German Resistance

By Roger Stanton

Members may be aware that Resistance to the Germans within Germany was particularly difficult. The Nazis had an intelligence system second to none. Much of the resistance came from communist groups. One of our late members did in fact run an escape line route out of Berlin to Paris for Jews and communists in the dangerous years prior to the outbreak of war, and in the early part of the war. She was compromised, had to leave in a hurry with her name on both the Gestapo and SS death lists. Elizabeth Haden-Guest managed to escape and headed for Marseille then a boat to America, but changed her mind and became one of the main organisers of the Pat Line when it operated out of Marseille. I am sure many in the society know of her Pat Line history.

Many of the other groups that opposed Hitler in the early years came from the communist groups or the University student groups. The Weisse Rose (White Rose) group was based at the University in Munich in 1942; it was an extremely dangerous Nazi city. Kurt Huber was a professor at Munich University who ran much of the student resistance. He was arrested by the Gestapo and, after harsh treatment, was beheaded on July 13 1943. The organisation was then ran by a brother and sister, Hans and Sophie Scholl, who defied the powerful state-organised suppression and printed leaflets opposing the ‘dictatorship of evil’. They also organised the first demonstration in Germany against the Nazi regime on the streets of Munich. The Scholls were eventually betrayed to the Gestapo. Sophie Scholl appeared in court with a broken leg, and both had been severely beaten. They were beheaded on February 22 1943, aged 22. In 1961 a commemorative stamp was issued in East Germany in honour of Sophie and Hans. In 1964, a commemorative stamp was also issued by West Germany.

Another group of rebellious teenagers were the ‘Edelweiss Pirates’. Declared to be a terrorist group by the Gestapo in 1940, they were mainly working class teenagers who fought the Hitler Youth and worked alongside Nazi resistance groups moving supplies and explosives to adult resistance fighters. Others provided safe-houses for Jews. After the war they were honoured by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel. Of the group, which totalled about 500, many were captured by the Gestapo, and at least six were executed on capture; many died later. Gertrude Koch, now 81 and who still uses her Resistance name of ‘Mucki’, was captured by the Gestapo, repeatedly beaten then thrown down stairs, resulting in a badly broken arm. Mucki’s family hid the Jewish music director of Cologne conservatoire for eighteen months in their allotment garden shed. In June 2005 the Edelweiss Pirates were finally given official recognition as resistance fighters; a move greatly appreciated by the remaining members despite its lateness.