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Books, Writing, History, and the Ritchie Boys

In "Books, Writing, History and the Ritchie Boys" I share my thoughts on certain books, the process of writing, the experiences of an indie-publisher, short pieces on WWII and the Holocaust, highlights of places from Immigrant Soldier, and, occasionally, profiles of Ritchie Boys. Everything in this blog reflects my personal ideas and feelings–a memoir of sorts, it is my perspective and any errors or omissions are mine.

Hitler’s Adjutant - The SS Officer, Richard Schulze-Kossens

richard schulzeOne of the more complicated and controversial minor characters in Immigrant Soldier is SS-Obersturmbannführer Richard Schulze.  I have had several readers comment about the friendship between the novel’s hero, Herman, and this German SS officer.
 
Most notably I received an email from a second cousin I’d never met who expressed his distaste for Herman’s friendly attitude toward Schulze.   “How could Herman have felt such kinship with Schulze-Kossens?” he wrote.  My cousin took issue with Schulze’s posting as the adjutant of the notorious Theodor Eicke and then added, “For him [Schulze] to be put in charge of the SS Officer’s School (to train officers to be leaders of the most hardcore Nazi units), wouldn’t he have had to have been a full-fledged and hardcore Nazi himself?”
 
Unfortunately, I no longer am able to ask Herman to explain his relationship with Richard Schulze, a friendship that endured long past the war.   Immigrant Soldier reflects what Herman told me during our extensive recorded interviews and was backed by further research.  Recently, with the help of a more complete and informative Internet than the Web of ten years ago, I have tried to find out more about Schulze.
 
Richard Schulze was born on October 2, 1914, in an Eastern suburb of Berlin.  The oldest son of a Prussian Army officer, he joined the fledgling National Socialist Youth League (later to be called Hitlerjugend or the Hitler Youth) in 1931 while in high school.  In November 1934, soon after his graduation, he joined the SS, or Schutzstaffel, founded in 1925, which had recently been thrust into prominence after the April purge of the SA by Hitler.  
 
 
Schulze’s early enthusiasm for the organizations of the Nazi party does not look good. One assumes he understood the Youth League’s emphasis on “love of one’s country and people; enjoyment of open combat and of healthy physical activity; the veneration of ethical and spiritual values, and the rejection of those values origination from Jewry.”  (The History Place, 1999, www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/hitleryouth/hj-beginnings.htm)  Richard Schulze certainly looked the part of an elite Nazi Aryan – he stood a bit over 6’3” tall, was slender, athletic, blond and blue-eyed. 
 
 
Schulze’s early career in the SS included officer training, a leadership course, and a stint as the adjutant for SS-Gruppenführer Theodore Eicke.  In 1937, while he was working for Eicke, Schulze finally joined the Nazi Party.  Later, he also served, at two different times, as adjutant to Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. This put him in some important places such as standing next to Ribbentrop at the signing of Hitler’s non-aggression pact with Stalin in August 1939. In February 1940, Schulze was assigned to a combat unit and put in command of a company. As a SS military officer, he took part in the Western Campaign and later in the Balkan Campaign and the Russian Offensive.  It was during this time that he received the wounds to both forearms mentioned to Herman (Immigrant Soldier, page 329). In fact, Schulze was awarded two Iron Cross in 1940, as well as a Cross of Gold in 1941.
 
 
After his injuries healed, Richard Schulze found himself assigned as a personal aide on Adolf Hitler’s staff.  According to his story relayed to me by Herman, the posting as Hitler’s adjutant was the result of the Führer’s affection for Richard’s younger brother who had recently been killed in action. Schulze spent much time with Hitler’s entourage at the “Wolf’s Lair,” the Eastern Front Headquarters in Poland, and was there on July 20, 1944, when an assassination attempt was made on Hitler’s life. Schulze was also present during many meetings between Hitler and Himmler. It is obvious Schulze had associations with quite a few highly-placed Nazis.
 
 
In late summer 1944, Schulze was promoted to lieutenant colonel and given the command of the SS Junkerschule, the Nazi Officers Academy in Bad Tölz later used by General Patton as headquarters of the US Military Government for Bavaria. In the last months of the war, Richard Schulze was assigned to command the new 38th SS Division Nibelungen, composed mainly of students from the Junkerschule. 
 
 
Herman SchulzeSS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Richard Schulze and his division were captured by forces of Patton’s army days before the end of the war.  The word-of-mouth story Herman believed all his life was that Schulze managed to keep most of the division, especially the companies with the youngest members, away from open battle with the Allies. Herman told me, “The last activated division had kids as soldiers. Fanatics, but kids.  You know, sixteen years old and they finally surrendered en-masse and we captured Schulze.”
 
 
Schulze spent three years in American internment camps, the first one in Regensburg where he met the hero of Immigrant Soldier. According to Herman, the power of the friendship between these two men helped convince Schulze to serve as a witness for the prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials. In the years after the war, Schulze married, changed his last name to Schulze-Kossens, and worked as a businessman and writer.   He also participated in Holocaust and World War II research by agreeing to interviews for the British production of "Inside the Third Reich," was both interviewed for and appeared in the TV documentary "The World at War," and spoke with researchers David Irving and Dr. John Steiner.  He was also interviewed at length by the author John Toland for his book The Last 100 Days, as well as for his definitive biography, Adolf Hitler — interviews that actually took place while Schulze was a guest in Herman’s home.  Later Schulze made trips to West Point, where he was invited to speak to the military college.
Prisoner Book
It is difficult to say why Herman felt a kinship to Ricard Schulze, or why he was proud to continue to call him a friend until the German’s death  from lung cancer in 1988. Were their positive and buoyant personalities simply simpatico?  Did Herman really believe Schulze had changed and no longer held Nazi beliefs?  Was Herman simply naive and overly impressed by the story of Schulze’s protection of his young charges? Or was Herman flattered to the point of hubris by the gift of the hand-painted book from Schulze and the other POW camp inmates—a book that was always one of his most prized possessions? Probably it was a combination of all of these, plus Herman’s desire to forgive and not judge people based on the horrors of wartime actions.
 
   
The history of World War II is full of conflicting points of view, especially from the combatants on all sides.  Interestingly I found the following quote from Schulze on the web site http://spartacus-educational.com/Richard_Schulze-Kossens.htm  
 
 
"I was then sent to thirteen different camps where in all honesty I must say the prisoners were badly treated. I was beaten. I was handcuffed, put into a jeep and taken twice to Nuremberg as a defense witness. During our first year of imprisonment, the treatment was so bad that it didn't conform to the Geneva Convention. Bearing in mind that we had been taken prisoner in Germany, it was only after five months that we were allowed to write to our families. Half the camp was undernourished and I had to start a hunger strike. I think we were subjected to special treatment because the Americans thought we were the hard cases, but in 1946-1947 things began to get better."  (from an interview with Andrew Mollo in 1981.)Angel Herman
 
 
There is no hint here of his experiences with Herman or the depiction of Herman as the “Angel of Regensburg” in the prisoner’s gift.  I have seen that book and how it praises Herman and describes the improvements they made together at Regensburg.  Perhaps Schulze was able to change his demeanor at will, depending on who he was trying to impress. It is probably too late now to ever know the true soul of Schulze-Kossens, but for the novel, Immigrant Soldier, he represents more than himself. The friendship between Richard and Herman, real and verified, allows the novel to end on the uplifting note of forgiveness, while never forgetting or trivializing the atrocities of the Holocaust.  
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