| "Zigeuner" |
POD: c. 1914
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Date of Birth:||20th century|
|Military Branch:|| SS|
(World War II)
Joseph Stieglitz was a Haupsturmführer in the SS during World War II. He was Jewish, though not an observant one, and benefited from Adolf Hitler's policy of toleration for the Jews. He'd also adopted Hitler's disdain for the Zigeuner, and, in his capacity as an SS officer, oversaw the capture and deportation of the Zigeuner and other Untermenschen in areas under German occupation during the war.
In October 1944, not long after Germany had installed Ferenc Szálasi as leader of Hungary, Stieglitz was stationed in Zalaegerszeg. He received word from SS headquarters that there was a Zigeuner camp three kilometers south of the nearby town of Nagylengyel. He lead a group of German and Hungarian troops to clear out the camp.
After some nimble driving on the part of Unterscharführer Klaus Pirckheimer, the convoy found the village. Stieglitz was able to locate the leader of this band of Zigeuner, but the man only answered in the Zigeuner's native language, or in Hungarian, professing to have no German. Stieglitz approached a Hungarian driver, old enough to have served in the last war, who admitted to speaking "military German", but then allowed he knew more. The driver agreed to translate for Stieglitz.
Through the Hungarian, Stieglitz explained to the chieftain the village would be taken to Zalaegerszeg. When the chieftain asked for more details, Stieglitz informed him that the village would be then sent by train to Poland, where they would be housed and fed. When the chieftain protested that the villagers preferred to stay where they were, Stieglitz informed him that the village had to be moved as a military necessity. When the chieftain again protested, assuring Stieglitz they would not help the Red Army or steal from the Germans, Stieglitz informed them they would move; he would do it peacefully if possible, but he would move them. Realizing the impossibility of their situation, the chieftain agreed, telling Stieglitz he was relying on Stieglitz's honor as a German officer that everything would work out as he'd promised. Stieglitz falsely agreed. The villagers gathered what they could carry and loaded on the truck, and the convoy returned to Zalaegerszeg.
When they returned to the town, Stieglitz found that a train carrying Wehrmacht troops had arrived. Stieglitz had no notice, and because the SS had priority, the Werhmacht train had been held up. A Wehrmacht major confronted Stieglitz, complaining about the delay and reminding Stieglitz of how close the Red Army was. Despite the major's indiscreet remarks about the war, Stieglitz hastily moved to load the Zigeuner onto a train to placate him.
When the chieftain saw that the train was made up of cattle cars, he said to Stieglitz in German, "So much for your honor." Stieglitz was not terribly surprised by the fact that the chieftain spoke German. He responded, "We all do what we're required to do." The Zigeuner boarded with as much dignity as they could. Stieglitz told the engineer (who was drinking alcohol while he waited) that the train was full and ready to go. The train then departed for Poland, and the Wehrmacht major gathered up his men into their own train.
By chance, Stieglitz met a Feldrabbiner, who approached Stieglitz about the Zigeuner. Realizing Stieglitz was also a Jew, he suggested Stieglitz count his blessings, reminding him that the Jews had been just as oppressed as the Zigeuner. Hitler could have easily persecuted the Jews as the Zigeuner, in which case Stieglitz could as easily have been boarding the train. Angry, Stieglitz reminded the Feldrabbiner that they were both good Germans, and that if the Feldrabbiner continued to speak this way, Stieglitz would turn him over to the SD. Cowed, the Feldrabbiner retreated, and Stieglitz lit a cigarette.