With Otto Struller we have the most striking member of the commando company of the 150. Panzer brigade, also called Einheit Stielau. You don't expect a ballet dancer as a participant in a secret military operation.
Otto Struller's father was professor at an "Aufbauschule" in Schwabach, near Nürnberg. Karl Struller was born in Weissenburg. The sole purpose of this mention is to point out that, as far as is known, there is no family connection with Karl Struller who was hanged as a war criminal in Landsberg after the war.
From April 1923 Otto Struller was in the Protestant boarding school the "Protestant Alumneum" in Augsburg. He then visited the "Neue Gymnasium Nürnberg". A report from this educational institution was found in a pile of letters and documents, it concerns the school year 1930/31 and is dated October 21, 1930. A report that might have been lost. With this report a line was drawn underneath his stay at the Nürnberger gymnasium. There is little flattering in it. His language knowledge was miserable. Not only for German, Greek and Latin did Otto Struller receive a poor assessment (mangelhaft). The assessment was also poor for English (mangelhaft). 1933 Otto Struller apparently made a start on his career as a ballet dancer. He left Schwabach to Essen on 1 May 1933 where he was a student of the "Tanzabteilung der Folkwangschule". In 1934 he went to England, to Dartington Hall, to the "Jooss-Leeder School of Dance". Kurt Jooss, co-founder of the "Folkwangschule" in Essen, turned his back on Germany 1933 because he did not want to get rid of the dancers of Jewish descent. The story of Kurt Jooss, Sigurd Leeder, the "Folkwangschule" and the ensemble "Ballets Jooss" can not be told here.
For the timeline of Otto Struller it must be mentioned that Kurt Jooss was in England from 1934 to 1940. In 1947 the ensemble was dissolved in England. The ballet group traveled from England all over the world, and therefore also performed in the Netherlands. A number of letters from the time with Kurt Jooss have been preserved, these are, among others, letters that Otto Struller wrote to his parents. Among the letters from England, one letter is worth it.
He writes in September 1938 that there is a bad opinion about Germany around him. He writes that after hours of discussions he was able to convince the others of Germany's right. The letter ends with the Hitler greeting. Otto Struller writes by far the most political expression in 1933, from Essen. On November 12, 1933 he wrote to his parents the following: "I am not mistaken if I assume that the last German also agrees with" Yes ". Otherwise he has lost the right to live in this state." This concerns the German Reichstag elections, at the same time as these elections one could speak out for a stay in or exit from the League of Nations. In 1933 Germany left the League of Nations and the disaster took its course.
While it started to bubble in Germany, Otto Struller worked on his career as a ballet dancer. In May 1936 Otto Struller presented his own piece for the first time. The name of the piece was "Flemish Student’s Dance". Yet the most striking piece in which Otto Struller has danced is the piece "The Green Table". "The Green Table" is an anti-war dance, from the year 1932. It is one of the most famous pieces by Kurt Jooss. In that piece, Otto Struller played the "War profiter".
Otto Struller returned to Germany in 1939. First living in Rückersdorf, Otto Struller left for Berlin at the end of 1939. He didn't live there alone, but with his childhood sweetheart Emma Schnaus. Emma Schnaus who also danced with Otto Struller had a leg to England. Emma Schnaus used the name Zeltner for a while. The name of her mother, who remarried after the death or her first husband. Emma Schnaus and Otto Struller have known each other for years. In addition to the letters that Otto Struller sent to his parents, letters from Emma to the promised Otto have also been preserved. One of those letters will be quoted briefly here. The letter is dated March 13, 1933. Emma described that unrest had erupted in Nuremberg, where she lived. She describes the events of March 9, 1933 there. On that day the social democratic "Fränkische Tagespost" was banned. The building was occupied by SA and SS and the inventory was destroyed.
Otto Struller and Emma Schnaus get married on October 14, 1939 in Rückersdorf. The marriage was dissolved on April 16, 1943. Shortly thereafter she disappears from view. The fact that Otto Struller went to live in Berlin was certainly related to the fact that Otto Struller joined the ballet of the Nazi organization "Kraft durch Freude" (K.d.F.). Almost all documentation about this ballet has been lost. The K.d.F. ballet was set up by Friderica Derra de Moda. Otto Struller assisted her.
His stay with this ballet did not prevent Otto Struller from having to go into military service and go into battle for Germany. However, a letter found in the "Bundesarchiv Berlin" shows that he was kept out of the wind for a while. His military career began, according to the Deutsche Dienststelle (now part of the Bundesarchiv) at the beginning of September 1940, with the 1. Kompanie Infanterie Ersatz Bataillon 457. September 25, 1940 became 2. Kompanie Kraftfahrersatzabteilung and on October 10. 1941 this became stationed in Berlin Wehrwirtschaftliche Ersatzabteilung 1. There he remained, although his position changed, until he was dismissed on 8 June 1942 because he was needed elsewhere (Unabkömmlichstellung), namely in Berlin Charlottenburg. It is quite possible that this had to do with the premiere in 1942 of the piece "Die Eifersucht im Serail".
In October 1944, Otto Struller serves at the Stammkompanie Panzergrenadier Ersatz Bataillon 50. The last unit is important to be able to link a US Report to him. This is Interrogation Report 103 of 21. December 1944. This can be read in the full biography of Otto Struller, see source reference below.
The documentation of Otto Struller's activities and his imprisonment are not very clear. Swept pieces from different sources together we get a little insight into what happened at the time. A PWI Report from the First Army states that he had to go on a reconnaissance tour with a radio team at a bridge in the vicinity of Malmedy. Otto Struller was dressed in an American uniform. He later denied membership of the Einheit Stielau or an organized group of English-speaking German soldiers, repeated several times that he did not know with which unit he had served prior to his capture and denied that there was organized deception practised by Germans engaged in pretended as American soldiers with American equipment. He explained that his mission was only one of reconnaissance, not sabotage or espionage.
He was tried, convicted and executed according to the US report. It is remarkable that until now the suggestion was made that Struller had been alone on the road. Now it appears that he too was part of a team. But where have the teammates gone? They apparently did not wait until they were arrested. Together with Otto Struller, several other suspects were approached about their behavior in the Ardennes. This is evident from the death sentence found in the "Skorzenyfiles" (United States versus Skorzeny et al.) The others were: Obergefreite Rolf Jesch, 5. Kompanie 12. Fallschirmregiment, z.b.V., 150. Panzerbrigade. Unteroffizier Heinrich Pipitz, Einheit Stielau / Stab Solar, 150. Panzer Brigade. Also Fried Alfred Franz, 5. Company 12. Fallschirm Regiment, z.b.V., Einheit Stielau, Stab Solar, 150. Panzerbrigade. In addition, Obergefreite Alfred J. Morzuck, Einheit Stielau, Stab Solar, 150. Panzer Brigade and finally the Gefreite Karl Müller, Einheit Ernst, Stab Solar, 150. Panzer Brigade.
The data that can be found in John Mendelsohn's book (History of the CIC) shows that Jesch and Pipitz were arrested together with Franz; Jesch and Pipitz did NOT wear an American uniform. That is why they were taken away as normal prisoners of war. Alfred Franz and Antoni J. Morzuck were sentenced to death just like Otto Struller, so they should have been executed. Neither the International Red Cross in Geneva, nor the Kriegsgräberfürsorge or the Deutsche Dienststelle found any documents about these persons. That is why we must assume that only Otto Struller was executed. All attempts to solve this mystery have failed to date. In addition, the name Josef Kania can be added to the list of trademarks. John Mendelsohn does not mention this name in his book, nor here any progress in detecting data.
The story of Otto Struller could now be completed, were it not for someone to meet Otto Struller twice. Those encounters took place during the period that he was in captivity. After the war, this witness contacted the family and informed them about the events. His testimonies are an important source of information for us. On April 8, 1946, Fritz Vaupel wrote that he had left the city of Malmedy illegally and was detained by American soldiers in the basement of a farm in Bévercé. "Suddenly three prisoners of war were brought down, one of whom was wearing an American uniform." Vaupel explained that due to his somewhat American appearance, he was not recognized as a German and thus came into contact with an American officer.
The officer said that the soldier dressed in American uniform will be treated as a spy. The next day Fritz Vaupel could go. This was not the last encounter with the German spy. In the second letter he wrote extensively about the last meeting with Otto Struller.
"At the beginning of January 1945 I was detained in the fortress of Huy, about 30 km behind Liège in the direction of Dinant. We were locked up in a room with about 18 men. One of them was the soldier in the American uniform that I had been in earlier Bévercé had seen. I started the conversation by referring to our first meeting, so I learned that his name was Otto Struller, that he was a dancer. Struller was sick, or rather, he suffered the consequences of a fall. He had fallen on the back of his head. His grooming was fine. Three days later he started some exercises and a little later he danced a Krakowiak for us. He was worried about his fate because he was treated as a spy because of his American uniform. He tried to alleviate his worries by pointing out the proper care, and he also assumed that it could end with a sisser, the more he had betrayed the Americans with a German ammunition depot (Note: successfully for the Americans, by the way) .
Fritz Vaupel then writes that Otto Struller was taken on January 12. Vaupel assumed that it was one of the many interrogations that had taken place. Fritz Vaupel writes as follows: "The Sergeant on duty came the next morning, it was the Sergeant with whom Struller had often spoken. The Sergeant brought us cigarettes. I asked him where those cigarettes came from. Struller sent you them. Otto Struller can send so many cigarettes, the Sergeant replied that he no longer needed them, he had been shot that morning.In the letter, Vaupel also writes that Struller had told him something more, that 300 men had to take office and those who would not participate now had the opportunity to get out of it, and most of them were given American uniforms, and Vaupel had his doubts about the story, and he thought Struller had made it up so as not to end up as a spy.
It is remarkable that there is unexpected evidence of the situation in which Vaupel and Struller meet for the first time. There is a film fragment in which a captured German spy is taken to a jeep and boarded. That's Otto Struller! The two fellow prisoners about which Vaupel reported in his first letter can also be seen. In the various documents there is some confusion about the date of execution and burial. It must both be January 13, 1945.
According to the First United States Army Report of Operations, the execution of Otto Struller aka Captain Cecil A. Dyer, aka Richard Baumgardner, took place on January 11, 1945 at 10:30, at the Palace of Justice in Huy. According to a preserved "Morning Report Locator Card" and the Death certificate (ICRC), the date was not the 11th but January 13, 1945. The "Report of Burial" shows that Otto Struller on January 13, 1945 at 3 p.m. Henri-Chapelle was buried. The Death certificate of the International Red Cross Geneva states January 15 as the day of his funeral. A few years ago, following the research into the biography of Otto Struller, his cousin was the first of the family to visit the grave in the German Soldierskerkhof in Lommel. It was unexpectedly a fairly emotional event, since her father had a close relationship with his brother.
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