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The bravery of August Landmesser who refused to salute Hitler is a historical gem

August Landmesser was one of the only men to stand in defiance of the German dictator and refuse to salute him and his story is a tragedy marked with valor.

The bravery of August Landmesser who refused to salute Hitler is a historical gem
Cover Image Source: August Landmesser. Private Collection. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Due to the harsh reality of dictatorship, the sufferings of Hitler and the Nazis are remembered by all to this day. Germans saw massive despair at the time, which forced them to worship and adhere to the dictator. The "Sieg Heil” or “Hail Victory,” which was mandatory for all people to follow as a salute to Hitler, was adopted in the 1930s, per The Independent. It was a crucial and dire salutation expected out of every citizen as a means of compliance and respect for the party. However, one man refused to practice the stiff hand raise and stayed firm on his decision

Image Source: August Landmesser. Private Collection. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
Image Source: August Landmesser. Private Collection. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

August Landmesser was a Nazi who was more loyal and determined than many. He joined the party in 1931 and worked towards higher rankings. Things took an unforeseen turn when Landmesser fell in love with Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman. His marriage with a Jew in 1935 saw the end of his participation in the party. He was expelled from the party and continued life to raise a family. Eckler gave birth to their daughter, Ingrid, but things were still going haywire. In the 1936 rally, he refused to raise his hand in salutation in the presence of Hitler.

Image Source: Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945) in Munich in the spring of 1932. (Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Image Source: Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945) in Munich in the spring of 1932. (Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

While the dictator was being christened as the new leader, the crowd stood in an orderly fashion, paying respect with the authentic salute. However, Landmesser refused to hold up his hand and instead expressed his rejection boldly. The man crossed his arms in defiance. What followed for Landmesser were only trials and struggles. The following year, he attempted to flee but was detained at the border under the charges of “racial infamy” or dishonor. The lack of evidence for the same got the former Nazi acquitted, but he was warned not to have ties with Eckler. Landmesser refused to obey the orders given and he and his pregnant wife were arrested and separated. He never saw his wife and children again.

Image Source: Nazi leader Adolf Hitler takes the salute as Sturmabteilung (SA) paramilitaries march past, Germany, 13th November 1930.. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Image Source: Nazi leader Adolf Hitler takes the salute as Sturmabteilung (SA) paramilitaries march past, Germany, 13th November 1930. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A few months later, Eckler delivered her second baby girl. Landmesser was in prison and then the concentration camp. He worked a few jobs before he was drafted for war in 1944, per Business Insider. Shortly after, he was reported to be MIA in Croatia. There were no reports of him after that. As for Eckler, she remained at the concentration camp till she was taken to a “euthanasia center” and murdered with several others. The two daughters, Ingrid and Irene, were separated and never met. Ingrid was looked after by foster parents. She grew up and shared the tragedy she and her family faced in a 1998 book titled “A Family Torn Apart by ‘Rassenschande,’” per USA Today.

Landmesser’s crossed-arm defiance image, standing out among the symmetry of obeying Germans, has been held in high regard. The image appeared in a German newspaper in 1991 and has a deeper impact and history to this day. A blog page, Senrinomichi, shared the post on Facebook in 2012, which went viral, per The Christian Science Monitor. The caption read, “The photo was taken in Hamburg in 1936, during the celebrations for the launch of a ship. In the crowd, one person refuses to raise his arm to give the Nazi salute. That man was August Landmesser.” 



 

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