Night Fighter Grouping of Ace Rudolf Frank (LUFT 19-1; ALBUM 4-11; Special Items)
DESCRIPTION: This is, without a doubt, the most important article ever offered on Germania’s site; certainly the most moving! These articles, albums, medals, and documents were either the property of, or the story of, this, one of Germany’s heroes of the sky. The story is unique and vastly important. Yes, victory goblets (Pokale) and Luftwaffe generals’ swords, Reichsmarschal Göring items such as batons, etc., are exciting to have and to hold, but here is a sad, but noble, story summed up with the actual items in evidence. This story needs to be recounted some day in book form. The three photo albums with the group are stunning including the one from Frank’s Luftwaffe Night Fighter Squadron with his artwork and squadron badge attached on the cover. The second album is his own Luftwaffe album including added photos of a longtime crew member, who was also a K.C. winner later on. The third album is a small, private family album given by Frank’s commander to the family. The term “Terrorflieger” (Terror Fliers) is what the Germans called the allied bombers that were raining destruction and murder over the Fatherland. The night fighters’ mission was to shoot down allied planes, and they did so by the score. Many of them were American, British, and Canadian. The instrument of this successful shooting gallery, was the Messerschmitt-110. Yes, the allied mission succeeded, but at the cost of hundreds, perhaps of thousands, of allied aircraft and usually their crews of seven men. They had come to do murder and fell victim to the young eagles of the Luftwaffe. The Germans had advanced radar systems to warn them when the bomber streams were approaching. They went after Americans usually during the day and the Canadians and RAF during the nighttime. The lumbering bombers were easy prey in daylight, but the Luftwaffe had a harder time finding the murder machines at night until they developed a new secret weapon -- a tracking radar antenna fixed to the nose of their fighters to close in for the kill at night completely undetected by the bombers. Then they would use another secret weapon -- and upward-firing gun called Schräge Musik, “Slanting (jazz) Music.” Many bombers fell victim to this marvelous weapon. The main problem for the fighter pilot was to avoid being hit by pieces of the exploding bomber. The Luftwaffe night fighters and their supporting organization put up an astonishing performance in dishing out just retribution for the murderous campaign of the likes of bomber Harris (May he be walking the “hot coals” as we speak). These young men continued to fight and cause the allies serious losses until their last airfield was overrun, and then ended the war morally undefeated (those who survived). They had the advantage of knowing what they were fighting for (Europe’s survival). They fought valiantly for their nation and the preservation of what was left of their homes and families, cities, and people. Rudolf Frank was one of the best of these air warriors with 45 victories -- all in Night Fighter missions. He was very popular on the home front and today, a signed photo of him was recently sold for $800.00. He flew only in the Battle of Britain. He is listed in ‘Horrido’ in Ader’s History of the German Night Fighter Force, 1917-1945. On the internet, you will find Lt. Frank mentioned in several instances to include one called Air War over Denmark, where he is credited in bringing down an outbound Stirling III EF137. That Frank was a hero is unquestioned and a much adored comrade by his crew and all Luftwaffe personnel that he came in contact with. He was a dashing, witty, and responsible officer with patriotic fervor; a truly honorable son of the German soil, who took to the sky. In his radio operator’s logbook that is included in the group is this entry: “Frank managed to line up the aircraft and did the famous sewing-machine stitch along its belly…following closely in case more ammo would be needed and looking for telltale signs of a hit before trailing off to the left or right…instead, the Wellington bomber arched downwards hitting Frank’s Me-110, he ordered his radio operator and air gunner to parachute while he struggled with the controls.” Both survived this tragic episode and the war. There is a photo of them with the group standing at Frank’s gravesite in the 1970s. In the end, Frank was unable to save the plane or himself. He torpedoed earthward and did a twister into the ground in Holland. Later, the wreckage was salvaged by the Luftwaffe and sadly, Frank’s mutilated and mangled body was discovered hanging within the plane’s structure. He was intertwined in straps and cords. He always wore his Knight’s Cross on the missions. The ribbon was soaked in blood and the KC was damaged, as well. So, at his funeral for the traditional pillow display, his comrades raided the stores and got a longish length of Iron Cross 2nd class ribbon that is narrower than the RK type and they attached it to the damaged Knight’s Cross and mounted it on the funeral cushion. This you can clearly see on the close-ups of the cushion. Lt. Frank’s young bride was pregnant with their child, a little girl. Hence, the latter official Führer letter awarding large funds for the widow and the child as dependents of a German hero, etc. Frank was then recommended for a posthumous award of the Oak Leaves and promoted to lieutenant. This was confirmed by the Führer. A copy of the letter from the commanding general of the 1 Jagdkorps to his widow is also here. It's dated 7/8/44 and says: “Dear Madam, on 20/71944, your husband and father Lt. Rudolf Frank 3/NJ-3 as 531st soldier of the German Wehrmacht so honored, when he was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. Thereby, the bravery which this exemplary soldier displayed right up to his hero’s death was given the recognition of this well-earned honor by our Führer. Your husband will never be forgotten in our fighter corps, both as officer and comrade. We hope that the knowledge that [this] brave life as a soldier will attribute to the forthcoming victory of our Fatherland and will bring you some comfort in your grief. In faithful memory Heil Hitler!” This was signed by Bepo Schmid, Commander.
This grouping consists of the following items:
# 2 The collector who ended up with the entire group felt that in respect to Rudolfs Memory the pillow should have a Knights Cross displayed on it
So we know that post war knights crosses were struck in Germany for replacements for Recipients of the K.C. who lost their original issued medal when they were captured or were deprived of the almost sacred relic through other consequences of the times. The Knights Cross was able to be worn at reunions but without swastika and the few companies that made them would make sure that had an oak leaf branch instead of the “Hackenkreuz”.
But if the Ritterkreuztrager wanted to have one with that symbol that he still thought of with reverence then it was possible to have one made to exact specifications and this was evidently done in this case
We do not know which of the previous owners ordered it but it is far beyond our comprehension to recognize any difference between this cross and an original but there was a note with it when it arrived to the effect that the KC was in fact a replacement and this was put on the funeral pillow because it simply had to be there !
So it is to be sold to the next collector with the understanding that it is not a $7.000 Knights cross rather it is an exact and beautiful museum grade replica. As for the other medals on the pillow they are all 100% Franks original awards
3.) Iron Cross 2nd Class,
4.) Deutsches Kreuz in gold), (German cross unmarked
5.) Pilot Qualification badge marked CE Junker, Berlin. There is a space at the top for his Night Fighter close-combat bar, but it is not there. Some of his medals were sold or given away by his wife earlier.
6.) Album #1 - This, to me, is very sad.- - His childhood pictures as a baby and as a young boy with his baby brother, his mom and dad, who was it seems a shoemaker, just like my father was . His grandparents are there as well.
7.) Album #2 - This album is named Kriegserinneurngen (War Memories). This is an album presented to Frank by comrades of the Night Fighter squadron. Friends are included and with the first picture signed by a Knight's Cross winner. Many pictures of Lt. Frank are there in uniform for dress and aerial combat. A touching picture is of Frank's pet dog shown at the ready for defense of the Fatherland, he is sitting at the boots of squadron members.
8.) Album #3 - This is the album presented to the widow by the squadron. On the cover are the squadron insignia and a painted Knight's Cross, all hand-done and it says: "To the wife of the Knight's Cross Winner." It includes his rank and name. It has great pictures of the squadron room command center with all the flying officer comrades and Frank's ever-present little dog, who was always by his side. Some of the night flight preparations are great and nothing like them has been published (at least in that era) that we are aware of. -- Great dark-of-night photography. There are his officers, his crew, pictures of this stalwart youth beaming with his well earned KC. One of the pictures shows him with all the medals that are in the group being worn. Then, as tragedy struck, the rest of the pictures are of the hero's funeral with the picture of a Luftwarre comrade holding the actual funeral pillow that is in the group. His casket is borne to the grave covered with the Reichskriegsflagge (war flag) as its cover. The widow, dressed completely in black, walks with her father-in-law and the commanding officer of the Staffel. A Luftwaffe band plays the "Ich Hatt Einen Kamerad," (I Once Had a Comrade). Lt. Frank is laid to rest in correct Germanic ceremony. "The ones that God loves best are taken earliest to his bosom." The ribbon on the wreath says: "Meine Lieben Mann," (My Beloved Husband).
There is a framed, signed picture in a beautiful, wooden frame of KC winner Rudolf Frank (hand signed). It measures in the frame 12" x 9". The picture by itself is 5" x 8". There are two photos of paintings that were, thank God, kept by the window. One is of Frank and one is of H.G. Schierholz, his radio operator. Frank's diary in the form of a Deutscher Luftwaffen Kalender, 1944, is also here. This is his record of his best multiple victories. In some of the pages he has hand-marked "Abschuss (3), (firing) Abschuss (2), etc. The diary is especially interesting in the back where it lists Knight's Cross winners. There are silhouettes of enemy aircraft -- Spitfires, Warhawks, Whirlwinds, Liberators, Flying Fortresses, Wellingtons, etc. There are tables and illustrations of weapons, tactics, pictures of artillery, and various Luftwaffe aircraft, etc., and in the back are interesting ads for Luftwaffe-related articles. There is another small album given by the squadron to the widow which contains more 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" photos of the funeral; there are about 20 of them. There is a picture of the newly married couple, too, in pre-KC photograph.
A group of photocopied papers are part of the group. They are copies of his radio operator's Flugbuch (flight book). His radio operator Oberfeldwebel Hans Georg Schierholz is mentioned frequently.With this grouping is also the record of the victories (kills) by Frank while with the aforementioned radio operator. The location of each kill is recorded here, as well. The copy of the certificate for the award to Frank of the Ehrenpokal (Honor Goblet) is included as well. This was for exemplary service as a night fighter. The award for the Deutsche Kreuz in gold is there in copy, as well. There are several pages of reports from 1943 by various Luftwaffe officers (translated into English) chronicling various victories by Lt. Frank. These are vastly interesting reports. They mostly have to do with the final sanction and credit for the victory of a “shoot down” of a Shorts Brothers Stirling one year later. Included also is a four-sheet record copied from Frank's original victory list of all of his 45 victories with aircraft type and the places where he shot them down. There are 32 pages of translation of the hand-written diary of Rudolf Frank. Its prodigiously interesting and often humorous. On 11/1/44, he participated in a combat where 136 American planes were shot down. This particular item, because it is not the original material, might not be worth as much, but to me it is the greatest part. This is the personal feeling of this hero, who died for people, Führer, and Fatherland. Found here is a copy of a certificate signed by Frank where he is put in charge of the Ju-88 and is facsimile-signed by the commander of the Geschwader. Frank testifies: "I am going to steer this airplane for the protection of my homeland and to final victory." 17/4/1944.
Luftwaffen Flugzeugfuhrerschein - This is Rudolf Frank's actual Wehrpass (ID booklet) and is part of the grouping. He received this on November 1, 1943, when he was assigned to Frankfurt on the Oder. At that time, he was an Oberfeldwebel. Another section of the group is encased in a plastic holder and is comprised of newspaper reports photo copied from originals about Frank and his victories and the earliest victories of the night fighter arm. There is a page (translated) that lists new Oak Leaf winners at the Führer's headquarters on July 27, 1944. It has a nice notation about the shoemaker's son, who unfortunatly did not live to receive his decoration. There are two translated stories by war correspondent Karl Heinz Eckert about Oberfeldwebel Rudolf Frank, who achieved five victories in a single night -- utterly fantastic reading.
There is a copy of articles from a German Luftwaffe magazine called Fur Tapferkeit - Das Ritterkreuz with pictures of top-class winners, 17 of them to include Frank. There is a picture of a drawing of the lieutenant and a lovely letter to his family on 3/7/42, where he related to them how on the night of 29 June - 30 June, 1942, he completed his sixtieth sortie. At the end of this narrative he demonstrates the chivalry of the German airmen when he approaches two "Tommies" whom he has just shot down in air combat and he recounts that he shook their hands and had a nice, comradely conversation.
There are copies of the death card of Rudolf Frank. There is a copy of a letter from the Chief Adjutant of the Wehrmacht to the Führer. This is a copy of the announcement to Liesa Frank, the widow, to tell her of the award of the Oak Leaves to her deceased hero husband and to inform her that a savings account of 5,000 RM for their daughter's education was granted by order of the Führer, who has willed it because of the husband's death on the glorious field of battle; this is by order of the Führer and the General of the Infantry. A similar letter from the commander of the L.29 No. 759 Night Fighter Squadron dated 4/8/44, tells her that she has every right to be proud of her hero husband and it was the care and love that she provided, which gave him the strength to accomplish acts of heroism. There is a copy of a Deutsche Reichpost telegram 7/5/44 that says: "In connection with the deep sense of loss which must have been felt by you through the hero's death of your husband, I should like to express my sincere and heartfelt sympathy." Signed in hand by Adolf Hitler. Yet another set of copies are included of magazine pictures about Frank and copies of the certificates for the award of the Knight's Cross and the Oak Leaves. Included is a picture of Frank and a write-up about his 183 missions and his amazing five victories on 20/2/44. He is called one of the most successful Night Fighters. It tells of Frank's being killed when his Me-110 was rammed by the shot-down Wellington bomber. Oak Leaves and promotion to Lieutenant Frank posthumously followed.
There is a silver bowl that was awarded to Frank when he was a mere Gefreiter in 1938 at the Fliegerhorststade. This was for an officers shooting event or Schiessen. The bowl with a 7" diameter appears to be silver, but could be plated. It has fine engraving and ball feet.
Frank evidently preserved one of the shoulder boards from his early days when he was a Gefreiter. It is plain gray, cotton material with yellow piping for flight personnel. His Obergefreiter patch embroidered in silver bullion is included. It has three birds flying information in a silver circle. You can see this on some of his photos.
So, here are the remaining effects of this valiant airman who fought and died for Germany. It is a very impressive lot, indeed, I believe that there is a deep, spiritual meaning to this grouping that entirely transcends the mere collecting hobby. The meaning, sacrifice, loyalty, and sadness all combine in these relics and the memories that they invoke. Frau Frank later married, of all persons, an RAF officer, and left for England, hiding all the photo albums and funeral cushion in the attic, She had no contact with Frank's mother and family or with her daughter in Australia and we know the family had other awards, etc.
The collection actually changed hands a couple of times thereafter. It can be hoped that Liesa sold the other items so that they would at least fall into the hands of a legitimate museum or a collector like you. We do know that several items showed up including Lt. Franks Luft- Pokal at the Hermann auction house in Munich not long ago. This is a very special grouping -- Very special.! Nothing we have ever offered is more meaningful or important.
Please refer to item designator in parentheses in all correspondence.