Tuesday 3 November 2009

Go East, Young Man

I was wryly amused by the story about Fritz Darges, the last surviving member of Hitler’s inner circle, who died recently aged ninety-six. As the last SS adjutant to the Führer he was present at all major conferences and social engagements, so hopefully his memoirs, which he instructed should be published after his death, may reveal some interesting secrets. Not that that is the source of my amusement.

Darges, who first met Hitler in 1934, described him in a press interview as ‘warm-hearted.’ He was to find out, to his personal cost, just how ‘warm-hearted’ he was. I can’t quite make up my mind if Darges possessed a sardonic wit-not a noted German quality-or a death wish, but he cracked a kind of joke at one the strategy conferences at the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s headquarters at Rastenburg in East Prussia.

It was July 1944, just two days before von Stauffenberg’s assassination attempt. A fly was buzzing around, landing on Hitler’s shoulder and then the map he was looking at. Annoyed, he told Darges to ‘dispatch the nuisance.’ His response was that since this as an ‘airborne pest’ the task should be delegated Nicolaus von Below, the Luftwaffe adjutant. Maybe he was just a stickler for protocol! Oh, but Hitler did not like this at all. In a temper he shouted “You’re for the eastern front.” And to the eastern front he went.

Still, he continued to love his boss, right to the end of his life.


  1. In your historical research of Germany, have you ever observed the phrase "Go East, young man"?

    I understand that this, or something close, to be a Prussian or German proverb. And it's meaning is close to the traditional equivalent that we have in America: If you seek fortune and a way to gain livelihood, then face this frontier.

    thank you and, I should add, its a pleasure to find your blog.


    1. Vorgraf, no I have not. I would imagine this is just an adaptation of Horace Greely's "Go West, Young Man." That's certainly how I used it here.

      I'm glad that you are here. :-)