November 16th, 2013, 11pm

A widely recognized shape. It stands for some of the worst things people have done to others. While not a wehrmacht issue combat helmet, this WWI piece of kit was the direct predecessor of what the nazis sported on their heads throughout WWII.

From the mid seventies to the mid eighties I attended school in Völklingen / Saar (Germany). Völklingen was still home to a steel mill whose products had helped to make WWI + II such death fests. Among those products: the steel needed for combat helmets.

Back in the day the mill’s undisputed head honcho had been Hermann Röchling, a person well described by two sentences for war crimes, both after WWI and II, with only very few German industrialists sharing in the honor. He’d used forced labor on both occasions; there are still seldolmly visited graveyards holding the remains of those who didn’t survive Herr Röchling’s appetite for ever increasing productivity. And there is still, believe it or not, a part of Völklingen named after Hermann Röchling. Some habits die hard in Germany.

The house I grew up in (of 1964 vintage) - only a stone’s throw away from a place Russian slave laborers for Röchling had been held in 1943/44.

This specimen can be found in an exhibition on the steel mill’s history. The mill itself was closed in 1986 and is a UNESCO world heritage site now.

I feel funny when I see Darth Vader wearing a shiny plastic variant of this one. But somehow, it’s appropriate too.

David Wade, Lia, Allan, Sean and 1 more said thanks.

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Marcus Hammerschmitt

Writer, journalist and photographer. Eighteen books so far, on paper and on screen. My biography is boring, my life is not.

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