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Large red Nazi garrison swastika banner signed by soldiers of the 80th Infantry

Object | Accession Number: 2012.436.1

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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Very large red Nazi swastika banner taken by 19 year old Paul Mercer, a US soldier, at the end of the four day battle to capture Kassel, Germany, on April 4, 1945. Paul and his unit, the 318th Machine Gun Squad, 80th Infantry Division, Third Army, faced stiff opposition at Kassel, which had a still operating Tiger Tank factory. At 12:30am, April 4, General Major Erxleben surrendered with about 400 troops. He wanted to present the garrison banner to the American commander but it could not be found. Paul had slipped behind the troops and removed the flag without anyone's noticing. The banner was later signed by fellow soldiers from the 80th Infantry Division following the May 7 surrender of Germany. After the Kassel surrender, Paul's unit continued to the Weimar region. On April 11, the 6 Armored entered Buchenwald concentration camp. Paul's unit was sent to relieve them the next day, Paul was assigned to guard the children’s barracks, Kinderblock 66. After the war, the unit was placed on occupation duty until deactivated in January 1946. Paul was awarded eleven medals, including the Bronze Star for Valor.
    Date
    found:  1945 April 03
    commemoration:  1945 May 10
    Geography
    found: Kassel (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ilana Weltman
    Markings
    front, bottom edge, stamped in triplicate, black ink : German text [ J. Schablinger / Gafthaus "Zum heim" / Thomasraith 3.]
    Contributor
    Subject: Paul L. Mercer
    Biography
    Paul Lowery Mercer was born on April 1, 1926, in Nashua, New Hampshire, to Ottis and Sarah Morgan Mercer. Ottis was born on January 31, 1888, in Warren, Ohio. Sarah was born on January 6, 1890, in Nashua. On June 12, 1922, Ottis and Sarah married and settled in Nashua, where Ottis owned and managed an automotive garage. The couple’s first son, Robert, was born in 1925, in Nashua.

    On December 7, 1941, the United States entered World War II. In spring 1944, Paul completed high school and became a garage attendant. On September 28, he enlisted in the US Army. Private Mercer was assigned to B Company, 318th Machine Gun Squad, 80th Infantry Division, Third Army. He deployed and joined the 80th, also known as the Blue Ridge Division, already in combat in France. In late December, the Division was part of the force defending Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge. From January to early April 1945, the 80th advanced through southern Germany. On April 4, after a fierce four day battle, Paul’s unit captured the city of Kassel, location of a still operating Tiger Tank factory. Prior to the ceremonial surrender of the garrison by General Major Erxleben, Paul slipped behind the troops and took the company banner. His unit then pushed ahead to Weimar. On April 11, 1945, troops from the 6th Armored Division entered Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar. Paul’s unit was sent to relieve them the next day, April 12. Paul later described what he saw: “a gruesome scene… men, women, and children behind barbed wire dressed in rags …many lay in piles, grotesque and askew.” Paul was one of the soldiers that liberated the children’s block, Kinderblock 66, a barracks set apart by the underground communist movement at the camp for children and teenagers, whom they felt needed to be protected and kept separate from the rest of the camp. The Division continued to advance through the region until April 21, when it was placed on occupation duty in southeastern Germany. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered.

    The 80th remained on occupational duty in Germany until December 1945 and was deactivated after their return to the US in early January 1946. Paul received eleven awards and medals for his service, including the Bronze Star with “V” for valor, a Presidential Unit Citation, a Combat Infantry Badge with star, a WWII Victory medal, and a US Army Commendation. Paul returned to Nashua and became a law enforcement officer. He married Bonnie and the couple had four children. In April 2010, Paul returned to Buchenwald to participate in ceremonies celebrating the 65th anniversary of the camp’s liberation. He met several of the children whom he had liberated in April 1945 and was interviewed for a documentary about the children of Kinderblock 66. Paul felt that the real heroes were those who gave their all and cannot speak for themselves. Regarding his own service, Paul said he just did his duty. Paul, age 84, died on January 2, 2011, in Jacksonville, Florida.

    Physical Details

    Language
    English German
    Classification
    Identifying Artifacts
    Category
    Flags
    Object Type
    Banners (lcsh)
    Genre/Form
    Flags.
    Physical Description
    Large, long rectangular red cotton banner with a 3 foot white cloth circle with a printed black swastika sewn on each side in the center. The banner is made from 2 rectangles sewn together vertically; the edges are selvage. There are channels sewn on each short end. The hoist side has a centered black cloth tie, reinforced with white cloth. The banner would display vertically; the tie would keep it centered and a pole or rope could be inserted through the bottom channel to keep it steady. The white circle on the back has been signed, annotated, and dated in black and blue ink by approximately 30 US soldiers. The bottom channel has 3 identical German manufacturer’s stamps. The banner has stains and missing sections throughout.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 163.976 inches (416.499 cm) | Width: 50.000 inches (127 cm)
    Materials
    overall : cotton, cloth, thread, ink
    Inscription
    back, on center circle, handwritten, black, blue, and purple ink. The signatures are from several pens and display varied levels of ink density and fading. : May 10, 1945 [signatures of US Soldiers]

    Lower right quadrant:
    FRED WHITAKER / 4996 BERTHOLD / ST. Louis Mo.
    PAUL SUTTON / [illegible] / PHNX ARIZ
    JOSEPH A. STOWINKSKI / 4936 So. WOOD STR / CHICAGO, ILL
    GEO. WILLIAMS 103[illegible] So. TOWER / CENTRALIA / WASH
    Rudy MASER / RouTe 1. / BAYARD NebR.
    JOSEPH GALLIANO / 786 HUNTER[illegible] ST / [illegible] N.J.
    THERMAN F. EVANS / ROSE HILL / N.C.
    P.L. MERCER / NASHUA, NEW HAMP. / THE END


    Upper right quadrant:
    THE / SUN RISING / IS ABOUT / TO SET
    U.S.A. / FOR / EVER
    KEEP THE / BALL ROLLING
    ALL IS KAPUT / FOR/ DE DutsMEN
    HELLO / TO GOOD / OLD NASHUA

    ELDON K / HITCHENS / CORD ARK

    Upper left quadrant:
    "U.S. Inf. / Queen of / BATTLE"
    DON HERNANDEZ / HOUSTON TEX
    Fritz Dellafera / Manchester / Conn
    VERLIN / MARTIN / P.O. Box No. 2 / McDERMOT / OHIO
    KENNETH WILLIMANN / 1609 LEMON ST. / HIGHLAND, ILLINOIS
    WiLLiam [Illegible] / Bl SU[Illegible] / Wis
    Geo. / ALTO[illegible]EDDISH
    PAUL H. CAN[Illegible] / 199 MASON ST. / MANSFIELD, / OHIO

    Lower left quadrant:
    [illegible] MO / [illegible]
    ROBERT J / PRATER / RT. 2 REED / OKLA
    ELOY J MARTINEZ / BOX 534 / BACKETTVILLE, TEXAS
    Mike Shaboolan / 291 Central St. / Lowell, Mass.
    SHERMAN H. COOP / ALBNY, KENTUCKY
    MELVIN GENNIS / 9633 PETOSKEY ST. / DETROIT 4, MICH.
    MAYNARD / J / LAWRENCE / [illegible]LAS TEXAS
    DELBERT WHI[illegible] / R.R. 10 BOX 926 / BIRMINGHAM / ALA
    MAY - 10. 1945
    RENE GARCIA / 1319 PINE ST. / TAMPA, FLA
    HOWARD F. PELLMAN / HAYDEN LAKE IDAHO / [illegible]
    Ernest [illegible] / illegible]
    JOHN H. GOSSETT / PERRY AVE. GREENVILLE, S.C.
    AMBROSE CHAISSON / 308 SECOND STREET / MORGAN [illegible]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The banner was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012 by Ilana Weltman, on behalf of Paul L. Mercer.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 17:22:29
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn47905

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