Contemporary witnesses play a major role in film documentaries. However, due to the time factor involved, their numbers have been dwindling dramatically over the years, as has the value of their recollections. Sadly, many of the 4,000 registered witnesses have meanwhile passed away, are ill or are more and more forgetful. Nevertheless, there are still a number of contemporary witnesses available who can talk competently about various Word War II subjects, and who may even be adept at talking on camera. I have been in touch with veterans’ groups from all warring nations.
The British contemporary witness Colin Cole,
who served in the RAF's 617th bomber squadron elite unit, the famous “Dambusters”, and participated in the sinking of the battle ship Tirpitz on 11th November, 1944 as well as in the bombing of the Oberberghof on 25th April, 1945.
|Colin Cole and his crew in front of a modified|
|Cole on 16th May, 2004 at the Möhne dam|
which was destroyed by the
“Dambusters” during the night of
17th May, 1943
Polish countess Klementyna Mankowska,
who was active in the "musketeers" intelligence service, whose members were mainly Polish aristocrats. She was possibly the most valuable of Allied agents during the Second World War, not least due the fact that the chief of German counter- intelligence, Admiral Canaris, fell in love with her. The microfilm material which she managed to take to England in 1942 was not even cleared for the publication of her biography in Paris in 1994. The British government's reply to a similar request was that those documents are and will remain forever classified. Her life story is without comparison and ranks with Greek epics. Countess Mankowska died in her Sermoise castle near Nevers in Spring 2003.
|Countess Mankowska in pre-war|
|In 1996 at her Sermoise castle in|
the Loire valley in France
Rochus Misch, member of Adolf Hitler's SS bodyguard division,
was injured in the Poland campaign. He became Hitler’s bodyguard by chance and spent five years in close proximity to him. He got to know the whole Who’s Who of the Nazi regime and is familiar with important stages in Hitler’s life, such as the time of his suicide. To this moment, his inside knowledge has not been fully documented.
|Rochus Misch at the Führer|
HQ “Wolfschanze” in
Rastenburg in 1942
|During the filming of the SPIEGEL TV|
documentary “The Underground
Reich” in 2003 in front of remnants of
Member of the air force Gernot N.
was trained as a paraglider pilot and went through further air force training as a rocketglider pilot for a planned attack on New York.
|In a paraglider during training|
|Gernot N. in 2003|
Hans Merz, raised in a communist family in Hamburg Harburg,
caused the first major crisis for the Western Allies when he not only apprehended the Chief of Staff of the Polish resistance movement, Janusz Albrecht, but also managed to enlist him for the German side. Merz recruited most of the major liaison personnel in Poland, carried out raids in the Middle East and the later GDR, was hunted by the KGB and ran a hotel in Tunisia. Severely ill, he died 1991.
|Despite being a member of the|
intelligence unit at the Gestapo
branch in Kielce, this photo
shows him wearing the uniform of
the armed forces in 1943
|Merz (on the left) together with his friend|
Willi Brandt, the then Mayor of Berlin, his
son and Egon Bahr (on the right) in Tunesia in
Survivors of the Holocaust
|Dr. Max Mannheimer|
Dr. Max Mannheimer,
was born in Bohemia. Being Jewish, he was deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz and then transferred to Dachau and Mühldorf, where the concentration camp inmates were supposed to build a bomb-proof bunker for the production of more than 1,000 jet aircraft per month.
|Prof. John M. Steiner|
Prof. John M. Steiner,
was born in Prague and deported to Dachau via Theresienstadt, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Auschwitz-Monowitz. After the liberation of the concentration camps, he returned to Prague where he was arrested by the communists. He fled and made his way to Australia via Italy from where he emigrated to the USA. There he soon became a leading sociologist. He has taught at the universities of Berkley and Sonoma in California, and has for more than 40 years dealt with members of the SS, and has met and interviewed all survivors.