The Man Who Did Not Salute
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The Man Who Did Not Salute

Who is this man? Read this to find out...

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The Man Who Did Not Salute

Many people have seen this amazing photograph of a German man refusing to do the Nazi salute. However, many people do not know the story behind this picture. The German man in this picture actually has a very extraordinary story.

To start off, the German man in this famous photo is believed to be August Landmesser. During the rise of Adolf Hitler, August Landmesser joined the Nazi Party. He did this in hope that he would be able to get a job and get out of the poverty most Germans were in after the First World War. In 1935, he met the love of his life, Irma Eckler. However, Eckler was a Jewish woman. In that same year they got engaged. This engagement would get Landmesser kicked out of the Nazi Party. Landmesser would continue his relationship with Eckler even when the Nuremberg Laws were enacted. During this time, Landmesser and Eckler had their first daughter named Ingrid.

August Landmesser worked for Blohm & Voss, a German shipyard. He worked there for quite some time. On June 19, 1936, the famous picture of August Landmesser was taken at the shipyard he worked at. In the photograph, everyone in the crowd was doing the Nazi salute except for Landmesser. This was most likely due to the change in heart August Landmesser had for the Nazi Party because of his love for Eckler.

In 1937, Landmesser and his wife tried to flee Nazi Germany to go to Denmark, but were caught during their escape. Landmesser was found guilty for “dishonoring the race,” which was a Nazi German law known as Rassenschande that was enforced by the Nuremberg Laws. Eventually, Landmesser and Eckler were detained by the Gestapo and were both held in prison in 1938. They were both separated and would never see each other again. Landmesser spend the next three years in a concentration camp for “dishonoring the race.”

Eckler was in prison until she gave birth to her second child, Irene. She was later sent to quite a few concentration camps. Eckler was first sent to the Oranienburg concentration camp. She was later sent to the Lichtenburg concentration camp and then a women's concentration camp at Ravensbrück where it is believed that she was murdered or died in the gas chambers there. In 1949 she was pronounced legally dead.

August Landmesser was released from the concentration camp in early 1941. He would end up getting a job where he would help load trains to transport ore, coal, and oil. In early 1944, Landmesser was drafted into the Strafbattalion (penal battalion), which was a battalion made out of criminals forced to serve in the German military. These units were generally poorly armed and were required to do dangerous missions that would typically result in high casualties. Landmesser was sent to fight in Croatia were he would eventually be declared missing in action in October, 1944.

So what happened to his children? In 1941, Landmesser’s children were taken to an orphanage in Germany. They were separated when Ingrid allowed to live with her grandmother and Irene was adopted. Ingrid and Irene were later reunited in 1953 when Ingrid was sent to live with Irene because of the death of their grandmother. How do we know about the life of August Landmesser? His daughter Irene, would later write a book about the tragic story of her family in 1996. In 1991, a German newspaper published the 1936 photo of a non-saluting German, and Irene Landmesser identified the man as her father. This photo shows the love one man had for his forbidden love.


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