Forgotten History-German resistance

Sometimes we forget that not every German citizen subscribed to Hitler’s point of view or were associated to the Nazi party, in fact a lot of Germans were war victims like anyone else around the globe at that time.

It is said that more then 70,000 Germans were executed because of their involvement in the resistance movement

When I refer to the German resistance I do not mean the Army personnel that had tried on several occasions to eliminate Adolf Hitler. Because at one point or another they had willingly participated in the Nazi regime.I believe they wanted to kill Hitler not per se for his ideologies but because he was bringing the country to the brink of oblivion.

I am referring to the ‘ordinary’ citizens.

The term German resistance should not be understood as meaning that there was a unite resistance movement in Germany at any time during the Nazi period, analogous to the more coordinated Polish Underground State, Greek Resistance, Yugoslav Partisans,French Resistance, and Italian Resistance. The German resistance consisted of small and usually isolated groups. They were unable to mobilize political opposition.

Johann Georg Elser

 

Johann Georg Elser (4 January 1903 – 9 April 1945) was a German worker who planned and carried out an elaborate assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler and other high-ranking Nazi leaders on 8 November 1939 at the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich.A time bomb that Elser constructed and placed near the speaking platform failed to kill Hitler, who left earlier than expected, but killed eight people and injured over sixty-two others. Elser was held as a prisoner for over five years until executed at the Dachau concentration camp.

Both the Zeitgeist and Hitler’s populist state, celebrated by most Germans, were moving in directions contrary to Elser’s beliefs — and yet he never lost his faith in the value of freedom. Johann Georg Elser acted as a conscientious citizen and out of ethical and political responsibility, without the support of any organization or movement, committed to an unwritten fundamental law. In the confession he gave a few days following his arrest, Elser complained that, among other things, the working class in the Nazi state stood “under a certain compulsion.” “The worker, for example, can no longer change jobs whenever he wishes. And because of the Hitler Youth, he is no longer the master of his own children, and he is no longer free to worship as he pleases.” Elser demanded freedom of movement, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience — all fundamental rights that would later be guaranteed by the German constitution. Perhaps Elser’s criticism of National Socialism lacked rhetorical polish, but his message was clear: The leadership of the Nazi Party is intervening in the lives of citizens in a completely unacceptable way, and Germans ought to stand up for their rights.
After he was murdered in the Dachau concentration camp in April 1945, it took decades before Elser gained the respect he deserved. By 1946, Elser was already being accused of having been a Gestapo agent. According to one conspiracy theory to which even some postwar historians subscribed, the Nazis staged the attempted assassination as a propaganda trick.

After that, Elser’s death was simply forgotten. Besides, who would have laid historical claim to Elser after the war? The East Germans had no use for this loner, whose affinity for the communist milieu was limited at best. The East German leadership was especially cold toward individualists, and in the 1950s, when the SED employed brutal tactics to deal with hundreds of what it called “deviants,” even communists could quickly end up in prison for taking individualistic positions. Even when former East German President Erich Honecker loosened the reins for a short time in the early 1970s, Elser remained unpopular within the Leninist view of history. Johann Georg Elser, decorative carpenter and hero of his class, was ignored in East Germany for as long as the so-called workers’ and farmers’ state existed. Indeed, even when Elser was planning his attack on Hitler, the communists likely would have tried to talk him out of it. After all, the Hitler-Stalin pact had just been signed. In the autumn of 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union were friends.

A true German hero

Elser’s memory was also of little use in the West for many years. The leftists didn’t quite know how to categorize this taciturn individualist, and the conservatives saw Elser as a bothersome historical dwarf compared with another would-be Hitler assassin, Claus von Stauffenberg. Of course, the fact that Elser came from humble roots and not the upper class likely played a role in their assessment.

This ignorance on both the left and the right was probably the greatest injustice inflicted on Elser after his death. In the 12 years of his rule of terror, Hitler was the target of 42 assassination plots. But only two men, Claus Schenk Count von Stauffenberg, a military officer, and Georg Elser, a carpenter, even came close to killing the German dictator. The small man from the Swabian Alb would likely have prevented the war and the murder of millions of European Jews. Stauffenberg’s July 20, 1944 plan, as courageous as it may have been, came too late to do much more than slightly diminish the scope of the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century.

It is for this reason that Elser’s deed is so unique. That he was for so long ignored by the historians of both East and West Germany, merely goes to show just how long it took Germany to become comfortable with honestly confronting its own history. Johann Georg Elser, though, defied ideological categorization — and for that reason, he is a true German hero.

Edelweiss Pirates

The Edelweiss Pirates were groups of youths who opposed Nazi rule. The Edelweiss Pirates were primarily opposed to the way the Hitler Youth movement had taken over the lives of youths in Hitler’s Germany. It is difficult to give an exact date as to when the Edelweiss Pirates first started but in 1936 membership of the Hitler Youth movement was made compulsory and historians tend to use this date as the start of the ‘Pirates’.

 The Edelweiss Pirates was not a specific movement but rather an association of a number of youth movements that had developed in western Germany in response to the Nazi regimentation of youths. The Edelweiss Pirates were diametrically the opposite of the Hitler Youth movement, which was run on quasi-military lines. They were free to express what they thought. While boys and girls were strictly segregated in the Hitler Youth movement, the Edelweiss Pirates encouraged the opposite.

 Most cities in western Germany had some form of Edelweiss Pirates group, though some did not use the title. In Köln (Cologne), for example, they were known as the ‘Navajos.’ A few traits linked all the groups. There was a general objection to the way the Nazis wished to control the lives of the youths in Germany. Members of the Edelweiss Pirates would have had an education controlled by the Nazis while they were at school (compulsory education ended at the age of 14). Under 14’s also had their evening time effectively controlled as well. If someone had been 13 at the time Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933, they would have experienced a year of a Nazi education syllabus with all that was associated with it before they could have left school. By 1937, he/she would have been 17 – the age of compulsory military service. From the time that person had left school to the time a male youth would have received their call-up papers, there would have been an all-out attempt by the Nazis to control the life of that person. While it is a common perception that everyone was under the control of the Nazis and that the secret police had informants everywhere, it is clear that large cities did have sections of the youth community that were disaffected. It was these young people who formed Edelweiss Pirate groups. Basically, they were anti-authority and non-conformist.

They also offered a way of life outside of the strangulating Nazi regime. Members of the Edelweiss Pirates defied restrictions on movement by going on hiking and camping trips. While on these trips they would have enough freedom to sing songs banned by the Nazis – mainly ‘degenerate’ blues or jazz songs that had filtered over from France. They could have open discussions on topics the likes of which would have been forbidden in the cities and which informants would almost certainly have overheard.

Between 1936 and September 1939, the Nazi authorities saw the Edelweiss Pirates as little more than a small-scale irritant. However, attitudes changed during World War Two when the authorities believed that the Edelweiss Pirates were responsible for collecting British anti-Nazi propaganda leaflets dropped by Bomber Command at the start of the war and posting them through letterboxes. This was seen as being more than just an irritation; it was classed as blatant subversion.

 In July 1943, Nazi Party leaders in Dusseldorf contacted the Gestapo with their views on a local Edelweiss group. The letter stated that the “gang” was “throwing its weight around” and that the “riff-raff” represented a “danger to other young people”. It claimed that this particular city group had an age range from 12 to 17 and that members of the army associated with them when they were on leave. The Dusseldorf city leaders also believed that the local Edelweiss group was responsible for anti-Hitler and anti-war graffiti in the city’s pedestrian subways. However, it is clearly stated that these were only suspicions.

Even then, punishment for those caught was not as drastic as might have been thought given Nazi Germany’s treatment of adult subversives. The authorities knew that members of the Edelweiss Pirates prided themselves on their appearance in the sense that it was very much non-militaristic. A standard punishment for anyone caught was to have their heads shaved so that their more bohemian appearance changed to an army/prison one. However, the activities of the Pirates did not endear themselves to Heinrich Himmler who required all Germans to be totally obedient. He ordered a crackdown on all youths who seemed to be failing in their total loyalty to Hitler and the Nazi state.

 In a letter from Himmler to Reinhard Heydrich (January 1942) the head of the SS wrote that a half-measured approach to any youth groups that failed to show total loyalty was unacceptable and that members of any such groups had to be dealt with accordingly. Himmler told Heydrich that labour and work camps were inappropriate. They had to be sent to concentration camps for between “2 to 3 years”. Himmler did not differentiate between male youths and “worthless girls”.

 “There the youth should first be given thrashings and then put through the severest drill and set to work. It must be made clear that they will never be allowed to go back to their studies. We must investigate how much encouragement they have had from their parents. If they have encouraged them, then they should also be put into a concentration camp and (have) their property confiscated.” (‘Hitler’s Germany’ by Jane Jenkins)

Himmler also advised Heydrich that he should intervene “brutally” to stop any further spread of disaffected youth groups. As the war progressed and the Nazi position became more precarious, Himmler ordered an even more brutal crackdown. In November 1944, thirteen youths were hanged in public in Cologne – six of them were or had been members of the Edelweiss Pirates

Edelweiss_Pirates_hanged

 

Barthel Schink

barthel-schink .1

Bartholomäus (Barthel) Schink (November 27, 1927 – November 10, 1944) was a member of the Edelweiss Pirates, active in the Ehrenfeld Group(Ehrenfeld is a district of Cologne) in Cologne, which resisted the Nazi regime. He was among the 12 members of that group who were publicly hanged in Cologne by the Gestapo on 10 November 1944. Although they were not tried, the group was accused of killing five people and planning an attack on the EL-DE Haus, the local Gestapo headquarters.

A street in the Ehrenfeld suburb of Cologne, next to the Ehrenfeld S-bahn station, is named after Schink.[1] There is a memorial plaque honoring the memory of all those killed from the Edelweiss Pirates and the Ehrenfeld Group

Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst.

"Unsere Besten": Geschwister Scholl

probst

The young activists wanted to call attention to the crimes being committed in Russia in their name – the mass shootings of Jews, the burning of villages, the barbarity of the war Hitler proclaimed to be ‘without rules’ in his bid to crush the Slavic ‘subhumans.’

And their writings recounted the heavily suppressed story of how the Wehrmacht had been stunningly defeated at Stalingrad a month earlier – a battle which proved the turning point of the war.

But, unbeknownst to them, a janitor at the university spotted their surreptitious leaflet drop and reported them to the Gestapo, the Hitler regime’s feared secret police.

Twenty-four hours later, they were under arrest and, within days Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, 24, and their friend Christoph Probst, also 24, were all beheaded for treason

This is the actual guillotine which was used to carry out the beheading.

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Let us never forget that not all Germans were Nazi’s in the same was that not all Nazi’s were German.

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One thought on “Forgotten History-German resistance

  1. Pingback: The 9th of April 1945 Executions | History of Sorts

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