GOTT MIT UNS

 

 

THE STRANGE BUT TRUE STORY OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY'S NAZI BELT BUCKLE

BY TOM SANDERS

 

Foreward by the author

My fascination with Hemingway is a lifetime obsession. I read The Old Man And The Sea as a teenager. That is how it began. I was hooked on Hemingway as surely as one of those marlin swimming in the Gulf Stream.

Over the years I have read most everything Hemingway wrote and a great number of the books and articles that have been written about him.

Certainly, it influenced me to take up journalism as a profession. It was as a reporter in Miami that I met and interviewed Hemingway’s Key West friend and fishing buddy Charles Thompson and his wife Lorine. I was producing a television series on Hemingway’s Florida at the time. I had arranged an interview with Hemingway’s younger brother Leicester that didn’t happen. I cancelled the interview when Leicester told me he would answer any question I asked him as long as I did not ask him about Earnest. It had to have been difficult for Leicester living life in the shadow of his famous older brother.

Journalism enabled me to travel the world, and, at every opportunity, to trace the writer’s footsteps. I stood in the room where he was born in Oak Park, Illinois, and in the entrance foyer of the Topping House in Ketchum where he blew his brains out with a shotgun.

In Cuba, I walked down Obispo Street after late night drinks at the Floridita, searching for his ghost on the way back to my room at the Ambos Mundos. I sat beside his grave in the Ketchum Cemetery and saluted the sunrise over the Sawtooth mountains with Havana Club rum. I celebrated my 60th birthday at la Consula in Spain where Ernest celebrated his.

My forte as a reporter has always been features, the unusual, the quirky, and the out-of-the-ordinary stories. That is why I became interested in Gott Mit Uns. Strolling through a flea market in Germany where I lived at the time, I noticed a ‘Gott Mit Uns’ buckle on a seller’s table. This was rather unusual in that display or sale of such Nazi relics is against the law in Germany. I recalled mention of the buckle in several Hemingway biographies and memoirs.

A journalist’s curiosity took control. I decided it might be an offbeat and whimsical subject to pursue. Hundreds of books have been written about Hemingway, but no one had ever approached the subject from such an unusual perspective. I thought there might be a story there and I was right.

While my objective was to research the history of the Hemingway buckle and perhaps even find the previous owner, this is really the story of my journey, of the unusual and sometimes strange paths this quest has taken me, and of the people I met along the way.

In the course of my research, I have come to the realization that some questions likely will never be answered. It has been 45+ years since Hemingway killed himself. It was hard to separate fact from fiction even when he was alive. Many of those who might know are themselves dead.

I have endeavoured for credibility’s sake to select and identify my sources carefully, to separate fact from conjecture, and to clearly identify the latter as my own.

This book is part biography and part autobiography, Hemingway’s and mine. It is a history, a war story, a travelogue, and most notably, it is a detective story.

Hemingway’s Gott Mit Uns buckle was bloodstained on two occasions; when Hemingway shot and killed the German soldier who was wearing it, and when he shot and killed himself. The spectre of death runs through this narrative like the pin stripe weave on a well-made suit.

This is the story of my Quixotic search for a literary Holy Grail of sorts, Hemingway’s Gott Mit Uns.

Tom Sanders

August 17, 2008

Lancing, West Sussex, UK

 

pLEASE use the backward and forward arrow keys to OLEASE navigate this website, and click on the photos and illustrations to go to the page content

 

 CHAPTER ONE        PAPA, GOD AND HITLER     

  CHAPTER TWO      BUMBY'S BELT                       

  CHAPTER THREE    THE DEATH FACTORY         

  CHAPTER FOUR     AMBUSH AT VILLEBAUDON

  CHAPTER FIVE        THE LAST SUNRISE             

    BIBLIOGRAPHY