The Talented, Tragic, Three Brothers Sym

Coat_of_arms_of_Poland-officialWhen nationalism breaks out, it’s always a threat to deracinated, intermarried and interbred cultural and economic elites. Many of them define themselves not as members of a nation but as members of a transnational movement. While some may get their back up at the idea of “transnational movements,” what is academic science? What is the top echelon of art? These activities are so hungry for real talent — and always have been — that international borders and ethnic differences fade to insignificance.

But borders aren’t, really, insignificant. And if you’re part this and part that and all focused on your international peers in your borderless, globally-oriented peer group, an oubreak of nationalism means you might have to make an uncomfortable choice. That’s what the Brothers Sym faced: three incredibly talented European brothers. Igo (born Julius) was an actor; Ernest was a chemist; and Arthur was a musician and composer. And they had the bad luck to live in tragic Poland during the middle years of the 20th Century.

A Matter of Mixed Birth

The three brothers were sons of Anton Sym, a Galician Pole, and the former Julia Sepp, an Austrian. As boys, they lived in both Austria and Poland, and were comfortable in both lands’ languages, but grew to adulthood in the latter nation. Each was marked by a precocious talent: Igo was marked for the stage, Ernest for science, and Arthur for music. (As a result of Igo’s high-profile life, he’s the only on we could find images of). At least two of them (Igo and Arthur) served in the interwar Polish Army, Igo as an infantry officer and Arthur as a bandmaster. In their educated, cosmopolitan circles there was nothing unusual about their ancestry; a man was judged by the content of his character, not the purity of his pedigree.

A Man Must Make a Decision

nazi brownshirtsWith the German annexation of Austria, and the subsequent Greater German Reich invasion of Poland, ancestry suddenly did matter. Now each brother had to decide which of the threads of his ancestry would call to him. Igo, the actor, became German; the other two chose their Polish identity, with Arthur, who had been a bandmaster in the Polish Army, keeping a low profile, and Ernest choosing to put his chemistry talent at the disposal of the Armija Krajova , or Home Army: the celebrated Resistance. He ran an underground lab making explosives, incendiary mixtures, chemical agents — he is thought to have been the genius behind the itching powder AK agents lovingly salted in every Wehrmacht uniform produced in occupied Poland — and even, his Polish-language Wikipedia page asserts, bacterial toxins. The Germans wanted to find their mystery chemist and close his lab, but they had undermined themselves: due to German racial policy, which saw Poles (and all Slavs) as Untermenschen, they had closed the universities — and lost track of the professors.

Three Talented Brothers, Three Tragedies

Igo Sym answers a door, in a movie publicity still. He didn't do that in real life, and died.

Igo Sym answers a door, in a movie publicity still. He didn’t do that in real life, and died.

Igo Sym, the best known of the brothers, got himself labeled Volksdeutsche (ethnically German) and accepted as a German by the occupation authorities. He served his Nazi masters primarily in his one great skill, as an actor; he was the lead in the movie Heimkehr (“Homecoming”), in which oppressed ethnic Germans, downtrodden by Poles, were saved at the last minute by the invasion of 1939. That annoyed patriotic Poles, but sometime in 1938 or 1939, the Gestapo recruited or impressed Igo as a spy. And he was horrible at it; the first time he betrayed an acquaintance, actress Hanka Ordonówna, the AK knew of it right away. They sent a three-man team from their underground organization to plug the leak in Polish unity. (Silencing the voice of an effective propagandist was a a bonus). None of the assassins knew Sym, although they must have seen movies with him, before the war — he had been one of the biggest stars in Poland. Still, the AK worried that they might inadvertently hit the wrong guy. They worked out a classically Polish, which is to say clever, way to be sure.

Like most urban Poles, Igo lived in an apartment. The two assassins, who moved against him on 7 March 1941, had thin cover — they were officials from a utility. The third man acted as a lookout and provided cover. The assassins knocked on Igo’s door, and stated their business. There was a question about a utility bill.

They asked him his name. (This was the precaution to prevent a mistaken murder).  “Igo Sym,” the man replied, marking himself for death. He was shot right there, in his doorway, with a 9mm Radom VIS service pistol.

The assassins followed their exit plan, and made good their escape.

The Germans did not catch them. Instead, they threatened to shoot hostages, demanding that the Poles turn the assassins in. The hostages seem to have come from among the Polish intelligentsia held in notorious Pawiak prison, rather than the more usual Nazi practice of łapanka, as the Poles named street roundups of random Poles for labor or as hostages.

"As a reprisal for the murder of ethnic German Igo Sym, a quantity of detainees were shot this morning" - Moder.

“As a reprisal for the murder of ethnic German Igo Sym, a quantity of detainees were shot this morning” – Moder.

The Polish public didn’t turn in the assassins. Nazi nabob Hans Frank ordered the hostages prepared for doom. He reiterated his offer. “Nice friends and family members you got there. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to ’em when my ultimatum runs out.” The murder would be carried out under the supervision of SS-Gruppenführer Paul Moder, a fascinating character himself, who would soon fall from grace and be ordered to the Russian Front, where Russian gunfire killed him in February 1942 at the beginning of the Demjansk encirclement. (He deserves a post of his own, but there’s a link in the Sources for German readers for now).

The Polish response: more dumb insolence. Frank and Moder had 21 hostages shot on 11 March 1941. His men rounded up more usual suspects for deportation to distant concentration camps, but there were no more shootings over this particular incident.

(l-r): Moder, Frank, Ludwig Fischer. Frank and Fischer would hang postwar.

(l-r): Moder, Frank, Ludwig Fischer. Frank and Fischer would hang postwar.

But meanwhile, Igo Sym was dead, felled by a single shot at contact range.

Ernest Sym emerged from the war like so many men, a hero who wanted nothing but to return to his prewar profession, and pretend that nothing had happened. But his new teaching position in the University of Gdansk (formerly Danzig) was fraught with unsought politics. Scientists who did not accept the pseudo-science of the Soviet fraud Trofim Lysenko were in eclipse, and scientists who, like biochemist Ernest Sym, were especially suspect. But before the secret police could get him, he died in a car crash in 1950. (Or maybe, that’s how the secret police got him).

His prewar work on enzymes wasn’t picked up by other scientists until nearly fifty years after his death — and was belatedly hailed as pioneering. It might have won him a chemistry Nobel, had it only been noticed at the time. He did leave a gift of posterity to his nation and his university — his son went on to become a professor of physics at Gdansk.

And what of Arthur Sym, who identified as a Pole? Without Ernest’s resistance record he was just another ethnic German, not wanted in postwar Poland. He migrated to Austria, where “don’t talk about the war,” was almost the national motto — indeed, it would have been, if the phrase itself hadn’t been “talking about the war.” Arthur lived out his life as a minor composer of classical works, and passed away in 1973, the last of the talented brothers whose lives were altered forever by the tides of world war.

In a century of peace, what renown and honors might have fallen on the Syms? But it was their poor fortune to be born of mixed parentage, in Poland, into the 20th Century, in the exact time in European history that a man with the blood of two nations in his veins might run into problems over it.

22 thoughts on “The Talented, Tragic, Three Brothers Sym

  1. John M.

    “Scientists who did not accept the pseudo-science of the Soviet fraud Trofim Lysenko were in eclipse, and scientists who, like biochemist Ernest Sym, were especially suspect.”

    I think you’re missing part of your relative clause here.

    Good story.

    -John M.

  2. Haxo Angmark

    Hitler offered the insolent Poles a good deal: in return for the corridor, territorial compensation via land the Czechs had stolen from Poland at Versailles, 1919; and renewal of the 10-year military alliance with Germany. Instead, egged on by Roosevelt and Churchill, the Poles chose war with Germany, got backstabbed by Stalin, and Poland (for the umpteenth time) ceased to exist. Now, Poland and the rest of globalist-bankster controlled EU are poking the Bear. Bad, bad idea. One hopes Trump will put an end to NATO, the EU, the ICC, the UN, and all other time-expired globalist rackets.

    1. Ken S.

      Quite right! Poland acted in a foolish manner at the behest of the West…who promptly abandoned them when was came. NATO certainly deserved to be relegated to the ash-heap of history. Created to deter the USSR and the Warsaw Pact (entities that haven’t existed for a quarter century), NATO exists to keep lots of generals, colonels and government bureaucrats going to seminars and banquets…as well as squandering billions of tax dollars (or euros, but mainly dollars).

      Indeed, we should cheer the well-earned deaths of globalist cash cows.

    2. Hognose Post author

      That is recorded as such in Nazi propaganda and was the basis of Nazi proposals in 1938 and an ultimatum in March, 1939. However, rejection of an ultimatum like that does not constitute a legitimate casus belli. In defending the Nazis on this, you come across like Black Criminals’ Lives Matter when they’re upset that someone shot Dindu Nuffin dead, when he was only doing a holdup so he could buy nicer Air Jordans, and then had immediate plans to Turn His Life Around™.

      Incidentally, the German head of Danzig, Arthur Greiser, and the guy that figures in all this propaganda as the Nazi negotiator, became a Gauleiter (kind of like a national socialist Count or Earl) and was tried and hanged after the war. He used the defense that he was just following orders, but in his Gaue (Posen & Wartheland, modern Poznán and environs) Poles, Jews, and Catholic clergy particularly were treated considerably worse than in any of the other Nazi Gauleiters’ territories around him, most of whom also danced the good-Nazi-now jig. Nice guy; hope it hurt.

      He’s the answer to a trivia question, the guest of honor at the last public hanging in Europe. I think the Norwegians hung some Quislings later, but they did it indoors; nothing personal, just business.

      1. Paul Bonneau

        I think a reasonable compromise in these two positions, is that the ruling class of both the Germans and the Poles were reckless assholes, and ordinary Germans and Poles got to suffer as a result. England and France were mad to tie their fates to a country like Poland.

    3. Paul Rain

      A pity Piłsudski did not live for another five years. The brother’s war might have been postponed- or at least orientated in the right direction.

    4. 10x25mm

      Hitler was never known for abiding by treaties and agreements, only for signing them. Ask the Russians, who joined Hitler in carving up Poland. The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact only bought them two years of peace. The Munich Agreement of 1938 was honored by Hitler for less than six months. Fall Suedest devoured the rest of the Czech lands on 15 March 1939. Hitler repeatedly violated the Treaty of Versailles: conscription, the Rhineland invasion, and the Anschluss. The Poles actually had one of the better records of negotiating with Hitler. The 1934 German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact was honored by Hitler for over five years, just over half its term.

      The German economy was in serious trouble by 1939 after years of spending over 10% of GDP on armaments. The German trade deficit was so severe that they were paying for imports with scrip (redeemable for German exports), rather than currency. Hitler didn’t leave much of a written record, but his decision to attack Poland allowed his government to take absolute control over an economy on the verge of collapse.

      1. Haxo Angmark

        “Ask the Russians”: Hitler’s attack on Russia was pre-emptive. In addition, no universalist Tikkun Olam communist state, whose purpose is the destruction of all other nations/states, can claim to have been “aggressed against”.

        “”the Czech lands”: i.e., Bohemia and Moravia, all that was left after the Slovaks seceded and set up their own state. Just as happened again after the SU folded up its tent and went home 50 years later. History has proven Hitler right.

        “Hitler violated the Treaty of Versailles”. The TOV was an abomination created by radical liberal gangsters: Clemenceau, Lloyd-George, and Brother Woodrow. The Third Reich was not a signatory, and did a great thing by demolishing the scam.

        Hitller’s attack on Poland – then engaged in a wholesale massacre of ethnic Germans in Silesia and elsewhere – had nothing to do with the purported sad state of the German economy. He wanted to 86 the Red Empire. Poland is in the way, was offered a good deal by Hitler, and – scammed by Britain – chose war with Germany instead. DOCUMENTS ON GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY, 1918-45, SERIES D/Volume V: POLAND; THE BALKANS; LATIN AMERICA; THE SMALLER POWERS, June 1937 – March 1939 (US Gov’t Printing Office, DC, 1953) makes interesting reading indeed.

        1. morokko

          Are You saying Der Fuhrer was willing to sacrifice all those helpless German women and children ravaged by us, lusty slavo-jewish mongrels, just to get us help him beat the Red Danger for the sake of European civilization? Such magnanimity, to overlook so grave transgressions! Alas, we turned him down, ungrateful bastards we are, so he eventually had to rescue oppressed Aryans, murdering some 5 millions of our citizens in the process, and ultimately squandering his own beloved Heimat, which nowadays strives to become some kind of European Lebanon with population consisting of our gastarbeiters, ethnic Germans (often descending from virile Russian muzhiks) Turks, Arabs, Africans and only Allah knows who else. Though I have to agree with You on the Treaty of Versailles, if not for the British myopia and French greed, there would likely be no need for Der Fuhrer. If You are unable or unwilling to totally vanquish the enemy, better not leave him humiliated and robbed, but strong enough to plot revenge.

    5. Jrggrop

      Because by 1939, Germany had proven itself to be so trustworthy when it came to honoring international agreements…


      That’s like saying Negan’s a good guy for not chopping off Carl’s arm. You people who see any good in Hitler, or Stalin, or any other tyrant are the greatest dupes of all. The enemy of my enemy is NOT MY FRIEND. That’s why the oath says, “Foreign and Domestic. Having smelled Dachau Concentration Camp as a boy, I consider myself an expert on this subject—— oh I forgot, the holocaust never happened——–, I may not be a smart man Jennie, but I know what love is”. SFC WILLIAM B SMITH US ARMY RET

      1. Joachim Pieper

        Did you smell the bodies of the SS guards the fusa soldiers gunned down in cold blood for fun. Dachau has been proven even by PC history to have been nothing more than a work camp and a place for “political prisoners(communist- who violently tried to over throw the government in 1918-1920)” so forget your twilight zone episode. In fact all “death camps” were discovered by the soviets and we know how truthful they are.

        1. Hognose Post author

          OK, I’m your huckleberry.

          To start with, the trials of the Major War Criminals were prosecuted primarily with documentary evidence, and documentary evidence seized primarily by US and UK forces in Germany. Your playmates’ fondness for writing things down was their undoing.

          The Einsatzgruppen trials were conducted entirely on the basis of US-recovered Nazi documents. Here’s an example of one. The US, UK, and USSR all independently came up with copies of this one — Jews murdered in one region as of January 1942.

          (ETA: The line on the bottom is “Estimated Jews still on hand.” The idea was to murder them, too).

          Those numbers with the twee coffin graphics represent dead human beings, mostly shot, at this early stage of the Endlösung. Tables in the report break down the murders by men, women and children.

          For “Joachim,” this will be a tragedy, but for the rest of you may be entertained to know what happened to the Nazi who wrote the report, one Stahlecker. Estonian Forest Brothers whacked him soon afterward. He didn’t even live to see his countrymen defeated in Stalingrad.

          1. Joachim Pieper

            You got me all the documents and tortured confessions(Joseph McCarthy inquiry) gather by the (((interrogators))) of the CIC prove everything which is why it is illegal to question such things in almost all European countries. My main point is no more brother wars and all communists need to be dealt with rule .303 or a scenic helicopter ride.

      2. Lugh

        Eisenhower’s POW Camps were just acres enclosed by barbed wire and guards. Countless German soldiers died in these death camps. He cleverly called them something other than POW’s thus avoiding the Geneva Convention. Also the German People were systematically starved after both wars. Decent Americans, like Patton, were sickened by these things. Why aren’t you?

  3. 10x25mm

    Ultimately, Hitler’s serial abrogation of treaties created the demand for unconditional surrender amongst the Allies. The concept of a peace treaty with the Third Reich simply did not pass the laugh test. Why Hitler and the Third Reich are nothing more than a very bad memory today.

  4. Pingback: WeaponsMan: The Three Brothers Sym | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  5. Rocket Man

    In 1945 a Polish man was posed a hypothetical question. If you are standing in front of a German and a Russian with a pistol in on hand and a knife in you other hand, which one would you kill first and which weapon would you use. The Pole said that was an,easy decision. He would shoot the German in the head and then he would gut the Russian. When asked to explain he said it was simply a case of businesses before pleasure.

  6. Sean

    Poor Hitler. Surrounded by so many uncooperative states, beset fore and aft internally by those viscous diamond merchants, and running out of neighbors to devour, he HAD to resort to whole sale war and murder to protect himself and the Duetsche Volk, Ja? I mean, who wouldn’t resort to shooting all those Russian peasants, and gassing all those Jews and undesirables, given that they probably would oppose him politically anyway. I don’t think he realized that in the future, guys like Haxo and others here would be there to defend him and his record. Thankfully, they’re here to make excuses for cruel war, mass murder, rape, pillaging, massive theft, and an ideology responsible for the deaths of over 200 million people in the 20th Century. Talent like that, well, who can appreciate it? I know, let’s call the moslems!

  7. Alex Lund

    are we not forgetting something?

    Have you ever heard of tu quoque, the latin law principle?
    In Nuremberg Admiral Dönitz was convicted but NOT punished for his order of “Unrestricted Submarinewarfare”.
    The reason:
    Admiral Nimitz USN gave the same order.

    In the bible Matthew 7.2 it is written:
    For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

    The same was told by my mother:
    It is not enough that you say you are a good person. You have to prove it by your behaviour.

    So, lets put the Allies to the test, shall we?

    You Allies whine that we germans stole so much territory and expelled people.
    And what did you do?
    If I look at the borders of 1939 and compare them to the borders of today, are they identical?
    Germany today is about a third smaller than 1939. So who is the great thief?

    And do the germans who lived in this third still live there?
    Nope, they do not.
    So, who is the great expeller?

    Hitler did not keep treaties.
    But the Allies are better?
    In 1945 the Allies made the Berlin Declaration: “but the continued subsequent existence of a German national territory which for the purpose of the Declaration was taken to be as defined on 31 December 1937, ”
    If someone says that the Allies reserved the rights to change the borders on their own rights, please look up. The Allies were angry at Germany for stealing territory of another country but they themselves are allowed to do it? Hypocrisy anybody? The law shall aplly to all equally, is that not the basic law of democracy?

    Mistreatment of civilians?
    Just ask the people of Nemmersdorf among others.
    The russians took the city and after the Germans retook it do you know how the civilians were found?
    According to law no crime permits another crime.
    Even if the Germans would have massacred all Russians west of the Ural that would have not legalized the rape of even one german woman.
    And besides this leads to the next point:

    Yamashita standard.
    General Yamashita, Fieldmarshal Keitel and Jodl were executed because they did not stop the soldiers under their command from committing war crimes or they relayed orders were warcrimes were demanded (Commando-order).
    So, was the russian General under whose authority Nemmersdorf was, executed because of Nemmersdorf? Nope.
    Or think of General Patton?
    Now you should read it all before Judgement.
    Before the Allies took concentration camp Dachau the regular guards fled. This took place less then 24 hours before the liberation of Dachau. A score of SS-men from the nearby SS-hospital were ordered to take over Dachau. There is no evidence that any of these men were in Dachau or any other concentration camp that I found. When the US forces liberated Dachau they just lined them up and shot them. Without trial or anything regarding a fair trial. Aftwerwards when General patton was informed he destroyed the evidence.

    So tell me: How does a high ranking General makes sure that Private Pyle does not commit warcrimes? Has the General to accompany every unit into battle? A division has about 10.000-15.000 men. So how does he do it?
    And in the case of Dachau: What changes can a group of soldiers who never worked together, have no experience in running a camp, have no picture of what is going on (they first have to get information) do in less than 24 hours to the running of a concentration camp with thousands of inmates? I would have like to see those US soldiers who gunned them down put into the positions of the german soldiers. What would they have done differently?
    In the case of Jodl and Keitel: They commanded the entire Wehrmacht. How many millions was that?

    Mistreatment of POWs?
    Yes, we all heard about the 50 who were turned immortal by that movie The great Escape.
    But what about german POWs?
    Ever heard of U-118?
    On june, 12th, 1943 the sub was sunk and the crew captured by US forces. The crewmember Werner Drechsler turned traitor and was killed by fellow germans.
    When the US forces could not identify the killers they had a stroke of luck.
    One german developed rupture of the appendix.
    He was denied medical treatment till he talked.
    Afterwards he and the six identified executors were hung.
    In Fort Leavensworth / Kansas you can find the graves of the seven. Till today the US forbids that the german soldiers can be buried in Germany.

    But they are not alone in revenge beyond the grave.
    The grave of the war criminal Hanns Rauter is kept secret from his family till today. The dutch authorities do not want him to be buried.
    Close to Landsberg was the War Criminal Prison No. 1.
    Those who were executed were buried at Spöttingen chapel. But their graves carry no names.

    Stealing of art.
    Ever heard of the russian Beutekunstgesetz?
    Do you know that the most pictures painted by Adolf Hitler can be found in US museums?
    How do you think that nearly all German Fieldmarshall staffs are in Allied museums?
    Do you know that Madeleine Albright has the property of the sudeten german family Nebrich in her possession but does not return it?
    Yes the same Madeeline Albright that always demands that Germany returns everything that was taken from jews.
    Or think of the of Princes of Hesse?
    Their diamonds were stolen by the US soldiers Captain Nash, Major Warson and Colonel Durant. They were convicted but never put into prison. The property, jewels stolen from Castle Kronstadt value 2,5 million USD (according to US internetpages. German pages speak of 250 million USD) never returned, because as enemy foreigners they have no rights to demand the return before a US court (happened on February 27th, 1950).
    And the collection of Knights armor of Hohenaschau castle can be visited in England.
    And lets not forget that among other things 347.000 patents, 50.000 chemical formulas were taken etc.
    Tu quoque anybody?

    1. SemperFi, 0321

      Alex, die verstehen ja nichts. Typisch Ami, Selbstüberhebung. Die haben den ganzen Krieg selbst gewonnen, und haben keine ahnung wie viele sind Gestorben in Europa, oder warrum.
      Mein Vater wahr von Konigsberg und Ich verstehe warrum Ehr ist nie wieder zurruck gegangen. Seine ganze Familie wahr Todd am Krieges ende.
      Grüsse, Siggi

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