Tragic Tale of the German Who Wouldn't Salute Hitler
Ex-Nazi August Landmesser's life was torn apart after refusing to do a 'Sieg Heil'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2015 12:58 PM CDT
Updated Jul 5, 2015 7:00 PM CDT
August Landmesser (circled) crossed his arms while everyone else saluted Hitler.   (Wikipedia)
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(Newser) – Look at the black-and-white photo taken at a 1936 Nazi rally in Hamburg, Germany, and you'll see a wave of unbroken "Sieg Heil" salutes to Hitler, in town to christen a new German navy vessel, per Business Insider. Look even more closely, though, and you'll spot one man with his arms crossed, refusing to pay tribute to the Fuhrer. You may have heard of August Landmesser before—reported to be the man in this photo, which was printed in a German newspaper in 1991 and elevated to viral status online after it appeared in a 2012 Facebook post, notes the Christian Science Monitor—but his tragic backstory is also worth telling. Landmesser had been a loyal Nazi for two years when he met Irma Eckler in 1933, Business Insider notes, and it would have been the perfect love story save for one major problem: Eckler was Jewish. When his relationship with Eckler was discovered, he was kicked out of the Nazi Party and denied a marriage license under the harsh Nuremberg Laws.

Still, he and Eckler went on to have their first child, Ingrid, in late 1935. Things escalated after the 1936 photo was taken: Landmesser tried to leave Germany for Denmark in '37 but was detained at the border and arrested for "Rassenschande," or "dishonoring the race," per Business Insider. He was acquitted but told to stop seeing Eckler, which he refused to do. Both he and Eckler were arrested in 1938; he was sent to a concentration camp, while Eckler went to prison (and gave birth to their second daughter, Irene, there) and then to a "euthanasia center," where she died in 1942. Landmesser got out of prison in 1941 and was drafted for war in 1944, shortly after which he was declared MIA, per the CSM. As for the two girls: Irene was separated from Ingrid, whom she never saw again, and raised by foster parents. Her 1998 book A Family Torn Apart by 'Rassenschande' told her family's story. (The "last Auschwitz trial on Earth" has left survivors disappointed.)
 

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