Oberleutnant Fritz Lamm ‘demythologized’Richard2020-05-26T22:32:24+02:00
Southern Front Holland, Friday 15 February 2008
The actual source of myths and hoaxes is often difficult to determine, but it is certain that too often (formerly) writers fail to conduct proper research into such a source, and too quickly proceed to (almost) indiscriminately copy what a another has ‘investigated’ for them. This creates persistent myths.
The actual source of myths and hoaxes is often difficult to determine, but it is certain that too often (formerly) writers fail to conduct clean research in such a source, and too quickly proceed to (almost) indiscriminately copy what a another has’ investigated ‘for them. This creates persistent myths.
Two striking examples of mythical events surrounding a person within the framework of this study into the events surrounding the southern front in May 1940 are those that have been recorded around the Canton Commander in Dordrecht – superior Mussert – and the alleged German Oberleutnant Fritz Lamm in Moerdijk. The latter is discussed below
Lamm is a ghost lieutenant who pops up in the story about Moerdijk. The author does – supported by various individuals – research into Fritz Lamm. That research is now as good as completed. It is deliberately chosen to preserve part of the gradual progression in the article below as imaging.
A ghost lieutenant
Already during the war the rumor was trumpeted that a German officer had landed in Moerdijk on 10 May, who had lived and worked in the immediate vicinity for years. The man had been the captain of a band of Germans who had to take the village of Moerdijk. Almost satisfying, that story could be concluded with the final piece that he had been killed by Dutch fire on the Steenweg in the village. A kind of ‘bowl comes about his wages’, at least, mores is in the tradition of the story.
The Military Spectator [edition 1956] published the story as an integral part of the events in the Bridgehead Moerdijk. Numerous other media happily took over the story. Treason stories sold post-war eagerly, because it eased the pain of the few glorious days in May 1940. A then prominent magazine like Elsevier took it over. Before everyone knew it was general knowledge that the business in Moerdijk was ‘turning’. ‘Fritz Lamm from Zwartenberg – Leader of the Moerdijk parachutists’. In 1948, former Chief of Staff Group Kil Calmeijer had already stated before the committee that the lot at Moerdijk had been facilitated by ‘Oberleutnant Lam’ and that the local population had recognized the battalion commander as well-known. He used to cycle by many times before …
This Fritz Lamm had lived in the village of Langeweg – the MS reported. That quickly turned out to be wrong, because it was the nearby hamlet of Zwartenberg under the smoke of Zevenbergen. Lamm had lived in the area since 1924, having fled the hopeless Germany from Versailles. In itself no news, because many thousands of German men did the same, and thousands more were deliberately deployed abroad to keep the migrated German industry running. Lamm had been reportedly in the fight for his homeland during WWI. When he came to the Netherlands in 1924, he went into the anonymous working class and had a meaningless job in a sawmill where he had resigned in 1938. He saw opportunities again in Germany and went to Düsseldorf with his Dutch wife and five children.
It is said that the man was not very sympathetic and had also occasionally expressed national-socialist ideas in the last years before he left. There had been contact with the neighbors for some time, and they had even been invited to Düsseldorf in their own words. His old acquaintances called the man extremely suitable as an officer. After all, it had been a ‘bossy man’. He was also called ‘the Prussian’ because of his bossy dominant tendency. There would also have been local classmates of the eldest son of Lamm who confirmed the existence of Lamm in Zwartenberg, and even reported that the eldest son was once again visiting the German army as regular ‘angehörige’. It would then have been reported that father would have died more blissfully in Moerdijk in the May days. Would that be the source of everything?
This Lamm returned according to the stories on 10 May 1940 as Oberleutnant der Reserve. He would have landed at Moerdijk and had been the chief of a battle group that had the task of taking the village of Moerdijk. The village of which he knew every little road and house. Dramatically, the story concluded that he betrayed the country that gave him his bread and his wife, and that during his death by a Dutch bullet, he took some of our soldiers to death.
The ghost unmasks?
At first sight the story sounds quite plausible and certainly in those days it will have been eagerly heard. But the expert reader – who does not want to be taken for granted – soon discerns a number of things that weigh with probability.
Lamm would have been Oberleutnant der Reserve. If that were the case, it is remarkable that he did not return to Germany earlier. From 1936, reservists were particularly keen to set up the new Wehrmacht, certainly non-commissioned officers and officers with war experience during the previous war. Lamm, however, apparently never received a request to repatriate. That can best be explained if he was not registered as a national German, but as a Dutchman. In that case he was neutralized and therefore officially lost his reserve title. Perhaps, however, re-admitted, who will say it?
It is much more remarkable that Lamm must have been around forty years in 1940, due to the fact that he would have served in WWI. And someone of that age no longer received a troop function at the Fallschirmjäger. That unit was composed of young top-fit soldiers, non-commissioned officers and subaltern officers. That does not preclude Lamm from being added as a specialist to the staff of the first regiment or the second battalion of that regiment and thus could advise. However, the story attributes to him the role of battle group commander. That seems unlikely, but is not excluded in itself.
The notes of the 7th Kompanie IIe Battalion 1 Regiment Fallschirmjäger are however quite specific in the description of the events in and around Moerdijk. For the record, it is said that the 7th and 8th companies landed south of the bridge. Both were commissioned to make a report for the Kriegstagebuch. The notes of 7./FJR1 are known to the author. It mentions all platoon commanders with rank and name, as well as their commitment. Striking in that report is that the Leutnant Lemm – Kampfgruppeführer within 7./FJR1 – was in charge of a small attack group that had to take the village of Moerdijk. The report literally says the following about this:
‘Ein Kampfgrupp, bestehend aus dem Kp.-Trupp, den Zug- und Granatwerfer-Truppen der I. und II. Züge unter Führung von Lt.Lemm hatte zusammen mit einem Zug der 8. Kp, Oblt. Schwarzmann, in den Ort Moerdijk einzudringen, Widerstand zu brechen und den Ort zu besetzen. (…) Der Kampfgrupp Lt.Lemm wurde durch schlechte Absetzen sehr zerrigen. Ein von Lt.Lemm auf die Häuser südlich Moerdijk ausgesandter Spähtrupp stellte dort Feind, Stärke 60-80 Mann, in aufgebauten Stellungen fest. Der Kampfgruppe Lt.Lemm drang in kleinem Trupp in Moerdijk ein, überwand am Ostrand schwächeren Feind, nahm 3 Offiziere und 20 Mann in den Häusern, z.T. noch nicht vollständig ausgezogen, gefangen. (…) Lt. Lemm wurde von einem Gendarmerie Posten durch Pistolenschuss aus dem Hinterhalt getötet. (…)’
Not a word about an Oberleutnant Fritz Lamm, but about the Leutnant Dietrich Lemm. Coincidentally, the roles of the two Germans completely coincide, with the exception of the rank, first name and last name, although the surnames are strikingly similar. It is even more remarkable that the role of Lamm and Lemm is completely congruent. Both are indeed the commander of the attack group Moerdijk, and both are the only German officer who has been killed on the Steenweg. The only according to the official grave registration then.
But the case goes on. The German association Weltkriegsopfer, which registers the location of German war graves, and the Volksbund do not know Oberleutnant Fritz Lamm. The man is not mentioned on the list of missing persons either. Well mentioned and thus registered is the name – with all the personal details – of Leutnant Dietrich Lemm. Cases in Moerdijk on May 10, 1940. By the way, when asked by Oberleutnant Lamm one gets a ‘hit’ at the Kriegsgräber registers. But after verification, the data of that registration appears to have come purely from the Netherlands, from a martial historian who based himself on … the story in MS.
In itself it is not strange that a name is missing. The Obergefreiter Fischer is also missing from the Moerdijk victims. This, incidentally, has been reported as a case on the basis of Dutch data. Identified in and by the municipality Lage Zwaluwe. However, the absence of an officer in May 1940 is more exceptional, although this is also more common. At the same time it should be noted that the fallen of the Moerdijk bridgehead – on both sides – virtually all of them in the Monastery garden in Moerdijk village were ordered to the earth. The German dead in the village of Moerdijk had, as it were, fallen on the border of that honorary cemetery. It would be very strange if something went wrong as far as registration was concerned. However, it is not excluded.
Ghost stories supported
There are more stories coming after the war that raise the ghost lieutenant Lamm to an actual person.
As mentioned earlier, the former Chief of Staff Calmeijer had already informed the Commission in 1948 with great dedication about the role of one Oberleutnant Lam and the German battalion commander. That Calmeijer did not speak as an eyewitness will immediately be clear to the reader. The tradition will have reached him in the war years.
In the public domain, J.J.C.P. Wilson – in the May days chief operations at the AHK – with his publication ‘Five days of war and their twenty-year history’ published in 1960, the trendsetter. He was preceded by the Military Spectator who already in 1956 made the Lamm story public among the military.
Local writer Jan Buitkamp wrote in ‘Moerdijk Mei 1940’ an anecdotal story about the experiences of Oberleutnant Lamm. How it pre-wared with Oberleutnant Pagels [C7 / FJR1], and then a detailed narrative of the events in May 1940 in and around Moerdijk with Lamm as one of the protagonists. Although the story deals with certain verifiable (true) key points, it is also full of factual errors and impurities. Dutch soldiers who are reported to be killed, who did not die at all, wrong rankings, wrong name spelling, and so on. Buitkamp also has a different theory about the events in the streets of Moerdijk. Lamm had suddenly become company commander and so Buitkamp certainly knew that the Dutch prisoners of war were being expelled by the Germans for them as a shield. A fact that is not supported as such by the military reports of the same Dutch soldiers, although they are not consistent in their turn. Buitkamp states that the Dutch military was ordered to order the pontonniers to stretch their weapons, which the Dutch would have refused. That (last) is again not consistent, because the Dutch officers now confirm that certainly two of them – after each other – loudly shouting the pontonniers try to persuade. During the battle with the pontonniers, in which several Dutch prisoners of war had been hit, the Marechaussee would suddenly appear. Lamm reappeared late in the fight. Only now was it killed by the Dutch defenders. Thus Buitkamp …
The latter is completely inconsistent with all reports, including the German. The German report reported the death of Lamm before the pontonniers came into the picture, which corresponds to the Dutch reports. The Dutch reports reported that it was precisely the death of the German commander on the ground who made the Germans furious and incited them to act unlawfully towards the prisoners of war. Buitkamp, however, continues, and then reports that only after the surrender of the pontonniers the two Marechaussees stopped the battle. Inconsistent with all Dutch reports. Both marechaussees were then executed by the Germans with a hand grenade. They had to run away and were given a hand grenade. He killed Van der Werken, one of the two. A story that is not supported by any Dutch report. While such an act would have aroused revulsion at all? It was reported that German hand grenades were thrown back by the pontonniers, but according to Buitkamp they had already surrendered when Van der Werken was killed. Captain Adriaansen was wounded by such a grenade. It is curious that none of the Dutch attendees supports the vision of Buitkamp. Can value be attached to the rest of the report? As far as the author is concerned, for the time being little. The story of Buitkamp is full of sloppy mistakes [names, ranks, functions, fallen], which indicates carelessness. It is, however, stubbornly written around the ghost officer Oberleutnant Lamm … What was Buitkamp his source ???
An even more fantastic story about this Lamm comes from a corporal who was at 13.Bt.LuA and ended up just before the May days at 19.Bt.LuA, B. C. Dresens. This story was handed to the author by Pim Monné. He – Dresens – would give training to a new employee at the altimeter. Thus, on April 12, 1940, he came into the battery. In his memoirs, Dresens writes that on May 7, 1940, he was standing at the desk of Lieutenant Teeckelenburg, when he saw a man making notes at the barracks camp through the window. He immediately brought this to the attention of the lieutenant who was sitting opposite him and called the KMAR a little further on the Steenweg. He arrested the man in question and the KMAR guardian informed them that the man in question was a German who had lived near Moerdijk for a long time in the village of Langeweg. Dresens emphatically links this in his book to the Oberleutnant Lamm. A story he knew from … the Military Spectator.
Now this last story – according to the author of this – can be easily referred to the land of fables. If indeed Oberleutnant Lamm had been arrested on 7 May [there was then the highest degree of combat readiness until the 9th of May] it would never have landed on the 10th of May with the parachute at Moerdijk. For it is highly unlikely that the man would be released in a period that was of the highest degree of combativeness. Moreover, and perhaps even more remarkable, is this arrest – which would have led to great news within the Bridgehead – by none of the officers, not even the 1st lieutenant of Teeckelenburg himself. It seems a typical case of ‘hear say’ and ‘eagerly believing’ that this – undoubtedly committed – corporal forced the processing into his biography. A big thumb is also possible.
The renowned writer lt-kol b.d. E.H. Brongers also included Lamm prominently in his work, as a direct result of the publication of Wilson in 1960. But even Herman Amersfoort and Piet Kamphuis recorded Lamm in their second and revised edition of the state edition ‘May 1940 – Struggle on Dutch territory’ that appeared in 2005.
In Franz Kurowski’s ‘Deutsche Fallschirmjäger 1939-1945’ – still available – Lamm gets another name. Now it is Hamm:
‘Der in dieser Gruppe eingesetzte Leutnant Fritz Hamm, der 15 Jahre bei Moerdijk gewohnt hatt und das Gelände wie seine eigene Hosentasche kannte, sollte die Fallschirmjäger führen; er wurde aber direkt nach der Landung durch einen Karabinerschuss aus der nahegelegenen Kaserne im Dorf Moerdijk getötet.’
It seems that this slightly different version originated from the same Dutch source as the well-known Fritz Lamm story here in the Netherlands, or from the MS edition 1956. How Kurowski then came to Hamm is a mystery. Incidentally, the Leutnant Fritz Hamm is also nowhere registered, according to studies by Richard Schoutissen of the Weltkriegsopfer. And Hamm / Lamm / Lemm was not killed by a carbine shot, but a pistol shot from the barracks … In addition, the popular Franz Kurowski is a not undisputed writer. He is best known for his moderate reliability in terms of facts and details, especially in his earlier work.
Wolf in sheep’s coat
In many writings since 1940, the German Oberleutnant Lamm has become a well-liked figure. This German officer – whether or not a fictional person – was a symbol of the futility of our army, and typified not only our naivety but also the rational superiority that the Germans had on all fronts. Each author unquestionably copies the ever-sprung ‘knowledge’ about Oberleutnant Lamm.
The wolf in sheep’s clothing – because that’s how the man was typed – is a ghost that is still haunted by the history of war history in the Netherlands. The conviction of the author of this is that this will not last long.
The German wargrave service does not know the man. Not as a registered buried soldier, and not as missing. Also no names and digs with comparable or possibly similar data. De Volksbund does not know Lamm either. Inquiries with veterans of the FJR did not yield anything up to now.
Currently, various processes are underway to clarify the matter. Richard Schoutissen – associated as a Dutch employee at the German wargraving service – works hard to track traces. Hugo van Dijk – FJR specialist from Dordrecht – approaches his contacts within the FJR world. Finally, the author has submitted an application to the WASt, the ‘Deutsche Dienstelle Gefallenen der ehemaligen Wehrmacht’. We do not yet know what that produces, and the results may take some time to wait.
Ultimately, the author hopes to be able to tell you whether the wolf actually wore sheep’s clothing, or whether those sheep’s clothing never existed – and perhaps the wolf itself …
The research continues …
An application has been submitted to the WASt in the background of Fritz Lamm. Questions have also been asked at the Bund Deutsche Fallschirmjäger [BDF]. To date no indication from that angle that Lamm was found. The WASt report traditionally requires some time to wait.
Meanwhile, through a tip from Pim Monné went looking for the wedding register of the municipality of Zevenbergen. In it the author indeed found the marriage certificate of Friedrich Wilhelm Lamm – signed with Fritz Lamm – who married Anna Margaretha Domen on 4 April 1924 [b. Roosendaal-Nispen 1904]. Lamm was born on June 28, 1900, German in Rendsburg [Schleswig Holstein, 30 km from Kiel in Germany]. Among the marriage was father August Lamm, who himself also lived in the Netherlands in 1935 and 1936. It is also striking that a large Lamm family appears in the registers of Zevenbergen. Lamm had five children: August [prince, 1923], Franz , Fritz , Else  and Johanna . August also served in the Wehrmacht. The remarkable residential address in Zwartenberg was H.8.
It is clear, however, that Friedrich Lamm called himself Fritz Lamm, Friedrich Lamm versus Dietrich Lemm. Bizare similarities in this context. Lemm, however, was from 1912, and therefore 28 years in 1940 [in itself also old for a lieutenant at the Fallschirmjäger], while Lamm must have been 39 or 40 around that time. Friedrich Lamm is also a big unknown in the German grave data …
Another salient detail is that father August Lamm, who lived in the Netherlands in ’35 and ’36 near his son, according to the marriage certificate in Wangen am Aare [sic: this must be Wangen an der Aare] lived. That was in Switzerland, around the corner at Solothurn. The company Solothurn, as the reader probably knows, was in 1929 officially a wholly-owned subsidiary of the German Rheinmetall. This weapon manufacturer moved to (o.a.) Switzerland after 1919 because the arms manufacturing and heavy metal industry in Germany were banned because of the Versailles tract. Immediately afterwards, many German workers went to neighboring countries. Switzerland became the Walhalla for many German arms factory. The probability is considerable that Lamm Sr. already settled in Switzerland shortly after 1919 to put its capacities at the service of the high-grade metal and weapon industry.
On April 8, 2008 the WASt request was answered. The result is that no Fritz or Friedrich Lamm was killed on 10 May 1940. That was no surprise anymore. However, it was confirmed that son Fritz Lamm – born on 29 May 1926 in the municipality of Zevenbergen (see picture) – was reported missing as a soldier in connection with Trune / Orne [Falaise] in France in relation to 4./GR986 in France on 18 August 1944. As far as is known, his body has not been identified so far.
Nothing can charm a historian more than puncturing a persistent – as reality – fable. And we can say that this succeeded in the fable about the involvement of Friedrich Lamm as Oberleutnant at the head of the German parachutists who took the village of Moerdijk in the morning of 10 May.
After the author had put the content about the battle in Moerdijk live, and there already announced research into the authenticity of the Oberleutnant Lamm, various reactions came loose. Most important and striking was that of Pim Monné from Breda. Pim is a historically very involved person and even has a modest museum under his own management. He informed the author through contacts that Lamm had been traced in the local population register. Author searched for this in the digital register of Zevenbergen and indeed found several Lamm mutations, including the original marriage certificate of Friedrich Lamm. This contained all information about birthplace and full baptismal names. Essential information for further research in Germany.
The author himself came to the conclusion, via contacts in Germany as well as an application from the WASt, that Friedrich Wilhelm Lamm was in any case not among the registered cases of the Wehrmacht. That did not mean everything, because many registrations – also from May 1940 – are not complete or still absent.
Only the Weltkriegsopfer digital database showed a ‘hit’ on the name Fritz Lamm, but on inquiry the suspicion was confirmed that this registration was instigated at the instigation of a Dutch martial historian. The communication from the author that the registration was most likely impure was the immediate reason to give all support to the investigation.
After contacting the Weltkriegsopfer, contact was established with Richard Schoutissen, who as a Dutchman is doing a great job for this German organization. Richard was very helpful and went to work with the data. He verified the population registers of Rendsburg and Düsseldorf and sought contact with veterans’ associations where he has very good access due to his position. The data quickly turned out that Lamm had nothing to do with Moerdijk in May 1940.
In the end Richard came in early February 2008 with the announcement that Friedrich Wilhelm Lamm in 1983 [24 September; Standesambt Düsseldorf nr. 5973/19] died in Düsseldorf. A clearer proof that Fritz Lamm did not die as Oberleutnant at the head of a German band in Moerdijk can not be delivered. Incidentally, it also appeared that Lamm had served as a navy man in both world wars and had nothing to do with the land or air force.
Lamm had five children, two of whom [August and Fritz] also went into the army. In 1944, the son Fritz Lamm died according to WASt on the western front. Perhaps his death ever penetrated the community around Zevenbergen and given his name contributed to the creation or preservation of the local saga.
More personal details are known and there are even direct contacts with a son and grandson of Friedrich Lamm. However, the fruits are not important for publication, so the author chooses to continue to respect the privacy of the Lamm family. The reader will not deny that an error.
The hypothesis of the origin and the stubborn survival of the hoax around Fritz Lamm is seen by the author as follows. After the fallen in Moerdijk were registered by the German physician Hartmann, they were buried for some time in the Kloostertuin. Undoubtedly there have been marks on the tombs, and one of the markings will have been reported – presumably in High German letters – that there was a Lieutenant, “Dietrich Lemm.” That looked suspiciously like ‘Friedrich Lamm’, and that is how the hoax can be all too easily brought to life that a former German community member ‘committed the betrayal of Moerdijk’. As we know hundreds of local narratives that hardly have any historical ground, but do it ‘good’. Such stories arise very quickly in times of crisis and the tamtam quickly made it an accepted local saga. The disintegration of such hoaxes is a multiple more difficult than its occurrence.
The real story of Leutnant Dietrich Lemm shows, of course, scary parallels with that of the legend that Lamm designates as the commander of the German association that invaded Moerdijk. These parallels were already presented above. It is now perfectly clear that the official Oberleutnant Fritz Lamm described in Dutch literature was in fact Leutnant Dietrich Lemm, who as a regular officer in the Fallschirmjäger fell during the battle with the Dutch defenders, and who had never lived in the neighborhood. Without his alter ego Lamm, Lemm had probably been absorbed in the rows of the fallen and only marginally noticed as the only fallen officer of the II./FJR1 in the battle around the Moerdijk bridges. Thanks to Lamm, however, Lemm has outstripped anonymity, and then let that be the positive moral of the story …
Without the extensive and enthusiastic help of Pim and Richard, the way to Lamm’s demasque as a ghost lieutenant had been much more cumbersome. The author owes many thanks to both gentlemen. It is an example of interest-free cooperation with the aim of promoting truth-finding in the history of war history. Magnificent!