It was seen on worldwide television in the adaptation of American novelist Herman Wouk’s War and Remembrance, flying stiffly atop a flagpole at what was depicted as Wolfsschanze/Ft. Wolf, or Wolf’s Lair, German Nazi Fuhrer/Leader Adolf Hitler’s principal wartime military headquarters at Rastenburg in East Prussia (in what is today Poland.)
During the 1930s, as the Nazis held sway in the “Thousand-Year” Third Reich, the brightly-colored, square banner appeared encased in the same metal framework at military reviews where the Fuhrer was present, at his mammoth 1939 50th birthday parade in front of the Berlin Technical High School, at the Olympic Stadium when he played host to visiting Italian Fascist Duce/Leader Benito Mussolini, on the speaker’s lectern at the annual Nazi Party rallies at Nurnberg ---as well as emblazoning the façade of the Luitpoldhalle there---and on the front of his State theater box at the opera.
The banner also flew at the mast of his yacht, Grille/Cricket, or Whimsy; in miniature on the front fender of his sleek, black Greater Mercedes-Benz parade cars, and---in rather bizarre fashion!---from atop the cockpit of his personal Ju-52 aircraft piloted by Col. Hans Baur.
One of the extremely rare banners was captured by the Russians in 1945, as the flagstaff (without the missing cloth banner) was for years on deposit and display in a Soviet military museum in Moscow, taken from the elite SS Leibstandarte/Lifeguard Division Adolf Hitler, or LSSAH at the end of the Second World War.
While Hitler reigned in power, however, Der Standarte des Fuhrers---The Leader’s Standard---appeared everywhere that he was in residence, such as the New German Reich Chancellery in Berlin, the Berghof/Mountain Home (his chalet at Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps), and at the various hotels he stayed in across the Reich. Wherever the Fuhrer spoke---indoors or out---the Leader’s Standard was somewhere in evidence.
In many years of culling through the voluminous picture files of his longtime personal photographer, the later Reich Photo Reporter Prof. Heinrich Hoffmann of Munich, I have never come across a single photo of the square flags flying at one of his many, scattered military headquarters (although that doesn’t mean that they weren’t there, necessarily.)
Having perused the six known volumes of Hoffmann’s Fuhrerhauptquartier/Leader Headquarters albums, I feel safe in asserting that there aren’t any, and that, therefore, the Wouk TV version is wrong, and the reason was security.
Hitler’s SSLAH bodyguards and their RSD/Reich Security Service counterparts went to great lengths to keep Hitler’s whereabouts a secret during the war, for fear of attacks on FHQ---so why tell the world by running his personal standard up a flagpole? The deduction makes sense.
It was used, however, at Compiegne in France on June 22, 1940, at the site of the French surrender on the grounds of Marshal Ferdinand Foch’s 1918 railway dining car, as it was later in the war when visiting dignitaries came to Berlin to pay homage to the then still victorious Fuhrer. As the war went against the Germans, it turns up less and less in period photographs, however.
Actually, very little is known about The Fuhrer’s Standard, except that he personally designed it, as he did, indeed, many other Party flags, banners, emblems, and even buildings---frustrated artists that he’d been as a young man down and out in Vienna at the
turn of the 20th Century.
States the 1997 work by Ulric of England (R. James Bender Publishing) entitled Deutschland Erwache! The History and Development if the Nazi Party and the “Germany Awake” Standards, “Possibly the most famous of all standards is the one belonging to the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler which was presented to them in Metz, France on Sept. 9, 1940 by Reichsfuhrer /National Administrator SS Heinrich Himmler (at which time the original ‘Deutchsland Erwache’ standard presented in 1933 was handed over to the replacement battalion for safekeeping in their barracks at Berlin-Lichterfelde.)
“This new and unique standard was designed by Prof. Carl Diebitsch, and was based on the previous design for the Fuhrerstandarte. The magnificent cloth had four identical golden eagles and swastika on red silk. In the center was a static swastika within a white roundel. The entire fringe was gold bullion wire, as were the tassels.
“The story of this standard is well known and presented in many books. In 1945, during the assault on Berlin by the Russian Army, hundreds of flags and standards were captured, including the second version standard of the LAH. This standard---along with many others of the German Army---were carried at the Russian victory parade held in June 1945” (onto Red Square in Moscow); “however, the unique cloth had disappeared, and the standard was paraded” (and also later displayed) “without it.
“Many historians have hazarded a guess as to what happened to this cloth, and a romanticized story that circulated was that in the chaos of Berlin in May 1945 an SS officer from LAH retrieved the standard to prevent it from falling into Russian hands. Under the circumstances, it was deemed too risky, and he took the cloth instead. The story goes on that the SS officer and the cloth were never seen again, and the standard without the cloth fell into Russian hands.
“During the 1960s and early 1970s, many believed that after the victory parade all the flags and standards---including the standard of the LAH ---were destroyed by the Russians. Gradually, it was realized that the destruction did not take place, and in the 1970s and 1980s, articles appeared in magazines and books with photographs of the standards beautifully displayed in the Central Museum of the Soviet Armed Forces in Moscow. The center of the display was the huge bronze eagle/swastika from the Reich Chancellery and the LAH standard placed across the wreathed swastika.
“But what had happened to the cloth? The truth of its whereabouts emerged in 1990 when the well known American researcher George Peterson” of National Capital Historic Sales at Springfield, VA( whom this writer met in 1986) “…was one of the first to visit many museums and archives” (in the former East bloc)…”It was on such a visit to the Central Museum…that he found the unique cloth belonging to the standard of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler.
“It is ironic that that this ‘missing’ cloth had simply been in an unmarked crate within the same walls that had held the standard all those years. When all of the captured flags
and standards had been collected together, at some point the cloth belonging to the standard of the LAH came loose, and was separated. The Russians---not having a special about Nazi flags and standards, probably did not realize that the two pieces belonged together. The cloth less standard was carried in the Russian victory parade. The cloth was crated up with other items, and stored away.
“Incredibly, it has taken half a century for it to be discovered.”
How many were made, by what firm, and where, I have been unable to turn up yet in my own, personal library on German history, as well as at other military-historical collections around the globe.
Moreover, what happened to all of them? Alas, we don’t know, but they are most likely tucked away in some obscure military museums, or, perhaps, in the trunk of an aging Red Army man in the former USSR, in an old Tommy’s knapsack in Britain, or at the bottom of an ancient GI duffle bag, forgotten for many decades.
Maybe someday they will yet turn up, as well as some of the pertinent, missing documentary data.
In the meantime---and until they do---I offer these presented photographs from the prewar and wartime Hoffmann Albums and other sources for review.
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