"There have been occasions during research for my book, delving into unsolved events of history, that leave me shaking my head. At times, it can be downright eerie. Unseen forces seem to work for you and even against you when searching for key information. The latest research topic for my book appears to be working against me.
KptLt. Wilhelm Franken, a key player in the book "Above and Below," was a German war hero. During his ten years of military service, his U-Boat successes included many heroic and brave actions, with the sinking of multiple allied ships. In 1943 he was awarded the Knight's Cross. His successful U-boat missions ended in 1943. He then joined the Submarine Command headquarters staff in Kiel. Two years later, Wilhelm Franken was dead.
Franken's death in 1945 lends to unanswered and unexplained questions surrounding the specific details of how his death occurred. The timing was during the political unrest during Hitler's assassination attempts. Was Franken's death an unfortunate accident that included two other U-boat commanders who died with him at the same place and time? Did the heroes accidentally die an "unlucky" death in the Kiel Harbor boat fire? While investigating this suspicious accident and death, unseen forces begin working against my research. It appeared that a battle of wills was being waged, attempting to dissuade me from further research. Coincidences? Maybe. While continuing research into Wilhelm Franken's death, I encountered multiple obstacles. Time will tell as I continue to pursue this path. In the meantime, I believe Franken wants his story told.
Fortuitously, I met a US-based German family who offered to investigate Franken's family ties in Germany for me. They gave me a few German sites to explore and some new photos in a blog. I have since copied the information to my iPad and laptop. The family did express concerns about researching German military history. They have Green cards allowing them to live in the U.S., and it is frowned upon by the German government for them to conduct historical research of this nature. They are very limited in what they are allowed to research. Instead, they would suggest areas to research on my computer, thereby eliminating the possibility of their computer being tracked. Their daughter used her college computer to check information for me. She connected her research to an Anne Frank story her class was involved with and the German holocaust. Interestingly, the limits and concerns of researching WW2 information are still a concern even today for this German family and presumably throughout Germany.
I found an online German Ancestry Family Tree contact who provided learnings on the marriage of Wilhelm Franken's parents. They have family tree connections, however, indirectly to the Franken family. I did create an online Ancestry family tree for Wilhelm Franken for research purposes and future contact potentials. At this point in my research, things began to turn for the worse.
First, my iPad fell off our boat dock two weeks ago into the river's dark waters. It slid out of its case, quickly sank, and now rests at the bottom of the muddy river. It is unrecoverable. Photos and research material are now lost. As I was working on recovering my material and losses, a virus hit my laptop. After taking it to a computer service, they found nothing suggesting a specific virus. Two days later, my laptop was taken over by some unknown identity and wiped clean by a malicious worm. I had to take it back to the computer service, who believed a new type of sleeper Trojan virus had hit the computer. The virus infestation most likely came from researching German URL sites on Franken. I've now lost all my documents and photos on my laptop. Including the photos, I had previously downloaded from my lost iPad onto my laptop. Luckily, I do keep a backup of my book. Ironically, my research work is under attack and has been torpedoed.
So, I'm having mixed reactions: Franken wants his name and his military German Knight Cross awarded actions brought to the surface. I have made progress in that area. His death in 1945 lends me to uncover suspicious actions and timing relative to his death. Again, I still have an underlying feeling Franken wants this truth uncovered.
Nearly all my efforts to learn more about Franken's life and death appear to have been thwarted. German churches have more info on the Franken family. However, you must prove you are a family member to find out more or wait another five years for public visibility.
Unexpectedly I received a call from a German contact I met many months ago. A German family member found a newspaper article from the Keil, Germany library about the boat fire of 1943. She expects to receive it in a couple of weeks. At this point, I will let the good and bad forces battle this one out and hope for the best. And so, the pursuit continues."
-Lee Bryan, 2017
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