Alan Mills – Strength Through Joy

Strength Through Joy  Kraft durch Freude


It didn’t happen  often but one autumn day, I found myself with a day off. I decided to  catch up on various reports, using the station diary to cross reference. alanheadpalestine

Normally if you found yourself with free time, it was best not to be around our HQ because invariably you would be commandeered for some job or other. On one occasion I was sent on an eight hour escort when I’d been looking forward to relaxing in the sun. And inevitably this happened, a Staff Sergeant sidled up to me, asked me what I was doing, I explained it was my day off but it made no difference, I was asked to accompany a constable who was working under instruction from Interpol onto a Russian ship which had just docked in Haifa port.

There was an interesting story behind the ship, previously a German ship under the command of the Nazi state, it was formerly what was known as a ‘Strength Through Joy’ or ‘Kraft durch Freude.’ Simply, this was something ran by the Nazis, with the purpose of providing organised leisure for the German work force.

It had operated at various levels, from trips on the Rhine to Baltic cruises, however, during the course of time it was said things took a more sinister twist, where members of the Hitler Youth, both male and female underwent a rigorous mental and physical reflected and their family lineage was traced back a few generations. If it was decided they were up to scratch, they were sent on these cruises where they were encouraged to meet and mate, all in pursuit of Hitlers goal of the master race.

At some point near the end of the war, the ship fell under Soviet control and then became a liner which sailed from Odessa in the Ukraine, through to Haifa, on to New York, then back again. There was a lot of illegal activity on board these ships, everything from scam artists,  ladies of the night, smuggling and illegal gambling schools. It was the illegal gambling that Interpol were interested in this time and when I met him he showed me a folder of the men he was looking for.

Before we could get down to checking the passenger list though, we had to extend our courtesy to the ships captain, which was the  common etiquette. We seemed to be waiting about for ages but as we had rolled up without an appointment, we couldn’t complain.

Eventually a sailor showed us to a door which a women in her thirties answered. We explained we were looking for the ships captain and to my surprise the lady answered in a thick Russian accent, “I am the captain of this ship and this is my chief engineer,” gesturing towards another lady. She gave us permission to go through the passenger list, there was nobody on board he was looking for, so we bade our goodbyes and left.

It was only afterwards, I reflected, the dark and menacing Soviet Union were more enlightened than we were. You would never have seen a British woman as captain of a ship in the late 1940’s, to be honest I’m not sure if you would even see one now. I had no sympathy with the Soviet communist system but it did seem they gave equal opportunities as far as women were concerned.

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One Comment

  1. I always enjoy reading my copy of East Leeds Magazine when it drops through my letter box. It is full of important and interesting local articles. One such article I have found myself avidly reading is that about Alan Mills. What a fascinating insight he is providing us into the Palestine Police and his service spent overseas. As time progresses there will be fewer and fewer people who can describe first hand about periods of our history, so it is all the more pressing now to hear these stories with such detail.
    I have no doubt there are others like myself who look forward to reading about his experiences too. It’s my first time emailing you, but I just wanted to say how fantastic it is that East Leeds Magazine features local people from all walks of life both young and old. I hope you are able to convey to Alan Mills my best wishes, and to keep on writing about his interesting time as a Constable in the Palestine Police!

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