Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sympathy for a German Girl

For some reason I am fascinated by the girl in the photo.

The photo was taken in June of 1917 in the Jerusalem train station. Here is another photo of the same event showing more context, including a railway car.

מלחמת העולם הראשונה - גנרל פלקנהיין מגיע לתחנת הרכבת בירושלים.
משמאל, ג'מאל פאשא, מפקד הארמיה הרביעית בא"י וסוריה

The girls is Erika von Falkenhayn. She is 12 years old at the time. The man to her left is her father, General Erich von Falkenhayn. He is in Jerusalem to help the Ottomans (Germany and the Ottoman Empire were allies in World War 1) stop the impending British invasion from Egypt. He did not succeed. The British, under General Allenby, won. Palestine fell under the British Mandate, and the rest, as they say, is history.

General von Falkenhayn, ended the war in the Baltics, and then retired from the military to his baronial estate at Schloss Lindstedt, shown in the picture below. He died in 1922.

But what of his namesake daughter, Erika? In 1926 she married a young army officer Henning von Tresckow. They had four children, two sons and two daughters. Henning von Tresckow rose through the ranks eventually becoming a General himself and fighting in World War II on the Russian Front. But already in 1939 he became involved in the German Widerstand which secretly, and later not so secretly, opposed Hitler. Henning was implicated in the June 1944 coup attempt against Hitler, and committed suicide on June 21,1944. Erika's childhood best friend, Margarthe von Oven, was also implicated in the coup and arrested. Erika herself was arrested along with her children (her oldest son was serving in the army at the time was killed at the front shortly afterwards). Her family estate was confiscated, but she was released after a few months without being formally charged.

After the war it seems that she worked as a governess in a private school. She died in 1974, aged 69.

Did she know any of this would happen, on that June day in Jerusalem 1917. Obviously not. But there is something in that whimsical half smile.


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