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Leutnant Richard Ludwig Müller, SO MC (February 5th 1934 - July 5th 1947) was a young German communist student who was a member of the Free German Youth's 5th Kinderkader of the Gera Gruppe in the Socialist Republic of Germany. He was martyred in North Germany following his heroic actions in the Battle of Gera and his subsequent imprisonment and execution in 1945 - 46. He was awarded the Scharnhorst Order in 1946 in absentia and posthumously an honorary Military Cross from the British in 1947 for his "valiant final struggle against Nazism."
Richard Müller was born on February 5th 1934 to communist parents in the town of Gera in Nazi Germany. In 1935, after the passage of the Nazis' Enabling Act, Gera's Jewish community was destroyed systematically. The Müllers, being non-religious, were spared from this persecution, but constantly lived in fear of being caught practising their communist ideologies. Müller's parents were members of the banned Communist Party of Germany, and Müller himself was educated at home in the ways of communism. When the time came for Müller to be registered at school in early 1939, he was taught by his parents the tenets of Nazism in order to give him background knowledge. This was so that he could display outward obedience to the Nazis, but still be able to resist internally.
|“||The moment he raised his little arm and declared in his little voice 'Sieg heil!', we knew he'd be safe.||”|
—Müller's mother, 1964
In November 1939, when Müller was five years old, Communists seized power in Berlin after the assassination of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. The Müllers then began planning with fellow communists another revolution in Gera. After almost a year of secretly drumming up support for a revolution, the communists rose up against the Nazis. The small town's administration surrendered to the communist revolutionaries, whereupon communist leaders declared Gera part of the Socialist Republic of Germany. The new government in Berlin welcomed Gera into the Republic, and the laws of the SRD were immediately extended into the town and its surrounding area.
Life in the FDJ
When Richard Müller turned nine years old, his parents registered him in the Free German Youth, the SRD's youth organisation. Müller was assigned to the newly formed 5th Kinderkader of the Gera Chapter (Gruppe Gera). In the FDJ, Müller was trained extensively in military strategy by the 5th Kinderkader's Kadermentor, Colonel Alfred Gauss. It was found that Müller held an exceptional understanding of the military, and he quickly climbed the hierarchy of the Kinderkader until he became its Kaderleiter, replacing Cadet Reinhard Neuburg after the latter was transferred out of the 5th Kinderkader. From then on Müller received more intensive training in command from Gauss.
In the annual national Kinderkader Bund War Games, Gera's 5th Kader consistently won the competitions from 1944 onwards under Müller's leadership.
Battle of Gera
On 7 July 1946, the Nazis launched an offensive against the North German-held city of Gera. In 1946, Gera only had a small garrison of soldiers. The soldiers were of no match to the Wehrmacht forces. The Gera Gruppe of the FDJ began a counterattack to assist the Rotfrontkämpfer, spearheaded by Gruppenleiter Johann Luitpold. Luitpold was injured in the battle, and 12-year-old Müller assumed command of the Gruppe's forces.
According to the official report of the incident, Müller expertly commanded the North German forces, eventually beating back the South. However, Richard Müller disappeared shortly before the battle ended. The North German government, in cooperation with the military and the FDJ, embarked on a nation-wide search for the child. After one month, Müller still could not be found. the North German government accused the Nazis of capturing Müller. Müller was named a national hero, and in absentia made the Geran Gruppenleiter after Luitpold left the FDJ in early 1947, with the rank of Leutnant (Lieutenant). He was also appointed to the Scharnhorst Order, one of the highest awards given to North German soldiers, in recognition of his bravery.
In September 1947, the Ministry for State Security sent spies into South Germany to investigate the fate of the cadet. Ultimately, it was found in 1948 that Müller was imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp and executed on July 5th, 1947. The Stasi made public news of Müller's death. This shocked the world, as before the existence of the concentration camps had been kept secret. The North German government demanded the repatriation of Müller's body. There was general criticism, including from Nazi Germany's allies, of the Wehrmacht's actions, and of the Nazi government to allow the torture of children. There were riots even in South Germany itself. Under such pressure, the Nazis relented and returned Lieutenant Müller's body to Gera.
There was a state funeral for Lieutenant Müller, attended by over ten thousand Germans and internationals. President Ernst Thälmann gave a speech praising Müller, and announced that his family would receive a compensatory subsidy in recognition of Müller's actions. Supporters of the Nazi government were disillusioned with the Nazis due to Müller's death, and Nazi Germany became even more unstable than it already was, thanks to the Battle of Gera. It was a strategic victory for North Germany, as more people than ever were now defecting to the Communists.
Richard Müller's death resulted in a series of events that ultimately contributed to the destabilisation and fall of the German Reich in South Germany. Disillusionment with the Nazi government caused many to defect to North Germany. Reasons for this included the Nazis' treatment of the child, as well as the revelation of the existence of previously secret death camps.
A statue of Müller was erected in Gera in his honour.
|“||Richard Ludwig Müller, a Martyr of the Republic and a Young Fighter for Communism. 1934 - 1947||”|
—Engraving on Müller's statue in Gera
Müller was also the youngest person in German history to receive the Scharnhorst Order. Gera also became the centre of Richard Müller Day, a public holiday declared by the Socialist government on July 5th 1957, the tenth anniversary of Müller's death.
Appearances in media and literature
Richard Müller's life has been the feature of numerous books and films, especially documentary and propaganda films produced by the North German government.
- Martyr of the Republic (Märtyrer der Republik) (1948) - North Germany - Propaganda film
- Saviour of Gera (Спаситель Гера/Spasitel Gera) (1955) - Soviet Union - Propaganda film
- Richard (1957) - Britain - Documentary TV film
- Baptism by Fire (1973) - United States - Book
- The Story of Richard Müller (Die Geschichte von Richard Müller) (1984) - United Kingdom/United States/North Germany - War film
- German Lionheart (Deutscher Löwenherz) (1997) - Germany - War film
- 1944 - Kinderkader Bund Medal of Honour
- 1946 - Scharnhorst Order (in absentia)
- 1948 - Honorary Military Cross (posthumous)
- 1947 - Medal for Courage (posthumous)