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Corporal Adolf Hitler received an Iron Cross First Class on this date in 1918 upon the recommendation of Hugo Gutmann, a decorated Jewish lieutenant who was Hitler’s superior officer in the German army for seven months that year. Hitler wore the medal throughout the remainder of his life. Gutmann, demobilized the following year, owned an office furniture store in Nuremberg and was granted a veteran’s war pension in 1933, but lost his citizenship under the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, although his pension kept coming — possibly due to Hitler’s influence, according to historian Werner Maser. Arrested by the Gestapo in 1938, he was released through the the intervention of SS personnel who knew of his history with the Führer. Gutmann migrated to Belgium and then the United States, where he changed his name to Henry Grant and lived a quiet life in St. Louis selling typewriters and office furniture and refusing to talk about his war experiences.
“I can hardly describe how happy and grateful we are to live in this great and free country. People here are much more peaceful than in Europe... Yesterday the presidential elections took place... A real difference between Democrats and Republicans does not exist, both are primarily Americans... The people here want to live carefree and pleasant. Everything which shall be changed is criticized publicly. The president or a high official is criticized just the same as an ordinary man. All of this happens without spitefulness. Everybody may say what he wants and no one takes care of the other in an obtrusive way like in Europe. Almost every worker and every other man owns an automobile and enjoys his life in a way which in Europe only the so-called high society can afford.” —Hugo Gutmann