"(NOT) an ordinary" Nazi

I wonder who this person is in the photo, the one on the left, smiles so kindly and looks directly at the camera lens. It seems that he is the center of photography, and everyone else is a kind of framework: among the young soldiers sits an intelligent old man. He doesn’t look like a typical Nazi officer at all. For several years, I was interested in collecting photographs taken, as a rule, by German soldiers in Oslo during the years of occupation 1940-45. The vast majority of the photographs I have used as illustration for the tour Oslo during WW2 and the photo project “Present through the lens of the past” where with the help of photomontage you easily find yourself in the past. But this photo was bought for another reason. Since the times of World War II, a wreck of German transport plane Ju 52 has been in the Oppland mountains in Norway. Thinking about an article about the wreck, I needed a “more lively” illustration for my story. For example, it could have a collage of photos. As it happened, a photograph with a group of German soldiers on a plane, was placed right at the auction. On the back was the signature “Hamburg-Oslo August 1940”. And, although in the photo was a completely different plane, it fit well with my idea. And the charismatic man in the photo aroused my curiosity. As I examined the photograph carefully, I asked myself: “Who is this?” The Facebook members of the Norwegian Photos 1940-1945 group (original name Bilder fra Norge 1940-1945) helped me in a matter of minutes. A mysterious stranger was found! It turned out to be Theodor Steltzer, a man of interesting destiny and not a Nazi at all.

After graduating from high school in 1902, Steltzer begins a military career in the Prussian army. Military service is successfully combined with studies at the Berlin Military Academy. World War I ends as a railway officer in the General Staff. Peaceful life brought new opportunities: he was appointed administrator of the Rendsburg district. The seizure of power by Hitler on January 30, 1933 turns everything upside down. Theodor has constantly criticized the new government, which led him to be removed from work. With exaggerated charges, he ends up in jail, although not for long. They justify it, but after the prison Steltzer can not find its application in the new system. In Third Reich, preparations for a war that will later be called World War 2. 

He is remembered, especially his experience in the management of the railways, and recruited into the army in July 1939. Therefore, on August 1, 1940, with the rank of Major, Theodor Steltzer arrives in Oslo busy to serve in the General Staff of the Wehrmacht. His area of ​​responsibility is logistics and transformation. Under Steltzer’s direction, a logistics department is being formed, where he hires his friends and associates close to him in his views on the leaders of Germany. Some of them, like Stelzer himself, are members of the Kreisau Circle. This is a German resistance group, named after the Kreisau estate in Germany, where the first meetings of its members took place. The members of the circle discussed the future transformation of Germany after the fall of Nazism on the basis of principles close to Christian socialism. On duty, a commander, and later a lieutenant colonel, Steltzer travels across the country and meets the Norwegians. He manages to establish close contacts with the Norwegian resistance. Many meetings took place in the studio of artist Henrik Sørensen on the 11th floor in one of the towers of the Oslo city hall, just above the officers’ casino. Oddly enough, the security service knew about these meetings, but did not give it any particular importance. The fact is that Wehrmacht was issued a directive that welcomes the development of friendly relations between the occupation forces and the Norwegian population. As a representative of the General Staff, Steltzer had access to secret documents, for example, to the Gestapo interrogation counts and the planning of various operations. From him, in the spring of 1942, the resistance learned of the impending deportations of Norwegian Jews. In late July 1944, a few days after Hitler’s failed assassination, Steltzer was summoned to Berlin, where he was immediately arrested. It turned out that Kreisau circle was uncovered and all its members were sentenced to death after a brief investigation. Steltzer manages to transmit to his associates a note with the date of its execution: February 5, 1945. And then the incredible happens. With the great assistance of influential officials in Sweden, Steltzer’ execution was postponed. The war is about to end. With the approach of Soviet troops on April 25, the Justice Department made an unexpected decision: “to free all prisoners in view of the great danger of being in a prison cell located in an active combat zone”. In such a miraculous way, Theodor Steltzer survives. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, he played an important role in the creation of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany and in the reconstruction of the country. And could Steltzer suspect that a transport plane flying along the Hamburg-Oslo route brings it closer to unprecedented destination turns?

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