Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Girl in a Photograph - More Than 90 Years Ago

The Israel Defense Forces and Defense Establishment Archives (IDFA) has published on its website a series of photographs related to the reopening of the railway station in Jerusalem. The station has recently been converted to a recreation, culture and food area--a welcome addition to Jerusalem.
One of the photographs, dating back to the First World War, shows General Erich von Falkenhayn when he arrived to visit Jerusalem in June 1917. Falkenhayn was appointed Commander of the German Army after its repeated failures during WWI. He is chiefly remembered as a planner of the Battle of Verdun in France (February – November 1916), which was intended to bleed the French army and instead became a terrible massacre of both parties. Falkenhayn later commanded the combined German-Austrian-Bulgarian forces (with some Turkish units too) to defeat Romania in August – November 1916, which was considered a brilliant campaign, and later became the commander of the Turkish forces in Syria and Israel. (On his left side in the photograph is the Turkish commander of Syria and Palestine, Jamal Pasha, who vehemently opposed Falkenhayn's appointment.) Falkenhayn failed to protect Palestine from the troops of Edmund Allenby and was replaced in February 1918, finishing his service in the German Army headquarters in the Baltic region.

The picture shows a girl on his right, and she is interesting in her own right. In the book "Looking Twice at the Land of Israel" (published by the Defense Ministry and Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi, 1991), Benjamin Z. Kedar identifies her as Falkenhayn's daughter, Erica. Erica married Henning von Tresckow, one of the chief conspirators against Hitler in World War II. On July 21, 1944, the day after the failed assassination of Hitler, von Tresckow staged a partisan attack on his headquarters near Bialystok in Poland, and blew himself up with a grenade. He was buried with military honors, but a month later, when the Gestapo discovered his involvement in the plot against Hitler, his body was exhumed and burned in a crematorium of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. His wife - Erica - and daughters were arrested, but later released.

Lots of things happened to her after that sunny afternoon in Jerusalem...
Erica von Falkenhayn and Henning von Tresckow (Wikipedia)

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