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THE NAZI - A Story of a boy's coming of age in Hitler's Germany

Arthur Baudzus was ten when Hitler came to power and only twenty three when the Nazi regime collapsed.  In this fascinating memoir, Baudzus recalls what it was like growing up in those turbulent times.  Exempt from conscription because of his job in a shipyard, Baudzus later joined the Navy and was posted to U-859 as an electrician for her six-month voyage from Kiel to the Japanese held Malayan port of Penang. U-859, and her cargo of mercury, was sunk by a torpedo from HMS Trenchant less than an hour from her destination, and Baudzus had to swim up from the shattered hulk, then spent the next 24 hours floating in the Malacca Straits before being rescued by the Japanese. He was one of only 20 survivors. 
 

Arthur Baudzus has produced a first-rate memoir, telling a compelling, insightful story of growing up in the inter-war Germany, and of the rise of the Nazi regime.  He relates the ill-fated voyage of U-859 from Kiel to the approaches to Penang, and the harrowing aftermath of her sinking as only a survivor can. 

...............J.T. McDaniel, Editor, American Submarine War Patrol Reports

In Store Price: $AU23.95 
Online Price:   $AU22.95

ISBN: 978-1-921406-95-9      
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 173
Genre: Non Fiction
Cover: Clive Dalkins

 

 


Author: Arthur Baudzus
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2009
Language: English

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Arthur Baudzus was born in the East Prussian town of Lyck.  An electrician by trade, he was employed in the construction and repair of U-boats. Later enlisting in the Navy, he served as an electrician aboard U-859, and was one of 20 survivors.  Now retired from Siemens as a marketing manager, Arthur has lived in Australia over 50 years.

Dedication: 

In memory of the many men I have known

who died needlessly,

not for their country,

but for some misguided politics.

Prologue 

B

ut he could have been in London and gotten killed.’      

‘Well, he hasn’t been in London, so he didn’t get killed,’ I replied wearily.

We had been arguing for hours now. My wife was worried. Our son was an international businessman. He frequently sat in aeroplanes travelling to all big cities. Big cities were targets for terrorists, and big aeroplanes, too. Our son was always on the move and could have been in London at any time. London had just been bombed, and there was good reason for my wife to worry.

‘I will be glad when this is over,’ my wife sighed. ‘President Bush promised that he would have the problem beaten.’

‘President Bush doesn’t know. They will never be beaten.’ I was getting tired. ‘He has to stop the provocation that is fuelling their hatred. Instead of stopping the provocation, Bush is increasing it.’

‘But he promised to send more soldiers and reinforcements to fight the terrorists.’

‘Not to fight the terrorists; to occupy their country and increase the provocation. He thinks he has to frighten them. Who can frighten a guy who straps a bomb to his belly and is ready to blow himself up?’

‘How awful.’

‘Yes, how awful. Nobody wants to die cheerfully. One has to have good reason for it, and Bush gives them the reason by occupying their country and fiddling around in Asia.’

Wearily I shook my head.

This world was weird. I could not follow the reasoning of politicians in government. Killing people is illegal. There are strict laws against it, but with a few twisted words, politicians can sweep that law aside and make killing legal. They turn people into soldiers and give them the right to kill.

In boot camp they are trained. They get a rifle and a target made from wood in the shape of a person labelled ‘Enemy’ and there they learn to kill a person. They do not know that person, who has done them no harm. They kill because some politician who heads their government has said so.

Once, a long time ago, I myself had been such a soldier. My thoughts went in reverse to capture those times gone by.

For half a century, I have been an Australian.

My son had been an Australian soldier, killing enemies in Vietnam. When I was his age, I was a German U-boat man, killing enemies on the high seas until a torpedo of Them slammed into our hull, sinking our boat and killing most of my comrades.

At war it always seems to be a matter of Them or Us. Us being the good guys and Them being evil, who must be shot. As time went by, living in peaceful Australia, life blurred my vision as to whether I was an Us or a Them, and I wondered who had the power to determine that and force people to kill each other.

To clear my mind I made a pilgrimage to Möltenort, a small village north of Kiel in Germany, where there is a memorial for all the fallen U-boat men. As time rolled back before my eyes, I walked along the plates with all those names. Other people were there too, walking, like me, along the wall. Nobody smiled. All faces expressed grief, which six decades of peaceful living still had not managed to erase, for here on this wall are recorded the names of thirty thousand U-boat men who went out to sea never to return.

They were all men in the prime of their lives, the best a nation had to offer, their dreams and expectations cut short by the cruel events of a war. Three of every four U-boat men were to lose their young lives, while I am the one in four to survive and see the end of it. Now those men are gone and the grieving relatives can do nothing more than lay flowers at the bottom of the plaque that bears their loved one’s name.

But the spirits of all those men seem to be here again. Their presence can be felt. Their souls have been recalled by the eagle, perched high up on the shores of Laboe, who looks out over the waves of the Seven Seas and watches over them. Now their presence at this place is overwhelming. They must be here, for at home I hardly ever think of them and now, here, I see my own feelings expressed in everybody’s face. Thinking of my comrades I feel my throat constricting and work hard to suppress a choking sob. Many names here are those of my comrades, men I shared my food and fears and exchanged jokes with. At this place all seemed to have come alive again.

My winged thoughts bridge time and space and re-unite us all again. Once more I find myself in the steel enclosure of our U-boat. There is no sadness here, although it is already mid 1944 and the U-boat war is lost. The bottom of the Atlantic is already plastered with the wrecks of sunken U-boats. Blissfully and unaware we sail over them on our ill-fated voyage. With our long-range boat we sail down along the west coast of Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope and then up north, as once the romantic clippers did a century ago.

There is nothing romantic about our presence. Kill or be killed, sink or be sunk is the cruel motto which these times have impressed on us. All of God’s creatures at sea are divided into Them and Us, but we waste no thoughts on this. We are hunters, and like hunters we jubilate when we are successful.

We are all young, and life is there to be enjoyed. And what a life is there ahead of us! We are heading for the tropics. Swaying palm trees, sweet fruits and even sweeter girls await us. Then, suddenly it all comes to a cruel end. A torpedo of Them slams into our hull, which had been our home for the past six months. It ends the lives of most of us. Only a very few manage to get out of the sunken boat to live again—the rest of the men have their names on the plaque before me, and their souls are entrusted to the care of the eagle of Laboe until God decides what to do with them …

Quite suddenly my thoughts have winged me back to the present. I am still alive and my name is missing on the plaque in front of me. Stealthily I wipe my sleeve across my eyes and sneak a glance towards my wife to see if she has noticed my moment of weakness. It would not do. I did not cry then, when the chips were down, and I will not cry today, but it still hurts like hell when I think of it.

I had better head home again, where the ghosts of my past cannot reach me. I wonder if in the next war I will be an Us or a Them. Most likely both, but who is going to decide that?

Arriving home did not solve the problem. I could not shake off the thought of my past. It stuck to me like a burr in my underpants, irritating and persistent. Was I different because I grew up in Nazi Germany? Most people I knew seemed to think so, although that fact is never mentioned. I had just been at a memorial with the names of many thousand men who had died for their Fatherland.

Did they really die for their Fatherland?

What did they achieve?

Now that I come to think of it, they all died for nothing. They simply died because there was a war, and in a war all soldiers are told to kill people they do not know, and who have done them no harm.

I, myself, could be blamed for the death of at least three sailors from the American SS John Barry, which our U-boat torpedoed, and who failed to survive. I never laid eyes on them; they had done me no harm and, to my regret, they are now dead. What have we achieved?

Nothing.

Then why do we have to have wars?

Most wars are fought to satisfy the greed or vanity of one single man. From Rameses, via Roman emperors, Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler and Bushthey all glamorised conquest and murder to go, as heroes, into history.

The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that our world is ruled by predators to which a human life is a disposable component in our society.

Everybody’s mind is programmed by the propaganda of their country. Outsiders were made to believe that Hitler was a madman and Germans were stupid idiots to follow him. History and people’s minds get distorted by propaganda, planted by ruthless politicians who bend the truth to make history fit the political correctness of their country.

Germans are not stupid and Hitler was no madman. He was just a politician with some twisted, devious ideas. Some people try to distort history by portraying Hitler as a Charlie Chaplin cartoon figure. That would mark me as being an idiot, too, for recognising Charlie Chaplin’s cartoon figure as my leader. None of this is true, and I want to prove that everyone is vulnerable to political persuasion.

Hitler was just a politician, with as little regard for human life as the ones that rule the world today. Before the war, Hitler was worshipped like a supernatural creation, because he was a good leader. Apart from his oratorical skills, there was not much unusual about him. There is something wrong with this whole world. Hitler considered wars an essential component of human civilisation. The whole world shares his view, otherwise they would not spend most of their money on weaponry. In the early thirties England built big battleships. Japan built them even bigger. The USA built them bigger still, so Hitler built the Bismarck, which was the strongest of them all.

Since 1945 the world has been at war at all corners and remains so until this very day.

If we want to make this Earth a peaceful, habitable place, we have to take a closer look at ourselves.

I have lived longer in Australia than in Germany, but when hearing that I had been a German once, people look at me suspiciously, wondering if at one time I had carried a swastika banner, or if I am still a Nazi. I and my family are fully assimilated and accepted by everyone who knows us as proper Australians, but it disturbs me that the word ‘German’ is synonymous with Nazi.

So, what was a dreadful Nazi like?

I grew up in Nazi Germany, so I should know. Well, what made us follow Hitler into this abyss, like stupid lemmings on a suicidal march? Before the war Hitler was a well-respected person. The American TIME magazine nominated him the Man of the Year as late as 1938.

What was Hitler like in the eyes of the German people?

I should have an answer to these questions. Was I a Nazi when I lived in Germany? I certainly was a soldier on a U-boat flying the Kriegsmarine (Navy) ensign brandishing a swastika in its centre. Thinking about my past personality, even today, it is still confusing.

On mentioning the word ‘German,’ people think of concentration camps and Jews. Yet those atrocities happened sixty years ago.

History is full of violence and atrocities, committed by all nations. It is not only Nazi Germany and Auschwitz that scream to Heaven. Hitler and his henchmen, with their slaughter of the Jews, did not have a monopoly on Holocaust procedures. All strong nations holocausted people, too.

King Leopold of Belgium killed two million Congolese, because they were reluctant to help him with his rubber harvest. The term ‘Concentration Camp’ is an English invention. That institution was to be used to kill Boer civilians in South Africa, because they had gold and diamonds, and the English wanted them. (And as usual, the Australians unquestioningly assisted them.)

President Truman killed three hundred thousand Japanese civilians when he holocausted Hiroshima. In one night, British air raids holocausted fifty thousand civilians in Dresden.

The Bible records in Joshua 6:21-24, ‘And they destroyed all that was in the city, man woman and child, young and old with the edge of the sword. Only the gold and silver they put into their treasury.’

In today’s terms it sounds more like a wild horde of Nazis on the rampage, but the Bible says it was the Hebrews who did it, in 1451 BC, when they holocausted Jericho. Not that the people of Jericho had done something to offend the Hebrews and had to be punished. They just had a city, land and treasures, and the Hebrews wanted them.

Governments are put in place to protect the people, but often they turn into the most murderous predators. Stalin killed sixty million Russians, and Mao Tse Tung killed the same number of Chinese. Pol Pot killed one third of the Cambodian population.

The Australian government knew very well that troops, thrown at the shores of Gallipoli, would trample over the carcasses of their own, and that most of them would not survive, but they went ahead with it regardless. To ease the politicians’ consciences, and camouflage the fact that here innocent men had been murdered, the dead ones were showered with posthumous honours. I dare to bet that each one of the dead would gladly exchange his honours for another sixty years of life.

Even today, when terrorists commit atrocities in retaliation for the occupation of their country, the leaders of the occupying forces state steely-eyed and bravely, ‘They will not get away with it. We will win. We will send more soldiers to foreign lands.’

Of course, for them it is easy to be brave. They do not risk their lives. They just have more expendable soldiers killed.

Such is our modern civilisation, where war is a necessary component. Instead of removing provocations, they increase them.

Winston Churchill called me and my comrades, whose names are on the plaques on the wall, a bunch of dastardly murderers, whilst his own submariners were gallant men. Well, what is the difference? Am I different from a man born in America or England?

I decided to write it all down and investigate. I found that much of one’s life cycle depends on where you were born.

The stork!—He is the culprit!

In my toddler years, sex was a hidden secret. Nobody ever talked about it, and everyone knew that the stork brought babies.

Birth is the most crucial point in your life. I might have been born in England. Born there, I would have been shooting Germans in the war that followed, or I could have been born in Poland, or even in Timbuktu, in which case I might have turned out to be an Arabian camel driver. No one can choose his place of birth. Everybody’s life line starts at the very moment of birth, where he is unchangeably labelled, and there I will begin.

This is the story of my life, in which I behaved, I believe, as any American or Englishman would have done.

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