Portfolio 12.2: Comparison Essay
After reading chapters 24–26 of Hübener vs. Hitler, write a two-page essay in which you compare Atticus Finch to Helmuth Hübener. You can approach this comparison in any way you see the connection. You are required to include a minimum of four citations; one citation must come from the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Refer to the examples in this objective for how to format your citations. Your essay must have one-inch margins and be typed, double-spaced, and in 12-point Times New Roman font.
Hübener vs. Hitler by Richard Lloyd Dewey
A Biography of Helmuth Hübener, Mormon Teenage Resistance Leader1
Karl says that on the way to trial:
“We suffered more verbal abuse from the [Nazi] functionaries running around. It was an exciting thing for them. In their eyes we were important criminals. We were symbols, resistance fighters.”
“I particularly recall one of them, a short, fat fellow running around. He really gave us a hard time.
“He said, ‘Now we’ll see what kind of mess you’ve gotten yourselves into! Now you’re gonna pay the piper, my friends!’
“People were still snarling at us, even here at the trial.”
The boys entered a packed courtroom. The crowd stared with astonishment as four mere adolescents entered. It was a large room, like a university-style classroom with high ceilings and wood panels. Adorning the walls were Nazi flags. Behind the judges was a huge picture of Adolph Hitler.
Rudi says: “I had a feeling the minute I entered the courtroom that we were already sentenced. It was just a show they were putting on—just a big show.”
The four prisoners sat on an elevated stand with the lawyers in front of them. In front of the attorneys was an empty area, and then across the room [about 20 feet], the judges sat on an even more elevated platform.
When the judges entered, everyone had to stand.
According to original court documents, the judges and their staff consisted of seven people.
“We were over to the side with the four lawyers in front of us and [with] the regalia of clowns as our judges.
“But a bigger shock I got when I saw their blood-red robes with a big . . . vulture on their chest . . . the ’vulture of defeat and ruin.’” Elsewhere it has been describes as a “large golden eagle” embroidered with a swastika. The three primary judges wore the blood-red robes.
This was the infamous “blood tribunal.” Rudi elucidates: “That’s what they called ’the blood trial.’ Besides, they probably did from the sentences they handed down.”
A newsreel had shown a German military general literally quaking in his boots before this court. Now before them were four mere boys. Three of them were decidedly nervous, but Helmuth sat calm and confident. He knew his fate and was prepared to confront his captors.
The three wearing red robes were:
(1) Vice President of the People’s Court, Karl Engert, who presided;
(2) Chief Justice Fikeis (who Rudi says was the “chief judge” and “spokesman”); and
(3) Motorized SA Brigade leader Heinsius.
Others of the staff who sat on the high bench were Senior District Leader Bodinus and Senior District Judicial President Hartmann. Then, as representatives of the Prosecuting attorney, there were First District Attorney Dr. Drullmann and Judicial Minister Wöhlke.
Attending were the following, whom Helmuth knew: Gestapo officer Müssener, who had arrested and interrogated him; Heinrich Mohns, Helmuth’s supervisor at work; Werner Kranz, from work; and Karl Schnibbe’s father, who was the only parent, friend, or supporter given permission to attend.
Rudi reports only a few spectators were present while “the press turned out en masse.” In contrast, Karl recalls many spectators there and only two or three reporters. In any case it was a “big crowd.”
Only one witness was there whom Helmuth did not personally know, a witness to whom Gerhard Düwer had given flyers.
According to Rudi, the trial bean at 9 A.M., 11 August 1942, although Karl remembers it as 10 A.M. in his autobiography and 9 A.M. in his interview with the author. In his 1988 interview, Rudi is also an hour off—“Shortly before eight we got there,” he says. Despite minor contradictions, Karl’s and Rudi’s accounts of Helmuth’s story, including this trial, are remarkably consistent.
The trial began with opening statements and formalities. Each person stood when his name was read, and acknowledged if it was correct. Each stated his birth date, residence, profession, etc.
Then the judges went down the row of attorneys who represented each of the accused and asked if they had anything to say. Each said, “No.”
The next phase of the court consisted of a small intelligence test, wherein a few general knowledge questions were asked. Rudi says they had to stand in front of the judges’ bench, and he describes what happened next “they gave us an IQ test first—if we knew the Party program and if we knew when Hitler’s birthday was and all this, including how many points were in the Party program.”
Rudi adds: “Then we were tested in our knowledge of the Party and its political aims. Helmuth Hübener was asked what he thought about the Party according to his beliefs. He answered that he didn’t like the Party and held the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in high esteem.”
Since Helmuth startled them with such honesty, Rudi says they began to concentrate on him and immediately determined “that he should be judged as an adult.”
Then, as Rudi says, “For eight hours they hammered away at us.” Not only the chief prosecuting attorney, but also the judges themselves interrogated the prisoners.
Karl attests: “Helmuth was sharp as usual. He answered with flying colors. The rest of us were completely speechless, the result, in the first place, of lack of sleep, and then of our nervousness and state of agitation. In spite of that, Helmuth answered immediately. He did not seem to be bothered by all this in the slightest.”
Karl adds that he and Gerhard Düwer spoke very little and that Rudi stuttered.
Rudi says he was questioned about being “antisocial by buying these ration stamps…on the black market,” which he had mentioned to Rubinke, the spy. Rudi says the judges looked at the ration stamps purchase as “a bad sign,” and then, “they asked if I every participated in a robbery.” Rudi flatly denied it.
Rudi says the prosecutor confronted him with the things Rubinke, the spy, had said.
Rudi’s response: “That’s a lie.”
“Okay, we’ve got bigger stuff to talk about with you anyway.”
Rudi believes these questions came to him, Karl, and Düwer during the course of interrogating Helmuth about the flyers. However, Karl reports that the judges asked them before they interrogated Helmuth.
Karl also reports seeing his father during court. “I waved to him and he waved back as if to say, ’Chin up, boy, it’s not as bad as all that.’ But after he heard how the proceedings were going, he sat there dependently, hunched over the whole time.”
Karl’s father also became increasingly sickened by the battered appearance of Helmuth. “You could tell,” says Johannes Schnibbe, “from his face the agony of his detention.”
After that, witnesses were called. After giving their information, they left. Wener Kranz, from Helmuth’s office, was reprimanded for not turning Helmuth in sooner, nor on his own, but was not punished.
Gerhard Dür’s contact was next called. His name was Horst Zumsande. Düwer had handed two leaflets to him and to his brother Kurt. The two brothers lived together and were the same age as Düwer. Horst says he read only the first few sentences. When he realized the flyers were subversive, he returned them, he said. Thereupon, Düwer stubbornly read the leaflets to the two brothers. Horst also testified of Düwer’s telling him and his brother about the African theater of the war on an earlier occasion.
The Gestapo learned of only one other of Düwer’s contacts—Karl Horst Pipo, who was also present at court.
These witnesses now claimed that when Düwer had read flyers to the Zumsande brothers, Karl was present. This had taken place in late January 1942, just days before the arrests.
Mohnds was then called as the main witness. He boasted that he “tried to keep his office free from impure political thinking.”
Finally, Gestapo agent Müssener was ordered to the stand. After his testimony, the judges called a recess, during which they had lunch. The four prisoners were taken handcuffed to the cellar and given nothing to eat.
After lunch the trial resumed. First, the judges had the spectators removed. The reason the judges gave was for state security issues since the leaflets were to be read aloud.
The judges then read and discussed every flyer.
Rudi states, “Helmuth claimed a total of 60 handbills were done.”
Most of Helmuth’s writings angered them. In some flyers Helmuth attacked Hitler and his speeches.
Rudi details: “They went through all the material, and then finally we were asked questions, and Helmuth always answered, ’Oh yes, I remember this. That’s the report from the BBC London about the infantry division that lost so many people in Russia.’ And the clothes and goods, Wolle und Wintersachen Spende, where the public was required to give all their furs and warm clothing for the freezing soldiers in Russia, and so on and so on.”
Rudi reports the judge as then saying, “You mean you wrote all this?”
Helmuth answered boldly, “Yes.”
One of the more unintentionally amusing reactions to his leaflets comes in the official written summary by high court judges Engert and Fickeis when they denounced one of Helmuth’s leaflets about the Asian theater of the war: “The leaflet ’WHO’S INCITING WHOM’ contains inflammatory statements about the entry of Japan into the war [by Japan’s attacking Pearl Harbor], which in a venomous manner is given for the outbreak of the war with America.” (Venomous indeed. Attacking Pearl Harbor meant nothing to the judges, but criticizing Japan was seen as venomous, and they blamed Helmuth for actually criticizing Japan.) Almost equally absurd was the prosecutor’s report at the People’s Court—from the Superior Attorney General of the Reich: “In the leaflet, ’VICTORIOUS ADVANCE INTO THE SHINING BATTLES OF ANNIHILATION,’ the Japanese successors are labeled as meaningless and the outlook for Japan’s victory is placed in doubt.” This blatantly obvious fact struck the judges as incredible. It happened to be the last leaflet Helmuth ever wrote.
Another flyer, “The Nazi Reichmarshall,” referred to “good old fat Hermann:”
“Oh yes, he has something on the ball, this little rogue with the saucer eyes.”
Speaking sarcastically and in highly inflammatory terms, the flyer declared he had a “dazzling career, a pretty actress, and a very ample salary that is not to be sneezed at, but no brains. No, really not, as big as his head is.” This particular flyer, surprisingly, caught the judges’ sense of humor, and the somber occasion was broken by hearty chuckles from the bench. Despite their political bent, the judges appreciated Helmuth’s clever wit.
Rudi explains this moment in detail: “They even handed those handbills out on the bench. Some of them, they even snickered and launched about it, those SS people there. Especially the one that says ’Hermann Göring, they call him, “Herrmann the Fat Duke.”’ So they snickered. The chief judge had to say, ’Order, please, order.’ He called them to order.”
Karl reports that he was speechless as “they sat there and snickered.”
He continues, “I was astonished how cool, clear, and clever Helmuth was. The court went over every detail in the leaflets and he recalled everything. He knew precisely when, how and where he had conceived an idea and what he meant by it . . . Throughout the entire trial Helmuth stood like an oak.”
The judges asked, “Why did you do that?”
Helmuth said, “Because I wanted the people to know the truth.”
The judges: “Does that mean that the British atrocity stories [British claims of German atrocities] are correct?”
Sometimes Helmuth was sarcastic toward Chief Justice Fickeis. For example, at one point Fickeis queried: “Would you have us believe that the British are telling us the truth? Do you really believe that?”
Helmuth responded, “Yes, surely, don’t you?”
The judges asked, “You don’t doubt Germany’s ultimate victory, do you?”
Helmuth snapped back incredulously, “Do you actually believe that Germany can win the war?”
Karl says at that point all Hades broke loose.
Helmuth’s attorney, Dr. Hans Georg Knie, “turned around and scowled, as if to say, ’Are you out of your mind?’”
Karl and Rudi report that when Helmuth was asked again why he did what he did, he replied very simply, “I wanted others to know the truth.”
The prosecution then glared at him. “Are you suggesting we are lying?”
Helmuth ripped back with contempt by using the familiar form of “you,” “Jawohl, Ihr lügt.”
“And then they asked, ’Helmuth, why? You did this especially in earnest.’
“Hamburg stays reactionary . . . the working class is still reactionary . . . they will never join the Party,’ he said.”
Rudi gives similar, somewhat redundant but useful additional information in another interview:
“He was also asked why he had passed handbills among the working class.
“He answered, ’Hamburg will always stay in opposition to the Party . . . especially in the labor sections of Hamburg where the laborer, the common worker, cannot be fooled like the rich people.’ It was his statement.
“. . . The judge screamed out, ’You snot-nosed kid, what do you know about it?’ Really abusive, verbal abuse. They called us scum, and traitors, and ungrateful boys.”
When Helmuth snapped back with an answer, the judge, amazed, responded, “Quiet, you impertinent boy.”
Helmuth was then beaten by the guard and pushed down.
Karl analyzes, “I believe he had made up his mind to conduct himself with courage and dignity.”
Karl’s father said Helmuth gave a courageous account of himself.
Rudi summarized: “A lot of courage. He stood there like a man ten feet tall, steady. He was not intimidated whatsoever, and he stood his ground. And always he tries to focus the attention on himself . . . trying to take away the limelight from us, not to be important, but to shield us, to protect us. I noticed it, and so did Karl. We noticed it right away that Helmuth was trying to take the blame. ’I am the one. I’m the one that wrote the handbills and the dissertations. I’m the one that started it. I’m the leader; I am the one to blame. Leave these alone,’ in so many words. And this went on for quite a while . . . Then came the court appointed attorneys, who had their say. They didn’t say very much. We had a feeling that they were just part of the parrot arrangement there—they just had to say a few words . . . They had about one minute each, which was ridiculous, it was a sham . . . And then the prosecutor came forward [with his recommendations to the bench]. He said, ’Death penalty for Helmuth Hübener. He has to be tried as an adult. Wobbe, he was too much involved, seven years imprisonment. And for Schnibbe and Düwer, a minimum of two years.’ And then they deliberated.”
According to Rudi, the judges said, “Bring the public and the press back in.” (Karl says the spectators and the press had been ordered out of the courtroom only for the discussion of the leaflets, but Rudi says they were also out of the courtroom for the discussion of Rudi’s robbery accusation, the testimony of the witnesses, and the prosecutor’s recommendations.) Karl says the door was opened and all the spectators poured in. The Nazis of course, were nothing, if not dramatic.
Karl states that the judges then withdrew to decide the verdict, while Rudi recalls the judges not leaving the room to deliberate.
“Then the judge and his assistants and the party officials in uniform stuck their heads together,” says Rudi,“ . . . for a few moments on the bench and then announced that they were ready for sentencing.”
This method was attested to be victims of other trials. Worse, judges commonly met with the prosecuting attorneys before a trial to fix the outcome.
Karl reports the climax of the court scene. “Fickeis berated us terrifically. He called us traitors to the fatherland, scum, asocial elements. ’Vermin like you,’ he said, ’must be exterminated.’”
In their written summary judges Engert and Fickeis later added, as part of their indictment against Schnibbe, a prophetic definition of chillingly frightening possibilities when one is expected to abide by politically correct thinking, “It does without saying that the good, healthy common sense of all politically right thinking persons dictates that this deed deserves to be punished.” Such expectations of political correctness were typical from the Nazis.
The judges then told the court of Helmuth’s mental abilities. They considered him far advanced for his years. His school thesis, they claimed, written by a boy “in his 15th and 16th years,” as well as his leaflets, his general knowledge, his political knowledge, and his appearance and behavior before the court, “show without exception the picture of a precocious young man, intellectually long since having outgrown his youth.”
Ironically, so anxious were the Nazis to indict him, that they established his credibility, his intelligence, maturity, political savvy, writing acumen, persuasive personality, his “ability to make judgments,” and even his brilliance. He was the very type of creature they were most afraid of—and they had to build him up in order to destroy him, which is one of the greatest of all ironies in his story.
Rudi elaborates on this moment during court, reporting the judges’ comments on his thesis as, “so well written that it could have been the world of a 30-year-old assessor”—and assessor of law—which would have received “all honors,” or which could have been written by a 30-year-old “university professor.”
Despite his earlier conversations with Helmuth, Rudi now realized, “That’s when actually it hit me, ’Goodness sakes, he really went out on a limb there and really studied this in depth.’”
Then came the boys’ sentencing. All four lads were called to stand before the judges.
“My knees were knocking,” says Karl. “I had no hope.”
At that moment the judges stunned the courtroom.
According to Rudi, they “announced” each sentence: “For Helmuth Hübener, charged preparation of high treason, aiding and abetting the enemy, we sentence him to death. And the forfeiture of his human civil rights for his lifetime,” which means they could mistreat him all they wished until his death.
The official court sentence document states: “The defendant was aware of the danger of his propaganda and of the reasons for it. Therefore the death penalty, which is compellingly prescribes, must be imposed on him . . .”
Karl recalls: “When this sentence was pronounced, the room grew deathly silent . . . The people were shocked. Then I heard people whisper, ’The death penalty for the lad? Oh no!’”
The other three then waited for their sentences, no doubt standing there in horror.
Rudi reports the judge’s pronouncement:
“’Wobbe, the maximum of ten years imprisonment, preparation of high treason, aiding and abetting the enemy,’ . . . ’Schnibbe, for distrusting broadcast news, five years imprisonment.’ Not preparation of high treason. ’Düwer, for distributing minor information, four years imprisonment.’”
Gerhard Düwer was sentenced for less than the others—one year less than Karl—because it could not be proved he ever listened to the radio.
Ironically, the judges possibly prescribed steeper penalties to all four boys because they had not been deprived of Hitler Youth training!
Rudi says, “We were asked if we had anything to say. We were choked up. We couldn’t believe it.”
“They began with Gerhard Düwer who said, ’No, I have nothing to say.’
“‘Schnibbe, do you have anything to say?’
“‘Yes.’ Helmuth stood up and faced the judges fearlessly. He said, ‘Now I must die, even though I have committed no crime. So now it’s my turn, but your turn will come.’”
Rudi related it thusly: “Then Helmuth—he turned into a man and stood up and said, ‘You have sentenced me to die—me, a son of Germany . . . for just telling the truth . . . My time is now. Your time will come!’”
Rudi says a judge yelled, “Quiet, push him down.”
He continues: “The guard just pounced on him and pushed him back on the seat. Sixteen years old, seventeen at the time.”
Karl reports: “And Helmuth stood there and said, ‘I have to die now for no crime at all.’ He said, ‘But your turn is next.’”
Rudi similarly reports elsewhere Helmuth’s declaring at the juncture, “Wait, your turn will come also.”
Karl’s father later told Marie Sommerfeld: “When Helmuth heard the sentence, he [momentarily] collapsed. His friends wanted to help him, but . . . Karl and Rudolf were held back.”
Rudi adds, “I am sure Helmuth did not expect to be executed at that time,” although Karl analyzes, “It was completely clear to me that deep in his heart Helmuth knew prior to appearing before the People’s Court that he would be sentenced to death.”
Helmuth was the first underage defendant to be given the death penalty as punishment for disobeying the radio law of 1 September 1939.
Legally, this was made possible by the decree of 4 October 1939, which took youths 16 and over out of the juvenile system to the stricter adult system, if they possessed adult mental abilities, which the court deemed Helmuth to have.
Just seven years earlier, a group accused of similar offenses to that of Helmuth received sentences of only one to three years in prison.
The trial had lasted only one day and it was now 5 P.M.
After the trail, Karl’s father asked Kunz, Karl’s attorney, to obtain permission to visit his son. Kunz went quickly to the judges before they left. They deliberated a long while, then gave Karl’s father just five minutes to see his son.
Rudi says, “We were marched out of the court room. The hallway was lined with people left and right . . . As we were paraded through them, everyone of them took off their hats, their hear gear, and bowed their heads. In silent support, respect.”
Karl adds, “For me it was clear, this act was in solidarity with us. They could not say anything or they would have been in deep trouble themselves.”
Rudi adds, “One whispered to me, ‘Have courage. Halte deinen Kopf hoch [Hold your head high]’”
The boys were then placed in a large holding cell.
Karl says he, Rudi, and Düwer were all present in the cell with Helmuth, but Rudi remembers only himself and a Swiss spy there with him. Rudi says they were all together in a cell later, but without Helmuth.
Rudi reports, “I spoke with Helmuth for a short time [“for about an hour,” he says in 1974 and 1961],” while Karl says the visit lasted 45 minutes.
Rudi adds, “I don’t know why they put us all together in one room, but it was the last chance I had to talk with him.”
In 1961 Rudi adds: “We were both in a state of shock and were not able to say much. At this time we could not fully comprehend the extent of this judgment. We had heard of fake trials and didn’t really know what to expect and if we should take this sentence serious. We recalled what the guards had told us on the train to Berlin and didn’t know what to think.”
“We were fed bread, and the handcuffs were removed from three of us, but Helmuth’s hands remained cuffed behind his back . . . Rudi and I fed Helmuth.”
“I broke up the bread and put pieces in his mouth. I was still shaking like an aspen tree. Rudi and I talked with Helmuth. ‘Helmuth,’ I said, ‘I do not believe they will do it. They will reduce or cancel the verdict. They only want to establish an example so others do not start anything. They will not kill you. You are too young; that will be how it is.’
“‘No.’ he said quietly. ‘They will kill me. Look at the walls.’ The walls and iron gate were completely covered with writing. There were small names and verses: ‘I must die,’ and ‘I do not want to die,’ ‘Farewell, beloved,’ ‘Goodbye, Mother,’ and such.
“Every square inch was covered with references to people’s death sentences. There were thing written there in foreign languages—French, Polish, Czech.”
Rudi says, “We heard the rattle of keys in the door.” Karl continues, “Then all of a sudden the gate opened—the big iron gate.”
Rudi says the guard states, “Wobbe, you shouldn’t be here.”
Karl adds that the guard said: “‘Pack your things, you’re going back to Hamburg . . . Wobbe, Schnibbe, Düwer, get ready to go!’ So we had to leave.”
“Now I had to say goodbye to my friend, Helmuth,” says Karl. “Saying goodbye still haunts me today.”
Rudi adds: “Them Helmuth said simply, ‘Goodbye. And I only could say, ‘Helmuth’ . . . The last embrace. We wept. It helped me to see my friend.”
Karl recalls: “We each embraced Helmuth. [I said,] ‘Farewell!’ Helmuth had large eyes and now they were full of tears. He said, ‘Goodbye my friend.’”
Karl elsewhere reports: “Helmuth had blue eyes. I mean really big, dark blue eyes. And I never saw Helmuth emotional. He never showed his emotions when something happened. And when I put my arms around him and I told him, ‘I’ll see you pretty soon,’ his eyes filled with tears, and he said to me, ‘I hope you have better life in a better Germany.’ And then he cried.”
Rudi adds: “Then I was taken out. That was the last time I saw him.”