On September 28, 1918 Private Henry Tandey, a British WWI soldier serving near the French village of Marcoing, happened upon a wounded German soldier. Out of compassion, Private Tandey chose to spare the young man’s life. Little did he know, his sympathy for this injured soldier would lead to the genocide of approximately 20 million people and bring about WWII; The German soldier Tandey spared was 29-year-old Adolf Hitler.
Private Henry Tandey went on to become the most decorated private soldier in WWI. In 1923, a museum dedicated to Tandey’s regiment commissioned a painting from Italian war artist Fortunio Matania.
This painting depicted the 1914 Battle at Menin Crossroads with Private Tandey in the foreground carrying a wounded soldier to safety. One copy of the painting was said to have been displayed in Hitler’s study. Although this claim has been widely disputed, it was confirmed by the museum who originally commissioned the piece that Hitler did indeed own a copy. Captain Fritz Weidemann, an adjutant to Adolf Hitler sent a thank you letter to the museum which read, “The Fuehrer is naturally very interested in things connected with his own war experiences. He was obviously moved when I showed him the picture.”.
In 1938, Hitler was visited by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who noticed the painting. Hitler recounted the story of the day Private Tandy aimed a gun at him but ultimately chose to spare his life, explaining, “That man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again. Providence saved me from such devilish accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us.”.
This story became a popular WWI legend but according to documents, Hitler’s heartwarming tale was completely fabricated. War documents show that Aldof Hitler was on leave from September 25-27th in 1918; Meaning, he would not have been back on the battlefield by September 28th. More than likely, Hitler would have been traveling back to his regiment on the day he claims Private Henry Tandey spared his life. Even in the unlikely event that Hitler was lying wounded on the battlefield that day as he had claimed, he would not have been near enough to Private Henry Tandey to have any interaction with him. On September 28, 1918, Private Tandey was in battle at Marcoing, 50 miles/80 kilometers north of Adolf Hitler’s regiment’s location on that day. Furthermore, Hitler only identified Tandey from images he saw of him after the war. Tandey himself recalls that on that day, he would have been covered in blood, mud and sweat and would have been completely unrecognizable. When questioned about Hitler’s fable, Tandey remembered he did spare the lives of wounded German soldiers on September 28, 1918 but did not have enough information to confirm whether or not Adolf Hitler was one of them.
It is widely believed Hitler concocted the story himself and only after seeing the praise and fame received by Tandey after the war, decided to say it was he that spared his life. On the other hand, despite evidence to the contrary in war documents, perhaps Adolf Hitler and Henry Tandey did encounter one another that day; If Private Tandey, decorated war hero, had spared the life of the most evil man to walk the earth, chances are he would never admit it to anyone.
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