Born: 30-05-1916, Potsdam, Brandenburg
Died: 17-08-200, London
Buried: Asker, Norway
Son of Louis and Victoria Vicki Hagen
Husband of Anne Mie Hagen
Father of Siri and Caroline.
Sergeant Army Number:14623984
22 Flight, D Squadron, Glider Pilot Regiment
Pilot: Staff-Sergeant J.M. McKay
2nd lift, Chalk 957, 3 men Headquarter 4th Parachute Brigade
Wounded by shrapnel on 24 September 1944
Evcuated back across Rhine.
Towards the end of 1944 Hagen, with other Glider Pilots, was sent to India, where after six months of waiting they trained intensively in preparation for an assault upon Japan by the Airborne elements of the 14th British Army, but fortunately for all concerned Japan surrendered before an invasion became necessary. Despite a fervent belief in his own lack of intelligence this did not prevent Hagen from embarking on a journalistic career. As he had grown tired of repeating his story time and time again, encouraged by his girlfriend, Dido Milroy, he had written a book of his experiences at Arnhem before he left for India. It was completed in a single fortnight, under the title of Arnhem Lift. The book is written from his perspective and is very much a tale of the ordinary soldier's battle, but it also includes a few of his opinions on the wider objective, including criticisms of the training regime of the Glider Pilot Regiment. Needless to say when he passed the manuscript on to the commander of No.1 Wing, Lt-Colonel Iain Murray, he received the strongest rebuke, "No Britisher would ever have let his comrades down by writing stuff like this. It lets down the whole regiment!"
While Hagen was in India, and without his knowledge, his girlfriend sent the manuscript to the War Office and obtained permission to publish, which followed in January 1945; believed to be the first book published about Arnhem. It was said of Hagen: "He became an author almost by accident, but his unforced gift for descriptive writing, as unusual as it is refreshing, gained him a tremendous ovation from the reviewers."
Louis Hagen, who has died aged 84, was a teenage German Jewish refugee, a British army glider pilot at Arnhem, a journalist, writer and children's film producer. He had a spectacular life.
Born in Potsdam, near Berlin, he and his four siblings grew up in a Bauhaus-style villa built by their father, a banker with bohemian leanings. Louis was always known as "Büdi", a diminutive of brüderlein , or little brother. His blissful childhood was shattered in 1934 when, aged 15, he was thrown into Schloss Lichtenburg concentration camp. A housemaid had denounced him to her Nazi boyfriend after finding a postcard he had sent his sister with an anti-Nazi joke on it.
In the camp, Büdi was beaten, starved and forced into hard labour. The guards would strip him naked and force him to crawl, saying, "Cry for your Jewish mamma." He witnessed the murder of fellow prisoners. But the father of one of Büdi's school-friends, a high-ranking Nazi judge, rescued him after four months. He left immediately for England, joining his youngest sister. The other three siblings went to the United States. Their parents escaped in 1941, via the trans-Siberian railway to Japan and thence to America.
In prewar England, Büdi got a job at a steelworks near Oxford. Always humanitarian and left-liberal in his views, his friends included Aneurin Bevan and Jennie Lee, and the future Nobel laureate, biologist Peter Medawar, and his wife Jean, who helped him to learn English.
When war broke out, Büdi joined the Pioneer Regiment, and, renamed "Lewis Haig", became a glider pilot. In September 1944, as part of the doomed allied operation to leapfrog the German frontline, his regiment landed its gliders at Arnhem, in Holland. He got back to Britain and was awarded the military medal by George VI. Büdi was mesmerised by the king's stammer, and remembered the then Queen Elizabeth staring at him, amazed, he felt, to discover a German in her palace.
Brave and diligent, Büdi was also a great hedonist, and found that the temptations of love conflicted with the urge to write. But with the help of his friend, Dido Milroy, he wrote Arnhem Lift (1945), which became a bestseller and was translated into nine languages - though not before his army superiors, he recalled in his unpublished autobiography, outraged by its honesty, banned publication.
Undaunted, Milroy sent the book to a friend, a War Office censor, who allowed it to be published anonymously. Arnhem Lift formed the basis for Brian Desmond Hurst's film Theirs Is The Glory (1946), which re-enacted the battle with some of the participants.
In early 1945 the army transferred Büdi to a glider squadron in India. He was devastated; he wanted to be in Europe for the Nazi defeat. But Büdi lived a charmed life, with a limitless capacity to make the best of everything and enchant people wherever he went. He chanced upon a job as a journalist for the Allied South-East Asia Command's newspaper. Armed with a camera he had no idea how to use, he followed his curiosity, filing reports ranging from the life and times of a Calcutta brothel to colonial racism. His book Indian Route March (1946), followed. He reported from Burma, and had adventures in Bangkok. In Vietnam, he was apparently the first western journalist to interview its communist leader Ho Chi Minh.
Back in Europe after the war, Büdi returned to a Berlin in rubble, its citizens scrabbling amidst the ruins. He wrote Follow My Leader, which comprised intriguing biographies of nine Germans, most of whom collaborated with the Nazi regime. This was followed by The Secret War For Europe (1969), an account of Germany's role in international espionage.
In 1950, he settled in north London with his Norwegian wife Anne Mie, a painter. He set up a film company, Primrose Film Productions, and produced 25 children's films with Lotte Reiniger, his childhood art teacher and doyenne of animated film. Thanks to Büdi, her films, which date back to the 1920s, are still internationally shown.
Despite torture, exile and loss, Büdi was without bitterness. His lust for life was undimmed to the last. Two days before he died, he faxed his doctor requesting her to renew his Viagra prescription. The following night, at a birthday party for his daughter, he said he had had a marvellous life. Death, he added, held no fear for him.
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Philip Reinders, 2016