Remembering Two Heroes

Two definitions of a Hero are :1. a person admired for achievements and noble qualities. 2. one who shows great courage. Both definitions apply to Józef Cebula and Sophie Scholl.

The reason why I am remembering these 2 people is because of today’s date May 9. Sophie Scholl was born on May 9,1921, Józef Cebula was murdered on May 9 1941.

Józef Cebula Józef Cebula was born into a modest family of Polish origin on March 23, 1902, at Malnia in southern Poland. He suffered tuberculosis as a child, and was in fact declared incurable . After an unexpected recovery, he visited an Oblate shrine where he shared his story with an Oblate priest. The priest advised Józef to study with the Oblates at the newly-established Oblate minor seminary.

He was ordained as a priest on 5 June 1927 while still in a seminary. Father Cebula became a superior at the Oblate seminaries in 1931, and became novice master at Markowice in 1937.

When the Nazis occupied Poland during the Second World War, they declared loyalty to the Church illegal. All Church associations were forbidden, and many priests were arrested. On May 4, 1940, the Oblate novices at Markowice were arrested by the Nazis and sent to the concentration camp at Dachau, Germany.

Fr. Cebula was forbidden to exercise his priestly ministry and obliged to work in the fields. But at night, the zealous priest celebrated the Eucharist and administered the sacraments in the surrounding villages, until he was arrested on April 2, 1941. He was taken to a concentration camp at Mauthausen in Austria.

Fr. Cebula was known for his humility ,he was a man of quiet prayer with a deep spiritual life. He radiated peace in the very middle of the death camp, even when he was tormented by the Nazis.

Father Cebula was forced to carry 60-pound rocks from the quarry to a camp two miles away. He had to climb a 144-step staircase called the Death Stairs, while being beaten and insulted by his tormentors. The guards humiliated and mocked him by ordering him to sing the texts of the Mass while he worked.

On May 9th 1941 , Fr. Cebula summoned up his strength and courage and said, “It is not you who are in charge. God will judge you.” The Nazis ordered him to run, with a rock on his back, towards the camp’s barbed wire fence, where a guard shot him with a sub-machine gun and declared that Fr. Cebula “was shot while trying to escape”. He died in this volley of bullets. His body was taken to a crematorium and burned.

Sophie Scholl, was only 11 years-old when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany Sophie, like her brothers and sisters, were influenced by the changes that took place in their school.

Growing up in Nazi Germany, Sophie Scholl had automatically become a member of the girl’s branch of Hitler Youth, the League of German Girls, at the age of twelve, and she was soon promoted to Squad Leader. She was an excited and happy follower of the National Socialist cult of youth. The teenager believed in the ideals propagated at the time, as did many of her peers.

However, as discrimination against the Jews grew, Sophie began to question what she was being told. When two of her Jewish friends were barred from joining the League, Sophie protested and as she grew older she became more and more disillusioned by the Nazi Party.

The strict rules opened her eyes to Nazi doctrine and their treatment of other peoples, and she became disillusioned with German education. She also served six months in the Auxiliary War Service, but this only strengthened her resolve against the Nazis.

She joined her brother, Hans and his Munich University friends when they formed a passive resistance group called ‘The White Rose’. Their actions against the regime included peaceful demonstrations, painting anti-Nazi slogans and distributing leaflets. It was the leaflet distribution that led to their arrest. They were observed by a university janitor collecting those which had not been taken, he denounced them.

The White Rose was a small endeavor with large consequences. At its core were siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, their fellow students Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst, and a professor of philosophy and musicology at the University of Munich, Kurt Huber. Together they published and distributed six pamphlets, first typed on a typewriter, then multiplied via mimeograph. At first, they only distributed them via mail, sending them to professors, booksellers, authors, friends and others—going through phone books for addresses and hand-writing each envelope. In the end, they distributed thousands, reaching households all over Germany. Acquiring such large amounts of paper, envelopes, and stamps at a time of strict rationing without raising suspicion was problematic, but the students managed by engaging a wide-ranging network of supporters in cities and towns as far north as Hamburg, and as far south as Vienna. These networks were also activated to distribute the pamphlets, attempting to trick the Gestapo into believing the White Rose had locations all across the country.

The translated text of one of their pamphlets

“Our current ‘state’ is the dictatorship of evil. We know that already, I hear you object, and we don’t need you to reproach us for it yet again. But, I ask you, if you know that, then why don’t you act? Why do you tolerate these rulers gradually robbing you, in public and in private, of one right after another, until one day nothing, absolutely nothing, remains but the machinery of the state, under the command of criminals and drunkards?”

In January 1943, the group felt empowered and hopeful. Their activism seemed to be working, rattling the authorities and sparking discussions amongst their peers.

However ,on the 18th February 1943, Sophie and her brother Hans brought a suitcase full of leaflets to the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich main building. They hurriedly dropped stacks of copies in the empty corridors for students to find when they left the lecture rooms. Leaving before the lectures had ended, the Scholl siblings noticed that there were some left-over copies in the suitcase and decided to distribute them. Sophie flung the last remaining leaflets from the top floor down into the atrium. This spontaneous action was observed by the university maintenance man, Jakob Schmied.

Hans and Sophie Scholl were taken into Gestapo custody. A draft of a seventh pamphlet, written by Christoph Probst, was found in the possession of Hans Scholl at the time of his arrest by the Gestapo. While Sophie Scholl got rid of incriminating evidence before being taken into custody, Hans did try to destroy the draft of the last leaflet by tearing it apart and trying to swallow it down. But, the Gestapo recovered enough to match the handwriting with other writings from Probst, which they found when they searched Hans’s apartment. The main Gestapo interrogator was Robert Mohr, who initially thought Sophie was innocent.

But , after Hans had confessed, Sophie assumed full responsibility in an attempt to protect other members of the White Rose.

The Scholls and Probst were to stand trial before the Volksgerichtshof— the Nazi “People’s Court” infamous for its unfair political trials, which more often than not ended with a death sentence — on 22 February 1943. They were found guilty of treason. Roland Freisler, head judge of the court, sentenced them to death.

Sophie and the 2 others. were executed the same day by guillotine at Stadelheim Prison.

It takes real courage to stand up to evil, especially when you know it can result in death. It is this courage that make all these people real heroes.

Finishing up with a poem about courage by the American poet Edgar Albert Guest

Courage isn’t a brilliant dash,
A daring deed in a moment’s flash;
It isn’t an instantaneous thing
Born of despair with a sudden spring
It isn’t a creature of flickered hope
Or the final tug at a slipping rope;
But it’s something deep in the soul of man
That is working always to serve some plan.

Courage isn’t the last resort
In the work of life or the game of sport;
It isn’t a thing that a man can call
At some future time when he’s apt to fall;
If he hasn’t it now, he will have it not
When the strain is great and the pace is hot.
For who would strive for a distant goal
must always have courage within his soul.

Courage isn’t a dazzling light
that flashes and passes away from sight;
it’s a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait
with the patience to work and the strength to wait.
It’s part of a man when his skies are blue,
it’s part of him when he has work to do.
The brave man never is freed of it.
He has it when there is no need of it.

Courage was never designed for show;
it isn’t a thing that can come and go;
it’s written in victory and defeat
and every trial a man may meet.
It’s part of his hours, his days and his years,
Back of his smiles and behind his tears.
Courage is more than a daring deed:
It’s the breath of life and a strong man’s creed.

sources

https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/sophie-scholl-and-white-rose

Christoph Probst-Executed February 22.1943.

Not every German supported the Nazis or signed up to their ideology. There were quite a few who were appalled by what their nation had become under the leadership of Hitler and his regime.

However there were only a handful of people who had the courage to stand up against the Nazis, at risk of their own lives. Some of these were an organisation that called themselves “White Rose”

It was a resistance group in Munich . The group, founded in June 1942, consisted of students from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich who distributed leaflets against the Nazis policies.

Sophie and Hans Scholl were the prominent members , and so much has already been written about the Scholl siblings. I want to focus a bit more on another member, Christoph Probst.

Probst had a lot more to lose the the Scholl siblings, although he was young, he was married with 3 children.

Born in Murnau/Upper Bavaria on November 6, 1919, Probst studied medicines in Munich after his labor and military service in 1939.

In 1941 Christoph he married Herta Dohrn, with whom he later had three children. Alexander Schmorell, a friend of his, introduced Probst to Hans Scholl and his group of friends in the summer of 1942.

Christoph Probst joined the White Rose rather late, as he did not belong to the same student group as Hans Scholl, Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf, and stayed for the most part in the background. He had to consider the safety of his family. He belonged, together with the Scholl siblings, Graf and Schmorell to the tightest circle, into which university professor Kurt Huber also came.

The White Rose produced, printed and distributed, at the risk of their lives, six leaflets in all.

Although Probst had been transferred to Innsbruck in December 1942, he was still actively involved in the discussion of the fifth White Rose leaflet on his visits to Munich and was also prepared to write his own flyer. After Sophie and Hans Scholl were arrested, on February 18 1943, the Gestapo found a draft leaflet written by Probst in Hans Scholl’s jacket pocket, stating: “Hitler and his regime must fall so that Germany may live on.” Christoph Probst was arrested in Innsbruck on February 20, 1943. To his mother he wrote whilst in prison.

“By an unlikely mishap I have now found myself in an awkward position. I don’t sugarcoat anything when I tell you that I’m fine and that I’m very calm. The treatment is good and life in the cell seems so tolerable to me that I’m not afraid of a longer period of imprisonment… I’m only concerned for you, for the wife and the small children”

On 22 February 1943, Christoph Probst and the Scholls were tried and sentenced together at the Volksgerichtshof by judge Roland Freisler, who had already determined the sentences even before the trial had started.

All three were sentenced to death by guillotine. Their sentences were carried out on the very same day at Stadelheim Prison, Munich. Probst had asked for clemency during interrogation. He also requested a trial for the sake of his wife and three children, who were aged three years, two years and four weeks old. His wife, Herta Probst, was sick with childbed fever at the time.

Shortly before Christoph was executed, he was allowed a visit from a Catholic Priest. Christoph requested baptism into the Catholic faith.

The only consolation to this is that his wife Herta survived the war and died 21 September 2016 aged 102

sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/white-rose

https://www.britannica.com/topic/White-Rose#ref1111344

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-white-rose-a-lesson-in-dissent

https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Christoph_Probst

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/171854367/herta-siebler-probst

https://www.gdw-berlin.de/en/recess/biographies/index_of_persons/biographie/view-bio/christoph-probst/?no_cache=1

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Evil science

No matter how you twist or turn it, when you are complicit to a crime, you are just as guilty as the perpetrator, and perhaps even more guilty because you were an enabler of that crime.

Hermann Stieve was Director of the Berlin Institute of Anatomy from 1935 to 1952, which was from the early days of the Third Reich until 7 years after the war.

His research on the female reproductive system is controversial, as some of his scientific insights derived from histological investigations on the genital organs of executed women. These investigations were made possible by the sharp increase in executions during the “Third Reich.” Stieve’s research was methodologically accurate and contributed significantly to contemporary scientific debates. Nevertheless, his use of the organs of execution victims, some of them resistance fighters, benefited from the Nazi justice system. He thus indirectly supported this system of injustice.

Charlotte Pommer , a young physician, who had been an assistant to Dr Stieve, reported after the war.

“On 22nd of December 1942 eleven men were hanged and five women decapitated. Fifteen minutes later they were laid out on the dissection tables in the anatomical institute. [She] lay on the first table, […] on the third table the big lifeless body of her husband […] I felt paralyzed and could hardly assist Professor Stieve, who – as always- carried out his scientific exploration with great care and uncommon diligence […] After the impressions of that night I resigned from my position”

Stieve wanted to study human organs. He was able to get some donated uteruses and ovaries from the bodies of accident victims, or from surgeons who had removed them. One of the best historical sources of organs for research, the bodies of executed criminals, had not been available during the early years of his research as the Weimar government made very minimal use of the death penalty, and did not execute any women. In a 1931 letter Stieve complained that it was difficult to get a set of ovaries from a healthy woman.

After the National Socialist regime came to power in January 1933, one of its first goals was the reorganization of the universities. Leadership of the universities was taken away from the individual German states and centralized within the Ministry of Education in Berlin, which was also responsible for the anatomical institutes. This included research funding, recruitment of faculty, and the professional society, the Anatomische Gesellschaft. In terms of the body procurement, the Ministry of Education shared this responsibility with the Ministry of Justice, when bodies from prisons and executions were concerned. All science was to be aligned with NS doctrine and to be utilized for war purposes.

Stieve, who had accepted a professorship at what is now Humboldt University of Berlin as well as the directorship of its anatomical institute, reached an agreement with administrators at Plötzensee Prison outside the city to accept all bodies of those shot, hanged or beheaded, many of them political prisoners. Others were “Polish and Russian slave laborers executed for such acts as socializing with German women,” according to Seidelman. Over the entire Nazi era that came to around 3,000 victims, many more bodies than Stieve needed for research purposes. It is alleged that during his research he claimed the corpses of 182 victims of the Nazi regime, 174 of whom were women at the age rank from 18 to 68, two thirds of victims were of German origin.

I just want to focus n 2 of his subjects.

Liane Berkowitz, a German resistance fighter and was most notable for being was a member of the Berlin-based pro-soviet resistance group that coalesced around Harro Schulze-Boysen, that was later called the Red Orchestra by the Abwehr. Arrested and sentenced to death, she was executed shortly after she gave birth to a daughter in custody.

The young mother was executed in Plötzensee Prison at 7.45 p.m on 5 August 1943, two days before her 19th birthday.

Liane’s daughter Irina was born on 12 April 1943 in the women’s prison on Barnimstraße.[The grandmother took care of the child from July 1943. As the Reichskriegsgericht pronounced the sentence recommendation when checking with Adolf Hitler to dismiss the pregnant Liane Berkowitz from prison, he expressly rejected any reprieve. The death sentence was confirmed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and countersigned. Her body was delivered to Hermann Stieve to be dissected for research. Her final resting place is unknown. Her daughter Irina died on 16 October 1943 in hospital in Eberswalde under unclear circumstances.

Mildred “Mili” Elizabeth Fish-Harnack was an American literary historian, author, translator, and resistance fighter, born in Wisconsin. After marrying Arvid Harnack, she moved with him to Germany, where she began her career as an academic. Fish-Harnack spent a year at the University of Jena and the University of Giessen working on her doctoral thesis. At Giessen, she witnessed the beginnings of Nazism. In 1930, the couple moved to Berlin and Fish-Harnack became an assistant lecturer in English and American literature at the University of Berlin. In the early 1930s, the couple became increasingly interested in the Soviet communist system. Harnack established a writers’ group that studied the Soviet planned economy, and the couple were able to arrange a visit to the Soviet Union during August 1932 and by 1933 they were fully committed to Soviet ideology. Through contacts at the American embassy, Fish-Harnack became friends with Martha Dodd, who became a part of her salon where they discussed current affairs. In 1936, Fish-Harnack’s translation of Irving Stone’s biography of Vincent van Gogh, Lust for Life, was published.

In 1938, the couple began to resist Nazism. They became friends with Louise and Donald Heath, who was First Secretary at the embassy, and to whom Harnack passed economic intelligence from his position at the Reich Trade Ministry. By 1940, the couple came into contact with other anti-fascist resistance groups and cooperated with them. The most important of these was run by German air force officer Harro Schulze-Boysen. Like numerous groups in other parts of the world, the undercover political factions led by Harnack and Schulze-Boysen later developed into an espionage network that collaborated with Soviet intelligence. Fish-Harnack became a resistance fighter as a member of a Berlin anti-fascist espionage group, later called the Red Orchestra (Rote Kapelle) by the Abwehr. The couple were arrested in September 1942 and executed shortly after.

On 7 September 1942, the Harnacks were arrested by the Gestapo at the seaside village of Preila on the Curonian Spit.

Harnack was sentenced to death on 19 December after a four-day trial before the Reichskriegsgericht (“Reich Military Tribunal”), and was executed three days later at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. Fish-Harnack was initially given six years in prison, but Adolf Hitler refused to endorse the sentence and ordered a new trial, which resulted in a death sentence on 16 January 1943.She was beheaded by guillotine on 16 February 1943. While she was imprisoned, She was the only American woman executed on the direct orders of Adolf Hitler.

After her execution, her body was released to Hermann Stieve to be dissected for his research into the effects of stress, such as awaiting execution, on the menstrual cycle. After he was finished, he gave what was left to a friend of hers, who had the remains buried in Berlin’s Zehlendorf Cemetery.

Unlike the research of Nazi scientists who became obsessed with racial typing and Aryan superiority, Stieve’s work didn’t end up in the dustbin of history. The tainted origins of this research, along with other studies and education that capitalized on the Nazi supply of human body parts—continue to haunt German and Austrian science, which is only now fully grappling with the implications. Some of the facts, amazingly, are still coming to light. And some German, Austrian, and Polish universities have yet to face up to the likely presence of the remains of Hitler’s victims, their cell and bone and tissue, in university collections that still exist today.

sources

https://web.archive.org/web/20150715183928/http://www.gedenkstaette-ploetzensee.de/zoom/09_6_dt.html

https://slate.com/human-interest/2013/11/mildred-harnack-was-executed-by-hitler-for-resisting-the-nazis-now-we-know-what-happened-to-her-remains.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-48215894

https://www.timesofisrael.com/microscopic-remains-of-nazi-victims-studied-by-german-doctor-buried-in-berlin/

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/history/2013/11/nazi_anatomy_history_the_origins_of_conservatives_anti_abortion_claims_that.html?via=gdpr-consent

https://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/jbc/article/view/10848/10058

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19173259/

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Otto Weidt’s workshop for the blind.

Sometime you come across stories and you are amazed that they are not widely known. We all have heard about Oskar Schindler because of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” , but the story of Otto Weidt is probably just as amazing.

It is a story which is close to me due to the fact that I am half blind, and more then likely at some stage in the future I will become completely blind, I hope it will a long time into the future. At one stage I was actually blind for about 6 months, so I have an idea on how it is not being able to see.

Otto Weidt’s decreasing eyesight forced him to give up his job in wallpapering. He adapted and learned the business of brush making and broom binding.

Otto Weidt and Else Nast met in Berlin in 1931 and married five years later, on September 22, 1936. This was Otto Weidt’s third marriage; he had two sons from his first marriage.

In 1936 Otto Weidt opened a Workshop for the Blind in Kreuzberg in Berlin; Else Weidt worked there with him. Otto Weidt took great risks in trying to help his Jewish workers persecuted by the Nazis; his wife gave him constant support. After Otto Weidt died on December 22, 1947, Else Weidt took over the management of the Workshop for the Blind. She died aged 72 on June 8, 1974.

In 1936 he established a company with the name “Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind” in the basement of Großbeerenstraße 92 in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg. From 1940 on the workshop was based at Rosenthaler Straße 39 in the Mitte district, occupying the entire first floor of the side wing of the building. As one of his customers was the Wehrmacht, Weidt managed to have his business classified as vital to the war effort.

Up to 30 blind and deaf Jews were employed at his shop between the years of 1941 and 1943.When the Gestapo began to arrest and deport his Jewish employees, he fought to secure their safety by falsifying documents, bribing officers and hiding them in the back of his shop. But in February and March 1943 many were arrested and deported to concentration camps during the police raids known as “Operation Factory”.

Aside from the blind, Weidt also employed healthy Jewish workers in his office. This was strictly forbidden, as all Jewish workers had to be mediated through the labor employment office, which would ordinarily post them to forced-labor assignments. However, Weidt, managed to hire them by bribery.

The Jewish Inge Deutschkron was among the eight healthy Jews employed at the workshop. Inge and her mother were living in hiding to live , Weidt arranged an Aryan work permit for Deutschkron which he had acquired from a prostitute, who had no use for it.

Unfortunately, the permit had to be discarded three months later when the police arrested the prostitute.

One of Weidt’s most spectacular exploits involved the rescue of a Jewish girl who had been deported to the camps in Poland. In February 1943 Otto Weidt hid the Licht family in a storage room in the workshop for the blind at Neanderstraße 12 in Berlin-Mitte. The Gestapo arrested the family in October 1943 and deported them to the Theresienstadt ghetto on November 15, 1943.

There Weidt could support them with food parcels. All of 150 parcels arrived. After 6 months Alice and her parents were deported to KZ Birkenau. Alice managed to send a postcard to Weidt who promptly traveled to Auschwitz in attempt to help her.

Weidt found out that as Auschwitz was emptied, Alice was moved to the labor camp/ammunition plant Christianstadt. He hid clothes and money for her, in a nearby pension to aid her return. Through one of the civilian workers he contacted Alice and made her runaway and return to Berlin possible.

Alice eventually managed to return to Berlin in January 1945, and lived in hiding with the Weidt’s until the end of the war.

Alice’s parents both were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau

In the period from March 1943 until the end of the war there were only a few employees left in Weidt’s workshop. Apart from three non-Jewish workers, there were Jews married to non-Jews or people who had one Jewish parent, as well as several people in hiding like Inge Deutschkron, Alice Licht, Erich Frey, and Chaim and Max Horn.

Of the 33 only 7 survived.

After the war Otto Weidt supported the establishment of the Jewish Home for Children and the Aged at Moltkestraße 8-11 in the Berlin district of Niederschönhausen. After Liberation it was the first secure place for children and elderly people who escaped Nazi persecution.

All of this make Otto Weidt a hero, in my opinion. Just think of it, not only did he help Jews, he helped blind and deaf Jews. They were seen as lesser human beings in 2 categories as per the Nuremberg Laws. Otto died of heart failure in 1947, at 64 years of age.

On September 7, 1971, Yad Vashem recognized Otto Weidt as Righteous Among the Nations.

sources

https://www.museum-blindenwerkstatt.de/en/first-of-all/

https://www.yadvashem.org/righteous/stories/weidt.html

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Kurt Jozef Rudolf Rosenthal -One name out of 6 million.

I could have done a piece on any of the millions of victims of the Holocaust. The reason why I picked Kurt Jozef Rudolf Rosenthal, is because he was murdered today 80 years ago.

His story is still important today because he was a refugee, trying to find a better future but he found death instead.

He was born in Arnsberg, Germany , on 12 May 1922.He was murdered in Mauthausen, 25 July 1941.

His life was interrupted in many ways. When he was 14 he decided to flee Germany. His Parents had already done so and fled to Zurich in Switzerland. Young Kurt decided to go to the Netherlands, I presume because it was quite near. Why his parents didn’t take him with them to Zurich I don’t know.

In 1934, a Quaker school was set up in Eerde (Ommen town),in the Netherlands . A few young German Jewish refugees attended the school, where they were educated for a farming life in Israel. Kurt Jozef Rudolf Rosenthal was one of them, he registered on September 3,1936.

In 1940 Kurt felt unsafe in Eerde and moved to Amsterdam, at that stage his Parents had already moved there. They were reunited again as a family.

Kurt managed to raise enough money to get a Visa for the USA, however he would have to travel through Germany for it. I don’t know why he didn’t but I can only imagine that he thought he would not survive that journey. He would more then likely be right in that assumption. During the early Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, things had not changed all that much for the Jews. So Kurt probably still felt safe enough.

Kurt never left for the US. On June 11,1941, he was picked up together with 310 other men. He ended up in Schoorl transit camp, originally a Dutch army camp from 1939 to 1940), but was converted to a Nazi concentration camp (1940–1941) near the village of Schoorl in the Netherlands.

From Schoorl, Kurt was deported to Mauthausen. Austria on June 26,1941. Where He was murdered nearly a month later, on July 25,1941.

Aside from the fact he was murdered there are a few things that disturb me in his story. First of all, why did he have to raise money to get a Visa. At that stage it must have been clear to the US authorities what the Nazis were about and what they were doing. Visa should have been provided at no costs.

Why was there no Dutch family who could have looked after a 14 year old refugee.

I don’t know what happened to his parents but I can only assume they were also murdered.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/32097/kurt-jozef-rudolf-rosenthal

https://westerborkportretten.nl/westerborkportretten/kurt-rosenthal

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Helmuth Hübener teenager murdered for speaking the truth.

Helmuth Hübner, was a young member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), he lived in the St. Georg Branch in Hamburg.


His short life was shaped by the rise of fascism in Germany. The Nazis changed nearly every aspect of everyday life for Germans, and Helmut was no exception. He had been a devoted Boy Scout, but he was forced to become part of the Hitler Youth, when the Nazis banned the Boy scouts organization in 1935. Helmut did not feel comfortable with this and quit the Hitler youth in 1938,aged 13.

He was disturbed by participation of the Hitler Youth in Kristallnacht.After Hübener finished secondary school in 1941, he began an apprentice training course at the Hamburg Social Welfare Authority He met other apprentices there, one of whom, Gerhard Düwer, (whom he would later recruit into his resistance movement). In 1941 at a sauna in Altona , he met new friends, some were members of an illegal Young Communist Group.

At that time Helmut started listening to foreign radio stations and mainly the BBC. It was forbidden to listen to any non-government radio transmissions, like the BBC’s multi-language broadcasts, and being caught could result into severe punishments ,including he death penalty.

Helmut found a shortwave radio, which belonged to his older half-brother Gerhard’s in a hallway closet. It had been given to Gerhard early that year by a soldier returning from service in France.

Helmut decided to spread the information he had heard on the radio from the BBC. He also persuaded other like-minded young people to join him in opposition. He started to o compose various anti-national socialist texts and anti-war leaflets.

The leaflets were designed to draw the Germans attention to how distorted the official Nazi reports about World War II from Berlin were, as well as to point out Adolf Hitler’s, Joseph Goebbels’s, and other leading Nazis’ criminal behaviour. Other themes covered by Hübener’s writings were the war’s futility and Germany’s looming defeat. He also mentioned the mistreatment sometimes meted out in the Hitler Youth.

In one of his pamphlets, for example, he wrote:

“German boys! Do you know the country without freedom, the country of terror and tyranny? Yes, you know it well, but are afraid to talk about it. They have intimidated you to such an extent that you don’t dare talk for fear of reprisals. Yes you are right; it is Germany – Hitler Germany! Through their unscrupulous terror tactics against young and old, men and women, they have succeeded in making you spineless puppets to do their bidding”.

For several months, Helmut spread the word about lost battles and Nazi lies. But on February 5 1942, a coworker and Nazi Party member Heinrich Mohn, denounced him. He had seen Helmut trying to translate the pamphlets into French and have them distributed among prisoners of war, he Helmut was arrested and tried before the Volksgerichtshof, or People’s Court, a Nazi-controlled tribunal that dealt with matters of treason.

On 11 August 1942, at age 17, Helmut was tried as an adult by the Special People’s Court (Volksgerichtshof) in Berlin, Helmut was sentenced to death.

After the sentence was announced , Helmut turned to the judges and said, “Now I must die, even though I have committed no crime. So now it’s my turn, but your turn will come.” He hoped this would focus the judge’s wrath solely on him and spare the life of his companions. It worked, his friends received long prison sentences, but survived the war. His two friends, Schnibbe and Wobbe, who had also been arrested, were given prison sentences of five and ten years respectively

On October 27, 1942, guards told Helmut that Adolf Hitler had personally refused to commute his death sentence. Hours later, he was beheaded—the youngest person in German resistance to Nazism ever executed by the Third Reich. It was highly unusual for the Nazis to try an underaged defendant, much less sentence him to death, but the court stated that Helmut had shown more than average intelligence for a boy his age.

Nowadays we also have very vocal youngsters, but mostly they are very privileged, especially in the wealthier western countries. I wonder though would they be willing to face harsh punishment and sacrifices for their causes. I doubt that very much, mainly because they are only paying lip service to often very trivial causes in comparison.

On the other hand there were very fanatical youngsters in Nazi Germany, actively and violently defending the Nazi regime. Children like Alfred Zech, a German child soldier who received the Iron Cross, 2nd Class at the age of 12 years.

sources

https://www.gdw-berlin.de/en/recess/biographies/index_of_persons/biographie/view-bio/helmuth-huebener/?no_cache=1

https://www.history.com/news/meet-the-youngest-person-executed-for-defying-the-nazis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Zech

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It would have been easy to turn a blind eye, but Fr.Lichtenberg didn’t.

Fr Lichtenberg

It would be so easy for ordinary citizens to turn a blind eye to the Holocaust, and indeed many did. I do not judge these people, because  faced with a similar situation I don’t know how I would react. Anyone who was critical against the Nazi regime, could face a prison sentence of worse death. And it really didn’t take that much to be sentenced to death. I can therefore understand why people ignored the things happening around them, for many it was a way to ensure survival.

There were those though how saw the injustice and evil and spoke out against it publicly. People like the Catholic Priest Fr. Bernhard Lichtenberg.

Ever since the Nazis came to power he spoke out against them. After the pogrom of November 9, 1938,known as Kristallnacht he said the following public prayer in the St. Hedwig’s Cathedral in Berlin.

cathredal

“We know what was yesterday. We do not know what will be tomorrow. But we have experienced what happened today. Outside, the Temple is burning. That is also a House of God.”

Lichtenberg  prayed publicly for the persecuted Jews at the daily Vespers service. Bishop Konrad von Preysing later entrusted Lichtenberg with the task of helping the Jewish community of the city, via the Welfare Office of the Berlin Diocesan Authority (“Hilfswerk”). In theory non-Aryan Christians were to be supported by the “Fund”. However  the aid was provided to every Jewish citizen who contacted the office.

Lichtenberg protested in person to Nazi officials against the arrest and killing of the sick and mentally ill.In 1941 he wrote a letter to the  chief physician of the Reich, Minister of Public Health Leonardo Conti, in relation to the T4 euthanasia program.

Conti

“I, as a human being, a Christian, a priest, and a German, demand of you, Chief Physician of the Reich, that you answer for the crimes that have been perpetrated at your bidding, and with your consent, and which will call forth the vengeance of the Lord on the heads of the German people.”

Initially the Nazis saw him more of a nuisance then a threat but his  efforts to help the Jews and his calls to put an end to the immoral actions of the Nazis grew stronger. To silence him, the Nazis arrested him on October 23, 1941, and was sentenced to 2 years in prison.But because of his unyielding opposition he was sent to Dachau. However he never reached Dachau.He collapsed and died while in transit, on 5 November 1943 in Hof, Bavaria.

BUST

He died for being a decent Human being , who spoke out about the evil he saw around him.

I am not a Catholic and I don’t believe in saints but of I had to believe in saints, he would be top of my list.

On 7 July 2004 Yad Vashem recognized Bernhard Lichtenberg as a Righteous Among the Nations.

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Sources

The Second World War: A Complete History

Bundesarchiv

Yad Vashem

 

Otto and Elise Hampel-Ordinary citizens.

Otto and Elise

Some people think that all Germans subscribed to the Nazi regime’s policies and that there was no resistance. But that is not the case, there were many who did resist the Nazi’s warped ideology. And they often paid dearly for it.

Otto and Elise Hampel were 2 ordinary people.

Otto Hampel  was born 21 June 1897  in Mühlbock, a suburb of Wehrau, now in Poland, but then part of Germany. He served in World War I and was later a factory worker.

Elise Hampel (nee Lemme)  was born 27 October 1903 in the Bismark area of Stendal.  She worked as a domestic worker and was a member of the National Socialist Women’s League.

They married in 1935, and were an ordinary working class couple going about their daily lives until November 1940 when Elise got the news  that her brother had been killed in the invasion of France.This changed , their attitude towards the Nazis in general, and Hitler in particular.

They would leave anonymous hand written postcards in Berlin  with messages encouraging people not to co-operate with the government, to refuse to serve in the German army, and not to donate to Nazi organisations like Winter Relief ,and attacking Hitler.Many of the postcards would have the heading “Free Press”.

free press 2

free press

Over a time span of more then 2 years the couple left more then 200 of these cards all across Berlin.

Although nearly all the postcards were immediately brought to the Gestapo, it took two years for the Gestapo to find the couple.

Eventually, by chance, the couple were caught and arrested in October 1942. Otto Hampel declared to the police police that he was “happy with the idea” of protesting against Hitler and his regime. The Hampels were sentenced to death on January 22, 1943 by the People’s Court for “Wehrkraftzersetzung-undermining military force ” and “preparation for high treason,” and executed on April 8, 1943.

Two ordinary people who displayed extraordinary bravery, because they knew that they could be caught every time they planted a card, and every card carried the death sentence.

memorialTheir Gestapo file was given to German novelist Hans Fallada, and the story of Otto and Elise Hampel  inspired his 1947 novel, translated into English and published in 2009 as Every Man Dies Alone (Alone in Berlin in the UK). The story was filmed in 2016 as Alone in Berlin.

 

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Sources

History.org.uk

The Guardian

World of Wonder

Wikipedia

 

 

Alfred Delp-“Vincula amoris” -chains of love.

Alfred Delp

I know the Catholic church has quite a few questions to answer when it comes to WWII, but there were many within the church who stood up against the Nazi regime, knowing that it could cost them their lives and for many it did.

Alfred Delp was a German  Jesuit priest. Witnessing at  first hand his country being turned into something he could not stand, Alfred Delp opposed bitterly the rising tide of Nazism, which eventually cots him his life.

He was a member of the inner Kreisau Circle resistance group(a group of about twenty-five German dissidents led by Helmuth James von Moltke, who met at his estate in the rural town of Kreisau)

estate

He was arrested in Munich on 28 July 1944, with other members of the circle after the attempted assassination of Hitler on July 20 1944. After suffering brutal treatment and torture, Delp was brought to trial. Even though he knew nothing of the attempted assassination.

He was transferred to Tegel Prison in Berlin. Whilst in prison, he secretly began to say Mass and wrote letters, reflections on Advent, on Christmas, and other spiritual subjects,which were smuggled out of the prison before his trial. On 8 December 1944.

On the day of his trial he got  visit from Franz von Tattenbach SJ, sent by Augustin Rösch, Father Delp’s superior in Munich  to receive his final vows to the Jesuit Order. This was forbidden by the Nazis, but the attending policemen did not understand what was going on.Delp wrote on the same day, It was too much, what a fulfillment, I prayed for it so much, I gave my life away. My chains are now without any meaning, because God found me worthy of the “Vincula amoris” (chains of love)

Delp was offered his freedom if he would renounce the Jesuits. He refused and was hanged February 2, 1945. His body was cremated and his ashes spread on an unknown field.

Martyr

 

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Sources

Jesuits in Ireland

Ignatius Insight

Wikipedia

ignatianspirituality.com

Not all Germans were bad-Defying the Nazi regime.

 

Schindler

There is nothing more despicable than an individual or group of individuals who deny the Holocaust. They have a misguided,evil and twisted mind.

On the other hand there is an increase of individuals who deny the fact that a great  number of Germans made sacrifices to resist the Nazi regime. These individuals say that all Germans were evil and responsible for the death of millions.

This does a great injustice to people like Sophie and Hans Scholl who died resisting the Nazis.

Scholl

Claiming that that all Germans were bad also does a great injustice or the brave women of the Rosenstrasse protest movement, who risked their lives every single day of that protest.

The protest was held between February 27 and March 6. It was a collective street protest on Rosenstraße (“Rose street”) in Berlin This demonstration was the initiative of non-Jewish German wives and relatives of Jewish men they also sustained the protest.The men  had been arrested for deportation. The protests which were  mainly led by women, continued until the men being held were released. It  was the only mass public demonstration by Germans in the Third Reich against the deportation of Jews.

rosen

 

Those who will have seen the movie ‘the Pianist’ will have heard of Captain Wilm Hosenfeld. In the movie he is portrayed as the German officer who saved  Waldislaw Szpilman,but he saved more.Leon Warm managed to escape from a train to Treblinka during the  deportations in 1942  from Warsaw. He made it back into the city, and managed to survive with the help of Hosenfeld who employed him in the sports stadium.

Hosenfeld recorded his disgust of the genocide he witnessed in his diary.

“Innumerable Jews have been killed like that, for no reason, senselessly. It is beyond understanding. Now the last remnants of the Jewish inhabitants of the ghetto are being exterminated. An SS Sturmführer boasted of the way they shot the Jews down as they ran out of the burning buildings. The entire ghetto has been razed by fire. These brutes think we shall win the war that way. But we have lost the war with this appalling mass murder of the Jews. We have brought shame upon ourselves that cannot be wiped out; it is a curse that cannot be lifted. We deserve no mercy; we are all guilty. I am ashamed to walk in the city”

Hosenfeld

Johannes Frömming was a legendary German  harness racing driver and trainer. During World War II he employed three Jewish horsemen on his farm outside Berlin and hid them from the Nazi authorities.

Froming

Friedrich Kellner, a justice inspector,not only kept a diary using it as an eye witness account for future generations.

“I could not fight the Nazis in the present, as they had the power to still my voice, so I decided to fight them in the future. I would give the coming generations a weapon against any resurgence of such evil. My eyewitness account would record the barbarous acts, and also show the way to stop them.”

He also helped Julius and Lucie Abt, and their infant son, John Peter escape

He also recorded the account of others in his diary.  Early in the war already showing that word of atrocities reached the average citizens even in the small towns. The entry below is from October 28, 1941.

“A soldier on vacation here said he was an eyewitness to terrible atrocities in the occupied parts of Poland. He watched as naked Jewish men and women were placed in front of a long deep trench and upon the order of the SS were shot by Ukrainians in the back of their heads and they fell into the ditch. Then the ditch was filled with dirt even as he could hear screams coming from people still alive in the ditch.
These inhuman atrocities were so terrible that some of the Ukrainians, who were used as tools, suffered nervous breakdowns. All the soldiers who had knowledge of these bestial actions of these Nazi sub-humans were of the opinion that the German people should be shaking in their shoes because of the coming retribution.
There is no punishment that would be hard enough to be applied to these Nazi beasts. Of course, when the retribution comes, the innocent will have to suffer along with them. But because ninety-nine percent of the German population is guilty, directly or indirectly, for the present situation, we can only say that those who travel together will hang together”

Keeping a diary like that could have cost him his life, leave alone helping Jews.

Diary

The picture at  the start of this blog is of Oskar Schindler. There is no need for me to outline what he has done for the Jews, because it is widely known.

These people and so many others all defied the Nazi regime and even though some of them may have bought in to the rhetoric and the promises of Hitler at the start of his political rise. They soon acknowledged the real policies Hitler had planned.

 

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