September 29, 2012
I decided that I need a break from local government issues and talk about a controversy in history. I was watching a movie on television last Friday and it was the “Bridge at Remagen”. It was an exciting movie about the bravery of the troops who came across the last remaining bridge over the Rhine river during the second world war. I always thought the movie was a true representation of what happened at this historic event.
My German family members have a much different story from that depicted in this Hollywood production.
I have to give you a little family background. My grandfather, Henry Neuhoff Sr, came over here before 1900 and his achievements mirror the greatness of American freedom and oportunity. He built a very successful business without government help.
However he left one brother in Germany and that brother had six sons who ended up in the German army. Most of the sons survived the war but one (my cousin, Franz Josef) came back to Bad Honnef, his home, on the Rhine a few miles north of the Remagen bridge. His survival was a miracle because at 17 years old he was sent to the Eastern front and immediately captured and sent to Siberia. He survived Russian capture and came back to Bad Honnef to marry and prosper.
Lsater while doing business in Europe I met him and we became great friends. Last year Claire and I and my daughter and son in law visited the family in Bad Honnef. Bad Honnef is just up the Rhine river from Remagen. Franz Josef arranged a trip to the Remagen tunnel and he got the Mayor of Erpel to give us a visit and open the tunnel for our visit.
This is where it gets interesting. He told the real story of the Bridge at Remagen. He said that the Ludendorff bridge (it is no longer there) was built before the First World War in order to help Germany invade France. Since the railroad ran parallel to the river, the Germans had to build a big curve behind the mountain at Erpel and then cut a tunnel through the mountain to get perpendicular to the river. Then the bridge was built and used during the First World War.
As the Americans approached the Rhine and the Ludendorff bridge, the Germans placed explosives on the bridge and had orders to blow the bridge. As the Americans approached the bridge they could not believe that the bridge was still there. The story of what happened is nothing like the movie. According to the Mayor of Erfel and verified by the attached internet story, there was little opposition to the American advance across the bridge and the only person killed was a German postal employee who was in a postal uniform and the Americans shot and killed him thinking he was a German soldier. The 40 German defenders in the tunnel fled out the other end of the tunnel and were eventually executed by Hitler.
One other piece of history. I have attached my great aunt Clara’s letter to my Mother thanking her for a help package sent after the war. She talks about the American panzers (tanks) approaching Bad Honnef and taking Bad Honnef and then the German panzers came and drove them out and back and forth.
she talks about losing two sons and what a tragedy war is.
I think we need to consider our history and the contribution of the greatest generation and honor them and ensure that our country continues to lead the world with strength, leadership and freedom. Only America can provide this and we are faced with radicals around the world who want the destruction of this great country.