FRIEDRICH LAMM OF DIEDRICH LEMM: WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Author
Irene van Kemenade
Location
Moerdijk
Theme
Invasion May 1940

In May 1940 there were roughly 500 Dutch soldiers camped out in the Brabant village of Moerdijk. A bridgehead had been set up to defend the Moerdijk bridge. On 10 May, the 1e Regiment Fallschirmjäger (1st Parachute Division) were deployed by the Germans to attack. Within an hour and a half, the resistance was broken as a result of poor materials and the inadequate command on the Dutch side.

We were betrayed!

The disgrace of how quickly they were occupied was too much for the Moerdijk residents to swallow and they searched for a scapegoat. That was found in the form of Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) Friedrich (Fritz) Lamm who had lived and worked in the nearby township of Zwartenburg throughout the twenties and thirties and who knew Moerdijk like the back of his hand. Lamm, who was believed to have fought on the German side during the First World War, was said to have betrayed the village. The story was that he had led his German comrades to strategic points in the region where he and his family had been so warmly welcomed in the years before. The disgrace of it! That he died under Dutch fire was considered by the villagers as payback for his despicable act.

For decades this story appeared in various sources and it was used as an explanation for the speed of the hostile takeover. The stories were often highly questionable. In his memoirs, one corporal wrote that under his orders Lamm had been arrested by the Military Police in Moerdijk on 7 May 1940. So quite incredible then that three days later Lamm was part of a German parachute drop.

The myth unravelled

It wasn’t until 2008 (!) that further research showed that various aspects of this persistent myth were nothing less than unbelievable. Parachutist Fritz Lamm would have been about 40 in 1940. That is exceptionally old for an elite unit like the Fallschirmjäger, which was normally made up of very fit young soldiers. Furthermore, the reports of the war from the 7th and 8th company didn’t mention a First lieutenant Fritz Lamm; Lieutenant Dietrich Lemm was however listed. Was it a coincidence?

Inquiries at official German institutes (Wehrmacht (Nazi Armed forces), veterans, war graves foundation) clarified that no Lamm was listed as missing, neither had a Fritz Lamm perished on 10 May 1940. That latter does however apply to Lieutenant Dietrich Lemm. This surely can’t be a coincidence? The names must have been mixed up during the confusion of those days in May. The Germans that died that day were initially buried in the abbey gardens in Moerdijk. A provisional wooden cross was placed on the grave listing the names of those who perished. It would be easy to make a mistake.

It was Fritz Lamm, after all!

What about Friedrich Lamm then? From the marriage records at Zevenbergen it appears that a Lamm family, consisting of a father, Friedrich, and son, Fritz (one of five children), did indeed live in Zwartenberg in the thirties. Information about the Lamm family states that Fritz died ‘somewhere on the Western Front’ in 1944. The father, Friedrich, who served in the marines, died in 1983. The evidence therefore points to the fact that neither had anything to do with the crushing defeat in 1940.

This story is based on Pim Monné’s search for Fritz Lamm. That search lasted from 2001 to 2008. In 2014 he set up the Stitching Weest op Uw Hoede, a mobilisation museum, in Prinsenbeek.

PHOTO

Obituary for Dietrich Lemm (Image: Research by Richard Schoutissen – Stitching Oorlogs­slachtoffers (War Victims Foundation)– www.oorlogsslachtoffers.nl and “A.M.A. Goossens’ Collection/ Kennispunt Mei 1940”(Knowledge Bank May 1940), exact date unknown).

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