Bryan Mark Rigg: His Yale Profs Told Him Not to Write About Hitler's Jewish Soldiers

Historians in the News

Glenna Whitley, in (Feb. 26, 2004):

When the train pulled into the station, Bryan Mark Rigg wrestled his bicycle onto the platform, balanced a rucksack stuffed with a video camera, laptop and tripod on his back and started pedaling through the German countryside. He had 70 miles to cover before dark. The Yale student had learned that Alexander Stahlberg, a former German soldier who lived on the grounds of a castle near Gartow, was willing to talk to him."But you better hurry," the elderly Stahlberg said."I've got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel."

Rigg had moved to Germany in 1994 to learn the language and research his senior essay. But the Arlington student's journey meant much more than a grade: He'd become obsessed with tracking down veterans of the Wehrmacht, Hitler's armed forces. And the 23-year-old student wasn't looking for just any old veterans. He was searching for the Mischlinge , men who'd survived"in the mouth of the wolf," as one soldier put it. The word, meaning half-breeds or mongrels and first applied to the offspring of white Germans and black Africans in the colonies, referred to a group of soldiers who'd straddled a chasm of contradiction: They were deemed part-Jewish by Nazi racial laws but had fought on the Führer's side.

Historians knew such men had served in Hitler's forces. But Rigg's professors at Yale told him he was wasting his time, that there were so few they were of little historical significance.

Rigg believed these eminent scholars were wrong.

Werner Goldberg, a blond-haired, blue-eyed half-Jew once held up by the Nazis as"the ideal German soldier," had told him about Stahlberg, who'd served as adjutant to Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. Some suspected Manstein was a Mischling himself, even though he'd given a notorious order calling for"the destruction of the Jewish-Bolshevik system." Rigg knew he had to act immediately. The veterans of World War II were dying off; he couldn't let anything get in the way of his quest to capture the stories of the remaining Mischlinge.

Certainly not money. Rigg had been living in Germany on peanut butter and cheap food he bought in Turkish markets. And not the setting sun on this December day.

As he pedaled furiously toward Stahlberg's home, even three layers of clothes couldn't protect against the cold. The bicycle's headlamp was broken, and he still had miles to go when the pavement turned into a dirt road. In the dark, his bike slammed into a pothole, flipping the 6-foot-2 Rigg and his pack over the handlebars.

An hour later, he arrived at Stahlberg's door bruised and covered with dirt. A tall, polished man in a nice suit, white hair slicked back, answered his knock."What happened to you?" he asked. After Rigg explained, Stahlberg said,"You probably want to take a shower."

That night, video camera rolling, Rigg would record Stahlberg's recollections of a conversation he'd had with Manstein early in the war while the two played chess.

Stahlberg told his superior he'd heard that 100,000 Jews had been murdered by killing squads in Manstein's area of responsibility as the German front advanced. Manstein didn't respond.

"Dear Field Marshal, I feel the need to tell you this because I'm of Jewish descent myself," Stahlberg said. His great-grandfather had been a Jew, a fact Stahlberg had kept secret.

Manstein paused."That's very interesting," he said. He mentioned that his family tree included a rabbi. Then he turned his attention back to the chess board.

When Stahlberg pressed Manstein about the huge numbers of Jews being slaughtered, Manstein fixed him with a stare.

"Do you really believe that?" the field marshal said.

Stahlberg said he did.

"Well, if this really happened," Manstein said,"they're only Jews."

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Peter LaBorde - 4/21/2006

That's "Bounden Duty: The Memoirs of a German Officer 1932-1945." (English translation: Brassey's, 1990) Pages 313-315

Peter LaBorde - 4/21/2006

This exchange is by no means what Stahlberg describes in his book "Bounden Duty: The Memoirs of a German Officer 1932-1945." (English translation: Brassey's, 1990)

In the book he states that when Manstein asked him if he was sure the number he was told was indeed 100,000, and Stahlberg answered yes, Manstein then reacted with disbelief that such a number of bodies could be disposed of secretly. As a comparison he pointed out the fact that 100,000 was also the number of seats in the Berlin stadium where the 1936 olympic games were held, then suggested that the information might be enemy propaganda. Stahlberg, according to his own account, agreed that he had difficulty believing it himself, and for the same reasons, although he trusted the source that passed it on to him.

I did not see anything in his book to cause me to believe that such a response would have even remotely crossed Manstein's mind. Something stinks about this post.

Fred Leonard Dawes - 7/29/2005

Bryan M. Rigg did the best thing by pointing out how Insane the Hitler world really was.
But only a hand full of people in this world will read this great work and that is sad, many people I talk to on this subject just think i am insane by stating Hitler had what some would call jews in his Army, thank you Dr.Rigg