Friday, 15 April 2011

German resistance against Hitler - - - and the Holocaust

Jakob Knab (14 April 2011)

As you know Adolf Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” when he was a prisoner in Landsberg (near Kaufbeuren) after the failed beer hall putsch (November 1923)
In Mein Kampf, Hitler uses the main thesis of "the Jewish peril", which speaks of an alleged Jewish conspiracy to gain world leadership.
On January 30, 1933 Hitler and his Nazi party seized power.

Edith Stein
In April 1933 – right after the boycott of Jewish shops – Edith Stein wrote an impassioned appeal to Pope Pius XI, urging him to take action against the Nazi persecution of the Jews.
“As a child of the Jewish people who, by the grace of God, for the past eleven years has also been a child of the Catholic Church, I dare to speak to the Father of Christianity about that which oppresses millions of Germans. For weeks we have seen deeds perpetrated in Germany which mock any sense of justice and humanity, not to mention love of neighbour. For years the leaders of National Socialism have been preaching hatred of the Jews. But the responsibility must fall, after all, on those who brought them to this point and it also falls on those who keep silent in the face of such happenings.
(…) For weeks not only Jews but also thousands of faithful Catholics in Germany, and, I believe, all over the world, have been waiting and hoping for the Church of Christ to raise its voice to put a stop to this abuse of Christ’s name.”
Mentioning the Nazi boycott of Jewish traders, and the numerous suicides that followed, she wrote: "Is not this idolatry of the race and of state power stark heresy? Is not this war of extermination against Jewish blood an outrage against the sacred humanity of our Saviour, of the Holy Virgin and of the apostles?" This is an obvious allusion to Paul’s letter to the Romans: Jesus Christ is a Jew – “according to the flesh” (Rom 9:3)
The Dutch Bishops' Conference had a public statement read in all the churches of the country on July 20, 1942, condemning Nazi racism.
In a retaliatory response on July 26, 1942, the Nazis stepped up persecution and ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts, who had previously been spared. Edith Stein (Sr. Teresia Benedicta) and her sister Rosa, also a convert, were transported to the Auschwitz death camp, where they were gassed on 9 August 1942.[1]

Edith Stein was beatified in1987 (= Blessed Edith Stein); she was canonized in 1998 (= Saint Edith Stein).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
He was an opponent of Hitler’s regime from its first days. Two days after Hitler became Chancellor Bonhoeffer delivered a radio address in which he attacked Hitler and warned Germany against slipping into a cult of the Führer (leader), who could very well turn out to be Verführer (mis-leader, or seducer), he was cut off the air in the middle of a sentence. In April 1933, Bonhoeffer raised his voice for church resistance to Hitler's persecution of Jews, declaring that the church must not simply "bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself."
Bonhoeffer was one of the leading members of the Confessing Church.
Bonhoeffer was condemned to death on 8 April 1945.
He was hanged the following day.
Only a couple of weeks before his execution
when he was still prisoner in a concentration camp
he had written a deeply moving prayer
In the original German: „ Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen…“

This is the English translation:
By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered,
And confidently waiting come what may,
we know that God is with us night and morning,
and never fails to greet us each new day.
And when this cup You give is filled to brimming
With bitter suffering, hard to understand,
we take it thankfully and without trembling,
out of your good and so beloved hand.

Bernhard Lichtenberg
Under the impression of the Kristallnacht pogrom of 9/10 November 1938, while the German people kept their silence in face of the vicious attack upon the Jews, the Berlin priest Bernhard Lichtenberg raised his voice against Nazi brutality.
“We know what happened yesterday,
we do not know what lies in store for us tomorrow.
But we have experienced what has happened today:
Outside burns the temple.
This is also a place of worship.”
From that evening until his arrest on 23 October 1941, Lichtenberg continued to pray daily from his pulpit in the St Hedwig Cathedral for the both Jews as well as other victims of the regime.[2] In 1942 Lichtenberg was arrested and condemned to prison. In November 1943 he was sent to the Dachau concentration camp, but he collapsed and died while in transit.
In June 1996, when Pope John Paul II visited Germany, he beatified Lichtenberg, i.e. now he’s called Blessed Bernhard Lichtenberg.
In July 2004 Yad Vashem recognized Bernhard Lichtenberg as a Righteous among the Nations.

The White Rose
Some of you might have seen the film Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (in German: Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage) – released in 2005. It is about the last days in the life of Sophie Scholl, a 21-year-old member of the anti-Nazi non-violent student resistance group the White Rose, part of the German Resistance movement. She was found guilty of high treason by the People’s Court and executed the same day, February 22, 1943.
Since you’re from Israel some of you might have heard about Janina Altman’s book “The White Rose. Students and intellectuals in Germany before and after the rise of Hitler to power”. In his foreword Professor Moshe Zuckerman[3] (from Tel Aviv-University) says: “And indeed, there were not many who dared to oppose the regime and to endanger their lives in an act of opposition – but there were some. … the Israeli reader is not exposed, in general, to literature dealing with the German opponents to the Nazi regime... (…) … it is worthwhile for the Israeli reader to read the heroic story of the “White Rose” - heroic in its simplicity - and tragic in its heroism.”
In the summer of 1942 the White Rose had distributed four leaflets.
This is an excerpt from the second leaftlet: “Since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way … Here we see the most frightful crime against human dignity, a crime that is unparalleled in the whole of history. For Jews, too, are human beings… The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals … Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!”
And this is an excerpt from the draft for the seventh leaflet:
Shall all Germans be sacrificed to the harbinger of hate and of destruction?
To him who tortured the Jews to the death,
who exterminated half of Poland,
and who wanted to destroy Russia?
To him who took your freedom, peace, happy families, hope, and joy?
Hitler and his regime must fall, so that Germany can live on.
This draft has been written by Christoph Probst.
Some of you know his father was born in our hometown Kaufbeuren…
Let me talk briefly about the three mentors and tutors of the White Rose
Haecker – Muth – Huber
In 1927 Theodor Haecker had ended his book about the Jews with this blessing: (first in German) Friede sei Israel – Shalom Israel!
In November 1941 Hans Scholl wrote about his tutor Carl Muth:
He’s ill at present – bronchitis, though I suspect that the real cause of his illness is psychological. The anti-Jewish measures in Germany and the occupied territories are preying on his mind.”[4]
Their philosophy professor, Kurt Huber, was shocked when he learned of the state-organized atrocities committed in Germany. He also lectured on forbidden subjects, such as the writings of the Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza.
Seven members of the White Rose movement have been executed.
Hans Scholl’s final outcry: Es lebe die Freiheit! – Long live freedom!

Sergeant Anton Schmid (1900 – 1942)
As you all know exactly 50 years ago the Eichmann trial began in Jerusalem.
In her book, "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil"[5] the great Jewish scholar Hannah Arendt singled out the example of Sergeant Anton Schmid in order to illustrate the lesson that "under conditions of terror, most people will comply but some people will not."
And she came to the conclusion: "How utterly different everything would have been in Israel, in Germany, in all of Europe, and perhaps in all countries of the world, if only more such stories could have been told."
This is the story of Anton Schmid…
Anton Schmid was moved by the suffering of the Jews in the Vilnius ghetto and decided to help. He managed to release Jews from jail and risked his own life by smuggling food into the ghetto. His courageous assistance involved the saving of more than 250 Jews whom he managed to hide and the supplying of materiel and forged papers to the Jewish underground.
Arrested in January 1942, and tried before a military court, Anton Schmid was executed on 13 April 1942.[6]
Before his execution he wrote a letter to his wife Steffi from his prison cell –
I only acted as a human being and I did not want to hurt anyone. (…)
When you’re holding this letter in your hands I won’t be alive anymore, but be sure that we will see each other again in a better world with our loving God

In May 1964 Yad Vashem bestowed the title of Righteous among the Nations on Anton Schmid.[8] The medal bears the inscription: Whoever saves one life - saves the world entire[9]
In Haifa, Israel, the entry to town from the southern freeway is named "Anton Schmidt Square" in his honour.
A military base of our federal armed forces (Bundeswehr) has been named after Sergeant Schmid.

Some of you might have seen the film “Valkyre”.
Valkyrie is a 2008 American historical thriller film set in Nazi Germany during World War II. The film depicts the 20 July plot in 1944 by German army officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler and to use the Operation Valkyrie national emergency plan to take control of the country. The film stars Tom Cruise as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, one of the key plotters.
I won’t go into any detail her, because Stauffenberg did not care much about the Jews or the Shoa.
Just in case you will ever visit Berlin:
Go and see the “Memorial to the German Resistance”
A plaque on a wall nearby commemorates the failed coup of 20 July 1944
And embedded in the ground there is a plaque that reads (this is the English translation)
You did not bear the shame.
You resisted (…) by sacrificing your lives for freedom, justice and honour.

Pope Pius XII
Let me come to an end by looking back. I still remember 18 February 1963… Our German teacher began his lesson with a very serious look on his face: “Twenty years ago my fellow students Hans and Sophie Scholl were arrested at Munich University. Only five days later they were beheaded – along with their friend Christoph Probst.” And then our teacher read to us from a little grey paperback entitled Inge Scholl, “Die Weiße Rose”.
In the same year our teacher told us about “The Deputy, a Christian tragedy”.
(Well, I didn’t understand a thing at the time…) It is a controversial drama by Rolf Hochhuth which indicts Pope Pius XII for his claimed failure to take action or speak out against The Holocaust. It has been translated into more than twenty languages. I haven’t got the time to go into any detail here: But the Pope’s Christmas address 1942 remains one of the key flashpoints in the Holocaust-related controversy that continues to swirl around him. Near the end of the speech Pope Pius said:
"Humanity owes this vow to those hundreds of thousands who – without any fault on their part, sometimes only because of their nationality or race – have been marked down for death or gradual extinction"
I haven’t got the time to go into any detail here, but go and read Rabbi Dalin’s book “The Myth of Hitler’s Pope”. It’s about the saving and rescue of Jewish lives.[10]
Rabbi Dalin explores the widely accepted smearing of Pope Pius XII, whom some Jewish survivors of the Holocaust considered "a righteous gentile."
The British historian Frank McDonough (JMU Liverpool) takes the view that some critical studies fail “to give enough acknowledgement of the brave rescue undertaken by many individual priests and nuns of the Catholic Church, who helped to save thousands of Jewish lives.”[11]
Well, I take the view (along with the former Cambridge historian Dermot Fenlon) that actions speak louder than words…

Ariel Sharon: The world "didn't lift a finger" …
In a speech marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz (27 January 1945), Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that the world "didn't lift a finger" to stop the Holocaust. Sharon said Jews learned a lesson from the genocide that they can only rely on themselves.

In unusually harsh remarks to parliament, Sharon noted that when the Nazis began deporting Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz in large numbers in 1944, Allied forces did not bomb the railroad tracks leading to the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Sharon said that over a period of several weeks, more than 600,000 Jews from Hungary were killed in Auschwitz.

"The sad and terrible conclusion is that no one cared that Jews were being killed," Sharon said. "At the time of the most terrible test, friends and benefactors didn't lift a finger," he said. "This is the Jewish lesson of the Holocaust."
The world didn’t lift a finger…
Well, it is true that the Allies had detailed knowledge of what was going on at Auschwitz. But the US government thought that the bombing of the railroad tracks leading to the death camps would give the impression that the war was being fought on behalf of the Jews.[12] (Let me add this remark: Remember Casablanca, January 1943. The war was about the “unconditional surrender”, it was not about saving Jewish lives.)
I do agree: History teaches us a lesson…
Those terrible events

must "never cease to rouse consciences,
to resolve conflicts,
to inspire the building of peace"[13]
Thank you!

[3] Moshe Zuckerman is the Director of the Institute of German History, Tel Aviv University.
[4] At the heart of the White Rose: letters and diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl, p. 168
[5] Hannah Arendt, a Jew who fled Germany during Adolf Hitler's rise to power, reported on Adolf Eichmann's trial for The New Yorker. – In her book Anton Schmid is spelled “Schmidt”.
[7] “Wenn Ihr, meine Lieben, das Schreiben in Euren Händen habt, dann bin ich nicht mehr auf Erden. Werde Euch auch nicht mehr schreiben können, aber seid sicher, dass wir uns wiedersehen in einer besseren Welt bei unserem lieben Gott.“ – Winfried Vogel, Feldwebel Schmidt statt General Rüdel, in: Offizierbrief 34-35 / 2000, S. 36.
[9] The Righteous Among the Nations: Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust (2007)
[10] David G. Dalin, The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis, Washington 2005.
[11] Frank McDonough (with John Cochrane), The Holocaust, New York 2008, p. 122.
[12] McDonough, op.cit, p. 120f.