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Luftwaffe paratrooper badge with a yellow eagle acquired by a German Jewish refugee in the British army

Object | Accession Number: 2012.478.7

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    Luftwaffe paratrooper badge with a yellow eagle acquired by a German Jewish refugee in the British army


    Brief Narrative
    Luftwaffe (German Air Force) paratrooper badge, acquired by Manfred Gans, a German Jewish refugee who served as a Marine Commando for the British Army from May 1944 to May 1945. This type of patch was issued to German paratroopers who had successfully completed six jumps. Gans took the badge from a prisoner who claimed to have been the driver for Erwin Rommel during his command of the German forces in North Africa from 1941-1943. He sent the badge in a letter dated 27 October 1944 to his friend, Anita Lamm, who had immigrated to the United States. For Anita, the badge symbolized hope for victory and the end of the war. In 1940, Manfred enlisted in the British Army, where he spent two years assigned to a labor unit before being recruited for a Special Forces troop, which landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944. As his unit advanced through France, Belgium, and northern Germany, it was Manfred’s mission to infiltrate German positions to convince soldiers to surrender, interrogate prisoners, and gather intelligence. Manfred learned from his uncle that his parents had been imprisoned in Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia, but he did not know if they were still alive. He drove across enemy lines to find out, and learned they had survived. They were reunited in Theresienstadt on May 11, 1945. His parents returned to the Netherlands in July and he was demobilized in August. Manfred married Anita in 1948 and moved to the United States in 1950.
    found:  after 1944 July-before 1944 October 25
    issue: Germany
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Daniel Gans and Aviva Gans-Rosenberg
    Subject: Manfred Gans
    Issuer: Germany. Luftwaffe
    Manfred Gans was born on April 27, 1922, in Borken, Germany, to Moritz and Else Fraenkel Gans. His family had been in Borken for over 300 years. Moritz was born on July 7, 1885. He was a German Army veteran who had lost a lung and a leg in Italy during World War I. Moritz was the only Jew ever elected to the city council. Else was born on September 1, 1891, in Volksen, Germany. In 1924, Moritz and Else established a prosperous textile manufacturing business. Manfred’s older brother, Karl, was born on May 23, 1920, and his younger brother, Theodor (Theo), was born on May 1, 1925. The brothers were raised Orthodox. They attended the Jewish elementary school and a Catholic high school.
    In January 1933, Adolf Hitler became the chancellor of Germany. Manfred and his brothers spent that summer at their Aunt and Uncle’s hachshara farm in Gut Neuendorf. While there, Manfred met Anita Lamm, the daughter of his father’s best friend. Anita was born on August 31, 1923, in Berlin, to Leo and Margaret Lamm. In 1935, as government persecution of Jews increased, Moritz began moving his money out of the country. In 1936, Karl immigrated to Palestine. In spring 1938, Moritz helped the Lamm family immigrate secretly to the United States. After they left, Anita and Manfred began writing to each other.
    In July 1938, Manfred went to England and stayed with a Jewish family, the Jacobs. He was supposed to return home in the fall, but his parents told him to stay. With the help of the German Jewish Aide Committee, Manfred relocated to Manchester and found work in a factory’s repair shop. Manfred wanted to continue his Orthodox lifestyle, so Mr. Jacobs introduced him to a Jewish family in Manchester, the Steinharts. They suggested that he stay at a relative’s boarding house, and often invited him to partake in religious activities and socialize with their community. After the November 9 - 10, 1938, Kristallnacht pogrom in Germany, Moritz and Else sent Theo out of the country to a boarding school in Kent, England.
    In August 1939, Moritz and Else left Germany as advised by a family friend who was the head of the Gestapo in Borken. They settled in Zandvoort, Netherlands. On September 1, Germany invaded Poland, and two days later, Great Britain declared war. Manfred, as a German refugee, was labeled an enemy alien. He had to register with the government and go before a tribunal to evaluate his level of risk to the nation’s security. He was classified as level C or no risk. In spring 1940, Germany invaded Western Europe. In early summer, Manfred was arrested for being an enemy alien and sent to an internment camp in Bury and then Shrewsbury. In September, he was shipped to a camp on the Isle of Man. In December, the British government lowered the enlistment age for enemy aliens to eighteen and Manfred enrolled in the army. He was assigned to the Pioneer Corps, an unarmed labor unit. In 1941, Manfred stopped receiving letters from his parents.
    At the end of 1942, Manfred was interviewed and selected for a special assignment. He was transferred to Aberdovey, Wales, to train as a member of a Special Forces unit: the Three Troop of the Tenth Inter-Allied Commando. The unit consisted of fluent German speakers, most of them Jewish refugees. Everyone in the troop had to leave behind their life and assume a new non-Jewish identity: Manfred’s Welsh alias was Fred Gray. The troop went through a year of rigorous training in military tactics and intelligence, as well as physical conditioning. In May 1944, Manfred was assigned to the 41st Royal Marine Commando. He was briefed about the planned invasion of Normandy, and landed on the French coast with the unit on June 6. Manfred went out on every patrol and attack, and his mission was to infiltrate German lines and convince the soldiers to surrender. He helped his unit capture German positions, interrogate prisoners, and gather intelligence in the field as they advanced through France and Belgium. In late 1944, Manfred received a field promotion to officer.
    Manfred’s unit was assigned to northern Germany, and on April 1, 1945, he arrived in Borken. He found his parents’ house still standing, and learned that it had been used as a Gestapo headquarters; the wine cellar as a torture chamber. Manfred’s American uncle wrote to tell him that, in 1941, his parents had gone into hiding in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. In 1943, they were betrayed, and transported to Westerbork transit camp and then deported to Theresienstadt labor camp-ghetto in German occupied Czechoslovakia. He did not know if they were still alive, but by early May, he requested permission to take a jeep and a driver to Terezin to find out. Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Manfred arrived on May 11, two days after the Soviets liberated the camp. A registration clerk told him that his parents were still alive. He found them and they talked all night. Manfred had to leave the next day to return to his unit. The roads were still dangerous to travel, and the camp was in quarantine, so his parents stayed behind at the camp. Manfred did take many letters from other inmates, including one from a former judge at The Hague, addressed to Princess Juliana. His delivery of the letter led to the repatriation of his parents and other Dutch prisoners, back to the Netherlands.
    Manfred received a field promotion to captain. He served as the Deputy Commander of the Intelligence Section at Sennelager, a prisoner of war camp for high ranking Nazis being questioned and prepared for war crimes trials. In July, his parents returned to the Netherlands. In August 1945, Manfred was demobilized, returned to England, and became a British citizen. In 1948, Manfred travelled to New York and married Anita Lamm, who had written to him throughout the war under the name Joan Gary. In August 1950, Manfred immigrated to the United States. The couple had two children. In the 1950s, his parents, Moritz and Else, and brother, Theo, all immigrated to Israel, joining Karl, now named Gershon Kadar, who had served in the Jewish Brigade during the war. Anita, age 67, died in January 1991. Manfred, age 88, died on September 12, 2010, in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

    Physical Details

    Military Insignia
    Physical Description
    Oval-shaped dark gray wool embroidered patch. The front of the patch features a machine-embroidered yellow colored, left-facing diving eagle clutching a swastika in its talons superimposed over a light gray wreath. The wreath borders the patch and has laurel leaves on the left side and oak leaves on the right side, bound by three bands at the bottom of the oval. On the reverse is a thin layer of backing fabric and the stitching is visible. There is overall dirt and discoloration on the surface and the backing fabric is frayed and peeling away from the edges.
    overall: Height: 2.625 inches (6.668 cm) | Width: 2.000 inches (5.08 cm) | Depth: 0.125 inches (0.318 cm)
    overall : wool, thread, cloth, adhesive

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The patch was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012 by Daniel Gans and Aviva Gans-Rosenberg, the children of Manfred and Anita Lamm Gans.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 09:21:53
    This page:

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