Monday, December 03, 2007

Pole honors Germany's Red Baron

At least one Pole is attempting to honor a dead German from World War One. And not just any German but the infamous Red Baron. The article Pole honors Germany's Red Baron by Ryan Lucas has the details.

Lucas wrote, "Baron Manfred von Richthofen buzzed above the muddy World War I battlefields in his red Fokker tri-plane, downing a record 80 Allied aircraft on his way to becoming the war's top fighter ace and earning the famed Red Baron nom de guerre. But von Richthofen, who was shot down and killed just before his 26th birthday in 1918, has been a legend in limbo since Poland's borders moved west after World War II and swallowed the baron's hometown of Schweidnitz — today called Swidnica. The neglect has been largely due to apprehension about honoring a German, a legacy of the brutal Nazi invasion and occupation of World War II."

Swidnica resident Jerzy Gaszynski is attempting to have a memorial built. He said, "I think that with a figure this well-known around the world, it's a bit of a sin that he's not even that well-known here and that there's really no effort to remember him. Everybody here kind of said under their breath 'baron this, baron that,' but he was neglected, nobody was doing anything."

Gaszynski had a plaque put on the house the Red Baron was born in. It reads, " "In this house lived the best pilot of World War I, the Red Baron. Born May 2, 1892, he died in aerial combat April 21, 1918, Manfred von Richthofen."

Swidnica used to be a part of Germany. However, it was given to Poland after World War Two. So the Red Baron (German hero) was born in what is now Poland. As can be imagined, the Poles do not have fond memories of the German military. So, this makes it hard for the Red Baron to be honored in his hometown.

Lucas noted, "Honoring a German soldier in Poland, which lost some 6 million citizens under the Nazi occupation, can still be a touchy issue. The two countries continue to wrestle with efforts by some Germans to regain property lost to Poland when the borders shifted west after World War II."

It does seem strange that a town in Poland would honor a German pilot from World War One. However, the Red Baron is from the town. So it kind of makes sense.

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