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GERMANY: Felix Graf von Luckner

Christian Leitz, a German historian now teaching in New Zealand, writes: "A colleague of mine in the German Department, James Bade, is currently completing a monograph on Felix Graf von Luckner's time in New Zealand. During World War I he was imprisoned on an island off Auckland. He escaped and managed to turn the story of his escape into a daring adventure story. James has shown that Luckner was very good at changing and embellishing the story to make him look better. He was certainly successful, since he subsequently gained a very positive reputation in New Zealand. When he returned to New Zealand in 1938, on a Nazi regime-sponsored "peace" tour (the subject of a recent article by James), he received a grand reception.

I am not sure, however, whether I would describe Luckner as an anti-Nazi. He seems to fit better alongside people like Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, i.e. Germans that never actually resisted the regime, but who are remembered positively due to their fate (in Rommel's case his forced suicide in 1944) rather than for their actions. In Rommel's case, it helped, of course, that he was viewed very positively by his military opponents. As far as I can remember, Churchill, upon being told that Rommel had died, even ordered a minute's silence in the House of Commons".

RH: Luckner was the subject of a popular biographer by Lowell Thomas, Count Luckner, the Sea Devil (1924, 1927), which presumably sold well in New Zealand. However, I am surprised that democratic New Zealand would give a "grand reception" to a Nazi delegation.

Ronald Hilton - 1/14/03