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Did a British Soldier Accidentally Spare Hitler’s Life in 1918?

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What would the world have been like if Adolf Hitler had never seen a rise to power? We may have come really close to finding out in September 1918, at least according to the dictator.

If you believe Hitler's story, it was on September 28 that, as a young Lance Corporal (top row, second from the right in the picture above), he found himself in the path of Private Henry Tandey, who would go on to become the most decorated British soldier of the war. Hitler was injured and unable to fight, and it was because of that, he said, that Tandey spared him.

"That man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again," the dictator allegedly said. "Providence saved me from such devilish accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us.”

Richard Harvey, Wikimedia Commons // Fair Use

Hitler claimed to have discovered the identity of the man who saved him when he spotted Tandey depicted in a famous painting by Italian artist Fortunino Matania. But experts are doubtful that this encounter ever occurred, in part because there are records showing that his military unit was 50 miles south of Tandey's on September 28. Additionally, Hitler had been on military leave for the two days prior—September 28 would have been his first day back.

Dr. David Johnson, who wrote a biography of Pvt. Henry Tandey, believes the dictator invented the story to further perpetuate his own mythos: "With his god-like self-perception, the story added to his own myth—that he had been spared for something greater, that he was somehow 'chosen.'"

For his part, Tandey usually chose his words carefully when he discussed the event. Though he acknowledged that he had spared enemy lives on that date, he didn’t remember Hitler at all (though he would have looked much different). But after his hometown of Coventry, England, was bombed in 1940, Tandey was quoted as saying, “If only I had known what he would turn out to be. When I saw all of the women and children he had killed and wounded, I was sorry to God I let him go.”

If he had been killed, though, would it have made a difference? Hans Frank, Hitler’s personal lawyer, thought it would have. Before he was hanged at Nuremburg for his crimes, Frank said, “The Führer was a man who was possible in Germany only at that very moment. Had he come, let us say, 10 years later, when the republic was firmly established, it would have been impossible for him. And if he had come 10 years previously, or at any time when there was still the monarchy, he would have gotten nowhere. He came at exactly this terrible transitory period when the monarchy had gone and the republic was not yet secure.”

Historian Henry Ashby Turner Jr., author of Thirty Days to Power, speculates that without Hitler, Germany would have fallen under a military government. That government would have likely turned its attention to domination of the Polish Corridor. This would have resulted in a conflict between Germany and Poland, but not the entire world—and World War II would have been avoided entirely.

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Big Questions
Why Won't Team USA Dip the Flag at the Opening Ceremonies?
Harry How, Getty Images
Harry How, Getty Images

For the last 110 years, Olympic spirit has come with an asterisk for the United States, as we're the only country that refuses to dip its flag when passing the host country during the Opening Ceremonies.

Let's back up: During the Opening Ceremonies, every nation’s team parades in behind one member who holds the country’s flag. In the stands sit the governing officials of the host country. As the team marches past this section, the flag bearer lowers the flag as a sign of respect. Every country does the dip, except for the United States. The small move of respect has been a thorn in the sides of host countries since the U.S. first snubbed the tradition at the 1908 London Games.

The story goes that the 1908 U.S. flag bearer, shotputter Ralph Rose, kept the flag erect as an act of nationalism, proclaiming, "This flag dips to no earthly king.” However, according to Penn State professor Mark Dyreson, that story may not be exactly true. In 2012, Dyreson—who studies the Olympics—told the Los Angeles Times that America's refusal to participate in the flag-dipping tradition is a bit more complicated.

Rather than being a matter of good old American pride, Dyreson said that the Irish-American athlete’s actions were more about disdain for the British. In that era, Irish athletes riled at competing under the Union Jack. And there's no hard evidence the "no earthly king" quip was ever even muttered.

Until 1936, the practice to dip or not to dip flip-flopped. King Gustav V received a dipped flag in the 1912 Games, but 1936 was an easy call: The U.S. nearly didn’t participate in the Berlin Summer Olympics, let alone dip a flag in respect to Adolf Hitler. The decision to not dip was announced beforehand, and the U.S. was joined in protest by Bulgaria, Iceland, and India, according to contemporary media reports. The move wasn't even the athlete's decision—it was a top-down call from the United States Olympic Committee and, as traditions often begin, it just stuck. (In the 1940s, the tradition was formalized in the flag code, which reads “the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing.”)

So when we don't dip our flag, it's not pride. It's not hubris. It's not nationalism. It's just a big middle finger to Hitler.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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History
Who Betrayed Anne Frank? A New Investigation Reopens the Case
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TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

The tale of Anne Frank’s years spent hiding with her family in the secret annex above her father’s warehouse is known around the world. Yet despite years of research by Otto Frank (Anne's father and the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust) and scholars, we still don’t know exactly what circumstances led to Anne and her family’s discovery. A new investigation is reopening the cold case in the hopes of finally finding out the truth, The Guardian reports.

The long-accepted theory of the Franks’ discovery and subsequent arrest is that an anonymous tip to the Sicherheitsdienst, the Nazi intelligence agency, gave their hiding place away. The 30 potential suspects identified over the years have included a warehouse worker, a housekeeper, and a man possibly blackmailing Otto Frank. In December 2016, researchers at the Anne Frank House floated a new theory: The discovery was incidental, the result of a police raid looking for proof of ration fraud at Otto Frank’s factory, in which police just happened to uncover two Jewish families living in secret. However, none of these theories has been proven definitively.

Now, a team of investigators led by a former FBI agent is taking on the cold case, reviewing the archives of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, examining newly declassified material in the U.S. National Archives, and using data analysis to find a conclusive answer to the decades-old mystery.

“This investigation is different from all previous attempts to find the truth,” according to the Cold Case Diary website. “It will be conducted using modern law enforcement investigative techniques. The research team is multidisciplinary, using methods of cold case detectives, historians, but also psychologists, profilers, data analysts, forensic scientists and criminologists.” Thijs Bayens and Pieter Van Twisk, a Dutch filmmaker and journalist, respectively, came up with the idea for the project, and recruited the lead investigator, retired FBI agent Vince Pankoke. Pankoke has previously worked on cases involving Colombian drug cartels.

The new Anne Frank case will focus on investigative techniques that have only become available in the last decade, like big data analysis. Already, the investigators have uncovered new information, such as a German list of informants and the names of Jews that had been arrested and betrayed in Amsterdam during the war, found in the U.S. National Archives.

The investigators hope to provide answers in time for the 75th anniversary of the Frank family’s arrest in August 2019.

[h/t The Guardian]

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