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Suzie

Helmuth Hübene

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What happens when you are caught between respecting the laws of the land or doing what is morally right?  

 

What about when you are just a teenager with dreams, hopes and ambitions and you are willing to risk your own life in order to fight a regime that spreads death and hate? What about when you are in a cold cell, and your Branch President without proper authority excommunicates you from the Church that you loved for trying to do what was right?

 

Helmuth Hübene was just seventeen years old when he was sentenced to death by beheading in what the Third Reich in Germany considered “treason”. If Helmuth was alive, he would have been 89 years old. He was a Latter-Day Saint along with his mother and grandparents. 

 

Even though he was young, his interest in what was happening around him in Germany caught his interest. He listened to a short wave radio that was informing about the real situation happening in his country and Helmuth decided to do something about it. Along with a few LDS friends, he started creating and distributing pamphlets with the same news he would hear from the BBC. It was strictly prohibited to do such thing.

 

At first, he was able to get away with it but when he decided to expand his efforts and needed to make a few translations, he was caught by a Nazy party member, sent to trial and condemned to death at the tender age of 17. All the requests for clemency were denied. He was sent to prison with all his civil rights taken away from him, being mistreated, tortured, having no bed, no sheets and no proper food. He was also beaten often.

 

As I type this, there are few times that I need to stop because I am overwhelmed by emotion. I ponder about Helmuth and try to imagine how it must have been for him. As a mother, I try my best to teach my children to stand for what is right, even if it is not the popular thing to do and here we have a young man doing exactly that and being punished in the harshest way possible for trying to defeat a regime that ended up killing more than six million people.

 

How lonely he must have felt in that prison cell..and when you think there is nothing else that can go wrong, two days after he was arrested, his Branch President who was an avid Nazi Party member excommunicated him.

 

Four years after his death, he was posthumously reinstated as a member of the Church with the adding clarification that it was done by mistake since the Branch President did not have the authority from the district president to do so.

 

How many people in the world have broken laws..written and unwritten in order to do what was right..or:

 

Was Oskar and Emily Schindler wrong  in saving 1,200 people from being killed by Nazy Germany? Was Rosa Parks wrong  for standing for what was right? What about the thousands of people who fought for the Civil Rights movement?  What about the thousands who fought against the Apartheid? What about Malala Yousafzai fighting the Taliban so that girls and women can get an education? And the list goes on...

 

I know Helmuth’s fight wasn’t in vain and as he said, the Lord is our Judge and he will make things right. Even though his LDS friends were not executed, they suffered starvation and torture for a few years in German camps.

 

The same day Helmuth was executed,  the Nazis forced him to drink wine and even at his darkest hour.. this courageous young man was sad and disappointed...not at the fact that he was about to die because he knew very well his fate but at the fact that he had to break the Word of Wisdom.

 

 

 

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We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

 

AND

 

“I established the Constitution of this land,” said the Lord, “by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80).

 

 

While we do believe in sustaining the law, there comes a time when the laws of the land are onerous, and need to be thrown down.  Those wise men raised up by the lord to establish the constitution of this land, also wrote:

 

"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

 

Those wise men raised up by The Lord, were overthrew the government to which they were subject. They are not condemned for doing so, on the contrary they are held as just men.  No government who does any of these things deserves to continue. Those who support with violence deserve violence in return.

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How many people in the world have broken laws..written and unwritten in order to do what was right..or:

 

Was Oskar and Emily Schindler wrong  in saving 1,200 people from being killed by Nazy Germany? Was Rosa Parks wrong  for standing for what was right? What about the thousands of people who fought for the Civil Rights movement?  What about the thousands who fought against the Apartheid? What about Malala Yousafzai fighting the Taliban so that girls and women can get an education? And the list goes on...

 

I tend towards a "law and order", "don't rock the boat" mentality.  I'm ashamed to say that if I were living in 1776 . . . I'm not sure I wouldn't have sided with the Loyalists.

 

I did think about going down to Nevada to support Cliven Bundy a couple of months ago, though . . . (I kid, I kid! ;) )

 

I haven't read the books that came about about Hubener; but I'm intrigued by the branch president.  Did he survive the war?  Did he explain his actions later?  Had he acted out of blind loyalty to the Nazis, or did he feel he needed to throw Hubener under the bus to protect the rest of his branch from retribution?  Was he himself later subjected to Church discipline, or otherwise shunned for what he did?

 

Edit:  Did some Googling.  Hubener's branch president, Arthur Zander, was drafted into the German army in late 1942.  An Arthur Zander from Hamburg immigrated to Utah in the early 1950s and became known as the father of soccer in Utah and died in 1989; his obituary in the Deseret News is online.  I wonder whether it's the same guy?

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Did he survive the war?  Did he explain his actions later?  Had he acted out of blind loyalty to the Nazis, or did he feel he needed to throw Hubener under the bus to protect the rest of his branch from retribution?  Was he himself later subjected to Church discipline, or otherwise shunned for what he did?

 

He did. There are a few documentaries about Helmuth that tells us a little more about Arthur Zander. We know that Helmuth's friends who helped him with the distribution of the pamphlets, kept in contact with Zander for a few years. He was described as a good Branch President who loved Hitler so much that he would bring his radio to Church and lock the door so members were forced to listen to Hitler's speeches. He also put a sign on the Church's front door that read: "Jews not welcome".

 

Perhaps, in his way of thinking, he was just trying to follow the counsel of his Church leaders. President Grant visited Germany around 1937 and told the Saints to keep it low, to stay there and not cause trouble so when Helmuth was arrested, his fellow Church members particularly those supporting the Nazi regime, saw him as someone who would make things harder for them.

 

One could argue if that was indeed what the Branch President was trying to avoid, personally I think it was a mix of both, his loyalty towards the Third Reich and his fear for the people. After all, when the Stake President was interviewed by the Gestapo after Helmuth's arrest,  he was told "Mormons are next".

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Actually, the district president (I keep saying Stake president but it was a district) was interrogated for four days.The interrogation lasted so long because the Gestapo did not believe that Helmuth produced those pamphlets on his own, they were written very eloquently and Helmuth ensured to take full responsibility for what was written so they could spare the lives of his friends. In his autobiography, the district president shares in detail what was the interrogation like. He was scared to death and said that the Lord listened to his prayers and he was very calm and collected during the questioning and satisfied the Gestapo. Of course, things like this mark you for life and twenty years after the incident, he never hide the fact that he was not in agreement with the way Zander operated (and other leaders), he felt that even though Latter-Day Saints shouldn't directly fight the government, they should still condemn Hitler's actions but Zander thought differently.

 

As a matter of fact, that sign Zander placed in Church was to discourage a member of the Church in another Branch who was of Jewish descent and he told him directly that he was not welcome in his branch (they were combined priesthood meetings in Zander's branch so this member had to be there) and he would place a swastika sign outside Church and get angry with some members if they were reading anti-Hitler propaganda and threaten them to send them to concentration camps.

 

If we combine these facts and the fact that he would force members to listen to Hitler's speeches in Church and a few other incidents, one can only guess that a young man like Helmuth (who was gifted) and active and very involved in the Church was growing visibly upset and couldn't take it any longer and decided to do something about it. Perhaps his reasoning was along the lines of: If the Branch President can bring politics inside Church, tell a member he is not welcome because he is Jewish, put a swastika outside the building and force members to listen to Hitler, why can't I use the Church typewriter to discourage and oppose Hitler? Yes, the Church typewriter that he kept at home. He was the Branch secretary and I think that's one of the reasons some members were upset with Helmuth, not only because he went against to what they were taught with regards to following the laws of the land but also because he used Church property for the purpose of opposing the government and they had to endure the unwelcome visit of Gestapo officials during Church meetings for some time after Helmuth's arrest.

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I would like to think that if I were ready to stand up for something as noble as this, the last thing in my mind would be the "law of the land". Rather I would be thinking only about what was right in the eyes of God.

 

The laws of the land are ultimately laws of men, which do not supersede God.

 

Thanks for sharing this. It was great to learn a little about these Saints in Germany.

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Interesting.   History is about collecting facts.  Then we interpret those facts to tell what we think is the likely story.  Suzie has presented facts and an interpretation.  But it seems that the facts might support an alternative interpretation.

 

It seems pretty clear that the Nazi's could have carried out the threat "Mormons are next"  So why didn't they after finding out about Helmuth?  Its seen and noble and idealistic to die for what you believe. It is considerably less so to get others killed for what you believe, and that is the knife edge Helmuth danced on with his actions.

 

As distasteful as we find the actions of the Branch President (including his excommunication of Helmuth) its very possible that it was what deflected the Nazi's.  If this is true then the Branch President saved the lives that got put in danger because of Helmuth's actions.

 

As for standing up for what it right, it is a good generalized principle.  But the Book of Mormon shows that there can be exceptions.  God commanded Mormon (a good and righteous man) to keep his mouth shut and just witness the horrors going on around him for most of his adult life.  Mormon did.  Did God such a command to the German Saints?  Well that depends on if your think the Leaders of the Church were inspired with what they told them to do or not.

 

I think the facts (as presented) can support either way.   In fact history is usably quite muddy with multiple possible explanations.  The one we choose is probably more a reflection on us then on the historical figures involved.

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It seems pretty clear that the Nazi's could have carried out the threat "Mormons are next"  So why didn't they after finding out about Helmuth?

 

Because the threat that the Gestapo gave the District President when he was in jail was that after they were done with the Jews, they would come for the Mormons and they weren't done with the Jews and of course, they didn't have that chance.

 

 

 

As distasteful as we find the actions of the Branch President (including his excommunication of Helmuth) its very possible that it was what deflected the Nazi's. If this is true then the Branch President saved the lives that got put in danger because of Helmuth's actions.

 

Just to clarify, I am not trying to condemn the Branch President for his actions but simply I am trying to illustrate what I think caused Helmuth to do both: Create anti-Hitler propaganda AND use the Church typewriter to do so and how he possibly justified such actions.

 

Second, I thought of the possibility you bring about the Branch President trying to deflect the Nazi's but if that was the case I think the District President would have had signed the excommunication papers for Helmuth (even though it was not the proper procedure) but he refused. If he thought it would calm down the Nazi's, why he didn't? Hmmm...I don't know, I am not sure if that was Zander's intention, not convinced of that and well, one can only speculate. Having said that, there was a brother in the Branch who was glad the boys were arrested and that Helmuth was sentenced to death and he stated that if they didn't arrest them, he would have shot them himself.

 

Generally speaking, I think it is hard for people to relate to such comments but like anything in history, one has to analyze context and times to understand why they thought in that way.

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Because the threat that the Gestapo gave the District President when he was in jail was that after they were done with the Jews, they would come for the Mormons and they weren't done with the Jews and of course, they didn't have that chance.

 

Just to clarify, I am not trying to condemn the Branch President for his actions but simply I am trying to illustrate what I think caused Helmuth to do both: Create anti-Hitler propaganda AND use the Church typewriter to do so and how he possibly justified such actions.

 

Second, I thought of the possibility you bring about the Branch President trying to deflect the Nazi's but if that was the case I think the District President would have had signed the excommunication papers for Helmuth (even though it was not the proper procedure) but he refused. If he thought it would calm down the Nazi's, why he didn't?

 

I only have the data you have given me on the subject, but I am not trying to imply that the Branch President tried to trick the Nazi's with a false front.  I simply can not know that (and I am leaning toward the idea that he was not being false).

 

I am more toward the idea that the Lord knew what was necessary to preserve the LDS Saints in a situation that they simply could not prevail otherwise, no matter how much they might want to.  That the calling of what appears to be a Nazi Loyalist as leader is part of what was necessary.  If this is true then Helmuth is less a hero then he is a kid who thought he knew better then the church leaders who put them at risk. 

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That the calling of what appears to be a Nazi Loyalist as leader is part of what was necessary.

 

That's quite a bold statement to make and well, I personally don't share those thoughts.

 

 

 

If this is true then Helmuth is less a hero then he is a kid who thought he knew better then the church leaders who put them at risk.

 

I think I can understand where you are coming from here but I personally believe (as many modern day Church leaders believe as well) that his actions were of a hero.

 

If all the people I mentioned earlier in my posts would have chosen to stay quiet and not fight for what was right because of fear, history would have been very different in 2014.

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That's quite a bold statement to make and well, I personally don't share those thoughts.

 

 

Given that I am basing what I am going off of from the data you are giving me...  Where I am misunderstanding you?

That the Branch President appeared to be a Nazi loyalist?  Or that Branch President's are called of God? (Which implies that God picked him for a reason. Which reason admittedly, I did assume given the aftermath of the Nazi's not following through)

 

 

 

I think I can understand where you are coming from here but I personally believe (as many modern day Church leaders believe as well) that his actions were of a hero.

 

If all the people I mentioned earlier in my posts would have chosen to stay quiet and not fight for what was right because of fear, history would have been very different in 2014.

 

If the failure to act is because of Fear then of course.  If however the failure to act was because God told you to not do anything that is an entirely different matter.

 

Helmuth is a considered a hero because of how things turned out.  However the case can be made that the District President and Branch President are heroes because they listened to the councils and were able to undo the damage that Helmuth's disobedience did.  If Helmuth's actions had instead also gotten the LDS members sent to the camps with the Jews I don't think anyone would consider him a hero.

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You said that it was necessary and I am not sure if I would use the same term personally, I can't see why it would have been necessary to have a Nazi branch president.

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Hubener's branch president, Arthur Zander, was drafted into the German army in late 1942.  An Arthur Zander from Hamburg immigrated to Utah in the early 1950s and became known as the father of soccer in Utah and died in 1989; his obituary in the Deseret News is online.  I wonder whether it's the same guy?

 

Yes, he was drafted the same year Helmuth was killed and yes, it's the same guy. As a matter of fact, a couple of Helmuth's friends moved to Utah after the war and one of them died just four years ago.

 

Was he himself later subjected to Church discipline, or otherwise shunned for what he did?

 

No, he wasn't and as a matter of fact when he moved to Utah he worked for the Church for almost two decades.

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You said that it was necessary and I am not sure if I would use the same term personally, I can't see why it would have been necessary to have a Nazi branch president.

 

Ahh  yes I can see how what I wrote be be confusing about conveying my intent now.  I was speculating how the Lord might have been protecting his Saints and in so doing called that Branch President as a 'necessary' part of the plan the he was using.

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Ahh  yes I can see how what I wrote be be confusing about conveying my intent now.  I was speculating how the Lord might have been protecting his Saints and in so doing called that Branch President as a 'necessary' part of the plan the he was using.

 

Ah okay but I'm curious..in your speculation, how having a guy like Zander as a Branch President would have been a necessary part of the plan the Lord was using? I ask because even though Zander was a fervent Nazi party member and his first counselor as well (they were certainly not hiding that support), it didn't stop the Gestapo from taking him into questioning.

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Ah okay but I'm curious..in your speculation, how having a guy like Zander as a Branch President would have been a necessary part of the plan the Lord was using? I ask because even though Zander was a fervent Nazi party member and his first counselor as well (they were certainly not hiding that support), it didn't stop the Gestapo from taking him into questioning.

 

Why would it stop them?   Basic rule of investigation is that you question everyone.  Helmuth gets caught.  They think he is not working alone, so logically they would pull in his family, friends and groups that he surrounds himself with, which would include the church.  If stereotypes are to be believed the Gestapo is not exactly a friendly or trusting group.  So the Lord in his wisdom and foreknowledge puts people in place that even the Gestapo will believe.

 

The Gestapo pull them in and try to break them, prove their story false.  The Gestapo fails (because their story is not false) to break them.  They can't show that the church was involved so they are let go.  Chances are that they were closely watched even after that just in case.  They get nothing.  

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To clarify:  I don't know whether Zander was the right man for the job or an example of abuse of authority (is it possible to be both at once?); but playing devil's advocate for a moment:

 

Because the threat that the Gestapo gave the District President when he was in jail was that after they were done with the Jews, they would come for the Mormons and they weren't done with the Jews and of course, they didn't have that chance.

 

There were, I think, fewer than a thousand Mormons in Hamburg in 1941; a city containing nearly two million people people at the time.  I would conclude that the Nazis didn't let the Mormons alone because they were too busy killing Jews and fighting a world war; they let the Mormons alone because the Mormons were small fish and--Hubener's activities aside--largely (if grudgingly) conformist, per President Grant's instructions.

 

 

 

That the calling of what appears to be a Nazi Loyalist as leader is part of what was necessary.

 

That's quite a bold statement to make and well, I personally don't share those thoughts.

 

But wouldn't you agree with the preposition that the calling of Brigham Young was necessary, even though Young happened to be a racist?  Couldn't an argument be made that Young's refusal to come out as either an ardent abolitionist or an ardent slaver, played a crucial role in keeping Utah out of the Civil War?  Wouldn't you agree that, weaknesses aside (including predilections to some very troubling ideologies), Young had other qualities that made him, perhaps irreplaceably, the right man at the right time for the job that needed to be done in his corner of the world?

 

I ask because even though Zander was a fervent Nazi party member and his first counselor as well (they were certainly not hiding that support), it didn't stop the Gestapo from taking him into questioning.

 

*Shrug* (and playing devil's advocate):  Seems to have helped in getting him and the district president released, though.  That didn't have to happen.  You basically have three members of an openly Zionist church, one of whom is a the "communications officer" of the local congregation, engaging in "sedition" with use of church property in a time of war.  Regardless of Zander's sympathies:  for any Mormon in Hamburg (or indeed, in Germany), things looked Very, Very Bad.

 

Incidentally:  What source do you have re the district president refusing to sign the excommunication papers?  All I can find online is this site.  I also just came across this site, dealing with the branch (the other site deals with the district).

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Incidentally:  What source do you have re the district president refusing to sign the excommunication papers?  All I can find online is this site.  I also just came across this site, dealing with the branch (the other site deals with the district).

 

I believe it was Keele/Tobler who mentioned that based on interviews back in the 70's with the district president but I also recall one important discrepancy. I cannot recall the source right now but I remember that it stated that the Gestapo told the District President to excommunicate Helmuth but he refused saying there were no grounds for excommunication but Zander disagreed and decided to do it on his own.

 

Even though the district president seemed to have empathized with Helmuth and it is alleged that he confided in one of Helmuth's friends saying that if he knew Helmuth was doing that he would have join him, one has to wonder what exactly took place because by the other hand, there are other sources that indicate that the district president did not see him as a hero because even though he believed Hitler was wrong and they shouldn't support him, he did not believe members should take matters into their own hands. He believed in respecting and obeying the law and keep quiet as they were counseled by Church leaders.

 

*Also, Berndt (the district president) moved to Utah.

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Well, and I think my earlier crack about Cliven Bundy may be at least a little bit apropos.  Lots of us kind of sympathize with his grievances, even though we also roll our eyes at his antics and maybe even privately wonder how a clown like that maintains his Church membership. 

 

 

(And yes, I realize that the analogy breaks down because of the relative evil (or more properly, the lack thereof) of the US federal government versus the Nazi government; so don't read too much into the analogy!)

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I would like to think that if I were ready to stand up for something as noble as this, the last thing in my mind would be the "law of the land". Rather I would be thinking only about what was right in the eyes of God.

 

The laws of the land are ultimately laws of men, which do not supersede God.

 

 

This.

 

My confirmation saint is St. Maximilian Kolbe, the Saint of Auschwitz. He was a Catholic priest who was put into Auschwitz for hiding Jews. While he was there one of the prisoners escaped and the rule was for every 1 prisoner who escaped, 10 were randomly chosen to die. One of the men chosen had a wife and kids and begged the Nazis to not kill him. Fr. Kolbe stood up and said, "Take me in his place." And he died.

 

I mention this because the one Catholic saint I felt the closest connection to was a prisoner of Auschwitz. So you know where I am coming from.

 

The Laws of God trump the laws of man. If the laws of man violate the Laws of God, I believe we have a duty and responsibility to carry out the Laws of God. I'm huge into civil disobedience when it comes to unjust laws.

 

When I was considering joining the Church, one of my biggest stumbling blocks was the Twelfth Article of Faith because when it comes to choosing between the laws of land and the Natural Law of God, Natural Law wins out every time. Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience is one of the most important pieces of literature for me.

 

Thanks for sharing Helmuth's story. It's great to learn of Latter-day Saint martyrs and have new heroes in faith.

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