Helmuth Hübener on the Day of His Execution

Announcement of Helmuth Hübener's Execution, October 27, 1942 (source: http://tinyurl.com/pxu3u3v)*

Announcement of Helmuth Hübener’s Execution, October 27, 1942 (source: http://tinyurl.com/pxu3u3v)*

Helmuth Hübener, a 16-year-old Mormon youth living in Hitler’s Germany, exhibited unprecedented moral courage in opposing the propaganda machine of the Nazi regime in the summer of 1941. For his trouble he was arrested on February 5, 1942 (less than a month after turning 17), brutally interrogated and later tortured in Gestapo prisons in Hamburg and Berlin, and then finally beheaded by guillotine in the Gestapo’s Berlin Plötzensee prison on October 27, 1942 as the youngest person (at age 17) to be sentenced by Hitler’s special “People’s Court” and executed for conspiracy to commit treason against the Nazi regime.

From left to right: Rudi Wobbe, Helmuth Hübener, Karl-Heinz Schnibbe (source: http://tinyurl.com/q4moh4p).

From left to right: Rudi Wobbe, Helmuth Hübener, Karl-Heinz Schnibbe (source: http://tinyurl.com/q4moh4p).

By all accounts, Helmuth Hübener was a remarkable boy — a worthy role model for any teenager, male or female, then or now. Unlike his peers in 1941 — most of whom were parading as Hitler Youth [1] or in the League of German Girls, not to mention the adults in his city of Hamburg (and Germany more generally), most of whom had stood agape on Kristallnacht (the “night of broken glass”) three years earlier in November 1938 as Jewish businesses were destroyed, their proprietors (man, woman, and child) dragged into the street and beaten[2] — Helmuth acted on his discomfort with the ever growing restrictions on civil rights and personal freedoms in the totalitarian dictatorship and specifically with the treatment of Jews. Following his conscience rather than his fears, he secretly tuned into illegal German-language BBC broadcasts and discovered the distortions and outright lies in the Nazi propaganda about the progress of the war effort, as compared to the details provided by the BBC. He discretely enlisted Rudolf “Rudi” Wobbe and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, trusted Mormon friends from his St. Georg LDS branch in central Hamburg — the largest branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its West German Mission with over 400 members at the time[3] — (and later also his colleague Gehard Düwer) to help him distribute leaflets typed using the branch typewriter, which he kept at home as part of his work as Branch Secretary. As noted, his resolve was fatal.

Helmuth Hübener Exhibit in the Administrative School of the Hamburg State Personnel Authority (source: http://tinyurl.com/lbrqmql)†

Helmuth Hübener Exhibit in the Administrative School of the Hamburg State Personnel Authority (source: http://tinyurl.com/lbrqmql)†

Mormon awareness of Hübener’s courageous acts in defying Hitler’s regime while majorities did nothing has, happily, burgeoned in the last decade.[4] In fact, in October 2012, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of his execution, the Church highlighted his contributions on its German website (http://www.presse-mormonen.de/artikel/70-todestag-huebener). Before that, however, knowledge about Hübener’s heroism in the face of the most drastic adversity was curiously limited among Mormons.[5] Hübener’s accomplices Rudi Wobbe and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe both wrote memoirs about the events in the 1980s and early 1990s (and BYU Professor Thomas F. Rogers wrote and briefly staged a play based on the events called Hubener), and LDS academics such as Alan Keele and Blair Holmes (among others) contributed further treatments of the activities and sacrifices of Hübener and his group in the mid and late 1990s.[6] The decade of the 2000s saw several media treatments of the Hübener Group’s activities, including documentaries, interviews, stage plays, and even rumors of a feature film. But until the early 2000s, Hübener remained virtually unknown in the Church outside of Germany. Thankfully, awareness of Hübener’s courage and sacrifice has been celebrated for much longer in Germany (both in and out of the Church), where the catastrophe of the war, its immense consequences for the population and its implications for all of Europe immediately prompted generations-long soul searching in 1945 that continues today.[7]

Helmuth Hübener's "mug shot," arrested February 5, 1942 (source: http://tinyurl.com/m4zgx7n)

Helmuth Hübener’s “mug shot,” arrested February 5, 1942 (source: http://tinyurl.com/m4zgx7n)

As early as 1969, German author Günter Grass (who later was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999) memorialized Hübener in his novel Local Anaesthetic (Örtlich Betäubt) as the idol of a student discouraged about the Vietnam War. In the book, a teacher in the tumultuous Berlin following 1968, who has been teaching his students theories of violent protest, sees Hübener’s picture hanging on the wall in his student’s room and asks who it is. The student answers, “‘Who’s that?’… Him? That’s Helmuth Hübener. Belonged to a sect. Something like Mormons. The Church of Latter-Day Saints. Came from Hamburg, but they had their stuff printed in Kiel. They were a group of four, apprentices and clerks. They held out quite a long time. On October 27, 1942, he was executed here in Plötzensee, after being tortured of course.” The student admires Hübener’s example because Hübener’s “enlightened response to an unjustified war was not violence, or that other extreme equally condemned by Grass — apathy — but, basically, peaceful education. By circulating handbills containing information gleaned from illegal BBC broadcasts . . . Hübener and his three friends attempted to change society by legitimate and moral means, even though they were considered criminals by an unjust government” (Keele, “Six Authors in Search of a Character”, emphasis added).[8]

The execution chamber where Helmuth Hübener was beheaded on October 27, 1942 (source: http://tinyurl.com/mg6wszx).

The execution chamber where Helmuth Hübener was beheaded on October 27, 1942 (source: http://tinyurl.com/mg6wszx).

Thus, with the Psalmist, Hübener seemed to be saying “Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.” His life and actions proclaimed “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalm 120:6-7). Hübener has been honored many times over the decades in Germany as a hero of the resistance against Hitler. A school is named after him in Hamburg. Students at Hamburg’s Administrative School study his life as a lesson on fundamental values. The room where he was executed by guillotine at the Plötzensee prison is now a national memorial (pictured). How wonderful it is that Germany recognizes this Mormon hero in the fight against Hitler! How wonderful that we Mormons also now recognize him, one of our own, for these heroic actions![9]

Helmuth spoke indeed for peace, or at least for rejection of the Nazis’ war. Nearly 150 years before Christ, the prophet Abinadi quoted Isaiah in similarly condemning a corrupt and self-serving tyrant, proclaiming “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever!” (Mosiah 15:17). But like Abinadi, though he spoke and published peace, Hübener’s voice did not ring timid. Quite the opposite, in fact, as he stood before Hitler’s red-robed Blood Tribunal on August 11, 1942 and thundered a response of righteous indignation. Indeed, we can see a fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Hübener’s posture before that court: “When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11)!

Erwin von Witzleben, one of the high ranking conspirators in the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, in his own show trial before the People's Court, Aug. 7, 1944 (source: http://tinyurl.com/qxpbup5).

Erwin von Witzleben, one of the high ranking conspirators in the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, in his own show trial before the People’s Court, Aug. 7, 1944 (source: http://tinyurl.com/qxpbup5).

The infamous People’s Court (sometimes referred to as the “Blood Tribunal” because between 1942 and 1945, 90% of the cases before the court resulted in a death sentence or life imprisonment) usually did not allow the accused to speak in their defense, and defense lawyers rarely said anything at all in the show trials held there. Even the high-profile participants in the July 20, 1944 conspiracy to assassinate Hitler were shouted down or forced to be silent when trying to speak in their own defense. One of the conspirators in the assassination plot, Erwin von Witzleben, was famously able to interject “You can hand us over to the hangman. In three months the enraged and tormented people will drag you alive through the muck of the streets” as he was standing in the dock hearing his charges and sentence (pictured). No picture survives of Helmuth standing in the prisoner’s dock before the Blood Tribunal but both Rudi Wobbe and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe separately remembered that he — a mere 17-year-old boy without the significant social standing or high military rank of Field Marshall Job Wilhelm Georg Erdmann Erwin von Witzleben — shouted back at the President Judge of the People’s Court, Otto Georg Thierack, “You have sentenced me to death for telling the truth. My time is now — but your time will come!” (Minert, 130). According to Minert, both Wobbe and Schnibbe “believed that Helmuth had been particularly bold in court in an attempt to absorb the majority of the guilt and thus draw attention away from his best friends” (ibid., 137, note 6). Indeed, “[t]hey had agreed in advance that if caught, they would do their best to shoulder the guilt individually and thus attempt to avoid burdening each other with guilt” (ibid., 129).

Sentenced to death, Hübener was then returned to the cheerless cell where, stripped of his civil rights, he awaited his execution for over two months, while suffering mistreatment including being deprived of bedding and blankets. As the appointed date drew near, he wrote several letters to family and friends, only one of which survived the devastating and all encompassing allied firebombing of Hamburg (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]

* * *

Hübener was moved by the Spirit to pen these words as his final, simple, powerful testimony to survive the ages. He regretted that he would probably be forced by the Gestapo to drink wine before the execution as part of their standard protocol. But he affirmed that “My Father in Heaven knows that I have done nothing wrong.” Hübener died with a clean conscience, summarily executed for engaging in acts of heroism against a truly evil totalitarianism. Because “the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not” and “speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be,” it is “manifested unto us plainly” in this simple sentence that Hübener acted as inspired by the Spirit and was morally right in doing so (Jacob 4:13).

He also testified that “I know that God lives and He will be the Just Judge in this matter.” Indeed, “all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). And we know that the Lord “executes justice” (Deut. 10:18). How much better, then, to have Hübener’s standing at that Judgment Seat than that of the judges of the People’s Court, or the agents of the Gestapo who brought the Hübener Group before them, or myriad other perpetrators in the Nazi regime! Resistance was possible, and moral, but it came at a very high cost. “[W]hat doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8). Those who opposed the regime exemplified this injunction. Unlike the three Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace whose lives were spared by an angel, many who openly opposed and raised their voice in Hitler’s Germany suffered instead the fate of the three girls at Pharaoh’s court witnessed by Abraham (Abraham 1:11). Let us be forever grateful that they left us this legacy of holy dissent in spite of the risk, and, for many such as Helmuth Hübener, at such high a cost.

* * *

Otto Olsson, Psalm 120 from “Six Latin Hymns,” for a cappella choir, Op. 40 (1919)

————————-

MLP

MLP

Mormon Lectionary Project

The Feast of Helmuth Hübener, 1942

Deuteronomy 10:17-20 (NRSV), Psalm 120:6-7 (NRSV), Micah 6:8 (KJV), Mark 13:11-12 (NRSV), 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NRSV), Jacob 4:13, Mosiah 15:14-18, Abraham 1:11

The Collect: Heavenly Father, the Just Judge, we appeal to Thee to give us the pure moral courage of Helmuth Hübener to raise our voice when inspired by Thy Spirit to speak and publish peace, and give us the strength to follow the example of the Hübener Group to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Thee even in the face of the strongest adversity, we pray, in the name of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

————————–

* My translation of the Announcement:

PROCLAMATION

Having been sentenced to death and the permanent deprivation of his civil rights by the People’s Court on August 11, 1942 on charges of conspiracy to commit treason and treasonously aiding and comforting the enemy, the 17 year old

HELMUTH HÜBENER

of Hamburg

was executed today.

Berlin, this 27th day of October, 1942.

OFFICE OF THE HIGH IMPERIAL PROSECUTOR, PEOPLE’S COURT

† My translation from the website: “The Exhibit is open in the Administrative School Monday through Friday from 9am to 2pm on the third floor of the Center for Education and Training at Normannenstraße 26, 20537 Hamburg (Borgfelde). You can reach the Administrative School by telephone on 040 42831-3030 or by email at verwaltungsschule@zaf.hamburg.de”

[1] Helmuth had been forced to leave the Boy Scouts in 1935 and join the Deutsches Jungvolk, the Hitler Youth organization for boys aged 10 to 14.

[2] Hübener’s accomplice Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, who was one year older than Hübener, said that “[m]y life changed drastically in 1938 with the Night of Broken Glass. All of the Jewish businesses were destroyed. I was very angry and decided to leave the Hitler Youth.” Roger P. Minert, Under the Gun: West German and Austrian Latter-day Saints in World War II, BYU, Religious Studies Center, 2011, p. 163 (quoting interview by author in German of Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, Salt Lake City, February 3, 2006).

[3] Minert, Under the Gun, 162.

[4] For example, since about 2004 a number of Mormon bloggers have written posts applauding the legacy of Hübener and his group, including several here at By Common Consent, e.g. Courage to Disobey and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, RIP.

[5] I speculate as to reasons for this in the comment linked here: https://bycommonconsent.com/2008/01/09/courage-to-disobey/#comment-76630

[6] For example, Blair R. Holmes and Alan F. Keele, transl. and ed., When Truth Was Treason: German Teenagers against Hitler — The Story of the Helmuth Hübener Group Based on the Narrative of Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, University of Illinois Press, 1995.

[7] As Alan Keele has written,

In 1945, when the obscuring smoke of pyrotechnics and propaganda began to clear, when the stench of death began to diffuse, when the strident pandemonium of war was finally stilled, one sound replaced all the screams, explosions and harshly amplified official voices: out of the silent intellectual German landscape one faint but persistent query began to go up: ‘why?…why?…why?…’ Seldom before has that question been asked by so many of so many for so many years. Seldom before has there been on such a broad scale a more searching, introspective kind of mass-psychoanalysis than that to which German thinkers have subjected themselves since 1945. Seldom before has the study of history been so pandemic, so immediate, so relevant, or so imperative, not only in its traditional, organized, scholarly forms, but in its personal everyday manifestations and especially in its artistic incarnations. From 1945 on, nearly all of intellectual, artistic, religious Germany was obsessed with examining the past, examining the events, the rhetoric, the very language of yesterday, in an attempt to try and find out what had gone wrong. (Alan F. Keele, “Six Authors in Search of a Character: The Importance of Helmuth Hübener in Post-War German Literature”.)

[8] According to Hübener accomplice Gerhard Düwer, one handbill read as follows:

„Entscheidet Euch, noch kann eine entschiedene Tat Euer Volk und Land vor dem Abgrund retten, an den Hitler es mit süßen Worten geführt hat. Entscheidet Euch, ehe es zu spät ist!“

“Make a decision! A decisive action can still save your People and Country from the precipice to which Hitler has led it with his soothing words. Decide before it’s too late!”

[9] It is well known that the Branch President of the St. Georg Branch in Hamburg, Arthur Zander, excommunicated Helmuth Hübener at the time for his treasonous behavior and that the Church ultimately nullified the excommunication, reinstating his membership, after the war. The excommunication of Hübener is a perplexing episode. It is true that Arthur Zander was “enthusiastic in his support of the Nazi regime” (Minert, 128), which Rudi Wobbe claimed was very rare among the Mormons in the Hamburg District. But regardless of Zander’s own political leanings, when Hübener was arrested it put the whole branch in great danger. The branch came under the scrutiny of the Gestapo, which was a terrifying prospect, especially for any in the branch who sympathized with Hübener. After the arrest agents frequently attended meetings, taking notes. The Gestapo naturally believed that adults in the branch had influenced Hübener and his friends to act (ibid., 129). In fact, the acting District President of the Hamburg District, Otto Berndt, was interrogated for four days by the Gestapo following the Hübener arrest (ibid.). Berndt miraculously survived the interrogation without incriminating himself in the eyes of the interrogators by accidentally contradicting himself as he answered questions not only about the Hübener group’s activities but also “about the teachings of the Church, the relationship of the Church and the state, the philosophy of the Church regarding Jews, and several other topics” (ibid., 130). Apocryphally, Berndt is said to have been told after these four days of relentless interrogation that “after the Jews, the Mormons are next.”

Comments

  1. Thank you.
    Helmuth Hübener is a hero. Let us never forget and always honor his legacy.

  2. Thank you, John. I included Hübener’s story in my talk on discipleship on Sunday. He is one of my heroes. He is a modern-day Son of Helaman.

  3. flowlykeariver says:

    If I could only be half as courageous in our lives right now. GOD bless Helmuth forever and ever.

  4. Interesting that his excommunication by the church is buried in the footnotes.

  5. Thanks for this. I was introduced to this story when my kids ran across a fictionalized version, Bartoletti’s The Boy Who Dared.

  6. Thank you for this entry in the Lectionary Project, John. I was just thinking the other day that it’s almost German Memorial Day, Volkstrauertag. It’s on November 16 this year, and will, as always, be celebrated at Fort Douglas Cemetery in Salt Lake City.

    We remembered Volkstrauertag at Keepapitchinin last year with a series of guest posts, including your heartfelt tribute to Herbert Klopfer, the acting president of the East German Mission during the Second World War, and a victim of that war.

    The sufferings of the German Saints during the wars of the 20th Century were, as you noted at Keepa, of biblical proportions. As with the story of Helmuth Hübener, their experiences and examples provide us with morals and examples of scriptural magnitude.

  7. Thanks, John. The photos you included are chilling and profound.

  8. I saw a documentary about Helmuth years ago on BYU TV. Well worth watching–there are interviews with his friends who survived.

  9. Let’s not forget Thomas Rogers’s important BYU-staged play, Hubener.

  10. One of the great privileges of my life was to sit on a deck in Vienna and listen to Karl-Heinz Schnibbe recount his involvement in the Hubener Group, subsequent imprisonment in Germany and then the Soviet Union. He said that he needed to prepare himself emotionally for most of the day before speaking of everything that happened and no wonder. By all accounts Hubener was the driving force, inspired by a deep sense of right and wrong and horrified by Kristallnacht and other acts of barbarism. Thanks for reminding me again John of the heroism of these young boys.

  11. Mathew, I was also privileged to hear Schnibbe recount this whole tale, in German, as he spoke to a gathering of BYU students in around 1999 or so — that has stayed with me as a vivid memory ever since.

    Gary, I still have never had the privilege of seeing Rogers’ Hübener performed, though I am very grateful to have it in my library.

  12. Thanks, John f. Hubener’s life has made me think a lot about my own. I saw Rogers’ play once and it really made me reconsider how I thought of civil disobedience. Great post.

  13. Thanks John.

  14. Amazing tribute, John. I also appreciate that you were able to humanize the branch president’s actions that on first glance seem so cowardly and reprehensible.

  15. Hm, looks like my comment from this morning didn’t post. Thanks, John, for this powerful piece. Following the thirteenth article of faith, the Mormon Lectionary Project would honor Hübener regardless of his religion, but it makes my heart happy that he was a Mormon.

    I, too, was surprised to see the fact of his excommunication relegated to the footnotes, but I agree with Angela that you’ve done a great job of humanizing the branch president, who was in a tight spot no matter his political inclinations. This charitable tendency speaks very well of you.

  16. “Interesting that his excommunication by the church is buried in the footnotes.”
    So is the nullification of his excommunication, and your point is, E?

    Thank you for this, John. I had never heard this story before. He was an incredible young man, his story should be told more often.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    Wonderful. Very well done.

  18. Thanks, Amy T. — that Herbert Klopfer post is one of the blog posts that I am most proud of over more than 10 years of “Mormon” blogging. Thank you for inviting me to contribute that to your series at Keepa.

    Thanks Angela. Otto Berndt, the acting District President of the Hamburg District and a social democrat actually butted heads with Zander over Zander’s political leanings. Minert noted that

    [p]erhaps the greatest challenge for Otto Berndt as the district president was the philosophical disagreement he had with Arthur Zander, president of the St. Georg Branch. Brother Zander was enthusiastic in his support of the Nazi regime—too enthusiastic, as far as President Berndt was concerned. However, it seemed more important to avoid open conflict that might damage the atmosphere of the St. Georg Branch and perhaps call down the wrath of Nazi Party leaders upon the Church. By 1942, there were problems enough for the Church due to the Helmuth Hübener incident (see below), but Arthur Zander was drafted that year, effectively negating the hostilities between him and Otto Berndt.

    Zander apparently eventually emigrated to the United States (whereas the anti-Nazi Berndts did not and became a pillar of the Church in West Berlin after the war). Minert added that

    [t]wenty years later, Otto Berndt made several distinctly critical statements about Arthur Zander, as he did about several other leaders of the West German Mission and the districts. It appears from his story that Otto Berndt expected that Church leaders should avoid any allegiance to Hitler’s government while they represented the Church. In other words, they should join him in condemning but not opposing the government.

    By the way, Roger P. Minert’s books documenting the lives and experiences of as many individual LDS members as possible in all of the branches and wards throughout all of Germany during World War II are a truly wonderful resource, made even more valuable by the fact that he has made them available, in their entirety, online for free:

    Under the Gun: West German and Austrian Latter-day Saints in World War II (2011)

    and

    In Harm’s Way: East German Latter-day Saints in World War II (2009)

  19. I watched the BYUTV documentary years ago and bought the paperback book that was accompanying it. A few weeks ago Patrick Mason brought Helmuth up in an address he gave, my husband turned to me at the mention of Helmuth’s name and said, “That’s your guy, huh?” Thank you for honoring Helmuth today and reconnecting me with him.

  20. Thanks for sharing, John F. I wasn’t familiar with this story, but it’s an amazing one.

  21. Sami Nold says:

    I am disgusted that you would leave out his excommunication in this article, except for buried the last footnote. Lying for the Lord by omission. Why am I not surprised?

  22. ^Probably because you are assimilating information to fit your worldview instead of critically reading the piece. The post was intended to honor Hübener on the day of his death for the courageous acts that led to his execution. You’ve turned it into your own private litmus test for historical accuracy. In short you are disrespecting both subject and author in a craven fit of self-righteousness. Try to do better or find another venue for your antics.

  23. Oh puh-leeze, Sami. If John were writing a dissertation or journal article and put that in a footnote, you should be concerned, but a blog post is an entirely different literary form. For most blogging purposes, once you get past 600-800 words (up to 1200 on more literary blogs), you’re going to start losing readers, so details outside the scope of the main blog post can rightfully be relegated to footnotes or linked posts.

    Besides, as I read it — and John can certainly correct this impression — this post highlights Helmuth’s conscience and sacrifice and influence on Mormon and German culture, and then makes a devotional response, and spending precious words in the post looking into the political and ethical tensions within the WWII German Mormon community would not add to the scope of the blog post, particularly since the excommunication and reinstatement is discussed extensively in some of the links.

  24. Thanks Amy. That’s exactly right.

  25. A footnote is not a form of “burying” information. Its there for you to read.

  26. Thank you, John F.! Around 2003 Karl-Heinz Schnibbe attended our ward in Washington (state), bore his testimony in Sacrament mtg, then spoke at a Fireside to a packed audience in an auditorium at a local university. After he spoke, everyone in the audience leapt to their feet and gave him the most sincere & heartfelt (and probably the longest lasting) standing ovation I’ve ever been a part of. He walked with a cane, and called his knee replacements “gifts from Uncle Adolf” (he had some lasting health issues due to his imprisonment). I remember him vividly describing seeing Helmuth for the last time – how his (Helmuth’s) eyes were so large and bright – so very bright. He wrote a short book about his experiences called The Price, which I highly recommend.

    He also described Helmuth’s execution. “After he was compelled to drink some wine in order to dull his senses.. he was accompanied by a Lutheran pastor the few steps to the room containing the guillotine. His sentence was again formally read; the ancient custom of breaking the staff and pronouncing the phrase, “Dein Leben ist verwirkt!” “Your life is null and void!” was duly carried out; at 8:15 pm. His body was given to the anatomical institute at the University of Berlin for use as a cadaver. His grave is unknown.”

    I find that sentence “Your life is null and void” so very tragic – and the irony – that anyone could ever think they have any power to utter or proclaim such a thing.

    On Helmuth’s excommunication [from Karl-Heinz Schnibbe’s book “The Price” p. 49]: Ten days or so after Helmuth’s arrest, by local leader action the word Excommunicated was written on Helmuth’s membership record. There is no evidence that a Church court was officially convened to consider the matter. Perhaps it was felt that our arrests posed a danger to the Church that required the action taken, and maybe that was so. But I confess that that seemed unlikely to me as an exclusive motivation in view of the feelings I had seen exhibited favorable to Nazism. For all that, I realize that by any stretch of imagination it must have been a tense time for the branch, and I certainly wish to extend to inexperienced local Church leaders working under such extreme circumstances all possible benefits of any doubt. We were the ones, after all, who had placed the other members in peril. If they can forgive us, we certainly can forgive them. After the war, Otto Berndt (who had had no part in the negative action) made sure that Helmuth’s excommunication was corrected. He and the new mission president, Max Zimmer, wrote ‘excommunication done by mistake’ on Helmuth’s membership record, dated it November 11, 1946, and signed it. Later, Max Zimmer’s successor, Jean Wunderlich, notified the Brethren in Salt Lake of the affair, and a similar notation was placed on the Church’s copy of Helmuth’s record. One injustice, at least, had been corrected.”

    Thanks again for the post, John.

  27. Thanks, Jen!

  28. Wonderful, Jen.

  29. I like the article, but I would like to add that I think the reason the Church has done so little to recognize this in the past is that it struck too close to home. Here you have a young man who was not only standing firm against Hitler, but against the church. He was excommunicated and this hurt him deeply from several accounts I have read. He was denounced as a trouble maker by other members, and left to die without their support. He was a man of such great integrity that he could not be moved by corrupt government or corruption in the church. The church even tried to ally itself with Naziism at first, until war with other nations we had members in seemed imminent. I even have a photo of Heber J. Grant giving a speech in Germany in front of nazi banners! The moment it all went south and the wars started the whole embarrassing period was buried as deep as possible lest it be the embarrassment to the church it was.

  30. Thanks, John. That was absolutely beautiful. Hubener’s story never fails to amaze and inspire me.

  31. Mormonism has just a few true martyrs, and Hubner is one of them. Thank you for this powerful memorial, John.

  32. This is all new to me, and is one of the reasons I love the Mormon Lectionary Project so much.

    Thank you for this post, John. Brother Hübener is inspiring in his dedication and faith, and Brother Schnibbe’s “if they can forgive us, we certainly can forgive them” is a welcome reminder to me to be kind and give the benefit of the doubt as much as possible.

  33. I’m sure that if you looked hard enough, gospelfullness, you might find a picture of Ezra Taft Benson with a real Communist, too!

    Heber J. Grant did tour the European Missions in 1937, and may have been in a room that had a swastika flag in it. That was, after all, the national flag of Germany, and law or custom may have required that the flag be displayed in public meetings.

    But perhaps you should just learn some history. President Grant visited Germany over a year before Kristallnacht, two years before the invasion of Poland, five years before the Wannsee Conference at which Nazi leaders came up with the “final solution” to the “Jewish question.” True, the Reichstag had adopted the Nuremberg laws the year before, but before you condemn Pres. Grant for standing in front of a national symbol of a country that would do that, you might stop to remember that Pres. Grant can also be found standing before American flags of that same era. And that was an America which had passed the Chinese Exclusion Act a half-century before, had enacted laws prohibiting immigration from Asia in the 1920s and making such immigrants who were already here permanently ineligible for citizenship–and which a few years later would round up Japanese nationals and their U.S. citizen children and send them to concentration camps for the duration of the war.

    So, will you throw the same complaints at Pres. Grant for his apparent “support” of the wrongs that the U.S. government committed?

  34. Ken Jenson says:

    There is a great film you can purchase on Amazon by Kathryn Moss called ‘Resistance Movement’.
    http://www.amazon.com/Resistance-Movement-Joseph-Branca/dp/B00BXNQ6F6/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1414602806&sr=1-1&keywords=resistance+movement).

    My son, Caleb Jenson played Helmuth and was very moved by the experience. A coincidence, only discovered while the movie was being filmed, is that my cousin, Karen Kadleck was Rudy Wobbe’s daughter.

    Check out the movie. It is very moving and well done.

  35. Ron Madson says:

    Helmuth renounced war in the most challenging circumstance. We can follow Helmuth’s example by renouncing war and proclaiming peace by following the highest covenant (Section 98 and words of Jesus) of our faith tradition other faith traditions as conscientious objectors.
    http://ldsrenouncewar.org

  36. Sami Nold asks “Why am I not surprised?”

    You’re not surprised because you’ve already made up your mind about certain things, and you make sure to note all confirming evidence while disregarding the rest. That is the main reason you are not surprised.

  37. Of all the things this brave young man could have said in his final letter, the fact that he apparently feels that being forced to drink wine- something that he had no more choice in than his impending decapitation- was not only worthy of confession, but also caused him to reflect on the fact that such an act might not be forgiven, speaks volumes about why persons like myself cannot tolerate even the smallest speck of blind religious dogma…..
    JMO

  38. windmill, talk about missing the point completely.

    I missed this post, John, when you wrote it. Thank you for it. May we all learn – both courage and charity.

  39. *windhill* – I think the tilting influenced my reading of the name.

  40. From the LDS perspective burying his excommunication is quite dishonest. If you’re going to even mention the fact that he was LDS, honoring his courage because he was “Mormon,” then his battle with the LDS power structure is just as relevant as his battle against the Nazi regime, especially in these modern times with all the essays being published.

  41. Peter, including a huge, detailed footnote isn’t burying anything – and a charge of dishonesty from someone who linked to a calculated, thoroughly contrived word cloud of General Conference in order to criticize the LDS Church unfairly is the height (or depth) or hypocrisy.

  42. We believe in being subject to men is a FALSE doctrine taught by men: http://gregstocks.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/we-believe-in-being-subject-to/