Monday, January 4, 2010

Band of Nazi Brothers

The fanatic appeal of Hitler reached into America during the prewar years. The most-known of pro-Nazi organizations that sprung among Americans were German-American Bund under Fritz Kuhn and the Silver Shirt Legion under William Dudley Pelley. They never got many followers and only became a political joke in American political life. While Hitler never got a strong foothold among Americans, however, some of US citizens saw service in Nazis armed forces during WWII, including in the Waffen-SS.

Many of Americans who served in the Wehrmacht belong to German descent. Some of them volunteered, while the others were conscripted during theirs stay in the Third Reich as foreign students or tourists when the war broke out. Fact about German immigration to North America that had been massive since the mid-19th century also made Heinrich Himmler, the SS leader, envision a plan to include American-German as a part of the Third Reich subject in the future. However, despite some claims about an ‘American Free Corps’ or ‘George Washington Brigade’, no unit of the Waffen-SS made up of American volunteers was ever raised. According to Alexander Dolezalek of the SS-Hauptamt (main office), there was never an attempt made to recruit Americans at all. Nevertheless, according to SS sources, five Americans served in the Waffen-SS in May 1940, but after that date no numbers are available.

The most-known case of US citizen who served in Himmler’s private army was Second Lieutenant Martin James Monti. Born in 1910 in St Louis of an Italian-Swiss father and German mother, he was send to Karachi, India, to serve as an air force pilot. While in India, he deserted the Army Air Force, hitching a ride aboard a C-46 to Cairo, Egypt. From there he was traveled to Tripoli, Libya, and Naples, Italy, where he stole a recon version of the P-38 aircraft and flew to Milan. There he surrendered, or rather defected, to the Germans and worked as a propaganda broadcaster (as Martin Wiethaupt, a name that he taken from his mother maiden name).

At the end of 1944, Monti made a microphone test at the recording studio of the SS Standarte ‘Kurt Eggers’, a propaganda unit of the Waffen-SS, under the direction of Guenter d'Alquen, in Berlin, Germany. He later joined them as a SS-Untersturmführer and participated in writing and composing a leaflet to be distributed by members of the German military forces, among members of the U.S. and Allied Nations, who were held as POW's.

At the end of the war Monti went south to Italy. He surrendered to US forces, still wearing his SS uniform—claiming that he had been given the uniform by partisans. He was charged with desertion and sentenced to 15 years hard labor. This sentence was soon commuted and Monti rejoined the US Air Corps, but in 1948 he was discharged and picked up by the FBI. He was now charged with treason and sentenced to 25 years the following year. He was paroled in 1960.

There were some other German-Americans who served as Waffen-SS officers during World War II. They were SS-Hauptsturmführer Josef Awender, a medical doctor in the SS ‘Frundsberg’ Division who born in Philadelphia in 1913; SS-Untersturmführer Robert Beimes, a signal officer in the SS ‘Hitlerjugend’ Division, born in San Francisco in 1919. His father was a translator in the SD; SS-Hauptsturmführer Eldon Walli, born in New York City in 1913 in the SS-Kriegsberichter Abteilung (war reporters); and SS-Hauptsturmführer Paul Winckler-Theede, born in New York City in 1912 and served as a military judge in the SS ‘Das Reich’ Division.

At least eight American volunteers are known to have been killed during their service in the Waffen-SS. They were Francesco Mattedi, a soldier in the Italian SS Division who killed in Nettunia, 30 April 1944; Charles MacDonald, KIA near Johvi/Estonia, 14 March 1944; Raymond George Rommelspacher, died in Normandy/France, 6 October 1944, Edwin/Erwin Peter, KIA in Latvia, 2 July 1941; Andreas Hauser, died in Welikij in Ukraine, 18 January 1945; Lucas Diel, died on 9 December 1944 in Hungary; and Andy Beneschan, KIA in Bosnia, 16 April 1945.

No real attempt by the US authorities to investigate the matter and trace the volunteers was made after the war, as opposed to for example the efforts by the British.

Copyright © 2010 by Nino Oktorino

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