The tragic love story of August Landmesser and Irma Eckler – A Family torn apart

August Landmesser was born in May 1910 in Germany. He was the only child of August Franz Landmesser and Wilhelmine Magdalen. In 1931 he became the member of Nazi party and worked at the Blohm Voss shipyard in Hamburg Germany.

The Love Story Begins

His life took a new turn in 1934 when he met Irma Eckler. The two fell in deep love with each other. Irma was born on 12 May 1913 and was also a resident of Germany but her ill-fate was that she was a Jewish lady. August proposed to her in 1935 and the two got engaged.  They presented their marriage application but it was denied by the Nuremberg Laws. As soon as their relationship was announced officially, August was expelled from the Nazi party. It was the time of Hitler’s regime. There was news everywhere about Hitler depriving Jews of citizenship rights and banning intermarriages. A set of rules enforcing Jewish Exclusion was announced.

The Hardships

However, somehow they registered to be married in Hamburg. In October 1935, Landmesser and Irma Eckler welcomed their first child a little girl and named her Ingrid. Landmesser and Eckler saw the need to escape from Germany in order to prevent themselves from the horror atmosphere which could tear them apart. In 1937, the two tried to flee to Denmark with their daughter but they were stopped and detained at the border.

Landmesser was arrested and charged. In July 1937, the whole family was found guilty for “Dishonoring the race” under Nazi racial Laws. Landmesser tried to justify that neither he nor Irma knew that she was fully Jewish. The family was acquitted on May 1938 for the lack of evidence with the warning that repeat offense will result in a multi-year prison sentence. They ordered him to end his relationship with his beloved wife.

The Tragic End

However, unwilling to leave his wife, Landmesser defied the Nazi Regime and the couple continued their relationship publically. They were arrested again on 15 July 1938. Landmesser was sentenced to three-year prison while Irma was pregnant at that time. 15 July 1938 was the time when Landmesser last time saw his wife, last time unaware of the fact that he would never see his wife again.

On the other side, Pregnant Irma was detained by the Gestapo and held at the Prison Fuhlsbuttle where she delivered her second daughter and named her as Irene. Both the girls were transferred to orphanage and Eckler was transferred to different Concentration camps and finally to one of the Nazi’s death Camps where she was murdered with 14,000 other. She was declared dead, with a date of 28 April 1942.

After completing his prison sentence Landmesser was forced to join the army in 1944, he escaped from the action soon after two months of his joining. Later he was declared killed during a fight in Croatia on 17 October 1944. However, legally he was declared dead in 1949. The marriage of Landmesser and Irma was recognized retroactively by the Senate of Hamburg in 1951 after which their first daughter Ingrid assumed her surname Landmesser while Irene assumed her mother’s surname.

Defying Hitler

Landmesser is also known as the lone man who refused to salute Hitler in 1936 at the launch of a German Army vessel which was attended by Adolf Hitler himself. Hundreds of men and women saluted him throwing their Seig Heil. His picture is still available that show the only one man who protested against his regime grimacing with his arms crossed.

The story was highlighted many years later when Irene Eckler wrote a book dedicating the tragic story of her family and appreciating the lone protest of her father against Hitler’s Regime in 1936.

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