Thursday, October 30, 2014

ReadWomen2014, Part Four

Julie Salamon
Dorothy L. Sayers

Above, Dorothy L. Sayers

Catherine Schine
Tracy Scott
Meryl Secrest
Anna Sewell
Ntozake Shange
Rachel Sheinkin
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Betty Smith
Johanna Spyri
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
C. Denby Swanson

Donna Tartt
Maria Tatar
Elizabeth Taylor (the British novelist, not the movie star)
Sydney Taylor
Josephine Tey
P.L. Travers
Joanna Trollope
Sojourner Truth

Ann Ulanov

Paula Vogel

Wendy Wasserstein
Rebecca West
Edith Wharton
Phillis Wheatley
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Mary Wollstonecraft
Virginia Woolf
Joan Wyndham

Marguerite Yourcenar

Stephanie Zadravec

ReadWomen2014, Part Three

Frances Parkinson Keyes
Lisa Kron

Dorothy Lane
Susanne Langer
Mary Lavin
Madeleine L’Engle
Doris Lessing
Rosina Lippi 
Lisa Loomer

Olivia Manning
Katherine Mansfield
Hilary Mantel
Carson McCullers
Daphne Merkin
Jessica Mitford
Nancy Mitford
Lorrie Moore
Alice Munro

Irene Nemirovsky
E. Nesbit
Lynn Nottage

 Above, Lynn Nottage

Edna O’Brien
Flannery O’Connor

Dorothy Parker
Anne Patchett
Margot Peters
Anna Hamilton Phelan
Marge Piercy
Beatrix Potter
Dawn Powell

Ruth Rendell
Marilynne Robinson
Elaine Romero
Christina Rossetti

ReadWomen2014, Part Two

Cheryl L. Davis
Joan Didion
Mary Mapes Dodge
Daphne DuMaurier
Katherine Dunn
Marguerite Duras

 Above, Joan Didion

Eleanor Estes

Tina Fey
Louise Fitzhugh
Anne Frank

Elizabeth George
Susan Glaspell
Gail Godwin
Nadine Gordimer

Nancy Hale
Elizabeth Hardwick
Shirley Hazzard
Ursula Hegi
Lillian Hellman (with reservations)
Beth Henley
Amy Herzog
Patricia Highsmith
Hildegard of Bingen
Zora Neale Hurston
Siri Hustvedt

Naomi Iizuka

Shirley Jackson
P.D. James
Elfrieda Jellinek
Elizabeth Jenkins
Julian of Norwich


In the October 12th Sunday New York Times Book Review, there was an essay by Alexander Chee about reading women writers.  He mentioned a British writer, Joanna Walsh, who made bookmarks featuring her 250 favorites.  I meant to make a list of my favorites, and have just gotten around to it. 

There is one screenwriter, Anna Hamilton Phelan (no, we’re not related).  Novelists, nonfiction writers, children’s writers, playwrights, mystery writers, writers who write about religion, a couple of poets, all mixed together.  This list is totally biased-  it is not writers who are important (like Aphra Behn or Anna Cora Mowatt), or popular (like Harper Lee), or classic (like Emily Bronte).  They’re here because I like and admire their work.  It’s 123 names. I’m sure I could create a longer list, but I’ve got other stuff to do.  I’m also sure that there are writers I’ve forgotten and will remember after I post this.  

 Above, Anna Akmatova

Joan Accocella
Anna Akmatova
Louisa May Alcott
Isabelle Allende
Maya Angelou
Karen Armstrong
Jane Austen

Enid Bagnold
Kristen Bakis
Pat Barker
Vicki Baum
Elizabeth Bishop
Elizabeth Bowen
Anne Bronte
Charlotte Bronte
Anita Brookner
Frances Hodgson Burnett
A.S. Byatt

Sheila Callaghan
Angela Carter
Caryl Churchill
Beverly Cleary

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Part Four: The Last Hour

The last section of my translation.   Towards the end, Greta Kuckhoff is mentioned.  She went on to become prominent in East Germany politics, and Anne Nelson (who wrote, "The Boys," about a 9-11 firehouse) wrote a book largely about her called "The Red Orchestra." 

While Harnack was therefore the symbolic head of the Red Orchestra, I liked to feel Harro Schultze-Boysen was the passionate side.  A collaborator, Arnold Bauer, characterized Schulze-Boysen in his record as follows:  “Harro was all good energy and his impressive celebratory talent, but he shone in his ability to predict the actual development of things.  For him, it was gradually that fact began to be indicated.”

            One short summary biography given by Karl Schirdewan in his beautifully phrased account:  “1933 was the year Schulze-Boysen (born in Kiel in 1909) was maltreated by the Fascists.  The events of 1933, the National Socialists that took power, had pushed in the year before, before they had a firm political base.  The people wrestled with Nazi ideology.  His own political experience was so far-reaching he never stopped and bowed to the Hitler regime, but found his own positive, societal course.  He became a revolutionary Socialist and a convinced friend of the USSR. 

p. 70  The traditions of the Schulze-Boysen family gave him a good cover for his anti-fascist activities, and so he became an official in the employ of the Reich Air Force Ministry.  By the time of his arrest, he had reached the rank of Ober Lieutenant, and had spent all his time as an official in Air Ministry in the Resistance.  This situation made possible his deep and extensive knowledge of the important internal relations of the Hitler regime.  One such position allowed him to have crucial knowledge of  international relations and the spirit of foreign German populations-  cultural and societal lives- continued to expand.

            Schulze-Boysen saw himself in a fortunate position, his own position became key in the development of the Resistance, information that broadened the field of vision with his conspiratorial anti-fascist friends used this knowledge.  Since 1935 they collected 40-50 mostly young men for a foundation of anti-fascist spirit and a new cadre of the Resistance was developed.

            When the war broke out, the organization was not only firmly anchored in Berlin, where its members held important positions in the Air Ministry, Economics Ministry, Propaganda Ministry, in regional offices, in the radio administration, but a broad-based group in Hamburg and actively throughout the Army in German-occupied territories.  Besides, he gave many connections to personalities throughout Germany and its territories. 

            The friends and collaborators of Schulze-Boysen shielded him as the one talented man in their circle who had great open-mindedness and

p. 71  one fascinating talent, the ability to lead, to argue and discuss evidence.  He became the subject of serious ill-treatment; tortured with thumbscrews and by cramps, his body aged greatly being exposed to large amounts of ultra violet light.  Schultze-Boysen's final remarks before the Reich Military Court began with a bold protest against the crimes of the Gestapo, they took him and his friends, depriving him of his last words.  A few seconds before his execution, he spoke these words:  "I die as a Communist!"

    According to my impression, we did not, like the others, discuss the death sentence.  It is true he was outwardly calm, but inwardly became passionately angry about the fate of him and his.  One such position became definitely not rational and logical, but a thing of passionate temperament.  And Schulze-Boysen had a strong temperament. 

    Also, his good-bye letter, written before his execution on 22 December 1942, is characteristic of him:
"Beloved Parents!
"It is now so long, In a few hours I get out of this.  I am perfectly peaceful as well as increasingly calm.  Such important things happen in the whole world today, a life that goes out is not very much.  What was, is; what I did, I do not want to write about it anymore.  All of what I did, I did with my head, my heart and out of my conviction, and in this setting I must ask for my parents' best acceptance.  Therefore, please, I beg you!

"This death is fitting for me.  Somehow I have always known.  It is my own death, how once he called to me and replied!

The heart only became heavy when I think of you (Libertas is near me and shares my fate in the same hour).  I not only hope, I believe, the time you are sorry will give way to relief.  I am only a precursor to that which is still unclear, to strive and to become.  Believe with me that in the time of justice, all of it will ripen!

I think about Father’s final look, until the last.  I think about the Christmas tears of my loving mother.  It has been so bad these last months, yet you were so close to me.  I have, I am the lost son, because I walk to my found home to you, after so much struggle, so much that seems unknown and odd to you. 

I think on the good Hartmut and my look, this gets better!  My remembered walk to Freiburg and back, where also Helga and I, saw for both the first and last time.  Yes, I think on so many- back to a rich, beautiful life, of so much that I owed
you that was never paid.

            When I wait here, you are invisible:  I laugh to see the face of death, I have long since overcome it.  In Europe it is so usual that it is mentally sown with blood.  It may be that we were just a couple of fools, but just before the final whistle it was probably right to have person, historical illusions.

            Yes, and I give you all my hand, and sit after a (single) tear here as a seal and pledge of my love.


p. 73  His wife Libertas, a granddaughter of Prince Philipp Eulenberg, was executed at the same hour.  It is hard to do justice to her.  She was without peer, strong-willed and of great consistency.  Critical and highly impressionable, she had fallen in with in the prison yard an alleged spy, Gertrude Breyer.  She had secret messages between Libertas and her mother that she conveyed.  Breyer took the secret messages and letters to the Gestapo some of which held political information.  Libertas Schulze-Boysen learned of these acts shortly before her death.  She said to me, it’s significant, to have trusted a spy.  She could only explain it as some sort of prison psychosis.  Breyer was the first person in prison who embraced her and had friendly conversation with her. 

            This is not to forget to forget the treatment that her mother, the tender pianist Thora Eulenberg underwent at the hands of the Gestapo and Hermann Göring.  She was broken to pieces.  On 23 December 1942, one stormy, cold winter day, she went with a Christmas package for her daughter through all of the criminal agencies of Berlin, to Alexanderplatz, to Prince-Albrecht-Strasse [Gestapo headquarters], to Kaiserdamm to Lehrterstrasse.  It was the story of going from one location to another, although all knew that her daughter was dead.  Countess Eulenberg turned finally to Göring, whom she sometimes played piano for.  Göring also held out on her.  Finally, near New Year’s, after a Christmas spent in dreadful uncertainty, Göring, through his Adjutant, told Countess Eulenberg that her daughter had been hung on 22 December.

            The personality of Hans Coppi is no longer clearly remembered.  He became overshadowed through

p. 74  the case of his wife Hilde Coppi.  Mrs. Coppi had a baby in November 1942 while she was in prison.

In January 1943, she was condemned to death.  The child was eight months old when they took her away in July.  In August 1943 she was a victim of hanging.

The shorthand typist in attendance in the office, Ilse Stöbe, is still in good memory.  She was a beautiful. clever girl, an accomplished  political thinker and worker.

I can give true testimony about Walter Husemann.  He was for me the prototypical political fighter, committed to the business of the revolution.  He was a tool-maker.  With good physical and mental health, he was not irrepressible, defiant for the long time he was in custody.  He was passionate, but at the same time carefully concealed, always able to take advantage of every connection to the outside.  So he had succeeded, regularly he saw through the window and was tipped off by his father, over the prison wall.  The father was an old trade unionist in the neighborhood who lived in northern Berlin.  Husemann showed an unusual attitude, even if death was difficult.  I had her man, who knew so much was suddenly violently arrested.  Similarly, he went with clenched fists to his death.  His letter to his father was the document of a revolutionary. 
“My beloved Father!
Stay strong!  I die as I have lived, a fighter in class warfare!
It is easy for Communists to take as long as they like, so long as they do not bleed.  Whether one really was, proof is first when the hour of proof has come.  I am at it, Father.  I begrudge nothing, I see my weaknesses.  To leave life, this is the last task asked of me.  Your son has become as worthy as a thief!  Overcome your own grief!  That has yet to be fulfilled.  You have your twice and three times to satisfy, and then your hour is come!
Poor Father, but such good fortune, Father, your idea that the best sacrifice must be given.  The war will not go on much longer- and then our hour is come!
Think of all those who are still going to great lengths, today I must- and learn from the Nazis:  any weakness will be paid in acres of blood.  Therefore am I not bitter.  Stay hard!
I haven’t any regrets in my life, at, not having done enough.  My death will probably also reconcile those who did not understand me.  Oh, Father, Father, you love it well!  When I must not fear, you must not collapse under my death!  Hard, stay hard, hard.”

p. 82  The tragic fate of the family Terweil made a particular impression on me.  The family wanted to rescue the daughter, who was in danger not only through her connection to the Red Orchestra but also through the Jewish origin of her companion.  They attempted, with all manner of witnesses and documentation, as it was then customary, to get the child identified as mixed-race [mischling] to the second degree. With great effort and great cost, that finally succeeded.  The daughter Maria it did not help at all- a few months after she was executed, her mother and brother were killed by a bomb blast. 

            Maria Terweil died on 5 August 1943.  It has been recognized as a day of  remembrance.  On this day were other women and girls of the Red Orchestra executed:  Hilde Coppi I mentioned, the beautiful young dancer Oda Schottmüller, the delicate 19 year old student Liane Berkowitz, the ceramicist Catho Bontjes van Beek and the 22 year old fresh, lively student Eva-Maria Buch.

            From this group of women, I had also spoken at length with Maria Terweil.  She was the friend of the pensive and thoughtful Paul Guddorf, who proceeded her inclusion.  in death.  He was executed on 13 May 1943.  I could tell her now how much Guddorf had thought of her in his final days.  The little portrait of him, which he gave me before his death, has been preserved by me.  Only in 1945 could I see his parents….

            One of the most authoritative men of the Red Orchestra, writer Dr. Adam Kuckhoff, was born in 1887.  In his biography, his wife Greta wrote:  ‘Adam Kuckhoff, commemorated in a book published by Aufbau Publishers, Berlin, explained his intellectual development.  It was the way that a man ‘from a middle class background conceived of factory housing of a new order- the development of the romance of individualism, to the poet becoming socially conscious and struggling for political inclusion.’  

            ‘He saw the field of the arts, he wrote:  “Not in the depths of the soul, but in the clarity of the evidence of all humanity.’  He was so certainly convinced of the necessity of solving this task, that even in the death cell at Plötzensee with sure hands he worked out the system of dialectic aesthetics. 

            I had often visited Kuckhoff in his Plötzensee cell.  His stocky, sturdy shape, with his plain head full of energy was unforgettable to me.  We spoke and debated over many literary and political problems.  He said in his Eulenspiegel, one in each of his set pieces was strongly influenced by stopping time.  Many others spoke of aspects of his personality, his relations with his wife and his son.   Kuckhoff counted on his death and that of his wife, and thought with much concern about the future of his five year old son, Ule.

Part Three: The Last Hour

At the beginning of this selection, Poelchau describes the day he found out about the Red Orchestra, and said farewell to the first group of members about to be executed.

p. 62   Only through my relationships with the prison guards at Plötzensee did I learn of the executions of the political prisoners in the afternoon that were scheduled for that evening of 22 December 1942.  I got there just in time, as the prisoners were transferred from the paddy wagon to the death cells at Plötzensee.  I spent the entire day with them; the executions were to take place that night.

            It was my day off and in fact I’d seen Hans von Haeften (later an operative of the 20 July group) who’d infiltrated the legation council.  It surprised me to meet the first sentenced, Rudolph von Scheliha.  He was a true commoner, old beyond his years and resigned.  He actually did not belong to the Schultze-Boysen-Harnack group.  He was pulled into this conspiracy by circumstances.  Beside his cell, in the other death cells the condemned listened to the executions.  In a neighboring cell was the wife of painter Kurt Schumacher, Elisabeth Schumacher, a passionate and leading fighter with her husband.

            Kurt Schumacher, a big blond man, had the typical characteristics of artists.  He was generous, to the point and uninhibited.  Yes, he projected in these hours a serenity, and his nature profoundly impressed me.  A letter from 27 November 1942, which he wrote in his earlier cell at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse [Gestapo headquarters], and hid it.

p. 63  “You took away a double-sided, cramped-ly written piece of notepaper.  I wrote it about my dreary days here, and for myself, and the national policy of chaos of the Nazis that I’ve struggled against, so I find myself here.  One way out, a life of freedom, dignified and prosperous men who know only the international socialist work of a socialist Europe.  Therefore, I have fought for them to the last.  [untranslatable passage] George Ratgeb, the farm was on the other side of the growing fields, my colleagues, my predecessors.  Confined and nearly constantly watched, I wrote.

p. 64  I know that my, our idea wins even if we drop the little vanguard.    How gladly the German people save the hardest.  Our little troop was upright and heroic in its struggles.  We fought for freedom and could not be cowards.  Oh, strong until the last!

            My valiant Elisabeth, I love you.  Your Kurt”

            Arvid Harnack, born in 1901 in Darmstadt, was without a doubt the spiritual center of the Red Orchestra.  He came from an old, learned family and was the nephew of Harnack the theologian.    1927 to 1929 he lived in America.  There he originated his dissertation ‘The Pre-Marxist Labor Movement in the U.S.’ 

About its development Karl Schirdewan wrote:  ‘In the second half of the years that Harnack lived, he was in the midst of American economic systems and like a cornerstone he placed his staunch determination on planned economies.  1929 to 1932 he and his wife Mildred, an American, this view was corroborated through their participation in the ‘Giessener School,’ the crisis of capitalism and the socialist planned economy of the USSR, which he systematically studied.  He also learned about the struggle between fascists and anti-fascists, on which he focused his sentiments and

            Footnote:  This letter and the following letters were published in various German and foreign newspapers and magazines.  Some were collected in the anthology Last Letters, edited by Eva Lippold, VVN Publishing, Berlin.

p. 65  soul.  One visit to the USSR in the year 1932 was for a scientific study trip, and he returned having learned more about the [economic] plan.  He then wrote  A Handbook of the USSR.  The Fascist dictator prevented Harnack from publishing the book in the spring of 1933.  With that, the beginning of fascist domination of his homeland, Harnack considered leaving Germany and returning to America.  Harnack did not.  He stayed in Germany, determined that the organization [the Red Orchestra] would struggle against the fascist domination of the country.   His nature favored such resoluteness.  In opposition to his fellow fighter Schulze-Boysen, impulsive and passionate, Harnack possessed the experience, and in his opinions of others were not always proven.  Human-focused, Harnack was a man of strength with a propensity for caution and distrust.  He combined a factual, scientific nature with great serenity and a talent for conspiracy….  (‘A Fair Fight in Our Roll-Call,’ Berlin Half-Month Publication, 1 Jan. 1948). 

            In my memory, he seemed a man from a different time, a sensitive man.  He was sophisticated, and quite prepared to die for what he believed.  But he knew enough and told me that with his sacrifice the spirit of the resistance lived on.  In his last hours he had deep concern for the German people.  He believed Hitler had leached their soul from them.

            He asked two things of me.  He wanted to hear the Prologue in Heaven, from Goethe’s Faust, Part I.     [Mephistopheles visits heaven, and he and God place a wager on Faust's soul.]  I too loved those words very much, and I recited them to him:  how this day, the world will be lost to you.  The Son [Jesus] stands up to greet the

p. 66  planets … rarely have I been so glad to give a soul what he longed for in his last  hour.  After that, he asked me to recite the Christmas story.  It was two days before Christmas Eve.

p. 67  Harnack’s  wife, Mildred Harnack, American, lecturer for English and German at Berlin University, passionately admired Goethe.  They both believed in his final hours she would live, because she had not been sentenced to death.  These were the first efforts of Roeder, who later boasted that he had rounded up some hundred intellectuals and workers from head to toe in two months, and executed them around the clock.  I was the first to tell her the news of the death of her husband; she learned in her own last hours.  She died on 16 February 1943.

            The sister of Arvid Harnack, Inge Havermann, wrote about her sister-in-law Mildred  ‘From the past days, then as a beautiful young lecturer, as the wife brought to Germany, until the day that she faced death in Plötzensee and spoke her last words, “And I love Germany so” – and some fifteen years in between – Mildred lived a difficult, full life.  She completed her studies for her doctorate at Berlin University, and began to teach the less fortunate at the Night School in East Berlin.

p. 68  In time to her came deep societal understanding, and love for the German worker.  After her promotion, she became a lecturer at the Lessing High School and later at the University of Berlin.  She translated assorted distinctly American novels into German … Walter Edmonds’ Drums Along the Mohawk, Irving Stone’s Van Gogh novel Lust for Life.  Last, for Rutter & Loening Publishing, she translated Goethe’s poetry into English.  In addition, she was a child-like, clumsy housewife with a great sense of beauty and an atmosphere of humanity.  Those were the visible outlines of her life.  On top of this was her easily moved heart, she spoke only little.  Her remarks became brittle, but had surprising clarity.  Beginning with her support of the dangerous struggle, her husband was destined.  She divided the quiet in her life, expected him all night long; anxiety filled her as she struggled against the dark streets of the city.  But like many, in our Germany, always deeper not more worthy than even these men arose.  Mildred’s will and with it also the courage of truth.  She became herself an active member of her husband’s standing group, gave her life for it.  In September 1942 she with her husband were arrested on their first vacation to the Baltic Sea.  We [the Harnack family] never saw her again.  Without visits allowed or any other respite, she was put in solitary confinement, without permission to read, without writing paper.  On 19 December she was sentenced to six years in prison.  Hitler did not recognize this judgment.  On 15 January 1943 a second trial (without further evidence) was held.  The judge again ordered it secret.  On 16 February 1943

p. 69  she was killed by a guillotine.  She left as a last greeting two beautiful new translations in her English mother tongue of Goethe’s verse and little words she wrote on the back of a picture of her mother.  Five months before, she was beautiful, with full, luminous blonde hair; the dark, lonely cell transformed her.  A white-haired, bowed woman took that last walk.  Was she sorry that these five months had reduced her to that?  No one will ever know. “

A Delicate Balance

Tom and I were lucky enough to be invited to the final dress rehearsal of "A Delicate Balance" (thanks, Edward Albee and Jakob Holder!) and had fantastic seats.  Neither of us had seen the play before, though I'd read it, and seen the Joseph Cotton movie. 

We loved the play, the production-  Santo Loquasto's set, Ann Roth's costumes (though why Lindsay Duncan is wearing a dark-colored bra under her nightclothes I didn't really get).  John Lithgow, who I've seen onstage plenty of times, gives the performance of a lifetime-  he's even better than he was in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."  I can't imagine another Claire other than Lindsay Duncan.  It turns out

I've seen Clare Higgins for years-  I'd never put it together that it was the same person in such different roles.  She and Bob Balaban were great as Edna and Harry.  Martha Plimpton (of whom I've not previously been a fan) gave a nuanced performance as Julia.  So there must be kudos to Pam MacKinnon's direction.  

Part Two: The Last Hour

Here is part two of my translation of selections from Harald Poelchau's 'The Last Hour."  What immediately follows is a pretty graphic description of the way prisoners were hung in Ploetzensee; the nooses were shortened so that they would strangle to death slowly, not have their necks broken by the fall.  

"p. 54  on a slide rail, on which the eight hooks were positioned.  They were made by a black paper laid between each hook, to isolate each offender.  Eight men each time were made to stand on the stools..  The loops from the hooks were fastened around their necks, and removed after death.

            I had not seen the process of hanging, since it took place in a closed room.  I was not permitted to, since they always paid with their heads [the heads were removed from the bodies after death].  The doctor always assured, the hung very swiftly lost consciousness, so that their blood ceased to circulate, death appeared by the fracture of the neck vertebrae.  Its duration was much longer than that of the guillotine.  It took at best twenty minutes to be certain that they were dead.  The executions took place by candlelight, after electricity had been shut off for the night. Seriously in the early morning, at eight o’clock, the exhausted hangman began his activity, in order to resume in the evening with renewed strength. 

In these three September nights, 360 men died on the gallows:  teachers, lawyers, workers, officers and artists. 

Near the execution shed laid still day after day a mountain of naked corpses.  They could not be moved because the bombing raids interfered with transporting them.  Oh, that belongs to the gruesome crush, I can never forget:  the defaced and bleached corpses of men, one after another, thrown like beggars.

p. 55  I knew so far of one German Resistance organization which spent the last hours before their execution with me.  Then I waited with the foreign resisters to Hitler, in particular the Dutch, Norwegian and Czech groups who came to me.  The German anti-fascist Resistance learned what all these groups had known:  in the Schulze-Boysen-Harnack group and the 20 July group there were imprisoned members that I looked after. 

The Gestapo had the custom, such a large criminal trial complex with so many files to look after and deal with that they were assigned passwords.  The Schulze-Boysen-Harnack group received the name the Red Orchestra.  Why I have I spoken out?  I seemed to me dubious as a name, that would have been more correctly translated as Red Chamber Orchestra.  It was probably nothing more than a technical designation of the political police.  The records say that there were black and yellow orchestras as well.  The 20 July group’s name from the Gestapo-  in contrast to the Red Orchestra- Baroque. 

It cannot be my task here to write the history of the German Resistance.  Then I searched for the political intentions

p. 56  of the captives who were entrusted to me.  I did not realize that questions as to the political motives and deeds must only make the captives distrustful.  Also, members of the Red Orchestra were in bad trouble I did not ask to the extent that they did not want to talk about themselves. 

            During the year 1943 I was aware of the great activity of political organizations.  Eleven people from the Resistance were executed on 22 December 1942.   Ober Lieutenant Schulze-Boysen and his wife, Libertas Schulze-Boysen; States Attorney in the Finance Ministry, Dr. Arvid Harnack, Kurt Schulze, sculptor Kurt Schumacher and his wife Elisabeth, legation board member Rudolf von Scheliha, secretary at the Foreign Office Ilse Stöbe, Hand Coppi, student Horst Heilmann and trade commission John Graudentz-  the Gestapo was supplied a whole row of captives-some eight people were put in Plötzensee.  It was men and women who had worked together.  All of them were detained pending trial, but for the most part were condemned to death.... 

            Through the political work that the Red Orchestra did they get the opinions of and certain information from the Nazis.  It means that Dr. Harnack and Ober Lieut. Schulze-Boysen had gatherings in Berlin of differing groups of people where they did not have to hide their contempt for the state.  Among these people were some members of the old German Communist Party, others included those who were socialists; their work against the Nazi state was negative.  Some still fanatically followed the Communist Party.  They led their discussions

p. 58  Marxist and Leninist literature was discussed, above all in these little circles young men of varying classes improved their intellects.  They drew up essays and reports, increased their knowledge in their own little circles, spread their heartfelt Communist writings in order to assess and attack the regime. 

            Launching the German-Russian pact from 13 August 1939 initially imposed a certain reticence back by the group, so they put that behind them after the beginning of the Russian campaigns (22 June 1941) their disintegrating and destructive activity continued.  With their propaganda they were looking for in particular to win artists, businessmen, the police and the German Army.  With its many pamphlets and brochures representing to them again and again the thought that only together can we save the empire with Bolshevism. 

            The reminiscence period- according to the reports of the survivors and the files that you have seen, these other points follow:
There existed constant contact with antifascists in Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia and Russia.  It saw antifascism fight in secret ways in foreign countries.  It saw secretly transmitted radio operations from revolutionary organizations in Germany, and it traveled to foreign climes.  It had copious leaflets composed and disseminated, among them agitating writings:  ‘The Will of the Nazi Movement.”

p. 59  “How it had come to war.  Why the war is lost, calling for resistance.  More illegal pamphlets dropped from planes, including the life of Napoleon compared to the life of Hitler, they also contained speeches by Thomas Mann, Roosevelt, Stalin Ernst Wiechert [a contemporary poet] and Bishop Wurm [of the Confessing Church].  One further flyer contained a stirring appeal to resistance by all professions and organizations to the Hitler regime, another brought a revealing ‘North German Industries, a commentary on the war-led relations.’  A magazine, Inner Fronts, was published by John Sieg and Guddorf; a flyer, Clausewitz, by John Sieg; an analysis of National Socialism’s imperialism by Harnack; a flyer Freedom and Force, an appeal of Adam Kuckhoff’s:  to the worker, and to the end of the fist, not to struggle against Russia; a letter from Police Captain Deuken to his son.  The organization for industrial sabotage grew further.  Central unifying actions, also the holding of purification actions to educate the elite, by Schulze-Boysen and Harnack; the Marburger professor Werner Krauss and the neurologist Dr. Rittmeister created work.  The organization of this large and far-reaching circle of the Red Orchestra writes one of its survivors, the poet Günther Weisenborn, in the periodical Lilith, Berlin Vol. 5, March 1948, was due to Schultze-Boysen, a great nephew of Tirpitz, and a marvelous young creation in the story of Germany’s struggle for freedom.  He was slender, blond, kindly and highly gifted.  He was thought of in the Aviation Ministry as one with a great future, he had gone to school in Berlin. 

p. 60  In 1931 he played a leadership role, then edited the magazine Adversaries.  After 1933 began, the progress of socialism was lost, and paralleled the establishment of illegal groups.  The contacts went through Zurich, Brussels, and Stockholm.  Radio transmission was established, sent in part from a sailboat on Lake Wannsee.     

            Dr. Arvid Harnack, an upper attorney in the government, with his objective, scientific nature, with the great dignity of a defense attorney, a man who was known to be eminently gifted and cautious, whose work was discussed by the world …  He was a prominent personality in the movement for German freedom …  as Arvid Harnack and Harro Schultze-Boysen’s group united began a time of great activity. 

            One other member of this group, the wife of writer Adam Kuckhoff, Greta Kuckhoff, in February 1943 he was sentenced to death by the Reich’s Criminal Court, and she was sentenced to ten years in prison.  She was pardoned (through the work of the Red Army in May 1945), and wrote about the work of both men together, Schultze-Boysen and Harnack in her biography Adam Kuckhoff Remembrances, Aufbau Publishing, Berlin:  “In all ways they were temperamentally different, they had one thing in common:  the progress of the Fatherland in the world, helping it to go forward.  It should by the rapid end to the war, by their own liberation from National Socialism powerful enough omitted, forces for freedom and progressivism are fully unwinding in the world

p. 61  … once more.    For nine years I witnessed discussions and actions, and all the love growing for our homeland.  Indeed the critical love, the love of a socialist is the love that cannot be blind."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Last Hour

I have spent weeks translating parts of a book in German (Der Letzte Stunde) written by a Lutheran pastor and social worker, Harald Poelchau.  He was the Lutheran chaplain at Poltzensee Prison in Berlin, where many of Hitler's enemies (over 1,000 between 1933 and 1945).  In the book, Poelchau focuses on members of the Red Orchestra, a resistance group that passed on information to the US and USSR, wrote pamphlets and flyers, and helped to smuggle Jews and Communists out of Hitler's Germany. 

Assuming that German copyright laws are more reasonable than the ones here, I'm going to post the translation, in pieces, on this blog.  I was unable to find an English translation anywhere; the original German was at the New York Public Library.  It begins with Poelchau's dedication, and a brief autobiography.  It was printed in East Berlin in the late 1940s.  Poelchau was flirting with Communism at that time (though he later changed his mind and went back to the West), so there are sections that read like cheerleading for Stalin.  But it helps to remember that the West let many Nazis slip through its nets, which if you were in the resistance (as Poelchau was) cannot have been pleasant to witness.

Here's the beginning:

“There are probably times, during insane times, when it’s the best of men who hang.”
Albrecht Haushofer, d. 13 April 1945

p. 8  It was a little prison house, with 300 inmates, and three social workers to care for them.  Each had a hundred prisoners to care to.  So each social worker got to know his people thoroughly, their crimes and humanity were his particular study.  Krebs is an advocate of the modern, strict execution.  So he had the first Sunday prisoner walk out.  He did not wear an official uniform.  Krebs had never once had an escape occur.  The press responded screaming, naturally, over these “humanitarians.”  Krebs was undeterred in his view.  He knew than in human society you can only love human nature.

            My application hit the mark and was without fault.  In Thuringia they did not want a theologian, but a social worker.  1931 is when the political situation changed.  There was little prospect of work for a social worker with progressive principles to work undisturbed in prisons.  I reported hastily for my second theology examination in Berlin, for the duration of 1932, and applied for a place as prison minister at Tegel.

            It was the right instant.  The new regime cleared Thuringia of progressives, drove Albert Krebs underground and put social workers in the power of the dictator’s Nazi schemers. 

            When I was prison chaplain, I had great freedom of movement and more power to fight against it.  I had attained my appointment."