A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about a photo of my grandfather, David Gummer, sieg heiling in Germany in 1938. It was quite a popular post and a number of people asked me to write again if I found out anything more.
So here’s what I know now.
1. Gramp’s recollections
I went to see Gramp this morning. He has dementia so his memory isn’t good any more (age is the wickedest of diseases) and I am not convinced he really knows who I am any more. But often long term memory with dementia patients is better so I printed the two photos I have, the one of him sieg heiling and the one of him playing with the Hitler Youth lads – both shown in this blog. He didn’t remember the one with all the boys at all, to the extent of not even remembering his brother Basil. However, when I showed him the sieg heiling photo he said “oh, I remember this very clearly“. I asked him a few more questions and he didn’t remember much at all but he did say that “I could have got in a lot of trouble doing that“. I asked him whether he was joking around in the armband then and he said “oh yes!” with the mischievous look in his eye he’s always had. He then ended the conversation by saying “a lot of people didn’t like the Nazis at all!” So I suppose the mystery of why he was wearing the armband is sort of solved – he was horsing around.
2. Investigations in the UK
I have emailed a LOT of people about this in the last few weeks. I’ve emailed his old school (nothing back), I’ve emailed various libraries in Kent (nothing back). What I have established though is that in Ramsgate where David went to school there was only really one newspaper, the Thanet Gazette. Annoyingly, this appears to be one of the plethora of local newspapers that have not been digitized yet, so the only way of looking to see if the paper reported about a group of British scouts visiting Germany will be a trip to Margate. The round trip from Bristol is a little long so this may have to wait!
One other interesting bit did emerge from the UK. Ian Beck (@ian_bec) and my colleague Sam from Redland Green both told me about the story of the England football team sieg heiling at a game in 1938. Seems like my Gramp wasn’t the only Brit doing this in 1938 then!
3. Investigations in Germany
I also emailed a LOT of very nice Germans in Bamberg and Bavaria to see if they could look in newspapers their end. Unlike the British libraries I heard back pretty instantly – German efficiency for you! Newspapers in Bamberg aren’t digitized as far as I can tell from their pigeon English response (but fair play for replying in a foreign language at all) but one interesting tidbit did emerge. In the last post you’ll remember that the photos are stamped Gauverlag Bayerische Ostmark GmbH Zweigstelle Bamberg. Now I thought that was a Nazi newspaper. It’s not. It’s a publishing house and as far as I can tell still a Nazi one, but not a newspaper.
So what do I still not know at all.
a) Why the heck a British scout group are in Nazi Germany in 1938.
b) Why the photos are stamped by a Nazi publishing house and for what purpose they were used.
The search continues. As I drove off from Gramp’s house I thought it’d be nice to have a photo of him now holding the sieg heiling photo so Mum will take one in a week or so, I’ll post it when I get it.