Nekrolog 27. aug. 1994 The Times London

Nedenstående Nekrolog har jeg fået af Otto von Bressensdorf, München, januar 2011.
Fritz von Bressendorff


Print-out for: khumof Printed: Jun 14, 2001 at 03:41:45

Item number 1 of 2

HEADLINE: La Liberation;Leading Article SOURCE: The Times of London


DATE: Saturday August 27, 1994

PAGE: 15

Paris has been reliving a healing national myth

Dancing until dawn yesterday on the Place de la Concorde, Parisians have relived the city's liberation 50 years ago in much the spirit with which they greeted General Charles de Gaulle's famous words from the balcony of the Hotel de Ville. "Paris! Paris violated! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated! Liberated by itself, liberated by its people, with the assistance of the armies of France and the support and help of .. .la France etemelle." From the~ children parading alongsipe the veterans to those who, at the Gare de l'Est, have paid sober tribute to the ~tens of thousands depb~ed to German concentration camps, this has been a French, rather than an Allied, occasion.

The myth that de Gaulle was at pains to implant has resisted historical revisionism. In June, France paid generous D-Day tribute to its Allies, and the dead of the Normandy beaches deserve credit, too, as liberators of Paris. But for most of the French who remember those brilliant August days and for those, far more numerous, who have this week been summoned to commit them to memory, the end of the 1,518-day German occupation of Paris was not only a purely French triumph: it was a moment of national healing. De Gaulle was later to depict the jubilant scene when, the day after that first address, huge crowds watched him lead the parade down the Champs Elysees as "one of those miracles of the national one energy;a single cry diffierences erased".

Yet it was precisely because there were differences in 1944 that de Gaulle and General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque insisted so vehemently that the French Second Armoured Pi vision must be diverted to Paris. General Eisenhower was reluctant, on two counts. He feared that if attacked, Paris could suffer the fate of Stalingrad or Warsaw. This Hit1er intended: ,Periswas saved by the decision of a German ~signals officer, Ernst von Bressensdoif " to postpone delivery of Hitler's telegram and of 'General Dietrich von Choltitz to ignore the order to reduce Paris to "a heap of ashes".
Secondly, he was unenthusiastic about burdening the military effort with the heavy logistical load of victualling the city. General Patton, in overall command of the French Second Armoured, was set on sweeping east to Germany, bypassing the city.

But de Gaulle understood that there were political as well as military stakes. Strikes
by railwaymen, police and postal workers had been followed, on August 22, by a general uprising. There \;as a risk that General von Choltitz would crush the ill-armed resistance (instead, humanely, he feigned to believe that no special force was needed against a handful of "criminal elements"). There was also a risk that the rising, organised mainly by the Communists who were already creating their own governmental structures, would be transfonned into a second Paris Commune. In this sense, the Liberation of Paris was the first battle of the Cold War. The speed which which de Gaulle asserted his authority was decisive in shaping postwar France a fact which makes President Ivritterrand's failure this week to pronounce de Gaulle's name the more notable.

Politics offer some explanation. The fireworks lighting up Paris marked not only the end of the three-day celebrations, but the informal beginning of the campaign for next year's presidential elections. With the exception of Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who was 18 in August 1944, those in the contest will for the first time belong definitively to the postwar political generation. France may learn more about the Occupation in the next 50 years, as wartime fighters cease to dominate historical researcha.hd the myths of Resistance heroism become less psychologically necessary. Parisians did not come through unscathed. But that Paris itself was spared is an occasion for thanksgiving: a Parisian festival, which the world can share.



Item number 2 of 2

HEADLINE: Ernst von Bressensdorf;Obituary SOURCE: The Times


DATE: Thursday August 25, 1994

PAGE: 17

Ernst von Bressensdorf , who helped to save Paris from destruction at the hands of the Nazis in August 1944, died at his home in Starnberg, Bavari, on August 19 aged 76. He was born in Leipzig on October 26,1917.

PASSIONATE Francophile as he was, Oberleutnant Ernst von Bressensdorf was appalleq when on a day in August 1944 he received the following.baneful telegram from Hrtter at the German HQ in Paris: "Paris darf nur als1'rtlITlrherfe1d in die Hand des Feindes fallen!" (Paris must only fall into the hands of the enemy as a field of rubble!)

As von Bressensdorf well knew, explosives experts from Berlinhad already been working feverishly to put in place charges which when .detonated would destroy 4S historisi)ridges, the Eiffel Tower, the Elysee Palace. and numerous industrial undertaKings. .Besides wrecking these buildings the explosions were also designed to create a firestonn which would engulf all the houses in thehisloric .heart of Paris, while causing the maximum loss of life, as anyone on the streets at the time ,-voLdd be sucked into the inferno. As he held his Fuhrer's telegram in his hands von BressensdDtfknew full well that the execution of such an order would deny to posteritx the" chance to experience one of the historic gems of Europe.

As duty signals officer at the Paris HQ and as a loyal German, it was his bounden duty to pass on Hitler's orders to his superiors. As a man of profoumd culture who had French blood in his veins and had come to love the city his country's troops were occupying, as much as his native Leipzig, he was stunned by the scale of vandalism that· compliance with such instructions would have unleashed. ,Knowing in his hean that,that the Allies almost at the city's gates,the war wasJ lost,he pondered the enorrnjty of the crime against civilisation he was being asked to commit.

Clearly, refusal to forward the telegram to his superior, General Pittrich von Choltitz, would have led to his speedy arrest and an equally swiftiexec;ution of the Fuhrer's order. BULhe was able to pour a little sand in Hitler's. destruction machine by withholding the telegram for 12 hours. It was the evening>of AUgust 22,1944. It was not untie;} late morning of the following day that, with a heavy heart, von Bressensdorf released Hitler's telegram to von Choltitz, hoping at least that the intervening 12 hours would have brqught the Allies decisively nearer the city.

Von Choltitz had only been in charge in Paris for two weeks. He was not well known by his yourrgstaff, but it was well attested of his character as,a soldier that he was a stem disciplinarian in the Prussian tradition, and was noted for obeying orders without question.

It was Paris's great good fortune therefore (as well as that or voqBrt:ssensdorf who should surely have been shot for what he had done) that the spirit of resistance to Hitler which had been all but crushed by the failure of the July 1944 plot, still flickered in the breast of von Choltitz. The Allies were two days away but in that time he didllothing to implement Hitler's commands. When the Allies entered the French capital on August 25 they found it intact.

Ernst von Bressensdorf was the son of a Leipzig publisher. His interest in French culture was ignited by an aunt. For a confirmation present she gave him a book about one of his French forebears, the historian Paul de Rapin-Toyras. He became aware that he had Huguenot ancestry and applied himself to research into the genealogy of his family.

After passing his Abitur (school leaving certificate) in 19315 he visited France shortly before beginning his military service. He had wanted to read economics at university, but the opening of the Polish campaign on September 1, 1939, put paid to this aspiration. He was drafted into the German army and was later commissioned.

When posted to staff HQ in Paris as a young Oberleutnant in January 1944 he was in his element. In his free time he immersed himself in the city's museums and art gaJIeries and browsed in its libraries. His patent love of France and its people also gave him easy access to French families, and he made many friends. These cultural interests and personal contacts all made it unthinkable to him that Hitler's orders to destroy the city should be translated into reality. It was '{ith something approaching heartfelt relief that on August 25, 1944, von Bressensdorf and other young staff officers passed into captivity.

After the war von Bressensdorf did not go back to Leipzig, which then lay in the Soviet zone of occupation. His family settled on the shores of the Stambergersee, a few miles south of Munich. In Stamberg he founded a publishing house and began a

more thorough research into the descendants of Paul de Rapin-Toyras. 

This turned into the work of Franco-German reconciliation which vas, in the postwar vears. to be the main task of his life. Von Bressensdorf was able to establish links between more th,m a thousand families descended from the Hm(uenots in France and ·Germany. By bringing the members of manv of these together through large congresses in' both countries, which he addressed as chairman, he made both French and Germans aware that they had blood relatives in each others' countries. The knowledge of these blood ties made a significant contribution towards dispelling the fierce hatreds which had been stirred up between the two nations by the atrocities of the war.

In the 1960s, too, as French war historians researched the events of August 1944, it became clear that this erstwhile unsung German army lieutenant had Dlaved a courageous role in the delivery of Paris from destruction. For this, and for his work of reconciliation, von Bressensdorf was held in high esteem in France and at the time of his death it was the intention of the French government to bestow a high civil order upon him. His ovn dearest wish was to survive until today, the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Paris, for the celebrations to which he had been invited. In the event, the cancer from which he had suffered for some years, ended his life just under a week before that date.

Ernst von Bressensdorf is survived by his wife Ricarda, two daughters and a son.


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