclothes, he went to the bridge and asked Captain Smith what had happened. “We have struck ice,” Smith replied. “Do you think the ship is seriously damaged?” Ismay asked, hoping that things weren’t as bad as they might be. “I am afraid she is.”

Thomas Andrews, managing director of Harland & Wolff, arrived on the bridge a few minutes after Ismay departed. He told Captain Smith, in detail, of the full seriousness of the Titanic’s current situation. It was clear, based on reports received from throughout the ship, that the Titanic’s first six watertight compartments had been ruptured. The ship had never been designed to take this type of damage. The ship had been gashed opened to the sea.

Monday, April 15, 1912 shortly after midnight, Captain Smith ordered a radio call for assistance. Phillips taps out the regulation distress signal CQD…MGY…CQD…MGY… The 13,600 ton Cunard ship Carpathia recieved the message. Her Captain, Arthur Rostron, immediately turned his ship around and headed at full speed toward the Titanic’s radioed position.

The squash court, 32 feet above keel, is awash. The majority of the boilers have been shut down, and huge clouds of steam roar out of the relief pipes secured to the sides of the funnels. Smith orders that the lifeboats be uncovered and musters the crew and passengers.

12:15 a.m. Wallace Hartley and his band begin to play lively ragtime tunes in the 1st Class lounge on “A” Deck. They would continue to almost the end, and every member of the band would be lost.

12:25 a.m. Smith gives the order to start loading lifeboats with women and children. 2nd Officer Lightoller follows this order particularly to the letter.

The Murderers and their Accessories

The Murderers and their Accessories

W/Cdr Wilfred “Freddie” Bowes, F/Lt (later S/Ldr) Francis McKenna, F/Lt (later S/Ldr) “Dickie” Lyon, F/Lt Stephen Courtney, F/Lt Harold Harrison and W/O H J Williams, of the Royal Air Force Special Investigation Branch, painstakingly travelled Europe and gradually pieced together enough evidence to identify the culprits. Lt. Col. A P Scotland, an Army Intelligence expert, interrogated many suspects at the London Cage.

The Court President at the resulting trials was Maj-General H L Longden; the Judge Advocate was Mr C L Stirling, with a panel of six senior military officers – three Army Colonels, two RAF Wing Commanders and an RAF Air Commodore. Ten German lawyers – one a woman, Dr Anna Oehlert – formed the defence team. The Court pronounced its verdict on September 3rd 1947, and in early February 1948, thirteen of the perpetrators were hanged at Hamelin Gaol, Hamburg.

A short while after this, a second trial took place for three more of the accused.

(W/Cdr Bowes and S/Ldr McKenna were later both awarded the OBE for their work in bringing the culprits to justice. Lt Col Scotland also received the OBE for this, and other, duties.)

German Luftwaffe

General Grosch was the Luftwaffe officer directly responsible for the security and welfare of prisoners of war. He and his deputy, Colonel Waelde, were Interrogated by Lt.Col. Scotland at the London Cage. A German civilian, Peter Mohr, who worked in the Kriminalpolizei and who was outraged at the murders, provided key information to the interrogators.

Breslau Gestapo

Standartenfuhrer Seetzen was involved with the Breslau Sicherheitsdienst, and arrested in Hamburg on September 28th 1945, after identification by former colleagues. He bit on a cyanide capsule whilst being taken for interrogation, and died within minutes.

Obersturmbannfuhrer Max Wielen, Breslau Gestapo Chief, was sentenced to life imprisonment on 3-Sep-47 but only served a few years before being released.

Gestapo Chief Dr Wilhelm Scharpwinkel was masquerading as a Lt Hagamann in the No 6 Hospital at Breslau when Frau Gerda Zembrodt, corroborated by Klaus Lonsky, saw Russian officers remove him at gunpoint. During the enquiry into the murders, the Russians refused to co-operate with the Allied investigation, although after much prodding they allowed Scharpwinkel to make a statement, in Moscow, during August and September 1946. Soon afterwards, Scharpwinkel disappeared and although reported dead by the Russians on 17-Oct-47, was believed to have found a high position in the Soviet administration.

He and his associate Lux murdered Cross, Casey, Wiley, Leigh, Pohe and Hake. The next day Lux executed Humphries, McGill, Swain, Hall, Langford, Evans, Valenta, Kolanowski, Stewart and Birkland. The day after that, he executed Kiewnarski, Pawluk, Wernham and Skanzikas. On April 6th, Lux murdered Grisman, J E Williams, Milford, Street and McGarr. Long followed soon after. Lux is also believed to have killed Tobolski and Krol, who vanished in the same area as the others. Lux, with at least twenty-seven murders on his soul, died in the fighting around Breslau at the end of the war. Gunn, killed at Breslau, is likely to have been another of their victims.

Krimilalkommissar Dr Gunther Absalon investigated the escape and poked around at Sagan for some weeks. He chaired the German enquiry into the Escape and collected evidence. It is not clear what happened to him or whether or not he was involved in the murder conspiracy. Absalon, seen alive and well in Breslau in May 1946, was reported to me as (a) being hanged and (b) having died in a Russian prison in May 1948.

Soon after 1948 the investigators caught up with Erwin Wieczorek had been involved with the killing of Cross, Casey, Leigh, Wiley, Poole and Hake. He was sentenced to death but later the sentence was quashed.

Richard Haensel was acquitted on 6-Nov-48; Dankert and Kreuzer disappeared. Kiske, Knappe, Kuhnel, Pattke and Lang were killed in the Breslau fighting. Lauffer committed suicide. Prosse died in 1944 after an unsuccessful stomach operation. Hampel was not tried, and Schroeder was a material witness.

Brno/Zlin Gestapo

Brno Gestapo Chief Hugo Romer, believed to have given instructions for the murders of Kirby-Green and Kidder, disappeared. Kriminalrat Hans Ziegler, Gestapo Chief of Moravia, arranged the killing of S/L Tim Kirby-Green and F/O Kidder, which was done by Erich Zacharias (arrested in Fallersleben, also after having been given away by his deserted wife) and Adolf Knippelberg (arrested in Czechoslovakia), with drivers Friedrich Kiowsky (arrested in Prague by the Czechs) and Schwartzer. Knippelberg, Hauptsturmfuhrer Franz Schauschutz (arrested in Austria) and Zacharias were recognised from a painted mural in a dubious wartime Gestapo night club. The Czechs executed Schwarzer and Kiowski in 1947. Ziegler committed suicide in the London Cage (Cockfosters) on 3-Feb-48. Zacharias, described by Lt. Col. Scotland as “without doubt the most uncivilised, brutal, and morally indecent character in the entire story” was hanged at Hamelin on 27-Feb-48. Knippelberg was captured by the Russians; released in 1945, he disappeared.

Wilhelm Nolle was arrested 10-Jun-48 but was not tried; Otto Koslowsky was executed by the Czechs in 1947.

Danzig Gestapo

Danzig Gestapo Chief Dr Venediger ordered many of the killings and received 2 years on 17-Dec-57. The deaths of Henri Picard, Tim Walenn, Edward Brettell and Romas Marcinkus were believed to have been at the hands of Hauptmann Reinholt Bruchardt, who was traced in 1948 and sentenced to death but later commuted to life imprisonment (in Germany, this meant 21 years). Max Kilpe, Harry Witt and Herbert Wenzler were not prosecuted; Walter Sasse, Walter Voelz and Julius Hug disappeared.

Karlsruhe Gestapo

Oberregierungsrat Josef Gmeiner, who with Kriminalsekretar Otto Preiss shot Cochran, aided by his driver Heinrich Boschert. The latter was arrested in Karlsruhe, the French handed over Gmeiner, and all three were sentenced to death, although Boschert’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Gmeiner, Preiss and Walter Herberg were hanged at Hamelin on 27-Feb-48.

Otto Gannicher committed suicide 26-Apr-46; Magnus Wochner given 10 years.

Kiel Gestapo

Chief Friedrich Schmidt and his deputy Sturmbannfuhrer Johannes Post were being eagerly sought by the RAF SIB. Post, living with his mistress Marianne Heydt, was arrested at Minden under a false name after being given away by the wife he had deserted. Arrogant to the last, he admitted the murder of Catenach, Christiansen, Espelid and Fugelsgang, under the orders and assistance of Danzig Gestapo Chief Dr Venediger, and aided by Hans Kaehler and his associate at Danzig. Post, Oskar Schmidt, Walter Jacobs and Kaehler were hanged at Hamelin on 27-Feb-48; Friedrich Schmidt escaped prosecution until May 1968 when he was sentenced to 2 years in prison. Drivers Arthur Denkman and Wilhelm Struve were each given 10 years on 3-Sep-47.

Franz Schmidt committed suicide 27-Oct-46

Munich Gestapo

Gestapo agents Johan Schneider, Emil Weil and Eduard Geith shot Gouws and Stevens; all were hanged at Hamelin on 27-Feb-48. Charges against Oswald Schafer were dismissed on 11-Dec-68; Martin Schermer committed suicide on 25-Mar-45.

Reichenburg Gestapo

Gestapo Chief Bernhard Baatz, Robert Weyland and Robert Weissman of Bruex arranged the killing of W Williams, Bull, Kierath and Mondschein. Baatz disappeared after being released by the Russians; Weyland stayed living in the Russian Zone. The French later captured Weissman, but his fate is unknown.

Saarbrucken Gestapo

Oberleutnant Dr Leopold Spann (killed 25-Apr-45 in an air raid on Linz), Gestapo Chief at Saarbrucken, Kriminalsekretar Emil Schulz (found to be custody at Saarbrucken under a false identity) and driver Walter Breithaupt (arrested in Frankfurt) were responsible for the deaths of Roger Bushell and Bernard Scheidhauer. Schulz was hanged at Hamelin 27-Feb-48, Breithaupt given life on 3-Sep-47.

Strasburg Gestapo

The portly Alfred Schimmel, a former solicitor, and another unidentified Gestapo man took Hayter from Strasburg jail on April 6th 1944, and killed him near Breslau. Schimmel was hanged at Hamelin, 27-Feb-48,

Max Dissner committed suicide 11-May-45; Heinrich Hilker acquitted and died 11-Apr-48; Erich Isslhorst executed for other crimes.

The Escape Committee

The Escape Committee

Some of the finest escape artists in the Allied Air Forces arrived at Luft III. Squadron Leader (S/L) Roger J Bushell, CO of No 92 (Spitfire) Squadron had been shot down in May 1940, during the Battle of France. On a previous escape he had been hiding in Prague and was caught in the aftermath of the Heydrich assassination. The family hiding him were all executed by the Gestapo and Jack Zaphouk, his Czech co-escaper, was purged to Colditz Castle. Bushell developed a cold unyielding hatred for the enemy but failed, however, to distinguish between the Gestapo and the far better type represented by the Camp Kommandant.

Although the first SBO (Senior British Officer) was Group Captain Harry “Wings” Day (57 Sqdn, shot down 13-Oct-39, Blenheim I, L1138), he was succeeded by the arrival in June 1942 of a more senior officer, G/C Herbert M Massey, a rugged veteran WW1 pilot, and in October 1942 Wings Day was sent to Offizierlager (Oflag, or Officer Camp) XXIB. Bushell masterminded the Luft III Escape Organization, together with an executive committee of Flying Officer (F/O) Wally Floody (J5481), Peter ‘Hornblower’ Fanshawe RN and Flight Lieutenant (F/L) George Harsh (102 Sqdn, shot down 5/6-Oct-42, Halifax II W7824).

(Ranks Page)

Bushell collected the most skilled forgers, tailors, tunnel engineers and surveillance experts and announced his intention to put 250 men outside the wire. This would cause a tremendous problem and cause the enemy to divert men and resources to round up the escapers. His idea was not so much to return escapers to the UK but mainly to cause a giant internal problem for the German administration. He went about this task with a typical determinedness, despite having been officially warned that his next escape and recapture would result in him being shot.

Key Personnel

Tunnel engineering was in the expert hands of Floody, a Canadian Spitfire pilot and prewar mining engineer. The original ‘Tunnel King’, he masterminded the construction of all three tunnels, aided by F/Lt R. G. “Crump” Ker-Ramsey (Fighter Interception Unit, shot down on a night patrol 13/14-Sep-40, Blenheim IVF Z5721), Henry “Johnny” Marshall, Fanshawe, and a host of others. The dapper Rhodesian Johnny Travis and his team of manufacturers made escape kit such as compasses from fragments of broken Bakelite gramophone records, melted and shaped and incorporating a tiny needle made from slivers of magnetised razor blades. Stamped on the underside was ‘Made in Stalag Luft 3 – Patent Pending’.

F/L Des Plunkett (218 Sqdn, shot down 20/21-6-42, Stirling I, W7530 HA:Q) and his team assumed responsibility for map making. Real ID papers and passes were obtained by bribery or theft from the guards and copied by F/L ‘Tim’ Walenn and his forgers. These two departments were known as “Dean and Dawson” after a well-known firm of travel agents. Service uniforms were carefully recut by Tommy Guest and his men, who also produced workmens’ clothes and other ‘civilian’ attire. These were often hidden in spaces created by ace carpenter Pilot Officer (P/O) “Digger” Macintosh (12 Sqdn, shot down 12-May-40, Battle I, L5439 PH:N).

A surprising number of guards proved co-operative in supplying railway timetables, maps, and the bewildering number of official papers required for escapers. One tiny mistake in forgery, or one missing document would immediately betray the holder, a problem complicated by the fact that the official stamps and appearance of the various papers were changed regularly by the Germans. It was necessary to obtain details of the lie of the land directly outside the camp, and especially ascertain the location of the nearest railway station. Bribery by cigarettes or chocolate usually worked. In one case, a less than intelligent guard provided key information for which he was paid in chocolate. The prisoner asked him to sign a receipt, explaining that it was necessary to account for the chocolate. The guard obliged, and was soon blackmailed into bringing in a camera and film, Bushell being quite ruthless in exploiting such opportunities.

Forged papers included Dienstausweise (permission to be on Wehrmacht property), Urlaubscheine (military leave pass), Ruckkehrscheine (for foreign workers returning home), Kennkarte (general identity card), Sichtvermark (visa), Ausweise and Vorlaufweise (pass and temporary pass). Many of these required weeks of work to reproduce.

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