Monday, December 30, 2019

Third Reich Television

Television of the Third Reich

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The broadcast sign-on image for the German television network (1938).
"Alternate histories" are always popular on the Internet. They usually have Hitler escaping to Argentina, or modern aircraft carriers transported back to Pearl Harbor (that theme actually has become very popular in Japan as well as the US), or Germany occupying England and sending Winston Churchill to the Tower of London. There are endless variations that would "disturb the timeline." But what if the Third Reich had developed television? Honest-to-goodness Third Reich TV, or TRTV? I want my TRTV! What on earth would that look like? Would it be full of "Heil Hitlers!" and stiff Wehrmacht boys recovering from wounds and young blonde maidens doing dances and even references to "the camps"?

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The German postal service was responsible for promoting Third Reich TV.
Well, in fact... yes, it would. Third Reich TV would have all of those things. Actually, we don't have to guess, it actually did have all of those things. There was television during the Third Reich, and each of those things - the Heil Hitlers, the young blonde maidens, oblique references to the camps (in a joking fashion, if you can believe it), wounded warriors - appeared on it. German television of World War II was not "like" television, it was television just like you would watch on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1965 or, for that matter, today, though of course in black and white. It was of quite a good picture quality, too, almost up to the standards of contemporary films. There weren't a whole lot of television sets in existence - the few around were set up in "television parlors" and military hospitals - but for all intents and purposes the system worked just like network television does today.

Let's take a look at  Third Reich TV and see what it was all about.

Background of Third Reich TV

There is a bit of a myth that television is a purely American invention. In fact, television was the result of work by scientists around the world. Its immediate ancestor was the fax machine, first developed by Italian priest Giovanni Caselli in 1856. That got people thinking about transmitting images, and wouldn't it be great if they moved? The key advance in the early days was made by Paul Julius Gottlieb Nipkow, a Pomeranian 23-year-old university student, in 1884. He developed what he called the "electric telescope." The key part of his invention was what later came to be called the Nipkow disk, a spinning disk with a pattern of holes that each could scan a single line of an image. It had 18 lines of resolution. Nipkow quickly patented the disk, German patent No. 30105, granted on 15th January 1885, retroactive to 6th January 1884. Nipkow got involved in other things and allowed the patent to lapse, but his contribution was not forgotten and became a source of German pride. Later inventors, such as Lee de Forest, built upon Nipkow's work, which was far ahead of its time in terms of the technology available to make it do anything practical.

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John Logie Baird with his original experimental Baird television apparatus, September 1926. The Nipkow disk can be seen clearly.
Frenchmen Georges Rignoux and A. Fournier demonstrated instantaneous image transmission in 1909. It was only an 8x8 pixel resolution, but it could transmit several times a second and thus portray a moving image. Images transmitted over wires were shown by Boris Rosing in 1911. The next big advance, though, was made by Scotsman John Logie Baird on 25 March 1925, when he gave a public demonstration in London of televised silhouette images in motion. He gave a much better demonstration of a human face on 26 January 1926. Baird used the Nipkow disk and transmitted the moving image over AM radio waves. By 1928, Baird was able to broadcast one of his "moving images" across the Atlantic and from shore to ship. Others were right behind Baird, such as Charles Francis Jenkins in the United States and Herbert E. Ives and Frank Gray of Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York. The first television station, WRGB/W2XB, began operating from General Electric's plant in Schenectady, New York in 1928. That same year, Paul Nipkow himself saw television for the first time at a Berlin radio show. The world's first daily TV broadcasts, using Baird's 30-line low definition system, began on the BBC in 1932.

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The Nipkow Disk was extremely clever and got the ball rolling in terms of television development, but it was a bit impractical. It was the television equivalent of a pinhole camera - it worked, but was kind of a dead-end for advanced transmission. Working in San Francisco, Philo Farnsworth, building on the work of others such as Kenjiro Takayanagi of Japan (as all scientists/engineers do), perfected an alternate transmission method. It was called "all-electronic" and had no mechanical parts. Farnsworth demonstrated it at the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia on August 25, 1934. This used a live camera and was much more practical than systems using the mechanical Nipkow disk. It was this huge advance that led to the misconception that television is an American invention, but television was developed by different men around the world. And Hitler's  Germany had a use for it.

Third Reich Television

Let's get the technical background out of the way first. German engineers were working hard on television in the 1920s and 1930s, just like their counterparts in other countries. The first electromechanical broadcasts there began in 1929, and they began transmitting sound as well in 1934. That's a pretty phenomenal achievement, considering that theatrical films had only begun adding sound in 1928.

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A television image produced by Manfred von Ardenne in December 1930.
Manfred von Ardenne was a brilliant young German scientist who used an inheritance to set up his own research lab in 1928, Forschungslaboratorium für Elektronenphysik. It was just the right time to make a difference in TV. Von Ardenne was one of the most brilliant (and most undeservedly forgotten) men of his time who dabbled in a lot of different areas (including later helping to develop the atom bomb for the USSR). He demonstrated television using CRT tubes at the Berlin Radio Show in August 1931 and transmitted improved television pictures on 24 December 1933.

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An image from Manfred von Ardenne's "flying spot film scanner" of April 1931. It has a 60-line picture with a horizontal scan rate of 1500 Hz and a vertical scan rate of 25 Hz.
Realizing the immense power of television - not everybody did, but we already said von Ardenne was a bright guy - he quickly began working on an experimental public television station. In honor of the German engineer who basically had invented television (at least in German eyes), he called it "The Paul Nipkow Television Station" (literally, Fernsehsender "Paul Nipkow" (TV Station Paul Nipkow)). Nipkow himself became honorary president of the "television council" of the Reich Broadcasting Chamber until he passed away on 24 August 1940.

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Paul Nipkow, standing behind the microphone on the left, appearing on German television in 1937.
The first German public transmission of the new TV station was produced in the Kroll Opera House on April 18, 1934. On 22 March 1935, building on Farnsworth's work, von Ardenne started an electronically scanned television service called Deutscher Fernseh Rundfunk. The service had a resolution of 180 lines and, during this transitional time, using a variety of transmission methods: Nipkow Disks, telecine film transmission, and the intermediate film system. Broadcasts were for 90 minutes, three times a week. On 15 January 1936, the system began using the iconoscope system. After that, von Ardenne moved on to other things (he lived until 1997), but he had set a giant boulder rolling down the hill for others to grab onto.

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The E1. You can see this at Rundfunkmuseum der Stadt Fürth, Kurgartenstraße 37, 90762 Fürth, Germany.
So, von Ardenne had the transmission angle figured out. The most important part of a television system, though, is the television set itself. You can have the best transmission facility in the world, but it is useless if people have nothing worthwhile to watch programs on. Farnsworth got bogged down in a patent dispute over a television receiver with another inventor, Vladimir Zworykin (RCA ultimately bought Farnsworth out). Two Germans, however,  had filed patents in their own country two years before Farnsworth for what ultimately became the industry standard. Called the image iconoscope (Superikonoskop), it was ready just in time for the August 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.

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Walter Bruch at the 1936 Olympics.
There were many important but largely forgotten people behind the quick rise of Third Reich TV. Let's remember at least one. Walter Bruch presented a “people’s television receiver” in 1933 with a self-built telecine. He joined Fritz Schröter's Telefunken in 1935 as a technician in the Television and Physics research Department and worked on field tests of the first Iconoscope camera. Emil Mechau of Telefunken developed a special television camera for the 1936 Summer Olympics which Bruch put to good use. In 1937, Bruch established the first all-electronic TV studio in Germany and, at the Paris International Exposition, he introduced an iconoscope television unit that he had designed. Bruch went on to become a major figure in the post-war development of television (especially color tv), and he is considered a legendary figure in German TV - which today has the most viewers of any country in Europe.

Third Reich Programming

The 1936 Berlin Olympic Games put Third Reich television on the map. Two firms broadcast the Berlin Games - Telefunken and Fernseh, using RCA and Farnsworth equipment, respectively.

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German television cameras at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
The Berlin Olympic Games were the first sports events ever broadcast - over three years before the first broadcast football game in the United States in September 1939. The Games also, in the broader sense, constituted the first live transmission of any public event in real-time. Broadcast via both all-electronic iconoscope-based cameras and intermediate film cameras, transmissions went to "Public Television Offices" in Berlin/Potsdam and Hamburg. The Games introduced the first all-day television programming, as they were on the air for up to eight hours a day for a total of 72 hours.

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A television viewing parlor in Berlin around the time of the Olympics. Admission was free.
Since very few individuals had television sets, 25-28 public television rooms or "parlors" (Fernsehstuben) were set up. They resembled movie theaters, with images transmitted by coaxial cable to projectors which displayed the images on 8 x 10-foot film screens (thus making this the first cable tv programming). Roughly 160,000 viewers saw the Olympic games this way, a phenomenal number for the day. The Games were a huge success and burnished Hitler's image as he presided over them every day from his prominent box seat. Most of the people in the stadiums had no idea what the huge telescope-like things were for.

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There were 21 television cameras used at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This appears to be the Fernsehkanonen (television canon), which was 6 feet long. Three of these cameras were used at the Olympics.
The Germans thereafter upgraded their television technology. In February 1937, they introduced a 441-line system, which was slightly better than the British 405-line system at the time (which they had begun using in the fall of 1936). Virtually all German programming was done live, and it consisted primarily of Vaudeville-type acts and documentaries, with occasional political speeches. The project was "owned" by the Deutsche Reichspost, the Ministry of Aviation, and the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. In practice, the Post Office (Reichspost) was responsible for promoting the service, as they had the most daily contact with the public.

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Broadcasting the 1936 Olympics.
There were plans for a mass-produced television set to spread Third Reich TV to the masses (much like the Volkswagen would provide cars to them). The Einheit-Fernseh-Empfänger E1 (Unitary-TV-receiver E1), also called Volksfernseher (People's TV) was a 441-line, 50 interlaced frames per second television set. The prototype was shown at the 16th Grosse Deutsche Funk- und Fernseh-Ausstellung (Greater Germany Radio and Television Exhibition) held in July/August 1939. Funkschau ("Radio Station") magazine in its 31 July 1939 (No. 31) issue, timed to coincide with the opening of the exhibit, reviewed the E1 (very loose translation):
The People's TV has a bright picture of deep contrast and sharpness without distortion. This results from its cutting-edge picture tube, which is rectangular with a flat fluorescent screen, preventing typical barrelling at the edges ("does not look like it was pulled over a roller").... [T]he dimensions of the screen are 19.5 cm x 22.5 cm with a diagonal of 30 cm.
The sets were highly advanced for the time, at least on a par with US sets of the 1950s. The physical display size was 7.68" × 8.86," and a color television version also was shown at the exhibit simply to demonstrate the technology (but was not going to be marketed). The sets could function solely as radios, too, which remained the main means of propaganda throughout the war on both sides. Production of the E1, despite its obvious allure, was canceled in favor of war production after war broke out on 1 September 1939.

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Wounded warriors watching television at the Berlin hospital. If you think that all they watched were Hitler's speeches, think again: just like today, tv broadcast soccer (football) matches, variety acts and other popular things then and now. There was only one channel, so no fights over the dial!
Only about 50 E1 television sets were produced, and these were placed in government buildings and military hospitals. They were used throughout the war and proved popular with the patients at the hospitals. About ten of these units still exist, several completely original and functioning. Daily programming expanded with time.

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The Germans had a television broadcasting antenna on the Eiffel Tower, originally put there by the fledgling French television service.
After the capture of Paris, the Germans on 3 September 1940 seized the French television service, which had installed a television antenna on the Eiffel Tower. Eventually, the German Ministry of Post and Radiodiffusion Nationale resumed programming in Paris, broadcasting in both German and French (Fernsehsender Paris) from 7 May 1943. Among the more interested viewers were RAF and BBC engineers in southern England who learned what they could about the German homefront situation from the programs being broadcast.

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The Paris call-sign of Third Reich TV.
While most US programming from the 1950s and 1960s is lost forever because it was not recorded, significant portions of Third Reich TV were recorded and survived the fall of the Reich. What survives shows a mix of programming that is not that dissimilar to what you find today when you roam around the channels: variety shows, documentaries, comic acts and the like. Much of the programming in the early years was a cross between Vaudeville and nightclubs. During the war, documentaries began appearing which are a bit odd to modern eyes but would have been appreciated by the audience (primarily wounded men in hospitals). For most of the war, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels left the broadcasts alone and Third Reich TV was mindless entertainment - dancing girls, xylophone players, singers and the like. After Stalingrad, though, Goebbels began to see some political uses for it, and there were more documentaries about wounded soldiers recovering from horrible wounds and so forth. These included a documentary on how amputees could contribute to society and live happy lives after losing their legs.

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Ilse Werner, talented singer, on Third Reich TV. Some of the acts were quite good.
Many top German directors of the day worked on television during the Third Reich, and some big names got their start in it. The talent included director Carl Boese, whose career transcended the Third Reich, and his protégé Frank Wysbar contributed content. Ilse Werner became the world's first television show, hosting a variety show. A special magazine, Fernsehen und Tonfilm ("Television and Sound film") chronicled cutting-edge developments in the area, and television listings appeared in the newspapers just as they did in the post-war world. Radio shows were adapted to the new medium and became known as "teleplays," better known as "movies of the week" in the 1970s and '80s. The overall strategy became known as "maximum entertainment" and revolved primarily around high-quality- stage acts. All of this paled beside the hugely popular Olympic broadcasts in 1936, of course, but those only lasted a couple of weeks and, as any TV programmer knows, you have to put something on the air aside from special events. Hitler wanted to host the Winter Olympics again in 1940, which might have been another good TV show, but the war intervened and they were canceled. Incidentally, let's not romanticize or sanitize what was broadcast: there was a lot of blatant anti-Semitism and propaganda. The broadcasts were a reflection of the ruling culture, just as today's broadcasts are.

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This fine fellow delivers one of the creepiest monologues in television history.
The broadcasts lasted until late November 1943 in Berlin (when the antenna was destroyed in a British bombing raid). In Paris, the broadcasts lasted  5 1/4 hours per day until 16 August 1944, when the Allies were approaching Paris and the local authorities fled.  The entire project was dissolved on 18 October 1944. The Reich Radio Company produced and maintained 285 rolls of film of broadcasts (which were mostly live productions). These survived the war and passed to the East German State Film Archives, where they sat on a shelf for 50 years. They finally went to the Berlin Federal Film Archives after reunification in the early 1990s and have been digitized. These rolls of film are all that remains of Third Reich Television, and a fraction of it has been distributed on Youtube videos (see below). The videos make for interesting viewing even if you only have a passing interest in the subject.

Military Applications

The Third Reich hierarchy might have viewed television as somewhat of a gimmick when the war began, but developments during the war made Third Reich scientists give it a second look. The Luftwaffe developed wire-controlled missiles which proved effective and even radio-controlled missiles. These all required visual observation of the missile from relatively close distances. But what if you could sit in your plane above the clouds - or over the horizon - and guide the missile with radio controls while watching its flight on a television screen? That would be a lot more effective, both for the crew of the plane controlling the missile and improving the chances of the missile hitting its target at all.

Television Remote Control

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German World War II television remote control for missiles.
It turns out that the Germans indeed were busy making a television remote control system for their Mistel Bombers when the war ended. The Mistel set-up involved a fighter attached to an obsolete bomber which was packed full of explosives. The fighter would "ride" the bomber to the target, then release it at the last minute (literally) to produce a massive explosion. The basic configuration was proven to work, but the last few seconds of flight required perfect aim or the bomber would miss the target. A television control with radio guidance, though, would solve that problem and make the Mistel a much more effective and deadly weapon. In fact, if the television controls worked properly, the fighter could release the bomber miles away from the target and not be exposed to any danger whatsoever. This project remained in development as the war ended.

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Henschel Hs 117 Schmetterling. 
Another plan was to use the television guidance on the Henschel Hs 117 Schmetterling ("Butterfly") surface-to-air and air-to-air missile. In the air-to-air version, this missile would be controlled by using a joystick - just like you could use on your 1990s Microsoft pc games like Flight Simulator. The Schmetterling project was promising, and obviously, the concept was completely feasible; in fact, it is used today with drones.  Some say it is the future of all military planes in the 21st Century as pilots become redundant. However, neither the missile nor the guidance system was far enough along for it become operational during the war. Despite poor testing results, in January 1945, the production of 3,000 missiles a month was proposed. However, on 6 February 1945, SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Kammler canceled the project in order to focus on things that were of more immediate use. Under better circumstances, the Schmetterling with its joystick control that was decades ahead of its time might have become operational in 1946 or 1947.

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The A4/V2 launch pad at Peenemunde, 1943 (Federal Archive).
The remote control apparatus may not have made it into guided missiles used during the war, but it did prove useful elsewhere. Walter Bruch, mentioned earlier, graduated from his work on public Third Reich TV to designing and operating a closed-circuit television system installed at the secret military rocket test site Peenemünde. Bruch used this system to control test A4 (V2) rocket launches from a safe distance within a bunker. This is considered the first CCTV system in history, built by Siemens to Bruch's specifications. Bruch also worked on TV transmission systems for planes and radar technology using the glass delay line patented by Telefunken in 1940 and used in the “Rehbock” distance control unit. Many people make up stuff about advanced Luftwaffe super-planes; but in the use of television, the Germans really were decades ahead. The Allies had nothing like any of this under serious development.

Conclusion

Third Reich television lasted for about a decade. The clips that survive make for startling viewing. There are hints throughout the of the more brutal aspects of German culture, presented in a way that is eerily reminiscent of modern television programs. There is a lesson for us there. When that attractive woman sitting behind the desk in front of the camera starts talking, remember that she is advancing an agenda today just as much as the German presenters did during World War II. Learning about Third Reich television helps to hammer home the point that technology itself is morally neutral; it is the people behind the scenes who decide whether it is used for good or evil.



2019

Ilse Werner: Whistling Superstar

World's First Television Star: Ilse Werner

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Ilse Werner.
So, who's the most famous whistler in music history? How about the first television star? I bet your answer isn't someone named Ilse Werner, who you likely have never heard of. However, there is a good possibility that you, sitting there reading this, have heard and enjoyed Ilse's whistling - and never knew it. And, when you did, you unknowingly showed your appreciation for the talents of one of the Third Reich's top stars.

If you haven't heard of Ilse Werner, that's perfectly normal: unless you're German or a big fan of German pop culture, there's no reason that you should. Werner is virtually unknown outside Germany. In brief, Ilse Werner was a stunning multi-talented entertainment star who excelled at just about everything that she tried. She reached her peak during the Third Reich years. To fully understand the reality of Germany during the war and after, Ilse Werner and her career are worth knowing about.

But, first things first: let's find out who Ilse Werner was; we'll get to your possible connection to her toward the end.

Ilse Werner's Beginnings

Ilse Werner was born Ilse Charlotte Still to O.E.G. Still, a Dutch trader/plantation owner, and German mother Lilly Werner on 11 July 1921, in Batavia, Dutch East Indies. She lived there until 1931, when her family moved to Germany. Ilse attended school in Frankfurt, then a few years later moved again to Vienna. She evidently had developed an interest in acting by this time, for instead of enrolling again in an ordinary curriculum she joined the Max Reinhardt Seminar (which still operates, incidentally). Reinhardt at this time was one of the world's most prominent directors (his 1935 "A Midsummer Night's Dream" starred James Cagney, Mickey Rooney and Olivia de Havilland). The school itself held classes at the Schönbrunner Schlosstheater, the imperial theatre in the Schönbrunn Palace. Obviously, it was a high honor for Ilse just to gain admittance.

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German postcard by Ross, 1941-1944. Photo: Ufa / Baumann.
Ilse did well at the school, and in 1937 she appeared in her first public role at the Theater in der Josefstadt in the play "Glück" (Happiness). The following year Hitler invaded Austria, and Reinhardt fled overseas (he was Jewish). Ilse, however, persevered: around this time she simply changed her surname to her mother's maiden name, the very Germanic "Werner," and kept on working. Hungarian director Géza von Bolváry spotted her onstage and gave her a supporting role in his Austrian film "Finale/The Restless Girls" (1938). Somebody at powerhouse filmmaker Universal-Films AG (Ufa) saw Ilse's performance and decided to sign the perky ingenue.

Ilse Werner, German Superstar

Just to be clear, Ilse was not a Party member herself, just a performer in the Third Reich. That may not seem like much of a distinction, but it made a big difference after the war. There was a problem with her working in Germany: Ilse was Dutch due to her father's nationality (she did not become German until 1955). To be gainfully employed in the Reich, you needed to be German. However, Ilse projected the right image (a cheerful woman who can overcome anything), so the Propaganda Ministry granted Ilse a special work permit (they could be very lenient toward actors for some reason). Ilse made a smooth transition to the German film industry, signing with Universal-Films AG (Ufa) and moving to Berlin, where Ufa had its studio.

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Ufa knew a star when they found one, and they had a star in Ilse Werner. In her first few films, she played a supporting role, but by 1939 she was the headliner. Her breakthrough came the following year, she starred in "Wunschkonzert," a tale surrounding a real German radio show in which Wehrmacht soldiers made song requests. Ilse played the center of a love triangle between two Luftwaffe flyers (naturally flying together in the same bomber) vying for her affections, with everybody putting duty above love and cheering the "beautiful future" in a very disciplined Germanic fashion. Modern viewers may view the film as a turgid swill drained from the bottom of the Ministry of Propaganda, but contemporary German audiences loved it: the film became Ufa's highest-grossing film. The film also propelled the radio program to the top of the ratings in an early example of entertainment synergy.

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Ilse Werner whistling in "We Make Music" (1942).
After that, Ilse was set: in her next role she gave a bravura performance as Swedish actress Jenny Lind (beau of Hans Christian Anderson) in "The Swedish Nightingale." It was another huge success. The fact that she had a slight foreign edge herself hidden behind her German name helped Ilse sell the role. Ilse also appeared regularly on radio, singing songs that included her specialty: whistling. While whistling is kind of an acquired taste, Ilse displayed a real flair for it and worked her whistling into her songs in such a way that it appeared perfectly natural. Ilse acquired the nickname "Ein Frau mit Pfiff," which roughly translates as "Stylish Woman" but also has a secondary "punny" meaning of "Whistling Woman."


Ufa remained independent under the Germans, but the war was the dominant topic of the day. Many (but not all) of its films unavoidably had wartime settings. One of Ilse's next films was obvious propaganda bait, "U-boat Westward!"; it actually has some merit as a drama, but there is no escaping that title. Ilse kept moving forward: she followed with another big success, "Wir Machen Musik" (We Make Music) (1942), a musical which was good enough to get a US company to release it a decade later.

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French postcard by EPC, no. 190. Photo: ACE / Ufa.
Ilse had become one of Germany's top film stars - in fact, an international star - and was in demand. She skillfully split her time between radio, films and the stage, but she had the talent to spare. In 1941, another venue came along that was perfect for her: television. While in its infancy, German wartime television (Fernsehsender "Paul Nipkow") was quite advanced for its time. There were very few viewing sets in Germany, only about 50, but virtually all were in war hospitals or government buildings with crowds of watchers. At times, the Germans also set up theater-sized viewing parlors and displayed television over cable. Ilse hosted one of the first variety shows, "Wir senden Frohsinn - Wir spenden Freude" (this one is tough, but a very rough translation: We Spread Happiness and Joy). Ilse Werner - not Ed Sullivan, not Jackie Gleason, not Steve Allen - was the world's first television headliner and first true television star.

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German postcard of Ilse Werner by Film-Foto-Verlag, no. A 3732/2, 1941-1944. Photo: Quick / Ufa.
Her fame soaring, Ilse published an autobiography, "Ich über mich" (Me About Me) in 1941 - when still just a few years out of school. While at first, her early roles were perky love interests, as the war ground along Ilse began taking on serious dramatic roles. There was no hiding the grim fact that the war wasn't going well, so heroic tales of U-boats turned into films like "Große Freiheit Nr. 7" (English title "Port of Freedom"), another love-triangle film. This one, however, didn't have brave Luftwaffe pilots sacrificing all for the state, but rather simple people going through serious emotions. Shot in new Agfacolor and containing beautiful songs, and with no references to politics at all, it was a stunning film. Helmut Käutner, Ilse and Hans Albers turned out one of the best films of the era under trying conditions. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, however, wasn't looking for a serious tale about love and loss, but instead for historical tales about defending cities from foreign invaders (such as "Kolberg" (1945)). The Germans banned Ilse's film within Germany but allowed it to appear in foreign markets (of which few remained for the Germans). Ilse's final film released before the war ended in May 1945 was "Das seltsame Fräulein Sylvia" (The Odd Miss Sylvia), while "Sag' die Wahrheit" (Tell the Truth), in which Ilse just sings a song, was still filming as the Soviet tanks ground past the Ufa studios.

Ilse Werner During the Post-war Years

Having contrived by hook or by crook to be captured by the Americans (which must have taken some effort) and not the dreaded Soviets, Ilse hooked up with American journalist John de Forest - in that chaotic time, virtually any American was a catch for a refugee German girl - and eventually married him in 1948. They moved to Los Angeles, California, where Reinhardt also had fled, but he had passed away during the war. Temporarily banned from German films due to her films about U-boats and such (though she was never a Party member per se), and unknown in the US market, Ilse was at loose ends. She began to dub American films for the foreign market. Ilse became the German "voice" for Maureen O'Hara, for instance. Germans, of course, knew who was actually speaking, but to most Americans, she was just another émigré voice actress. During this time, Ilse's singing - and whistling - became a major outlet.

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After divorcing de Forest in 1953, Ilse released a string of moderately successful albums. She also did some successful stage work, but her films in West Germany were forgettable and could not compete with polished productions from Hollywood. By the mid-fifties, Ilse was appearing on television - again - as her film career dwindled, and during that era, television was seen as the graveyard for actresses. Ilse's declining film career probably had mostly to do with her advancing years and her passing from ingenue roles to more mature parts, with which she fewer credentials and perhaps fewer skills. However, her celebrity during the Third Reich years probably didn't help. Ilse's biggest post-war hit wasn't a film, but rather the single "Baciare" (Kiss, in Italian), which sold well in Europe during 1960.

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Ilse Werner - Funk und Film Magazine Cover [West Germany] (5 October 1951).
After that, Ilse became a Grande Dame of German television, taking on character parts here and there while mostly singing as herself. She married a German, Josef Niessen, but that didn't last either. By the mid-60s, Ilse divorced again and got her own show on German television, titled "Die Bräute meiner Söhne" (The Brides of My Sons). However, it only lasted the minimum 13 episodes. Ilse kept busy, though, because she could charm an audience like nobody else in Germany. She continued appearing as herself in television series, sometimes as a regular, but mostly in one-offs.

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"Wir machen Musik" (1942) (photo: kpa).
Basically, from 1965 onwards, Ilse was a recurring presence on German television and the stage, with her starring roles mostly concentrated in the latter. Highlights included her lead stage roles in German productions of "The King and I" and Thornton Wilder's "Our Town." She received a special lifetime award from the German Film Festival, the "Filmband in Gold" (Golden Film Reel) in 1986, and an acting award from them in 1991 for her performance in "Die Hallo-Sisters" (The Hello Sisters). It's rare that an artist wins a competitive award after a lifetime achievement one, but Ilse pulled it off. Probably her most poignant lead role after that was in a television film based on herself "Eine Frau mit Pfiff" (1998), in which Ilse amply displayed her whistling talents once again.

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Ilse Werner continued releasing albums of new material into the 1970s and beyond.

Wind of Change

Ilse continued performing, mainly in musical performances as herself, right up until her death from pneumonia at a Lübeck retirement home on 8 August 2005. Along the way, though, there was one curious incident that has passed into legend. A West German rock group, the Scorpions, had composed a song which began and ended with whistling segments. Lead singer and composer Klaus Meine was a brilliant rock musician - but whistling was not his thing. As legend has it, the Dutch Wisseloord Studios where they recorded tried everything to find a replacement for the whistling parts - but piano, guitar, and many other instruments simply didn't match the whistling vibe. The band itself and everybody associated with it roundly denies it (they claim that the producers assembled the whistling parts from bits and pieces of Meine's numerous awkward attempts, which sounds quite difficult), but the persistent rumor is that the studio secretly got Ilse Werner herself to record the critical whistling segments. Who better?

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Even if she didn't actually do the whistling (wait, let me say it for you cynics: "total myth"), whoever did the deed followed in the best traditions of German music - as established by the whistling Fräulein herself, Ilse Werner. Anyone in Germany with ears and a sense of history would recognize the covert allusion to World War II and Ilse's whistling, which also would soar over the head of outsiders. This, whether intentional or not, fit perfectly with the song's underlying theme of moving on from the past. With the whistling parts covered competently one way or another, Scorpions' 1990 "Wind of Change" became the most successful single by a German artist - in history.

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Conclusion

Articles like this one about Ilse Werner don't involve great battles and bombing, so if that is how you think about war, apologies for not giving you what you sought. However, individual stories bring a sense of what was going on behind the lines, whether in Germany or elsewhere. They show how the war affected people both during it and long after. While many Americans may never have heard about Ilse Werner, it is a safe bet that most Germans would recognize the name instantly. Put simply, Ilse Werner was a talented performer whose work still enchants regardless of the politics surrounding her. Werner's is a tale that weaves together many unique strands behind the German war effort and shows how talent endures no matter its origination.

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Below, Ilse at her adorable best.


Another video of Ilse during her peak.


Ilse Werner doing Ja, das ist meine Melodie (1941).


Ilse's big 1942 hit, Wir Machen Musik.


2019


He-280 German Prototype Jet Fighter

The War-Winning Fighter That Never Was

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He 280.
The Germans flew the first jet aircraft before World War II. The mystery is not that they got some capable jet fighters into battle just before the end of the war in 1945, but that none arrived before mid-1944 when that was entirely feasible. Imagine a German jet fighter during the Battle of Britain and the opening of the invasion of Russia? It was not beyond the realm of possibility. The Allied bomber offensive against Germany could have been stopped cold before it got rolling at all, and the missile project at Peenemunde would never have been bombed and forced to relocate, costing months of delay. Thousands and thousands of German, French, and other lives could have been saved in the absence of an Allied bomber offensive. Of course, we all know that none of these things happened, that the Germans never managed an effective fighter defense against the Allied bombers.

The reason why the Luftwaffe did not have working jet fighters years earlier than it did lies with the strange fate of the Ernst Heinkel He 280.

The first jet fighter project of them all was the He 280. It was an evolution of the He 178, the experimental jet that was flying in record-breaking fashion by 1938. For some reason, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (German, Reich Aviation Ministry, RLM) headed by Hermann Goering and his crony Ernst Udet was very slow to appreciate the huge advance in capability offered by the He 178. The Heinkel company, under head designer Robert Lusser, undertook to adapt the ground-breaking He 178 into a military form anyway. This project began under the designation He 180 and developed into the He 280.

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In some respects, the design was simply too far ahead of its time. For instance, it was fitted with a cutting edge tricycle landing gear at a time when, for example, Stuka 87s were considered invincible with their fixed landing gear. Airfields at the time, especially in operational zones, were usually (not always) grass and dirt. The brass did not think that the tricycle landing gear could stand the strain of actual operation. In addition, the RLM did not order a crash program to develop a series of reliable jet engines, but instead focused on piston-engined fighters and left the jet development to the private companies. It is forgotten decisions like this that determine the fate of nations.
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He 280 - Heinkel - The He-280 Flew for the first time on 16 March 1943 the He 280 was equipped with a compressed-air powered ejection seat, the first aircraft to carry one. The Jumo 004-powered Me 262 appeared to have most of the qualities of the He 280 And Was much more efficient. Heinkel was ordered to abandon the He 280 and focus attention on bomber development and construction
Heinkel pressed forward with development on its own. The first He 280 prototype appeared in the summer 1940, during the Battle of Britain. There were problems with the engines, so it could not fly under its own power and the first tests were done as gliders. The first flight of the He 280 under its own power was on 30 March 1941, before Operation Barbarossa. This was a full year before the first flight of the Me 262. The design was clever and the engines did not even require high-octane jet fuel, burning simple kerosene. However, once again the RLM reviewed it (on 5 April 1941) but just kind of nodded and did nothing to push forward development. It had bigger fish to fry, and the Me 109 and brand new FW 190 were quite capable: they might not be exactly superior to Allied fighters, but they were, you know, good enough. There were so many Luftwaffe projects going on at that time that those that were not quite ready received low priority, minimal funding, and less attention. Spring 1941 was the moment when decisive action could have gotten a truly effective jet fighter into the air well before the Germans actually did, at a time when one might have made a difference. It did not happen.

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He 280.
With low priority, it was not until late 1942 that a fully developed version of the He 280 with a workable jet engine was completed. After a demonstration flight on 22 December 1942 - as Paulus and his men were shivering in Stalingrad - the RLM placed an order for 20 initial aircraft and then 300 production machines. However, the HeS 8 engine that Heinkel was using wasn't quite ready, so a replacement was found in the Junkers Jumo 004. This unfortunately required a redesign of the aircraft. Being larger, the Jumos also slowed the aircraft down and made it less agile. The plane flew with the Jumos on 16 March 1943, but by this time, with the redesign, it was no longer superior to the Me 262 airframe. Time had passed it by. RLM Chief Erhard Milch canceled the whole project and placed the Luftwaffe's hopes on the Messerschmidt aircraft. After years of development, the world's first jet fighter wound up with only nine prototypes built, none of which saw action, a footnote in aviation history.

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The bottom line is that the error was larger than just the particular decisions regarding the He 280. The RLM's critical and even fatal error was not realizing soon enough the decisive role those jet fighters would/could play before the end of the war. Early in the war, the Luftwaffe was reasonably dominant over Europe, and no reason to change was seen. When the balance of power shifted against Germany in every way by 1943, it was too late - the work to develop quality, reliable jet engines, which was the bottleneck of the whole project, simply took too long. Even after good jet engines became available, pilots had to be trained to use them with completely new tactics that had to be worked out, mechanics trained to service them, factories set up to make them - everything takes time. Only a full-priority emphasis by the RLM on jet engines to the exclusion of all else from day one of the war might have made a difference in the war's outcome, and the will to do this was completely lacking for the first three years of the war.

2019

Dornier Do 335 Pfeil (Arrow) - Fast German Fighter

Dornier Do 335 Pfeil (Arrow)

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The Dornier Do 335 Pfeil (Arrow) was a heavy fighter designed during the final years of the Third Reich. It was big and had two engines, one mounted fore, and one aft, both on the plane's center-line. This was very unusual and one of the very few planes that sported this type of arrangement.

Dornier DO 335 worldwartwo.Filminspector.com
Dornier DO 335
This unique push-pull layout actually worked and gave the Arrow a speed unmatched by any other piston-driven aircraft. Only a few saw any kind of operational service, but they were just over the horizon.

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The Arrow was only spotted by the Allies now and then in the last days of the war, most likely on training flights gone wrong. During April 1945, there simply wasn't anywhere left to train that wasn't an operational area. However, when you are spotted by enemy planes and fired upon, that's combat, even if you merely run away faster than your pursuers can catch you (which the Arrow did).

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Do-335s on the apron at Oberpfaffenhofen at the war's end, including unfinished two-seat versions.
Armament was two 15 mm Mk 103 machine guns in the nose and a 30 mm Mk 103 cannon firing through the propeller hub. Some versions also had cannons in the wings, too. The top speed was well over 400 mph, 474 mph with a boost. Having the two propellers in-line helped reduce wind drag and gave the design greater speed than, say, an American P-38 that also had two engines, but in standard configuration.

Below is some footage of the DO 335.


This is one aircraft that was being manufactured at war's end that would have seen major combat duty later in 1945 if the war had lasted that long. Unlike some of the jet and rocket-powered fighters that were of extremely dubious provenance and probably would never have made a difference, the DO 335 did work extremely well and could be flown by ordinary Luftwaffe fighter pilots using ordinary fuel and with standard training.

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Flying them did not put your life at risk every time out, as with, for instance, the ME-163 Komet.

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The DO 335 did pose a threat to the Allied bomber stream and would have entered service in very large numbers had the war lasted another year.

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Below are both original photos and some of a carefully restored Do 335 in original markings.

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That appears to be an unfinished two-seat version, being inspected by American military personnel after capture.

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2019