Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, RIP

BCC notes the passing of an authentic Mormon hero.  Brother Karl-Heinz Schnibbe died on May 9, 2010, at the age of 86, in Salt Lake City.

Schnibbe was the last surviving member of a group of LDS teenagers who lived in Hamburg, Germany during World War II and who actively resisted the Nazi regime.  He, Rudi Wobbe, and Helmut Huebener were in the same priests quorum and were eventually arrested by the Gestapo for distributing flyers denouncing the Third Reich.

Schnibbe (In the group photo, he’s the tall one on the right, Huebener is in the middle and Wobbe is on the left) was born on January 5, 1924.  When he was 12 years old he joined the Hitler Youth and enjoyed the campouts and parades.  Over time he grew tired of the constant pressure and began to skip meetings.  He was eventually expelled from the Hitler Youth for punching his leader in the face.

The three boys began to listen clandestinely to BBC German language broadcasts and decided to use the information from those broadcasts to counteract Nazi propaganda.  They transcribed the news using the church’s typewriter (Huebener was the ward clerk) and distributed their flyers by posting them on telephone poles and putting them in mailboxes.  The three boys had agreed that if any one of them was caught he would take all responsibility and deflect blame from the others.  Huebener was arrested first, and after several days of beatings and torture, he gave up the names of Wobbe and Schnibbe.  To Huebener’s everlasting credit, he realized that Schnibbe was a few months older than the other two and would likely be tried as an adult, so he told his interrogators that Schnibbe was only marginally involved.  Huebener was sentenced to death by the Nazi Volksgericht and Schnibbe was sentenced to five years in a labor camp.

As the war was ending, the Soviet army captured the labor camp where Schnibbe was imprisoned and relocated him to a labor camp in Siberia.  Four years later the Red Cross managed to get him released.  He weighed ninety-eight pounds.

On October 27, 1942, 17 year-old Helmut Huebener was executed by guillotine in the prison at Berlin-Ploetzensee.  In 2006, exactly 64 years later, Karl-Heinz Schnibbe visited the room where the execution took place and placed a wreath in honor of his friend.  In BYU Studies, Richard Cracroft reviewed The Price, a book about Huebener, Wobbe, and Schnibbe.  This is how he concludes his review:

The Price…. gives Mormons some new heroes and brings us into the fray in unaccustomed but very respectable ways, ways of which we may be very proud. Helmuth Huebener, who died in the nightmare, And Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, who endured it, have created a significant memorial before which each of us should lay a wreath of honor.

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You can find more resources about Huebener, Wobbe and Schnibbe at these links:

http://bycommonconsent.com/2008/01/09/courage-to-disobey/

https://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V41N01_77.pdf (Please note the fantastic picture of BCCer Margaret Blair Young.)

https://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V21N04_129.pdf

Comments

  1. JT in Chicago says:

    Wow… glad to learn of this man.

  2. A fine tribute, Mark. Thanks.

  3. John Mansfield says:

    Since they were anti-Nazis, it is easy sympathize with those youth, yet I don’t know what else their country could have done with them during the war. If an English youth had been passing pamphlets parrotting German propaganda and slurring Churchill, he would have probably received the same treatment as Bro. Schnibbe: prison followed by conscription. He was certainly courageous, and it’s a very interesting tale, but so was Diana Mosley’s. (Here’s Diana and her sister, Unity, posing with some German officers.) I’ve wondered if Marlene Dietrich had any place left in Germany after the war.

  4. >Since they were anti-Nazis, it is easy sympathize with those youth

    Wow, John, how very generous of you.

    Last week we had a defense of genocide; this week we get lukewarm praise for anti-Nazis. Lovely.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    I wonder why did the Soviets transfer him to a Soviet labor camp instead of immediately releasing him? Didn’t “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” apply?

  6. Mark Brown says:

    Kevin, since Schnibbe was a German citizen he was considered a prisoner of war.

  7. This is quite the story.

    The answer to your question Kevin is that the Soviets put a million or 2 German soldiers captured in the war to work in slave labor camps. Most never returned. Those that did come back came home 5-10 years after the war.

    From Wiki

    “The majority of German forced labor after WWII was represented by 2.3 million German POWs left by the end of the war; see POW labor in the Soviet Union.

    The last Germans (those who were sentenced for war crimes, defined by the Soviets as being a member of the German armed forces) were repatriated in 1956.”

  8. What happened to Wobbe?

  9. Mark B. says:

    The Soviets likely didn’t know why Schnibbe was imprisoned, and they held thousands of German POWs and others for years after the war.

    There’s one major difference between Diana Mosley and Huebener and his friends. She was a Fascist and on the wrong side of history. Huebener and Schnibbe were on the right side. And whatever the Brits did to Nazi sympathizers during World War II, my hunch is that it didn’t include concentration camps and guillotines.

  10. Karl-Heinz and his friends have been heroes of mine ever since I first read about Helmut Heubener and his friends in Thomas Rogers’ play.

    We don’t hear enough about these young men, which I can only assume is why John Mansfield is taking such a pedestrian view of their story. I’ll read about Diana Mosley, JM, but you should read up on these three young men. There’s a lot more to the story than we see here.

  11. Years ago I read a few books about Helmut Heubener and he is pretty amazing. We can all learn from him.

  12. Latter-day Guy says:

    I’ve always thought the saddest part of the Helmuth Hübener story was his excommunication. Though he was posthumously reinstated, to face the symbolic, official rejection of his brothers and sisters in faith––on top of his arrest, trial, imprisonment and impending execution––just sounds like salt in the wound.

    #8, Wobbe survived his imprisonment (though I’m not aware of any of the details of his incarceration); he succumbed to cancer in 1992.

  13. John Mansfield says:

    kevinf, like you, I also have known this story for a couple decades. Being an anti-Nazi was a fine thing, but in their youthful enthusiasm those boys managed to be complicit with a nation that was fighting theirs—bombing German cities, shooting German soldiers. How to fight Hitler without aiding Britain (and therefore fighting Germany) was a tricky maneuver that they didn’t quite manage.

    For imprisonment by the Soviets and the Nazis, Fritz Houtermans story is a weird one. The communist physicist left Germany for Britain, but didn’t like Britain, and so found a position in the Soviet Union. After a couple years there, the capricious Soviets put him in prison and tortured him some until he confessed to being a German spy, then forgot about him in the Kharkov prison until the Hitler-Stalin pact, at which point the Soviets turned him over to the Gestapo, who imprisoned him for being a communist.

  14. Latter-day Guy says:

    Since [he was the Son of God], it is easy sympathize with [Jesus], yet I don’t know what else [Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate] could have done with [Him] during the [strained relations between Rome and Israel].

    And whatever the Brits did to Nazi sympathizers during World War II, my hunch is that it didn’t include concentration camps and guillotines.

    During the war, she spent 2 to 3 years living in a little cottage with her husband which was inside the prison grounds. Of her internment she later said: “It was still lovely to wake up in the morning and feel that one was lovely.” She remained both rabidly anti-Semitic and wealthy––owning homes and apartments in Ireland, London, and Paris––until her death in 2003.

  15. Peter LLC says:

    How to fight Hitler without aiding Britain (and therefore fighting Germany) was a tricky maneuver that they didn’t quite manage.

    No need to be more German than the Germans themselves. As of September 2009, all verdicts by the Nazi Volksgerichtshof, military tribunals and courts martial–including those for wartime treason–have been overturned and the victims rehabilitated. The only Germans in 2010 who worry about “nuances” like yours and grant the Nazi regime any legitimacy are far to the right of the mainstream.

  16. John Taber says:
  17. Cynthia L. says:

    Wow. I never in a million years would have expected a reaction like Mansfield’s. I think my head just exploded.

  18. John Taber says:

    I’ve seen plenty such reactions in the Internet era, and in my own ward. (In fact, sometimes reading about the Sankt Georg branch has reminded me of my ward.) You wouldn’t believe how many members are out there who believe that Schneibbe, Wobbe, and especially Hubener got what they deserved, from both Church and government.

  19. John Mansfield says:

    Oh, Latter-day Guy, you got me. I’m a crucifixion sympathizer who thinks Jesus had it coming. Without Nazis and child molestors how could we assure ourselves of our moral adequacy?

    Mosley and a thousand other British facists were imprisoned without legal rights until there was no more threat of an invasion. For Germany, that threat was with them throughout the war. (I would guess that the living conditions of the non-aristocrats weren’t quite up to those of Lady Mosley and her ailing ex-MP husband.) Huebner’s execution seems extreme. Scnibbe’s wartime years in prison until he was sent into uniform with every other young German man was a perfectly reasonable sentence.

  20. Peter LLC ftw.

    Mansfield, you’ve utterly lost the plot, mate.

  21. Steve Evans says:

    “Huebner’s execution seems extreme”

    A generous concession on your part!

  22. Huebner’s execution seems extreme.

    I hope those of you who have implicitly accused John Mansfield of being unsympathetic are now prepared to apologize…

  23. Amen to Steve’s comment.

  24. I’m honestly surprised that you people are being so hard on Mansfield. Standing up in defense of murderous, authoritarian regimes is really, really thankless, harrowing work. But we all know it needs doing. I think Bob Dylan even wrote a folk song about it once.

  25. John Mansfield, #19 & #3, I’ve been struggling with a measured response, so here it goes. Heubener and his friends came to realize that their government was lying to them and seriously misrepresenting the war news. Considering that the US also practiced some of these same sort of things during WWI and to a lesser extent in WWII, I guess that’s not that surprising. These young men primarily were interested in disseminating more accurate war news, not actively fighting against their country, or spying for Britain.

    Again, they knew what the likely consequences would be if they were caught, and while their youthful optimism and idealism probably helped them to overlook the high probability of that outcome, they still chose to go forward. This is the essence of non-violence, accepting that there are penalties for disobedience, and hoping that the act itself will reveal the injustice and bring about change.

    I have no doubt that the Nazi government certainly felt that their sentences were just, just as the US Government felt justified in quarantining Japanese Americans in concentration camps as well. In hindsight, they both obviously are exposed as morally reprehensible.

    It’s true that the 12th article of faith talks about obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law, but when you add the 134th section of the Doctrine & Covenants, we begin to see a picture of the type of government that is worthy of that obedience and honor. Heubener, Schnibbe, and Wobbe were concerned about their homeland, and acted in what they thought were patriotic ways to protect it. Nazi Germany was apparently not very concerned about individual rights outside of the narrow goals of the National Socialist party and its privileged elites.

    So I do have a problem with thinking that Karl-Heinz Schnibbe got what he deserved.

  26. John Mansfield says:

    Despite their good intentions, those boys made themselves propagandizers for the enemy during a war that killed a tenth of their countrymen. That’s why I qualified what I wrote with a “seems.” If it’s any help, I am not now nor have I ever been a member of any facist party. Unlike for all of you, however, the acts of Huebner, Webbe, and Schnibber are problematic to me, and not the clearly correct course that everyone else sees them to be.

  27. Note to self: Swallowing the jingoistic, nationalistic logic that makes one’s country of residence and/or citizenship into an object of absolute commitment and undeviating loyalty during a time of war (even a war of aggression that said country instigated) will turn you into a well spoken, morally lost, bizarrely insane person who dishonors the courageous in defense of their murderers.

  28. Mark B. says:

    And you’re suggesting that their attempts at telling the truth about that war led to greater harm to their nation? If by some miracle they had succeeded in convincing a majority of their fellow Germans of the real state of affairs–would the result have been worse for Germany? It’s hard to imagine that any result would have been worse than what did in fact happen–unless somehow the Germans had held out for another three months and the U.S. had used the atomic bomb on, say, Berlin.

    And it appears that your argument would suggest that any dissent in wartime is “problematic.” Even when the war is a dreadful mistake–like, say, Vietnam?

    And your use of that loaded word “propagandizers” hides the reality–they were trying to tell the truth as they saw it (and as they believed it was being withheld from the German people).

  29. John, I’m sure that the families of these young men found their behavior to be problematic, and it also had the potential to bring suspicion on the LDS church, which was perceived as an American church. Huebener’s excommunication was certainly a defensive move by the local authorities to show their patriotism, and that these views were not shared by every LDS member in Hamburg, or greater Germany. I find that excommunication troubling, although I understand why it happened.

    Bottom line, though, is that if 10% of the German population died during the war, the largest portion of that guilt lies with the German government that invaded Poland, that sponsored the forced annexation of large parts of Czechoslovakia, invaded Holland, Belgium, and France, and occupied most of the rest of Europe along the way via military force.

    Just a week ago, we marked the 40th anniversary of the Kent State shootings where four students were killed, and about a dozen others injured when National Guard troops opened fire on a crowd of protesters. I also don’t think they got what they deserved, any more than the Reverend King, Medger Evers, or for that matter Joseph Smith got what they deserved. We can all quibble about the circumstances, and say that JS response to the Nauvoo Expositor was out of proportion, but none of that justifies his murder at the hand of a mob.

    I still am thankful for the example of Karl-Heinz and his friends, all the while recognizing the circumstances and implicit law-breaking that accompanied it. This should have been a thoughtful, thankful response to the passing of a brave man. Instead, now I feel it has been cheapened by all this discussion, and I regret my part in it.

  30. Cynthia L. says:

    My head continues to explode.

  31. Cynthia L. says:

    I guess the good news is that John Mansfield’s ethic of devotion to one’s nation, no matter how fascist, freedom-destroying and morally wrong, means that he will never engage in anything with so much of a whiff of “propagandizing” against the Obama administration. Right?

  32. Mike RM says:

    John Mansfield: I’m sorry to get off topic, but what are your feelings about the Founding Fathers? They rebelled against their country and started a war that killed thousands–this for wrongs which, in my understanding, were far less than that which the Nazi’s were guilty of. It seems like these LDS boys were in a better moral position that those that supported the founders against England, except that the founders had enough help to actually win.

    (In case it isn’t obvious, I am not suggesting that either the founders or these teenagers should be viewed with anything less than the highest admiration. I am just curious how J.M. compares them.)

  33. “How to fight Hitler without aiding Britain (and therefore fighting Germany) was a tricky maneuver that they didn’t quite manage.”

    Name one person who “managed” to fight Hitler without aiding Britain. I certainly couldn’t have managed to do that, especially as well as they did.

    If we try to do something noble and fail to do it perfectly, we are worthy of condemnation. Un-freaking-believable charge. So much for the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  34. John Mansfield says:

    Mark B., I view what they did as propagandizing for the enemy because their source of information was BBC German language broadcasts. I expect the accuracy and selectivity of such broadcasts was well calculated to demoralize the German people. I view their actions as problematic because a nation is more than its government; I wouldn’t feel the same conflict about someone assassinating the local head of the Gestapo, for example.

  35. Look, John, we understand that sedition is illegal and not something to be in engaged in lightly.

    However, sedition against evil regimes is good. If I’m wrong about that — and if you’re right — then I’m happy to occupy a place far removed from the snivelling moral nonsense that seems to emanate from your principled notions of patriotism and loyalty.

    *Of course* you’re not a Nazi sympathiser. I remember you as a personable, decent human being, but you are dead wrong on this. I invite you to salvage your reputation.

  36. I’m sure someone will turn up in a moment to defend John against these liberal, sedititious malcontents.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Save your breath. We’re here to honour the Hamburg Three. Take your wares elsewhere.

  37. Peter LLC says:

    Unlike for all of you, however, the acts of Huebner, Webbe, and Schnibber are problematic to me, and not the clearly correct course that everyone else sees them to be.

    The descendants of those who convicted Hübener, Wobbe and Schnibbe and carried out their sentences have seen fit to absolve them of wrongdoing and move on. Reason stares that descendants of those who actively fought the morally bankrupt regime that passed judgment on the likes of Hübener would fail to do the same.

  38. I still am thankful for the example of Karl-Heinz and his friends, all the while recognizing the circumstances and implicit law-breaking that accompanied it. This should have been a thoughtful, thankful response to the passing of a brave man. Instead, now I feel it has been cheapened by all this discussion, and I regret my part in it.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Save your breath. We’re here to honour the Hamburg Three. Take your wares elsewhere.

    Well said, boys.

    I knew little of these events before today, but I’m a better person for reading their stories, even if in an abbreviated fashion. They were heroes and examples, without question.

  39. Mike RM says:

    I remember hearing this story in an audiobook as a kid on a family road trip, but until now I never knew if the story was fiction or not. It is great to know the story is real (although the version I heard was likely dramatized). It is quite the example of courage and bravery, especially considering how likely it was for them to get caught and how unlikely it was to have a significant effect on the outcome.

  40. John Mansfield says:

    Ronan, by your invitation, I highly respect that Huebener, Wobbe, and Schnibbe opposed their government. I admire their audacity to act in so direct a way as they did. I regret that Huebener was executed by a bunch of gangsters that killed so many political opponents.

  41. These three boys are heroes of mine, and I’ve made sure my sons hear about them too. I’m not nearly limber enough to follow any logic that would diminish their heroism.

  42. The excommunication was quite sad, but unfortunately, the above comment was correct. Seeing how the Nazis bore down on the Jehovah’s Witnesses for being a stubborn, suspicious group with ties to America.

    Tragic that it happened, but it saved a lot of innocent Church members from suffering as well. Maybe. I don’t know. I am very thankful that I am born in a relatively safe country in Earth’s history and don’t have to make judgment calls like that. So sad.

  43. Mark D. says:

    If a state is illegitimate, that illegitimacy becomes attached to all its actions. Distorting the news during war time probably doesn’t rise to that level. The moral status of Schnibbe’s actions is probably heavily dependent on what he knew about the true nature of the Nazi regime and when he knew it.

    Either way, if he was just publishing information rather than trying to bring down the regime that is hardly treasonous. A reasonable wartime government with such a policy would, warn him to cease and desist, on penalty of possible imprisonment. If he did not cease, no matter the morality of his cause, he has to be willing to bear the price.

    Ultimately, the reason why treason is such a serious offense is that almost any government (even as bad as that of North Korea, etc) is better than no government at all. A violent revolutionary who doesn’t actually succeed is in serious danger of making everyone a lot worse off even if the government he is acting against has no legitimacy to speak of.

  44. Latter-day Guy says:

    I’m a crucifixion sympathizer who thinks Jesus had it coming.

    Well, John, admitting you have a problem is the first step. Seriously, my comment, while facetious, was an example of execution in the service of political expediency. (Read Herod’s monologue from Auden’s For The Time Being for an interesting take on this kind of thing.)

    I agree that the German response to Hübener et al is understandable, but to try––as you seem to be––to suggest some kind of moral nuance here is only possible with a total disregard for the morality (or lack) of a given regime. The killing fields were understandable, the Soviet Gulags were understandable, but it is insane to say that “I don’t know what else [Pol Pot and/or Stalin] could have done.”

  45. “Seeing how the Nazis bore down on the Jehovah’s Witnesses for being a stubborn, suspicious group with ties to America.”

    I think it also had to do with there refusal to give allegiance to the state. Good for them.

  46. Thanks Mark. This was a good reminder of courage.

    I’m with Cynthia though, my head exploding that someone finds ‘problematic’ that three boys stood up to fight what is arguably the most evil regime the world has ever known.

    Wow.

  47. #45. Yeah, I think they wouldn’t do the salute and resisted compulsory military service or something? The JWs attracted a lot more negative attention than the Latter-day Saints, and wound up in the camps.

    Horrible, complicated, sticky situation with lots of shades of gray. It’s easy to look back and say what someone should or shouldn’t have done.

  48. I saw Huebner when it first opened at BYU and to this day it remains among the most powerful plays I have ever seen. I was disappointed when, at the direction of Salt Lake City, the playright was asked by BYU to cease authorizing performances of the play. Others may have better information, but my understanding is that the temporary ban on the play was because it reopened some wounds of those who had been part of the war.

    It is easy in hindsight to know how to react. It is easy in hindsight to praise those who sacrificed much to stop slavery in the U.S. before the Civil War, and to condemn those who did not try to end slavery (including, I suppose, Abraham Lincoln, before the Emancipation Proclamation). Should not everyone have joined with John Brown?

  49. Thanks for sharing this tribute. I also saw the Rogers play at BYU, and have a copy in my library.

    Acts of conscience taken during periods of war are far more easily analyzed in the safety of peaceful hindsight. But they are not less prized.

  50. I think I just saw John Mansfield transform into a troll.

    IMDB claims a movie will be released in 2011 (starring Haley Joel Osment, no less) about the Helmut Huebener story, called “Truth and Treason. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0880494/

  51. I was lucky enough to meet Brother Schnibbe in Vienna when he spoke to a group of BYU students about his ordeal. He admitted that he had to emotionally prepare himself for most of the day before speaking about his experiences during the war and post-war years (in Russia). It was a memorable experience, made more memorable by his declaration that he bore no bitterness towards anyone.

  52. I learned of this heroic threesome a few years ago and I’ ve enjoyed BYU-TV’s rebroadcasts of their “LDS Lives” segment featuring Bro. Hubener. I mentioned him to my 3-yr-convert, 1-yr-wife last week and we were watching/recording this segment last Sunday afternoon — only to learn yesterday that we may have been watching Bro. Schnibbe’s recorded comments as he passed.
    .
    These are true heroes and faithful saints. We’re better for knowing that such are among us.

  53. Blaue Blume says:

    In June of 2007, my wife and I stood in the room at Ploetzensee Prison where Helmut Huebner was executed. It was the same room where later the participants in the plot to kill Hitler were so viciously hanged with piano wire from meat hooks (still visible). Huebner was the youngest of approximately 2000 victims of the Nazi’s to be executed at Ploetzensee. We had tears in our eyes as we thought of the great lonliness he must have suffered as he was brought into that “efficient” place of death. We placed a flower in the middle of the floor and have not lost our feeling of admiration and sorrow for this tragic hero.

  54. I don’t understand John H’s reasoning. To me a parallel would be to accuse Joseph Smith of treason because the Danites burned down a few houses in western Missouri.

    The excommunication was the smartest thing the local Church leaders could have done.

  55. laurenlou says:

    I read Schnibbe’s book “Jugend Gegen Hitler” (or something like that) in the last months of my mission (not quite on the approved reading list, but I figured since it was in the library in the Frankfurt building it was fair game…) He included the last letter Huebener wrote after he was informed his execution would take place later that day. If I recall correctly, he said that one of his biggest regrets was that he would be forced to break the Word of Wisdom (prisoners were given wine to calm them before the execution). I found that fascinating and touching–it seemed very much like something a young, idealistic man would say.

    Brother Schnibbe was a true hero–not only for his youthful convictions, but also for sharing his story and ensuring that we never forget Huebener and his group.

  56. Last week, we visited the Churchill Museum here in London. Bruce and I talked about Churchill at length afterwards. The amazing thing was that Churchill somehow recognized Hitler’s evil and threat at a time when other nations, weary from WWI, were seeking any way possible to avoid yet another war–including appeasement of Germany’s consistent treaty violation. Churchill clearly knew what the price of his leadership would be for himself and for England and its allies. But it simply had to be paid.

    Schnibbe, Wobbe, Huebener all knew that they were risking everything when they circulated the anti-Nazi flyers, though none could’ve imagined how huge the price would be. The LDS statement of support for local governments must never imply that there is no room for civil disobedience when the government engages in acts of evil. The trick is in recognizing evil, not in conjuring it through limited, biased reading and the belief in conspiracy theories. These German boys listened to the BBC–which was illegal in a system rigorously producing its own, narrow propaganda. It was through that additional perspective that their eyes were opened, as it were.
    Heroes? Absolutely. I remember Karl-Heinz Schnibbe fondly, and rejoiced to see him checking recommends in the SL Temple years after the play was first produced. I believe there was much tragedy in his own life, and a price he paid as a result of the events in the 1940s which only he knows. But there was “one bright shining moment” when he dared to defy something which needed to be defied.
    I have often pondered what it must’ve been like for him to see an actor portray him at this remarkable moment, if in fact his past courage inspired him even more than it inspired the rest of us. The fact that he could watch Cory (or the other actors who eventually portrayed him) and say not just, “Wow, what a story!” but “That was ME! I did that–naively at the time, but now I see it as glorious!”–it must have mattered so much to him.

  57. re # 26, John Mansfield, I can say unequivocally that what Hübener, Schnibbe and Wobbe did was the right thing. We need more Mormons to follow their example and stand for that which is morally right regardless of the consequences. Resisting the Nazi regime was unequivocally morally right. With the hindsight of history, even we armchair quarterbacks can make that call. It’s a no-brainer. To have had the clarity and moral courage to see it and act on it at the time is truly remarkable. I cannot leave a dispassionate comment in response to you on this matter and the position you are taking because Hübener is a personal hero of mine. I will not stand for you sullying the memory of some of our greatest Latter-day Saint heroes, and it makes me shudder to think that, based on what you have written here, it is very likely that you will have elsewhere discounted — perhaps even to our youth, who so desperately need to hear of the moral courage and integrity that Latter-day Saints their age showed in difficult, life-threatening circumstances — the heroism of some of the most admirable Latter-day Saints the twentieth century has to offer.

    The perplexities animating your bizarre response to well-deserved praise of Schnibbe and Hübener seem to be those to which Professor Fred Gedicks is responding in his excellent law review article “The Embarrassing Section 134″ (http://lawreview.byu.edu/archives/2003/3/GED.pdf), particularly in footnote 9.

    Excellent comments by many above — great point Peter LLC (#15) re the 2009 overturning of Nazi Volksgericht decisions for wartime treason. This more or less sinks Mansfield’s strained objections. The Germans themselves do not view such convictions as having had merit. Neither should we — we should follow the Germans’ lead in concluding that anything that counted as treason against the Nazi dictatorship does not in fact merit that designation.

    Re # 55, agreed, Hübener’s final testimony is moving. The Spirit confirms to me that what he says in it is true (my translation):

    I am very grateful to my Heavenly Father that my miserable life will come to an end tonight — I could not bear it any longer anyway. My Father in Heaven knows that I have done nothing wrong. I am just sorry that I had to break the Word of Wisdom at my last hour. I know that God lives and He will be the Just Judge in this matter. I look forward to seeing you in a better world!

    Your friend and brother in the Gospel,
    Helmuth

    [Ich bin meinem himmlischen Vater sehr dankbar, daß heute Abend dieses qualvolle Leben zu Ende geht, ich könnte es auch nicht länger ertragen. Mein Vater im Himmel weiß, daß ich nichts Unrechtes getan habe, es tut mir nur leid, daß ich in meiner letzten Stunde noch das Gebot der Weisheit brechen mußte. Ich weiß, daß Gott lebt, und Er wird der gerechte Richter über diese Sache sein. Auf ein frohes Wiedersehen in einer besseren Welt!

    Ihr Freund und Bruder im Evangelium
    Helmuth]

    My conviction is that Hübener was moved by the Spirit to pen these as his last words. As such, the bolded portion particularly settles the matter on moral grounds (as if such a statement through the Spirit should be necessary to clear Hübener — it should be obvious that Hübener’s conscience could be clean for engaging in this act of heroism against a truly evil totalitarianism). Given my belief that the Spirit speaks of things as they really are (Jacob 4:13), I have no reason to think that Hübener’s testimony, moved by the Spirit in such simple purity, is not also a direct statement of fact on the moral issue.

  58. Thanks, John f. I especially love the Gedicks article.
    Could somebody please link Brother Schnibbe’s obituary?

    Also, I should mention that Neal Chandler wrote a play about Huebener as well–quite a brilliant piece, which has been performed in Ohio.

  59. Well said, jf.

  60. John Mansfield says:

    An interesting case for comparison is that of John Yettaw. He is the Mormon who last year swam to Suu Kyi’s house. If you type “John Yettaw” into Google, the phrase completion software helpfully suggests “john yettaw idiot.” General opinion is that he was a meddlesome egocentrist who only made matters worse for Suu Kyi by providing the excuse the Burmese government needed to extend her house arrest again, just as it had in May of 2008 and May of 2007. You would have to look long and hard to find anyone praising him for drawing the world’s attention to the fact that the Peace Prize winner is still under house arrest or for his courage to stir up trouble with an oppresive junta. No one calling John Yettaw an idiot is thought to be making excuses for Burma’s government.

  61. Hübener was not an idiot or a meddlesome egocentrist. He was a courageous Latter-day Saint youth who believed there was a straightforward moral right and wrong and acted morally despite knowing the potential consequences. Only his youthful naivete could have made him think that he could get away with resisting such ruthless totalitarianism as the Nazi regime. But this does not diminish the moral courage of his actions.

  62. Yettaw is manifestly not an interesting case for comparison. That you’re willing to suggest such a comparison, with a seeming straight face, in a public forum (which, among other things, Brother Schnibbe’s family could read) speaks volumes not only of your powers of intellect but of your total indifference to the human consequences of your smug superiority.

  63. Kristine says:

    Mansfield, I’m saving you from yourself–into the mod tank with you, until you say something sensible, or until one of my cobloggers wants to mock you some more.

    There was some value in airing your views, which I fear are held by others, so that they could receive the public condemnation they richly deserve, but that purpose has been served, and your further comments are merely disgusting.

  64. There is simply no modern comparison to watch Hübener and his friends did. Any attempt to draw a comparison dulls the wonder of their conviction.

    I’ve requested my library to get a copy of at least one of the books that lists Schnibbe as an author (I am not positive it is the one listed in this post, but it looks like it is similar). I am sad that I did not know of these heroic young men before today.

    These young men are the embodiment of one of my favourite sayings, attributed to Sir William Penn: “Right is right, even if everyone in the world is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone in the world is for it.”

  65. Yettaw compared to….ugh

    Hubener made an idealistic choice-a choice if made by every other person in Germany could have lead to amazing results.

    sustaining the law does not equal blind obedience to… sigh

  66. #60. WTH?

  67. Thanks, Kristine.

    Thanks even more johnf.

  68. That final testimony Huebener wrote is very moving. Thank you John for posting that and providing a translation.

  69. Mark Brown says:
  70. The first line is about what you would expect from someone who has been tortured by the Gestapo. It is interesting that the Nazi documents relating to Hübener mention “hartnäckiger Überzeugungsarbeit” as a euphamism for beatings and torture in order to make him give up the names of his accomplices. A rough translation would be “rigorous interrogation”.

  71. How about “enhanced interrogation”—too obvious?

  72. “enhanced” doesn’t really work as a translation for “hartnäckig”.

    Also, “Überzeugungsarbeit” could probably be more accurately translated as “persuasion” or “convincing efforts”, so you have “rigorous persuasion”, which is a more ridiculous euphemism and is ham fisted in English so the more standard “interrogation” seems to fit as a rendering of “Überzeugungsarbeit”. But maybe it is better to stick with “persuasion”.

  73. “persistent persuasion techniques” might be a good translation.

  74. What a lovely tribute.

  75. Kevin Barney says:

    This snippet from the SLT obit answers my question as to why he wasn’t liberated:

    As the Soviet army advanced westward, the Nazis marched their prisoners through the snow back to Hamburg, where Schnibbe’s shorter sentence proved a curse. Wobbe wound up being liberated. But because much of Schnibbe’s prison term was served by the war’s final weeks, Keele said, the Nazis sent him to Czechoslovakia to train as a German soldier. When the Soviets overran his camp there, they sent him to a Russian work post.

  76. S.P. Bailey says:

    Thanks for this tribute. These boys were heroes. What guts it must have taken to actively oppose Hitler and the Third Reich.

    I have been acquainted with a few German saints who also survived WWII and immigrated to Utah. Their stories were less heroic, but I found it hard to judge them for not being Huebener, Schnibbe, or Wobbe. There but for the grace of God go I …

  77. John f. That made my day. Thank you.

    Kristine, that was a nice second making of my day.

  78. I’m speaking this Sunday (Aaronic priesthood comemmoration) and I plan on telling the story of these 3 YM. Could some one help me out with the pronunciation of their names so I do them justice?

  79. Really, my question is only about Wobbe and Helmuth

  80. Vob-beh
    Hell-moot

  81. Chad H. says:

    I went to Bro. Schnibbe’s funeral along with my 13 year old son. I never met the man.
    The talk by Matt Wittaker (film maker, Truth and Conviction) centered around Karl-Heinz’s ability to forgive.
    My primary lesson today is titled “Joseph Forgives His Brothers”…you know…that whole selling him into slavery thing…I intend to apply Bro. Schnibbe as a modern day example.
    Concerning some of the above “discussions” I have been reading…I’m simply happy that everyone was able to express thoughts and opinions with little fear of violent reprisal…no matter how inappropriate for the intended topic.
    RIP Karl-Heinz Schnibbe.

  82. Julie Freitag says:

    Appears to be some important Jehovah Witness leaders that sympathized with Hitler information that gets missed, but the victim JW’s in the camps are not forgotten. Not many people know about the letters written to Reichskanzler.

  83. von bulher says:

    The courage of the three teens in Hamburg during the Nazi’s third Reich is one of the most extra-ordinary examples of opposition of Hitler’s takeover. I would be proud to be part of any movement on their behalf.

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