OPINION – Their names are unfamiliar to most of us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Sophie Scholl. Helmuth Huebener.
Their lives may have ended more than seven decades ago, but the influence of how they lived still has significance in our day.
Each of them was a citizen of a government that obtained absolute power over its people. A series of official measures to protect their nation against the threat of terrorism quickly morphed into a system of laws under which everything not forbidden was mandatory.
They were members of a society that willingly discarded its moral compass. When their leaders sought to disenfranchise certain unpopular groups, most people did not protest. In time, these targeted groups were marked for destruction, first by innuendo, next by legal sanction and finally by the direct action of rounding them up and exterminating them.
By the time most people recognized what was being done, it was too dangerous to express opposition. In a time when safety was found in remaining silent amongst the crowd, these three individuals were among the very few who chose to speak up.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who recognized the subtle moral shifts taking place in German society between WWI and WWII. He refused to support Hitler or to join his military at a time when refusal could be a capital offense. His discipleship would not allow him to support the Nazi regime during a time when many German church leaders acquiesced.
He later remarked:
The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live.
For his open opposition to the Nazis, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned in a concentration camp and then executed just a few days before Germany’s surrender.
Sophie Scholl, along with other members of the White Rose, likewise took a principled stand against the Nazi leadership. She and other college students secretly printed and distributed pamphlets urging the German people to withdraw their support for their Führer and his war machine.
Before being arrested by the Gestapo, Sophie commented:
The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ Those with no sides and no causes. Those who don’t like to make waves — or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature.
Following her show trial just days after her arrest, she was guillotined, along with her brother Hans and another friend. The full movie of “Sophie Scholl – The Final Days” can be watched online at no charge.
Helmuth Huebener was only 16 years old when he and his friends created a resistance group that challenged the official propaganda of the Third Reich. They published information gleaned while illegally listening to forbidden shortwave radio broadcasts that exposed the increasingly psychopathic actions of their leaders.
He called upon other German youth to acknowledge that their nation had become a country of terror and tyranny in which everyone was afraid to talk.
He fearlessly described what had happened to the character of the average German saying:
Through their unscrupulous terror tactics against young and old, men and women, they have succeeded in making you spineless puppets to do their bidding.
After being denounced by a Nazi party member who caught on to Huebener’s actions, he was tried and sentenced to death.
Southern Utah residents have the opportunity to learn more about the life of this remarkable young man, as the Pine View High School Drama Department performs the play “Huebener” through Saturday evening.
For bravely standing against the collective madness of the masses, these three brave individuals were denounced and executed as traitors. But the tragedy of their premature deaths is far overshadowed by the power of their character.
No one remembers them as traitors today. In hindsight, they are celebrated as examples of the finest German people of their time.
In a world devastated by oppressiveness, conflict, and corruption, they stood as examples of honor, honesty, and decency. They refused to exchange their integrity for the sake of expediency.
They stood against the grain of popular opinion and took the risks that others feared. They refused to forsake what was right even when it cost them their lives.
In so doing, they showed themselves to be champions of the lives and rights of their fellow men. We would be wise to learn of them and emulate the power of character that defined their lives.
- Pine View High School presents ‘Huebener’
- Perspectives: Why I’m okay with being called an extremist
- Perspectives: Who will be America’s White Rose?
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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