Most of us have perhaps come across this iconic photograph once in our lives: a large gathering of Nazi workers at the Blohm+Voss shipyard in Hamburg in 1936 for the celebration of launching the navy training ship, Horst Wessel. Everyone was doing the “Sieg heil” (hail victory) stiff-arm Nazi salute mandatory to all German citizens to show their loyalty to the Fuhrer, his party, and the nation. Except when you look closer, all but one was doing it; a man toward the back of the crowd, standing with his arms crossed over his chest and his face showing a grim expression, and for reasons. Here is the story of August Landmesser.

The Man In The Photo

August Landmesser. (Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The man was identified to be August Landmesser, a German born in Moorrege in 1910, an only child of August Franz Landmesser and Wilhelmine Magdalene. Wanting to get employment, he joined the Nazi Party(The Nationalist Socialists had absorbed the labor unions) in 1931 and rose his way up the ranks of the only legal, political affiliation in Germany. All this time, Landmesser was a loyal Hitler follower until he met Irma Eckler two years later. In what sounded like a movie plot, their love was forbidden, as Eckler was Jewish. Regardless, he proposed marriage to her in 1935. The party discovered their engagement soon enough, and he was expelled from the party. But at that time, love was stronger than his belief in the Nazis, as they still attempted to seal their love when they filed a marriage application in Hamburg. However, the union was denied due to the newly enacted Nuremberg Laws. Unmarried, they still had their first daughter in October 1935 and named her Ingrid.

The Nuremberg Laws

Nürnberger Gesetze (Nuremberg Laws) were racist and antisemitic laws established in Nazi Germany on Sept. 15, 1935, the same year Landmesser and Eckler attempted to get married. These laws forbade marriages and extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans to protect the racial purity of the German face. Thus it was called the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour. The Reich Citizenship Law was also one of the Nuremberg Laws. It stated that the only eligible Reich citizens were Germans and anyone of related blood. Those who were not were classified as state subjects were not eligible for any citizenship rights. Soon, the Romani gypsies, Blacks and other minorities were also added to the list of “enemies of the race-based state.”

It was the Nuremberg Laws that made the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews official, although the “legal” attack started two years prior when the Nazis took power in Germany and activities involving the persecution of the Jewish and other minority populations became state policy.  The Jews were not allowed to hold public office or civil service positions, and immigrants were denaturalized. They were also denied employment and excluded from farming. Later on, they were also not permitted to participate in stock exchanges and brokerage.