“The Ideal German Soldier” – appearing on the front page of Berliner Tagsblatt newspaper, Sunday edition during the invasion of Poland – 1939.
Our soldier’s picture was taken by a Wehrmacht photographer and provided to the newspaper for publication. It was the propaganda photo of the Aryan soldier; tall, blond hair blued eyed – superman. There was only one problem. He was a mischling – a “half Jew, first degree.
Our “Aryan” soldier was Private Werner Goldberg, a baptized Lutheran born of a Jewish father and a German Christian mother. He never thought of himself as a Jew; his father didn’t practice the religion, he looked like everyone else and he was thoroughly assimilated.
Now I’m not the first to write about Pvt. Goldberg. Others have as well. I posted about him previously on a site that no longer exists and my long ago post was erased from the either of the internet.
It is an interesting story of struggle and survival when one’s world is suddenly turned upside down. So bear with me.
Werner Goldberg was born on October 3, 1919. His father had grown in in the Jewish community of Konigsberg but when he fell in love with a Christian girl he had himself baptized into the Lutheran faith so as to be acceptable to her family. It seemed to make little difference to him as apparently he was not particularly devout.
After Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, the senior Goldberg lost his position under the Nazi law of April 1933, Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, which expelled Jews from the German Civil Service.
In 1935 came the Nuremberg Laws – “The Laws for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor.” The Nazi’s had a problem; if you want to oppress a group you have to be able to define who’s in the the group.
What is a Jew? Nuremberg attempted to define who could be oppressed.
Firstly, if you were practicing Judaism, you were self identified and by definition a Jew. But suppose you were a practicing Christian? The Nuremberg Laws attempted to define a new “race” – if you had three Jewish grandparents, you were a Jew. It made no difference if none of your Jewish grandparents identified as Jews. It made no difference if they had converted a half century ago. They were Jews and so were you if you had three in your family three.
The Nuremberg Laws created two new “racial” categories: the half-Jew (Mischling first degree), and the quarter –Jew (Mischling second degree). A half-Jew had two Jewish grandparents; a quarter –Jew had one. Since Nazi racial policy declared anyone of the Jewish religion a full Jew regardless of ancestry, most Mischlinge were by definition Christians.
“Nazis were confused about Mischlings, since they were both Jewish and German. Adolf Eichmann acknowledged that the unclear racial position of Mischling temporarily protected them. For the Nazis, Mischling were also half or three-quarters German, and thus 50 percent or 75 percent “valuable.”
Now let’s not get too high and mighty about our own racial attitudes. In my lifetime I have heard the words quadroon and octoroon used about someone with a black grand parent or great grand parent. As a kid, if you had one drop of black blood, you were black.
In practice Mischling’s German citizenship was stripped away. They were denied access to certain universities for advanced degrees including medicine and law. They were denied access to recreational facilities and civilian jobs. Mischlings were denied positions of authority over Aryans. They were excluded from some churches, even though they were baptized Christians. They were socially ostracized.
Goldberg had to leave school in 1935 and became an apprentice at Schneller und Schmeider, a clothing company jointly owned by a Jew and a non-Jew, where many of his colleagues were Jews or mischlinge. Goldberg’s maternal uncle joined the Nazi party and refused to be seen with the Goldberg family again, even avoiding Goldberg’s mother.
At the beginning of 1938 Goldberg served a six-month term in the Reich Labor Service whose uniform, as Goldberg later recalled, “had a swastika on an armband.” On December 1, 1938 Goldberg joined the German Army which was still accepting mischlinge at the time. He need to prove he was a worthy German. He took part in the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, serving alongside childhood friend Karl Wolf, whose father was now a high-ranking SS officer.
It was during this time period that his picture appeared in the Berliner Tagsblatt and also began appearing on recruitment posters.
In 1940 following the Armistice with France, Goldberg was expelled from the army under Hitler’s order of April 8, 1940 which stated that all 1st degree Mischlinge were to be expelled from the military. Hitler probably saved his life. Guess the Fuehrer figured he had won the war and no longer needed half-Jews.
He returned to his old company, which had changed it’s name in order the drop the Jewish name and played an increasingly more responsible role within the company, obtaining contracts for uniforms from the army and the navy. He also attended the Reich Board of Labor Studies School where he was one of 4 out of 80 students who passed the test to become a teacher. He then became a Labor Studies Board lecturer on the clothing business, and delivered lectures to organizations and company directors, even publishing an article in the weekly trade publications.
In December 1942, Goldberg’s father was admitted to the Bavaria Hospital. The Gestapo however raided the hospital and sent him to a Jewish hospital which had been requisitioned by the Gestapo for use as prison, from which Jews were taken and sent to Auschwitz . On Christmas Eve, gambling that the guards would be drunk or absent, Goldberg put on his old Wehrmacht uniform, bravely entered and took his father from the hospital.
The elder Goldberg was soon back in the hands of the Gestapo and in April 1943 was summoned for deportation, but Werner told him not to show up and he was, with Werner’s continuing assistance, again saved. He became the only member of Goldberg’s family (aside from Werner himself) to survive the war.
The photo of the “ideal German soldier” appeared in one of the most important liberal German newspapers of its time. Prior to the Nazis taking power on in 1933 the newspaper was particularly critical and hostile to their program. It was immediately seized by the Propaganda Ministry. However, in September 1933, special permission was granted by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels to release the paper from any obligation to reprint Nazi propaganda in order to help portray an image of a free German press internationally.
Did the editors of the paper know that Werner Goldberg was mischlinge? Were they intentionally tweeking the nose of Joseph Goebbels? Who knows. Fact is they were shut down for good shortly thereafter.
Goldberg died in Berlin on September 28, 2004, aged 84; he was survived by his wife Gertrud and three children.
As the Nazi’s seized power, existence for the Jew and the Mischling became more threatening, more tenuous. For the full Jew, little could be done in the “racist” mania of authoritarian Germany. The Mischling faced a paradox. “During the war, many felt torn between the desire to belong, regain some of their lost pride, and protect themselves and their families through military service and the realization that to do so, they had to serve Hitler.”
Wehrmacht service, in the early years of the war, protected them from the Gestapo. The grouping of the Mischling with the Jew logically should have created a common link of sympathy and mutual support between the Mischling and the Jew. It did not.
Most Mischlings did not identify with the Jewish community. Many had grown up as baptized Christians and some were themselves very anti-Semitic. They preferred to think of themselves as normal, as part of the whole of German fabric, as part of the “Volk”. Most were always trying to prove themselves as “Germans” while the Aryans looked upon them with suspicion, waiting for the “impure blood” to reveal itself.
Hermann Goering had said it was he who decided who was a Jew or not. The reality, the decision as to who ultimately was a Jew could only be granted by Adolf Hitler. Hitler reviewed each situation personally. With the stroke of his pen formerly classified Mischlings were cleared of any Jewish taint. They could and did advance to high administrative and military positions.
Two Field Marshals, 15 Generals, 2 full Generals, 8 Lieutenant Generals, and 5 Major Generals. Former Mischling, now Aryans by will of the Fuehrer, were Nazi party members – 4 were full Jews, 15 were half Jews and 7 were quarter Jews.
It’s always who you know isn’t it?
Field Marshall Erhard Milch – Mischling 1st class
General Helmut Wilberg – Mischling 1st class
Commander Paul Ascher – Mischling 1st class.