During some of my internet travels this week I happened across a photo I’d seen before but never stopped to fully appreciate. It shows one man standing with his arms folded in a sea of Nazi salutes. The photo – taken in 1936 at a shipyard in Hamburg, Germany – shows August Landmesser clearly refusing to participate in the blind allegiance of those around him.
His story is of course tragic, as anyone not on board with “the program” in that era would be. Originally a member of the Nazi party, he was expelled because he tried to marry a Jewish woman named Irma Eckler. This photo was taken after his expulsion, which may explain his open defiance. August and his fiance attempted to escape to Denmark in 1937 but were stopped. They wouldn’t live to get officially married, but they did have two children together and the kids survived the war.
Because they refused to stop their relationship, both August and Irma were sentenced in 1938 and sent to concentration camps. Irma perished in a camp in 1942. August survived his initial sentence, was released in 1941 but later ended up in a penal battalion serving in Croatia where he perished in 1944.
I can’t help but wonder what he was thinking when the photo was taken. Did he have any notion the photo was being taken? I wonder if it had anything to do with the tragic outcome of his life?
August Landmesser is a name and a story worth knowing.
[photo credit: unknown]