German Resistance

Contrary to popular belief, there was a lot of resistance to the Nazi rule within Germany. Unfortunately they did not necessarily have the structure or support that those in their neighbouring countries did. There were groups and many individuals that tried to do things to undermine the party, some even tried to kill Hitler. While some were successful at sowing seeds of doubt with the public, generally most were caught and executed. There was one documented outcry to the Nazi Policies, where not only did all those who participated not get prosecuted or executed, but they actually made the Nazi party change a policy, the Rosenstrasse Protest.

Although there were many groups of people that stood up for what they believed in, I have only covered a few. Some had only slightly different philosophies to Hitler, some opposed him out right. But all stood up for what they believed in, in a society that was scared and controlled by fear and death. To give all you can for others, even if it means your execution is truly a selfless act, and I believe we should be grateful for their sacrifices. For they have helped make the world the place that it is today.

Johann, known as Georg was a carpenter, who had a number of different jobs due to businesses closures and a weak economy. But one of these jobs included the use of explosives. This is where he managed to get both the components the skills needed to create a bomb. Although he did go to some communist evenings and did listen to Soviet radio occasionally, he did not class himself as a communist. He would later say 'getting rid of Hitler just became an obsession of mine.' and that by killing Hitler, Goering and Goebbels it would 'improve the conditions of the workers and avoid a war.' So Georg travelled to Munich a number of times, gaining access to the Burgerbraukeller. Watching where Hitler said his speeches and choosing a column that would be able to hold a bomb. He booked into a hotel to give himself enough time to create an area to plant the bomb. Left his tools with his sister in Stuttgart and then went back to set the timer. He left the next morning, to Konstanz

Hitler almost cancelled his speech but decided to go a head with it in the end. There was a 3000 strong audience and all his top officials were there. He however decided to leave early to get back to Berlin via his private train, so he brought his speech forward 30 minutes, finishing at 9.07pm. Then left for the train. The bomb exploded at 9.20, just 13 minutes after Hitler had left the spot just infront of it. Eight people in total were killed.

Georg was stopped at the border at Konstanz and questioned about his travel. Thinking that he was being stopped because of the bomb he confessed. However at this time the authorities had not been alerted to the incident. But he was sent back to Munich due to his confession. There he was interrogated to see who he had been working with. He said he had done this alone. The Gestapo asked him to reconstruct the bomb, which he did so quickly and with such skill that the Gestapo used its plans for training purposes. Not believing that he had worked without the help of the Soviets or England, he was sent to a number of different concentration camps as an important Special Security Prisoner. The thought was that when Germany won they would parade Georg as someone their enemies had sent and had failed in his mission. When it was obvious that the war was not going to be won. Georg was taken from his cell in Dachau and killed on 9 April 1945. The camp was liberated on the 29th.

During WWII several of Hitler’s top-ranking Generals united with the common goal of a post War Government to manage the occupied lands. They believed that the future government would have to be able to work with the international community and knew that Hitler could not do that. Some also did not agree with the darker side of Hitlers plan. 1942 Oster built a resistance network for this end point. His most important recruit was General Friedrich Olbricht, head of the General Army Office headquarters in central Berlin. Olbricht controlled an independent system of communications to reserve units all over Germany. Linking this asset to a resistance group in the Army Group Centre created what appeared to a viable structure for a new effort at organising a coup. The Army resistance even linked the leader of the civilian resistance to Army Group Centre, which was an extremely risky tactic.

This was the group that undertook Operation Valkyrie (20th July plot), which was a planned coup after the death of Adolf Hitler. Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg was successful in bringing a suitcase containing 2 bombs into the briefing room at the Wolf's Lair on the 20th July 1944. But having left the room, someone moved the suitcase before the bomb went off. Four people died, but Hitler had been shielded by the table. Not realising that Hitler had not died, the coup went ahead until Hitler addressed the nation. Fromm, who was also involved quickly rounded up and shot the top four conspirators. Over 200 other people were arrested, tried in a peoples court and executed. Fromm was also executed the following year as part of a post-conspiracy purge.

The Red Orchestra was the name give to encompass a number of resistence networks. Originally the Gestapo focussed on Paris and Brussels, but eventually realised that a number of German citizens were also part of intercepted communications. The Gestapo believed that the organisations were controlled by Soviets. While some may have worked under their control, most did not fall into that category and actually were quite independant. Most resistance groups that worked with foreign powers, did so due to the contacts they had available. Hardly any resistance wanted a foreign government to invade and take over their country, they just wanted support.

A person of note who moved in and out of groups, creating and enforcing connections between the group and the Soviets was Leopald Trepper. He worked firstly with Hashomer Hatzair and then later with the GRU. His network stretched through a number of countries in Europe and he was subject to an Identification order as a wanted dangerous spy byt the Gestapo. He was caught and escaped and remained on the run till the end of the war.

The group led by Harro Schulze Boysen and Arvid Harnack for example did have Soviet contacts. They started a group as they were not happy with the Versaille's aggreement. They had watched how the Soviet economy had grown and believed that certain aspects of the model would work in Germany. Both men were notable members of the Nazi regime, Harnack worked at the Reich Ministry of Economics and Schulze Boysen was a publicist and Luftwaffe officer. At one point during the groups run, they met with Albrecht Haushofer. The groups main duties were researching war crimes and relaying the information to its Soviets contacts. They also organised "AGIS" pamphlets which were distributed to the public to try and counteract the German Propaganda. Harro and his wife were caught and executed on the 19th December 1942. On that day Arvid and his wife were arrested. Arvid was executed on 22nd December and his wife executed on 16th February 1943. Hitler had ordered a retrial after she had been sentenced to prison, as he wanted her executed. It is also of interest that Arvid's brother was part of the White Rose resistance group and managed to survive the war. He participated in the arranging of a cenotaph in memory of the group.

This group mainly consisted of students from the University of Munich. The leaders being, Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, Christoph Probst and Kurt Huber, their Philosophy Professor. Hans and Alexander returned from the Eastern front with the knowledge of the atrocities that were happening in Poland and Russia. They felt that they had to take action. So, they created a group with their closest associates.

They tried to tackle the Reich with pamphlet campaigns from June 1942 to February 1943. Initially they distributed the pamphlet in greater Munich, denouncing Nazi crimes and acts of oppression. They went on to tell of the mass murder of the Jews and elaborate on issues hidden from the public. For such a small group they did manage to spread far. They were in the process of expanding to other areas in Germany and with other resistance groups such as Avid Harnack's and Kreisau Circle when they were arrested by the Gestapo. They had a expedient trial before being sentenced to death in July 1943.

The Kreisau Circle was a group of about 25 Germans, who met at an estate just out of the town of Kreisau. They came from various backgrounds including Nobles, different political ideologies and different religions. They consisted of lawyers, economists, physicians and were both male and female (the females were often wives but were fully involved with discussions). They were all united in the belief that Hitler would fail and the government would fall. And although they had no wish to instigate this, the pure notion that this could happen was counted as treason during the Third Reich.

Their main focus instead was what would happen after this. They set about organising new drafts of the German Constitution. This detailed the structure of the government and who would be able to vote. This included anyone over the age of 21 or anyone had served in the military. They wanted to bring back Christianity as they believed this would help unify the country and help bring back the values of co-operation and acceptance. This however did not mean excluding other religions or cultures. They believed that 'the freedom of faith and conscience is guaranteed.' Their policys were all about unification for the people.

The group was never infiltrated. However due to some of its members connections with other organisations or with other people, some of its members were arrested and executed. When this happened to its key members, the group was disbanded.

Otto and Elise Hampel were a couple that were part of the Berlin working class. Otto worked in a factory and Elise was a domestic servant, but did her duty in the National Socialist Women's League. It was not until Elise's brother was killed in action, that they decided to make a stand against Hitler and the Nazi regime

Although their resistence was simple and only carried out by the two of them, it was effective and had the Gestapo searching for them for almost two years. They hand wrote over 200 postcards urging people to stand up to the Nazi regime and to stop donating to the party. They wanted to encourage people to 'open their eyes' to what was happening and to get rid of the party. They left these postcards around the city. They were left in mailboxes, on stairs and in places that the public could see them. Most of the postcards were handed in to the Gestapo. They were eventually arrested and executed on the 8th April 1943

The Rosenstrasse Protest is famous not only for the (disputed) results that it produced, but also for the fact that it is the only mass demonstration against the Third Reich which resulted in no negative consequences for those who participated.

In a meeting between Goebbels and Hitler on the 22nd January 1943, it was decided that the last of the Jews should be pushed out of Germany and Austria. This led to an order which instructed the SS, Gestapo and Berlin police to round up all remaining Jews in Berlin and detain them in a building on Rosenstrasse. Goebbels organised a media blackout for this day, to ensure no one heard about the arrests. At this time most of the Jews that remained, were the husbands of Aryan women or had an offical position, and were counted as Privileged Jews. People were dragged out of their work, trucks patrolled the streets, chasing down people on the street with a Jewish star and arresting those at home.

But even with the media blackout, it was spread by word of mouth. Wives started to show up on Rosenstrasse, demanding their husbands back. The SS threatened to start shooting the wives. But still they would not leave. A total of 1800 Jews were arrested that day. The wives left only during the bombing raid on the 1st March 1945. They returned the following day. The regime was shocked at the public display of discontent. Goebbels vetoed the RSHA's impulse to shoot the women, saying that he would not be able to hide that massacre from the public. And on the 6th March, Goebbel's issued the release of all the Jews that had been 'rounded up'. However, the knock on effect of this was an order issued by Rolf Gunther in Paris that clarifed that French Jews married to Gentiles could not be detained until there was clarification around the question of the German mixed marriages. The women who had protested had not only saved their Husbands but also those in occupied Europe.

This does pose an interesting question of whether mass protests could have changed the course of history. This protest was completely unorganised and without leadership. Maybe this is why it worked.