Welcome to Inspirational Tuesday! A while ago on Facebook, I posted the story of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who saved 6,000+ Jews during the Holocaust. Many of you commented you had never heard of him, and it got me thinking: You know the Adam Lanza’s, the evil people of the world. Yet often, for some weird reason, the good people often go overlooked. I decided to balance this out by showcasing a courageous and inspiring person. Feel free to comment your requests.
“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love… true love never dies.” -Hub, Secondhand Lions
|Rudi, Helmuth, Karl|
In the spring of 1941, Helmuth’s brother Gerhard, a soldier, came home with a broken French radio. Unlike German radios, this radio could pick up the BBC. Since Gerhard was about to be inducted into the army again, he locked the radio in a cabinet in his grandma’s house. The night Gerhard left, for the first time, Helmuth began listening to the BBC. At the time, listening to the BBC radio was a crime punishable by execution. The Germans only allowed citizens to listen to three stations – and they were all Nazi propaganda. He soon encouraged his two best friends, Rudolf “Rudi” Wobbe and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, to begin listening to the radio. The oldest and most outspoken, Karl was expelled from Hitler Youth for “insubordination” after speaking out against a Jewish family’s brutal arrest. Rudi regularly skipped Hitler Youth meetings. Helmuth began comparing the Nazi propaganda radio to the BBC and was amazed at the difference. Then an idea came to him – why not share the news with others?
With the help of Rudi and Karl, Helmuth struck the idea of writing leaflets proclaiming the truth about Nazi Germany. Helmuth had access to a church typewriter and began writing notes in short hand. He then used carbon paper to make multiple copies. Complete with an official Nazi stamp to make his post-card sized notes look “Nazi official”, the leaflets were left in and on everything from phone booths, bulletin boards, mailboxes, and even hanging coat pockets. After about eight months and overwhelming success, Helmuth wanted to expand his operation. While wanting to translate his pamphlets, someone gave away Helmuth’s name to the Gestapo. Helmuth’s house was searched, and the hidden radio, typewriter, and pamphlets were found.
Helmuth was tortured mercilessly, and he gave away Rudi and Karl’s name – but he took full responsibility. In the beginning, they all agreed if one was caught, the captured one would take 100% blame, leaving the other two out of it. Because of the writing in the pamphlets, his general and political knowledge, and his behavior in court, Helmuth was tried as an adult. This was extremely rare. The trial was in August 1942. Karl was given a sentence of five years and Rudi of ten – although both sentences were cut short.
Seventeen year-old Helmuth was sentenced to death and permanent loss of civil rights, which meant he could (and would) be mistreated before his execution. Some of his final words to the court were, “Now I must die, even though I have committed no crime. So now it’s my turn, but your turn will come.”
Although he was not told his execution date, Helmuth was allowed to write three letters in prison. He wrote one to his mother, one to his grandparents, and one to a family from church – the latter letter survived. The most notable portion of the letter was Helmuth’s bold words: “I know that God lives and He will be the just judge on this matter. I look forward to seeing you in a better world!”
On October 27, 1942 at 8:13 PM, Helmuth Hübener was beheaded. At seventeen years old, he was the youngest person executed by the Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court).
Rudi died in 1992 from cancer and Karl died in 2010. Both men wrote memoirs about their resistance work. Helmuth has been featured on numerous documentaries, Internet articles, and books. The most notable is a fictional biography of his life, The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. The Newbery Honor book Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti also features Helmuth.
Although only a child, Helmuth and his friends took a political stand that most adults were too scared to take. They did it through words, not guns, and he proved you can make a difference no matter what your age is.
|Karl (left) and Rudi (right) – a memorial service for Helmuth
Hamburg, Germany 1985