His arms crossed over his chest while all around him raised their right hands to greet Adolf Hitler made him a planetary icon. The story of August Landmesser is largely known. What is not known is the story of his last days and death on the Dalmatian coast in conflict with members of the Eleventh Dalmatian brigade and his final resting place – a mass grave beside the road on the way from Ston to Hodilje.
Thanks to the famous photo, his character has become a world famous icon of nonconformity. Framed or as a motivational poster, it adorned many European and world walls from the interior cafes, through youthful rooms, to the party headquarters or a gathering of activists of civil society. You can find it in the journalistic computer screens, it is omnipresent in social networks, and it is not hard to find – with frequent accompanying slogan “Be this guy!”
Although it was recorded one distant summer 1936 in the shipyard Blohm & Voss in Hamburg, the photo became known only after it was published in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit in 1991, with enlarged and subsequently observed details. It was explained that the event in question was a ceremonial launching of ship Horst Wessel, who was the pride of Nazi war fleet.
What was less known are details concerning Landmesser’s tragic end. He ended his life in October 1944 in the uniform of the German Convict Battalion in Croatia, on the Peljesac peninsula. He was killed by people who shared his own determinations because they were also strongly resisting Hitler: he was killed by partisans shot.
In the German wartime archives, Landmesser was officially listed as missing in action in Ston on the 17th of October 1944, which is the date of the decisive partisan attack, a day before the final capture of the town. He could, unskilled with weapons, find himself on one of the naval routes of the Eleventh Dalmatian Brigade, which in this operation after coming across a determined resistance, had as many as 120 dead and wounded soldiers.
Partisan chroniclers mentioned the very significant detail about this German surrender: many members of the German convict battalions were previously convicted in Germany for actions against Nazism or as members of leftist political parties (Socialist and Communist). These were proved by showing the appropriate political legitimacy and documents that they were sewn into clothes. However, the authors of the war notes stated, that they did not fall behind their commander in resisting to their forces.
Landmesser was not a classic hero of the anti-Nazi resistance, a member of the secret and decisive organization like “White Roses” (Weisse Rose), “Red Chapel” (Rote Kapelle) or “Kreisauer circle” (Kreisauer Kreis), which were resisting National Socialist terror in an organized manner. He was a lone rebellious ordinary man who was trying to survive the evil and save the love and his family.