S is for Herbert Sulzbach

I am again focusing on the famous, the forgotten and the misbegotten for Round 23 of the popular ABC Wednesday meme. But finding suitable characters is getting harder, so apologies in advance if there are repeats of previous posts.

Herbert SulzbachRemembrance Day rightly focussed on the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War but there were those who served with distinction in both world wars and one such was Herbert Sulzbach.

Sulzbach was born in Frankfurt in 1894 to a wealthy Jewish banking family. His grandfather Rudolf founded the Bankhaus Gebruder Sulzbach in 1855, the forerunner of the modern-day Deutsche Bank.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, Sulzbach volunteered for military service and joined the 63rd Field Artillery Regiment. Within a month he was posted to the Western Front where he would spend most of the next four years.

Herbert SulzbachSulzbach won the Iron Cross, second class, in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, and the Iron Cross, first class, after the bloody Battle of Villers-Cotterets in 1918. He received the Front-line Cross of Merit which was presented to him by Field-Marshall Paul von Hindenburg, later President of the Weimar Republic.

He returned to civilian life and in 1935 he published his wartime diaries ‘With the German Guns’ which is one of the few available records of an ordinary German soldier’s experiences during the First World War.

The mood in Germany grew increasingly toxic and within two years of publishing his memoirs, the persecution of the Jews forced Sulzbach to flee the country for Britain where he had business interests.

He was deprived of his German nationality by the Nazi government, making him stateless, then with the outbreak of the Second World War Sulzbach was declared an enemy alien and interned with other German citizens on the Isle of Man, even though he had volunteered to serve in the British army.

Sulzbach was eventually accepted for military service and joined the Pioneer Corps and spent much of the war building defences against a possible German invasion but as that threat receded he volunteered his services as an interpreter with the increasing number of diehard Nazi prisoners of war.

He was posted to the Featherstone Park Camp in Northumberland where he set about ‘unpicking’ their Nazi indoctrination. On Armistice Day 1945, Sulzbach explained the meaning of the poppy and suggested that the prisoners should join the remembrance in these words:

If you agree with my proposal, parade on November 11th on your parade ground and salute the dead of all nations – your comrades, your former enemies, all murdered fighters for freedom who laid down their lives in German concentration camps and make the following vow;

‘Never again shall such murder take place! It is the last time we will allow ourselves to be deceived and betrayed. It is not true that we Germans are a superior race; we have no right to believe that we are better than others. We are all equal before God, whatever our race or religion.

Endless misery has come to us, and we have realized where arrogance leads. In this minute of silence, at 11 am on this November 11th 1945, we swear to return to Germany as good Europeans, and to take part as long as we live in the reconciliation of all people and the maintenance of peace.’

Sulzbach continued his re-education work until the camp dissolved in 1948 but both guards and prisoners were to meet repeatedly having formed the Featherstone Park Association, a German-British friendship society.

Sulzbach was to play a major role in German-British reconciliation until his death in 1985 and was awarded the European Peace Cross, the Order of the British Empire and the Grand Cross of Merit.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

3 comments… Add yours
  • Trevor Rowley 14th November 2018

    Sounds to have been a splendid chap. God bless him.

  • ABC Wednesday 14th November 2018

    I;ve watched it all on tv…. Brussels first, then Paris, and later on UK-tv
    Very impressive and wonderful that it still lives amongst people.

    Have a splendid, ♥-warming ABC-Wednes-day / -week
    ♫ M e l d y ♪ (ABC-W-team)

  • Roger Green 14th November 2018

    Quite an impressive man


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