Entertaining the soldiers at the front – 1941
WW2 German passport belonging to an actor entertaining on the front.
One of the most bizarre or odd passports I have seen connected to the Second World War.
Don’t get me wrong. Entertaining ones army is not something new. Every army, during times of war and peace, has its soldiers entertained. During the Vietnam war, for example, actors where flown to Asia, and during the Second World War as well, be it British, American and yes, even German soldiers enjoyed such brief entertaining moments, away from the battle field. But what is strange or bizarre about this specific passport, is the time and location the holder was at, and who, most likely, he was entertaining…
Olaf Bach (Othello Bockermann) was an actor, play writer and performer well-known in Germany.
He appeared in various movies (24 titles), for example: Frauenbeichte, 1. Teil – Die Beichte einer Ausgestossenen (1921) and Damals (last one in 1943). So, when war broke out, as all patriotic Germans would do, he joined the soldiers, but not in a combatant capacity (travelling as an entertainer can explain the free visas he received from the German Foreign Ministry that appear inside his passport, issued by foreign office passport-division officer Heinrich Bergfeld (1873-1943), who started his official service in 1898).
He travelled with the German Luftwaffe to Bulgaria on March of 1941 (37181 Staff of the 7th Flieger Division – a month later they went into Crete); then to occupied Greece two months later and the last entry in his passport, and this is the most “shocking” one inside, is his trip to the Ukraine, to the city of Rovno. Inside it is stated that he was performing as a guest-player from November 8th to the 13th of 1941 (hand written entry inside the passport was stamped by units ‘Dienstelle feldpostnummer 13199‘ & ‘Wehrmacht Befehlshaber Ukraine’). At first, the date did not ring any bells. But, being curious and trying always to be thorough about the items one collects, I began to investigate what was so special about that date or what was happening in that location during those days of November.
According to historical records, during that period of time, German death squads were liquidating and exterminating the Jewish community of Rovno via mass shootings: Mass executions were held at the Sosenki Forest at the outskirts of Rovno during November 7th-9th (some even call this the second Babi Yar). The Jews were led to pre-designated locations that were dug up and ready with machine guns. Shot and covered with earth. This was done throughout the hours and days that followed. Groups consisting of women, children and the elderly where prepared for the inevitable. At the end, all valuables and belongings were robbed from the dead as well. The scenes of carnage, crying, babies and children beginning for their loved ones, shootings in front of parents and the young, all this took its toll on the “hard working soldiers” in the front, so, entertainment most likely was also prepared for the brave fighting in the eastern front.
We do not know if Olaf was exposed at all to the atrocities, or was he unaware that his crowd of fans where committing mass murder. There is no known record of his thoughts or experiences during those days. I am not judging him or trying to criticize him, after all, he was only a performer, one of hundreds at the time, which was sent to the front to elevate the moral of the troops.
I have added images of this odd German WW2 passport.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.