Three Against Hitler: Questions for Our Day

August 18, 2004 | 34 comments
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When does one stand up against a tyrannical government, when speaking out may cost you your life? What role should organized religion play when a once-free country becomes subject to tyrants who do not hesitate to crush all opposition? How should the Church at least at a local level deal with tyrannical governments: get along and survive, confront and perish, or some other path? These are issues implicitly raised in the fascinating book, Three Against Hitler by Rudi Wobbe and Jerry Borrowman (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2002). This well-written account gives Ruddi Wobbe’s experience as a young Mormon teenager in Nazi Germany who had the courage to speak out against the Hitler regime.

Around twenty years ago, I understand there was some publicity about the three Mormon teenagers who heroically stood up and spoke out against the Nazis (even a BYU play). There has been even more publicity in the past couple of years. Much of the discussion was justly centered around the leader of the three, Helmuth Huebener, who was executed by the Nazis. Wobbe’s account gives all the credit to Huebener for their scheme to distribute anti-Nazi leaflets in Hamburg with information gleaned by illegally listening to BBC broadcasts, but also provides important information about Brother Wobbe’s experience as a prisoner of the incredibly brutal Nazis.

A related book that has recently received some attention, even among many non-LDS sources, is When Truth Was Treason: German Youth against Hitler, which is the story of the Helmuth Hübener Group based on the narrative of Karl-Heinz Schnibbe (ed. ad trans. by Blair R. Holmes and Alan F. Keele, Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1996). I have not yet read it, but have read a couple of reviews. You can also look inside part of the book at Amazon.com.

There is also a BYU documentary on the topic, “Truth and Reason.”

Latter-day Saints can be proud that three Mormon youth had the courage and integrity to stand up against Hitler. But what a price they paid! We must also note that these three were exceptions. Many good Saints in Germany believed that Hitler was the hope of Germany, and even when his dark side became apparent, few had the courage to lay down their lives (and often the lives of their families, it must be said) to oppose the tyrant. Many collaborated.

Wobbe does not sugarcoat his discussion of the Church, noting that his own branch president was a vocal supporter of Hitler and threatened those who were not supportive of their government. Sadly, that deceived branch president even put up a sign over their building forbidding Jews to enter — the only LDS building in Germany that was so blighted, according to Wobbe. The pressures to support the government were enormous, the propaganda was compelling, and the risks for any show of rebellion were terrifying. While I can understand what happened, how terrible it is even one branch should fall into such error.

While the response of the German LDS community was not one of united resistance, Wobbe credits the teachings of the Church and of good parents as being what gave the boys courage to take their stand and risk all for the truth. In this case, though, heroism was a purely individual thing. I suspect it’s always going to be that way. Heroes usually don’t come in crowds. Even in the Church, following the crowd may not be the right thing to do.

One German Latter-day Saint I met a few years ago, a man who was a soldier for the Nazi army, offered a different perspective. He told a friend of mine, “Oh, those three boys! If only they had kept their mouths shut, there would not have been so much persecution of the Saints in Germany.” I’m not familiar with the consequences for other Mormons that came from the opposition of the Huebener group. Given the possibly minor impact that their limited distribution of pamphlets had, I suppose one can ask if their opposition was worth the cost to themselves and others. For example, if they were told that listening to the BBC might cost the lives of family members and other Latter-day Saints, would they have done it?

But when there is great evil, good men and women must stand for truth. Sadly, the result is often the spilling of innocent blood. If all the good people of Germany had seen through the deception of the media and spoken out against Hitler, he could not have wielded such power. But once he was fully in control, his machine had the power to slay millions. Was opposition futile? Was it deranged? Was it wrong? Such arguments can be made — but thank goodness for those who showed us that there are ideals worth dying for.

Have we learned anything from history? How will we be judged a hundred years from now? Will future Latter-day Saints shake their heads and wish that their ancestors in our day had spoken up against, say, the slaughter of defenseless people in our midst in the form of abortion? Will Latter-day Saints and other Christians fifty years from now mourn our refusal to speak out boldly against the loss of crucial liberties in the name of providing security, or the implementation of gross brutality in the name of opposing terrorism? Is there any risk of the United States losing the liberties that God has given us? No, really, everything is OK, as long as you’ve got cable TV.

I am in no position to judge those who remained silent. In my heart, I like to think that I would resist and speak out. I suppose most of us would. But the more critical question, perhaps, is what kind of people are we now? Do we stand up for those who are persecuted? Do we risk our comfort to stand up for truth now? Do we understand the principles of liberty and resist those who would limit freedom?

A critical lesson from this story is that evil grows stronger when it is not resisted, and can grow so strong that resistance can virtually guarantee death. Had the many good people of Germany unitedly stood up for the Jews when persecutions began, or had they spoken out when Hitler began usurping powers contrary to their constitution, they might have had a chance. But once Hitler controlled the educational establishment, the media, the military, the police, and all aspects of society, it seemed far too late to succeed — so silence again became the order of the day for most.

Another lesson comes from wondering why the Nazis had such fear of what a few young boys might do. I think the answer comes from Victor Frankl (as I recall), that famous survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, who said that the Nazis actively sought out the few people in each group who showed signs of leadership. They had to be eradicated quickly, for the 5% or less of the population that will stand up and be leaders are the only real dangers – keep them under control or kill them, and the rest of a group can be easily managed. I think this principle is true of many totalitarian states. Would that all our people were leaders.

But how do we deal with the issue of corrupt and evil governments in lands where the Church exists? Do we ask members to take a collision course with their governments, or do we ask them to uphold and sustain tyranny? Can we do anything other than let individuals choose on their own?

As a postscript, Wobbe’s book points to many other heroes besides just those who spoke out against Hitler. After he was captured by the Nazis, Wobbe encountered many other heroes who risked their lives to help him. One man even stood before the gun barrel of a Nazi guard about to kill to Wobbe, and argued successfully for his life. Even in the darkest of times, the light of Christ can lead people to stand as bold and brave sons and daughters of God. Those moments are some of the most poignant in the book, in my opinion. Again, such nobility was a purely individual thing – it did not usually come in groups.

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34 Responses to Three Against Hitler: Questions for Our Day

  1. sid on August 18, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    Very interesting topic, and one that has forced me to think hard. I have often wondered what kind of role Saints have played during, say, the Dirty war in Argentina in the 70′s and early 80′s, or in Peru during the time that country was in turmoil or in Guatemala and Nicaragua beofre and during the Sandinista s etc.
    Did Church HQs in SLC have anything to say about events in these troubled South American countries? I wonder, becasue my friend Argentinian friend, who is a devout Catholic, and wh o grew up as a teenager and a college student in Argentina during the dark days of that country’s dirty War, insists that the LDS Church and the saints ( barring individual exceptions) were ‘collaborators” with t he likes of Gen galtieri. I dont know if this allegation is true at all, hope it isnt at all.

  2. Jordan Fowles on August 18, 2004 at 2:00 pm

    Re: when we should speak up and protest loudly. It depends on our political viewpoint. Here is when:

    Republicans: Whenever a democrat is in power. I remember some hardcore Republicans predicting the end of the world during the Clinton administration. They protested- loudly. Some refused to pay their taxes.

    Democrats: Whenever a republican is in power. Just look at the last four years!

    Hardcore Democrats: Whenever ANYONE is in a position of ANY KIND of authority.

    Well, seriously, I have had a very hard struggle with this question. My approach may be frowned on by the more politically active, but it has typically been to withdraw from the secular political realm and involve myself in missionary work, trying to teach my family and those within my sphere of influence correct principles that are not of this world.

    I try to teach my family and friends about the sancity of life, the importance of families. I teach them about the proclamation to the world and let them read about gender and responsibility. I let them know that there is an afterlife in which people will be held accountable for their time on earth, but that there is a Savior also. They can draw their own conclusions.

    I know that the church has counseled us to get involved politically. But I also feel that the solution to so many of our problems don’t lie in any legislation or its reversal. If I get persecuted by the government for teaching the gospel, then that is what will happen, and I suppose that will be my form of protest. While I feel bad for the state of this country as civil liberties begin to crumble and society gets more immoral, I still believe the best thing is to vote my conscience, and teach the gospel. It may not have overthrown Hitler, but it would have comforted those in oppression.

    I guess I am a big wimp, in the scheme of things… *sigh*

  3. Pelikan on August 18, 2004 at 3:46 pm

    Jordan, while i respect your opinion, I think it is incumbent on us to do something more than just going to Church and doing Missionary work when society is severely stressed. ( And the current situation in the US doesnot count , despite what hard core dems or Repubs may say) Say if one were in Nazi Germany or say, during the Dirty War in Argentina, I think the bigger sin would be if one just sat on ones hands, and pretended that there was nothing wrong, and if one were to just keep attending church and going out with the Elsers and Sisters, like as if noting was happening. We have to, as Saints, engage with the world, and take lessons learnt from the BOM and the Bible, plus lessons learnt from what Church leaders have taught, to try to change the world around us for the better.
    As someone who sees what other Churches do, in terms of social wor and outreach, I am sometimes bothered by the fact that I rarely see Wards and Branches at the local level doing things like volunteering in their local communities, or doing social service projects. In t his respect, I see our Church as being moreof an inward looking organisation, and I am not sure why the reluctance among Saints to go out into the world and do things, unless it is as a missionary, or as a Stake or Ward Missionary. Why dont we, as individual Saints, want to interact with the world otherwise?

  4. Jordan Fowles on August 18, 2004 at 3:54 pm

    because the world is a cold, mean, hard place and unless I feel some sense of revelation to leave the sanctuary of my circle of influence, why leave?

    Of course, the right issue would likely get me going. But I can’t say what I would have done had I lived in Nazi Germany. It is a question I asked myself many times as I have studied German history, literature, and culture.

  5. Pelikan on August 18, 2004 at 4:27 pm

    Well, Jodan, during WWII, catholics, both lay people and members of the Clergy stood up to Hitler. Similarly in all the South American countries that suffered under brutal dictators. And they sure suffered a lot for it, and many were killed and maimed. I fear that our Church is going to become one where we pray and worship amongt ourselves, but, pretend that all is well outside the Church walls, even when we do know that it isnt.
    At a much lesser level – sy, here in t he uSA, I fail to uderstand who local Branches and Wards dont take part in community social service activities – say like doing volunteer work with people in the poore rpart sin town, or doing say, reding programs with inner city kids to help with their academics. This allows the anti-Mormons and the fundi christians to say all kind of negative things about our Church. I dont understand the refusal to do any outreach work except unless it is the folks who are formally tasked to be missionaries

  6. meg on August 18, 2004 at 4:28 pm

    I think back to times, too, like the Revolutionary war. Would we have fought? Or, being subject to Kings, rulers, etc., lived with it? And if we just lived with it, where would the church be today?

    This question came up at home when Parade (magazine) was asking teenagers when they would have liked to live and what they would have been doing.

    I said I would have wanted to be active in the French Resistance and my friend about had a heart attack. “What?!?” But, what’s more important? The freedom of man or subjecting yourself to illegal rule?

    The thing that amazes me most about the young men in Germany was that the Nazi’s didn’t just come and take you, they took your whole family. And, sometimes, your branch fell into that category.

  7. Charles on August 18, 2004 at 4:47 pm

    I would like to think that I am the kind of person that would do what the three did. I would love to think that I would have the courage and inspiration to do more.

    We should be compelled, in the church or not, to be active in our communities.
    If we witness our government acting imorally we should try to change it. Our government is set up so that every person has an equal voice. But if you fail to speak you cannot ever thought to be heard.

    If we don’t stand for others then no one will be left to stand with us. The world may be a cold hard place but we have been commanded to live in it. Pres. Hinkley has also admonished us to find those with strong values and stand with them. Hiding in your safe zone will only make you more of a victim.

  8. Jordan Fowles on August 18, 2004 at 6:28 pm

    Don’t get me wrong. Musing about the security of keeping things withint my circle of influence does not mean that I would not take a stand if I felt one needed to be taken. Especially not if I felt the Lord wanted me to.

    However, look objectively at what was accomplished by Huebner et. al. kicking against the pricks:

    Huebner was executed. He was excommunicated (although reinstated after death). Rudy Wobbe was imprisoned and tortured. The Church came under some unwelcome scrutiny, and the fallout of this closer scrutiny probably also included the interrogation of other “innocent” church members. Hitler’s chokehold over the people continued despite their best efforts. The heroic efforts of these three changed nothing in the tyranny of the Third Reich, but did end up making life worse for a whole lot of people.

    But please don’t construe this as saying that we should never stand up and fight against injustice. Perhaps, however, it might be a good idea to first (forgetting what might happen to us) weigh the cost of our planned actions to our family, our friends, our fellow Church members. If after we have wisely weighed the cost we still feel inspired to act, then we should act away! But (and I know this will really rub some of you the wrong way)- I believe that sometimes the best thing we can do is to sit and wait for the storms to pass.

  9. greenfrog on August 18, 2004 at 6:41 pm

    Such situations test our values and our faith.

  10. danithew on August 18, 2004 at 6:49 pm

    Huebner wasn’t like Abinadi, fully and willfully disclosing his identity to wicked government authorities and almost deliberately provoking a lethal collective response. Rather, Huebner was actively doing his best to keep his anti-Reich activities a secret and unfortunately was discovered. I’m sure he did the best he could. It’s hard to fault him for being caught. What amazes me is that he was such an independent and rebellious thinker. It would have been a lot easier for him to just go with the flow of history and events.

    By the way, I’m not really criticizing or condemning Abinadi here… I just find him an intriguing subject for analysis and comparison.

  11. Charles on August 18, 2004 at 6:50 pm

    I appreciate your thoughts on weighing the consequences and praying about if the Lord wants you to act, then acting.

    But the Concern is that waiting out the storm is not something we can always do. Germany, and presently Iraq are just some of the opressive old world nations that that would never have ceased if not for the interference from other nations. Those people within those countries were unable to stand and fight the good fight.

    Perhaps the three’s actions did create some additional strife for others, but they were of course only three. Imagine if the whole church stood together on moral grounds and shouted with one voice. We would be heard.

    We cannot passivly sit out the storm and wait for others to dethrone our dictators when we are oppressed. That’s why I love this country so much. We have that opprotunity, and those who fail to recognize thier part in this national and even global village, are missing out on a great opprotunity to act rather than to be acted upon.

  12. Pelikan on August 18, 2004 at 8:19 pm

    Jordan, regarding Huebner – sure he was caught, killed, and also excommunicated. But, was he excommunicated for the right reasons? or was he excommunicated, because at that point of time, the Churc Authorities in Germany were at worst , collaborators, or were people who tried to distance them selves from Huebner in order to save their own hides? Obviously, the church admitted that Huebner was exceommunicated for the wrong reasons, hence he was reinstated.
    Not to accuse anyone of anything, but, I do find the lack of social conscience among a lot of teh church members I meet rather troubling.
    And I fully agree with Charles – we cannot wait and sit on our hands and hope others will free us from our oppressors. Think about how that would play out on Judgement Day.

  13. Jordan Fowles on August 18, 2004 at 8:26 pm

    I don’t think it would be fair to label those who have the sense to wait until the right moment to “fight the power” as not having a “social conscience”.

    Nor is it fair to apply that label to those who may desperately want to do something, but be too scared. Instead of making generalizations and judging the person next to you as not having a social conscience, it might be better to explain why you think something is important and try to understand your neighbors concerns about doing something. You may find that your neighbor DOES have a social conscience, but lacks courage (which you could help him gain) OR that he/she does not view/value the issue in the same way you do.

    Generally speaking, of course… ;)

  14. Pelikan on August 18, 2004 at 9:01 pm

    Sorry if I ruffled your feathers, Jordan, but, what about all the LDS who were essentially collaborators with Hitler? Or the brethren who excommunicated Brother Huebner? Or were they people who had the sense to wait for the right set of circumstances to come along? Having sense to wait till the right moment seems to me to be an excuse to sit by and do nothing and then jumping on the liberator’s coattails, like many Saints did in Germany, sorry to say.
    Or like many, are we too comfortable with our families, in our jobs, our homes, incomes, that we will not address wrongs, and “wait for the proper time to come”, just because we dont want to give up our comfortable middle or upper-class lifestyles?
    And in non life threatning circumstances like we face in our cities in the USA today, why is it that when I volunteer at local United Way projects or other similar community-based efforts, I see Church groups from every other Church, but never ever an organised group from any LDS Ward or Branch?

  15. Jordan Fowles on August 18, 2004 at 9:13 pm

    (note that the following is not meant to be sarcastic, but is sincere):

    Good for you, Pelikan! You are setting a great example!

    I still think that when people get an activist mindset, it might be too easy to leap before you look, and thus end up leaping for the wrong thing. But it is good to be involved. I stand corrected.

    One suggestion: Why don’t you try to get a group of ward members involved in some of the community service projects you are talking about, if it means that much to you? Or organize some community service project spearheaded by our church?

  16. Jonathan Green on August 18, 2004 at 11:19 pm

    Jeff’s post manages to bring up a lot of interesting points, especially with all the Germanists around here. WWII is not what I work on professionally, but it always lurks over everything you learn or teach in German studies.

    1. I’d suggest that we can hardly begin to decide what people living under the Nazi regime should or shouldn’t have done. Keeping your mouth shut when speaking out means a quick trip to a prison camp does not equal collaboration.
    What would I have done in that situation? It depends, I suppose. When I was 11, I was a good Boy Scout, patriotic and pyromanic. Take the pseudo out of Scouting’s pseudo-militarism, and I probably would have been an enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth. Do you love your country? Enjoy parades and reciting the pledge? There’s an awfully good chance you would have been a good HJ/BDM member, too. The Nazis were no slouches at creating effective youth programs.
    But I’ve also noticed myself speaking up some times when doing so is really unwise. If the Nazis had come to power when I was in my 20’s, maybe I would have done something imprudent. Maybe you would have, too. Letting politicians yank your chain by demonizing one group of people or another is probably not a good idea in any situation.

    2. For the same reasons, comparisons between then and now just don’t hold water. Should LDS wards or individual members be more active in their communities? Maybe so, but the comparison to Mormons in Nazi Germany hurts the discussion more than it helps.

    3. That being said, there are plenty of examples of religious-inspired dissent and resistance under the Nazis. The Catholics have been brought up, but a better comparison would be the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In general, they were on the right side of the barbed wire, and in general we weren’t. JW’s were sitting in concentration camps by the late 1930’s, maybe earlier, and overall suffered much more persecution than Mormons. Guess whose church is several times larger than ours in Germany today?

    4. The position of the German members was largely in keeping with the Church’s policy of supporting whatever government is in power, which has served it well in many places (East Germany under Communism, for example), less well in others. Are there limits to how far this policy should go? I’ve thought about this one a lot; my best answer so far is: wherever the limit is, it’s nowhere close to where I am right now.

    5. To my understanding, the only effective resistance to Nazism within Germany—not the only resistance, and not in other countries, but the only effective German resistance—came from the military, eventually, but until then only from the Communists. In other words, if you find yourself living under an intolerable tyranny that you would be willing to risk your life to overthrow, don’t distribute flyers. Learn how to bomb armament factories instead.

  17. john fowles on August 19, 2004 at 12:00 am

    Charles, just think about D&C 134 and its mandate–I think that to a certain extent, it supports what you said above.

    I might point out a thoughtful treatment of this issue by Fred Gedicks in the BYU Law Review. His article “The ‘Embarassing’ Section 134″ mentions the Church’s stance towards what Huebener did. Of course, as you might imagine, the Nazi branch president that Wobbe refers to in the book, as pointed out by Jeff in his original post, excommunicated Huebener. Much later, Huebener was very quietly rehabilitated, but that didn’t stop BYU from shutting down Thomas F. Rogers’s play Huebener.

    In Gedicks’s analysis, despite the mandate of Section 134, the Church wished to emphasize the Twelfth Article of Faith more than Section 134 during the Cold War–and for good reason. If the Church was going to thrive in East Germany, for example, it just wouldn’t do to be beatifying such a rebel as Huebener (despite the ironic fact that he was rising up against the fascists, which otherwise would be considered a good thing in a Communist country if not for the implications such social responsibility had for the repressive eastern bloc regimes).

    Anyway, Gedicks points out the natural rights basis of Madisonian and founding era thought and that the same doctrines underlie Section 134 in this interesting article. He reminds us of Section 134′s posture towards rising up against a government that does not guarantee these basic rights.

  18. john fowles on August 19, 2004 at 12:08 am

    Also, Huebener really did put the entire branch in trouble because he used the branch’s typewriter to create the pamphlets that he distributed around his neighborhood in Hamburg. The Gestapo traced it back there.

    I’m not sure but I think that the branch president put that anti-Jewish sign above the door to the branch house after the Huebener affair. If I am wrong about that, just say so.

    Despite the potentially disastrous consequences of Huebener’s behavior for the branch, I still think he did the right thing. His story is very moving for me, especially his final hours in the Gestapo prison in Berlin. He was beheaded as a teenager with a guillotine in a back room of that Gestapo dungeon. According to the copious Nazi minutes of the event, he refused to have a last drink of wine to dull the pain before proceeding to his execution. Now that’s what I call presence of mind. Tears come to Schnibbe’s eyes when he recounts the tale.

  19. diogenes on August 19, 2004 at 12:53 am

    I don’t know where Pelikan lives, or what is going on in his or her stake, but every stake has a Public Affairs Director and community relations specialist whose callings are to develop community service projects of the type s/he says we aren’t doing. Among other projects, our stake has taken responsibility, along with churches from a number of other denominations, for weekly meals at a county homeless shelter. This type of interdenominational service is supposed to be going on in every stake, and occurs regularly in the stakes I am familar with.

    I should add that Public Affairs is strictly admonished NOT to co-mingle such outreach with missionary efforts, so as to avoid any perception of ulterior motive.

  20. john fowles on August 19, 2004 at 1:15 am

    I second that diogenes. My wife and I have just finished organizing a community service project for the ward to participate in together with other nonmembers in the area for the benefit of the food bank and homeless shelters. So I also kind of had the impression that Pelikan’s characterization might have been a little rash, although I cannot say how it is in Pelikan’s area and that might be a problem that needs to be corrected for that area. And I am also not saying that what our ward is doing is perfect, but it is a counter-example to the idea that our Church is uninvolved.

  21. gonzoman on August 19, 2004 at 5:06 am

    Argentine Mormons weren’t collaborators with Galtieri anymore than other ordinary Argentines were. The military govt came to power with the overwhelming support of the Argentine people. Noted intellectuals like Borges and Ernesto Sábato met with the first leader of the junta, Videla, in the belief he was a moderate. Jacobo Timmerman led the calls for the coup in his newspaper La Opinion, calls he later regretted when they threw him in prison, an experience he tells about in Prisoner without a name, cell without a number.

    What she might be talking about is the fact that apostles met with the leaders of the government to discuss plans for the Buenos Aires temple, which was dedicated in 1986 and on which work started during the Proceso as the military led government was called. Nothing new there; Pres Kimball met with Pinochet in Chile too, even riding in his personal helicopter to meet with him at his presidential hideaway. That is a little more problematic.

  22. Jeff Lindsay on August 19, 2004 at 9:15 am

    John Fowles asked if the pro-Nazi branch president put up the anti-Jew sign after the Huebener affair. No, it was there before the arrests of the boys.

  23. Ethesis (Stephen M) on August 19, 2004 at 9:36 am

    Ok, a couple comments on “Much later, Huebener was very quietly rehabilitated, but that didn’t stop BYU from shutting down Thomas F. Rogers’s play Huebener.”

    Having had Thomas F. Rogers in my living room to discuss the matter (among other things) and having read his (at the time) unpublished L of Arabia play afterwards (which is very strong) … Huebener was closed at BYU out of a concern that it might motivate unwise resistance in Communist Europe. Through 1984 or so (the last time I saw him) Rogers was a gentle and thoughtful man, well regarded in Church circles for his service in the MTC and otherwise.

    What is interesting is that in a bit of irony, communist readers theaters in San Francisco and other areas discovered the play and put it on.

    The Branch President eventually ended up living in Salt Lake city.

    In a number of South American conflicts, LDS members were on both sides. In the 80s we had local leaders on both sides and during conference they met with Elder Benson. They went back without changes to their calls or politics.

    Benson also met with Molly Miller, one of the significant organizers against Somoza (though few knew she was LDS. Last I heard she had left leftist politics and was married with two children. That was 15 years ago or so, so current details may vary considerably).

    Anyway …

    Anyway, off to work.

  24. Last_lemming on August 19, 2004 at 10:51 am

    Several posters have made positve reference to the Church’s position vis a vis East Germany. Does anybody remember the proximate cause of the East German regime’s fall? Czechoslovakia decided that it would no longer stop people from crossing the border into Austria. East Germans responded in droves by travelling to Czechoslovakia, then making the crossing into Austria. The East German government could do nothing to stop the exodus and its obvious impotence resulted in its quick downfall. That, in turn, triggered regime changes throughout eastern Europe.

    I don’t know whether any LDS East Germans participated in that exodus. I do know, however, that the Church specifically counseled its members to return home from conferences in the west and otherwise be good citizens of the East German state. So if they participated, they were being disobedient. I think that’s a shame.

    What would have happened if all East Germans had followed the counsel of Church leaders? Sure, the Church protected its own position, but are we really comfortable letting others do the dirty work for us while we sit back and reap the benefits?

  25. john fowles on August 19, 2004 at 12:41 pm

    Last-lemming: As I see it, the benefits to the Church from its cautionary and obedient position far outweighed any influence our “cult” (as the Church is and was considered in East Germany) would have had on regime change in East Germany. In fact, LDS disobedience would have had about as much influence as the Raelians trying to get human cloning legitimized.

    On the other hand, the course that the Church took allowed us to build a temple in a rabidly Communist country years before the Iron Curtain fell. That provided temple blessings to many Latter-day Saints that are difficult to forego for the sake of bringing the government down.

    Also, with our finite understanding, we do not know the full course of the causation of the collapse of the Iron Curtain through the events that you mentioned. The presence of a temple and the obedience of the Saints may have invited the Spirit more strongly into the area and prompted the events that led to greater freedom for the entire region.

  26. Pelikan on August 19, 2004 at 7:06 pm

    Looks like a lot of the brothers here are unwilling to even accept the fact that the Church may have made any mistakes ever!!! Or that it did not sometimes make a faustian deals to be able to have the Church continue in some countries. I dont understand why the church is so averse to those who are faithful and have a testimony, but wish to ask questions. Wonder if thsi post will get me in trouble with e th eleadership

  27. Ashleigh on August 19, 2004 at 9:25 pm

    This is a subject that I’ve pondered a great deal. In fact it used to disturb me a lot back when I was a more passive person, how could I know what choice I would make? I’ve since come to the decision that it doesn’t matter what made me who I am today, it doesn’t matter what I might have been under different circumstances (because I can’t know) The only thing that matters is who I am right now, what I’d do today, the moral self that I am at this moment. Because it is a decision we are making every minute that we are alive.

    It was very freeing to come to that conclusion. But even that conclusion didn’t clarify the choices I would make under such harsh circumstance. Before I had children I had a much more black and white view of the whole problem. Fight all authority of any kind, all the time, of course.

    But kids complicate everything don’t they? It sure makes it clear why so much of the revolutionary activism is often perpetuated by the pre-parenthood twenty-something crowd. Lots of passion, no ties, no responsibilities, it’s much easier to risk everything when you’re only risking yourself. (Which is why the very wise Ella Baker was so adamant aboug SNCC not becoming an adjunct of the SCLC. GO ELLA!!)

    Certainly I have a lot of sympathy for people who choose to quietly ride the storm to protect their loved ones, but then you always risk the possibility that your passive acceptance will result in a world you don’t want your children to witness. How do you explain to your ten year old that your beloved neighbor was taken to a death camp and slaughtered and yet you did nothing?

    Certainly would be easier if there were only good guys and bad guys and not all these grey guys.

  28. john fowles on August 20, 2004 at 12:26 pm

    Pelikan,

    The Church’s policy in East Germany came down straight from the top. If we are to say that the Church made a “mistake” in that policy, what are we saying about the Lord’s role in creating policy? Maybe the Lord wanted the Latter-day Saints in East Germany to be obedient.

  29. Charles on August 20, 2004 at 1:10 pm

    It seems pretty clear to me that as church members we are commanded to obey the laws of the land we live in. Some of us are lucky enough to live in countries where we can act for change if we feel the government is wrong and others are in situations where they may morrally object to the government but not be able to change it.

    Since the world is not a theocracy, I can’t fault the church for trying to remain neutral on issues that cross borders. It is after all not an American Church but a global church. This is a similar circumstance as I recall with the catholic church during similar times. For years the Pope did not want to challenge politics of other countries.

    Perhaps the church proceeded as it did because it felt inspired that the Nazi’s and their cohorts would ultimately fail and that by having church members act differently might create stumbling blocks for future growth.

  30. Renee on August 21, 2004 at 12:15 am

    “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
    -George Orwell

  31. Lindsay Sheffer on October 29, 2004 at 1:14 pm

    The question- how can we be good law-abiding citizens in a land where freedom is suppressed and the country is run by ideas that are blatantly evil- I think can only be answered one way with gauranteed accuracy. That way is prayer. Had I lived back then, I’d like to think that I would have prayed before I answered that question for myself. I really admire what Helmuth Huebener, Rudolf Wobbe, and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe did, I am almost positive that had every member of the Church in Germany at that time prayed about what to do, they would have recieved an answer that told them to respond similarly to the way those three boys did. I think that at all times, wherever we go, we must stand up for what we know is right. If we pray and ask for our Father in Heaven to help us as we do this, we are not then alone opposing the evils of this world, we have Him on our side who is more powerful than any dictator that ever lived, and through Him- all things are possible.

  32. Chantel Hubbard on December 13, 2004 at 5:41 pm

    I saw a friend with the book “Three Against Hitler” I was sitting at work doing absolutely no work. I got to page 30 or 31 I loved it I also enjoy the person Helmuth Huebener, his charicture is nothing I have heard of in my time. Which I am only 19 but that kid was so young he was like a brave little soldier that wasn’t scarred. Although he should have done more to protect his mind. I feel, from what I have read that he could have gone to great lengths with that kind of mind. He could have followed Einsteins reasearch so smart of a kid. He didnt do much except for stand up for his beliefs and only one person can make a difference but he was more than one person he was a great person. Helmuth Huebener did not end the pain of WWII he only understood it and tried to overcome the hurdles that no one person could. It wasnt just Hitler it was many that would fall with Hitler. Any comments please email me I love good, intellegent criticism. Although I cannot guarentee that I will be able to respond, but I will try.

    Sincerely,

    Chantel (from Utah)

  33. Mike on May 17, 2005 at 1:05 pm

    I join the discussion very late. I don’t vist her often, sorry.

    Huebener was German and probably believed in the Nazi cause, at one point. Then he became disillusioned, “apostacized” from Nazism. It is easy to see things with moral clarity, looking back. But remember before Stalingrad it was far more likely than not that Germany would win the war. Winners write history and morally justify their actions. History is changed. Wrong gets redefined as right. I think these issues were not very clear at the time.

    What Hueberner did made little difference. He was facing the near certainity of being drafted into the German Army which he realized was going to loose the war. So he might have thought his chances for survival were not very good either way. Once he understood the truth, he realized he was toast. He gave his life for the cause he believed in and really didn’t know all the complex ramifications of his actions. He hurt Germany by not being available to fight more than anything else.

    Lets stop beating around the bushes and put the shoe on the other foot. These moral questions are easy when the authorities are unambigiously evil. What if they are not? Take for example, what if you had lived in Parowan Utah in 1857? Would you have followed my relatives, the Priesthood leaders, up to Mountain Meadows and helped massacre a hundred and twenty folks from Arkansas in the name of God? While we obsess about how much Brigham Young knew, do we find any “Huebenerites” who dissented from that action? I hate to admit that I think I would have gone up there and this bothers me more than whether The Prophet was involved.

    Another more recent example still fresh and muddy is the actions some members took in connection with the Blacks and the Priesthood before 1978. I think if I go any farther down this road with the shoe on this other foot, to more contemporary examples of members of the church defying leaders who they perceive to be wrong, y’all will close your minds to this entire line of questions.

  34. JA Benson on May 17, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    Mike-
    I could not let this go. I too had an ancestor who was a leader at Mountain Meadows Massacre. I found this out in the last couple of years and needless to say this information unnerved me quite a bit. When I look at pictures of that man and his family it is hard to imagine that such a sweet family could have been involved to the extent that they were. Also knowing what I know about his life it saddens me to know that his character (probably eternal soul) will be tainted (maybe even damned) by that incident. I too have thought what side of the fence I would have fallen on.

    I guess what it comes down to is personal revelation and free agency. I don’t think that we can go through life not using our own free agency when we are told to do something that we may be uncomfortable with “if we follow the leaders we are not accountable if anything bad happens (false doctrine).”

    All that can be done about Mountain Meadows Massacre now is to not sweep it under the rug. We need to study the situation and learn from the mistakes that were made; learn from them and teach it to others.

    Question—When/how did you find out you had an ancestor there? I have friend at the time whose ancestor is John D Lee and having been raised with the issue was able to help me work through it.

    Thanks for you thought provoking post.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.