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.

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