Outside the Bendlerblock – Welcome to Berlin and to the courtyard of the Bendlerblock. It was once the headquarters of the German High Command. This is where Hitler’s generals planned and fought WWII.
After Germany lost the war, the buildings on the left side of the photograph became The Memorial to the German Resistance. I stood in this courtyard back in 2007. I was chaperoning my son and his friends. We were visiting our sister city. This is where I was introduced to the White Rose.
Story #1 – Messages From the White Rose
I walked into one of the rooms and met 17 college kids. They were the White Rose, and they worked to resist Hitler and his generals. You couldn’t publicly resist the Nazi’s. That would have meant certain death.
The White Rose wrote leaflets and left them behind to be found. They said do less, but not so little that you’d be caught and arrested. If you usually gave 5 cents to the Nazis, give 4. If you usually made 10 cannonballs a day, make 8 or 9. Imagine, trickles of resistance, fighting a common cause. It was brilliant!
If you’d like to visit the Memorial to the German Resistance, you can go online. The first link is for the Resistance Center. The second is for the White Rose. The third is where I found my photos.
1. German Resistance Memorial Center - History (gdw-berlin.de)
2. German Resistance Memorial Center - 15 The White Rose (gdw-berlin.de)
3. Memorial to the German Resistance - Wikipedia
If you’d like to learn more about the White Rose, follow this link to my post. http://www.rindabeach.com/blog/the-story-of-the-white-rose
Story #2 – A Chance Encounter – After going to Germany in 2007, my life changed. I became a writer, and I joined the board of Sister Cities. I wanted to see the program grow. I wanted to see more kids travel to Lengerich so I helped the high school kids heading there in 2008. I helped them raise money, and one of the fund raisers was with Elder Beerman. They used to do a program called Community Days where groups came into the store and sold fliers for $5. The kids who sold them got the WHOLE $5. Elder Beerman didn’t take a cent. The customer who bought the booklet, would save more than their original $5. This fund raiser was a winner for everyone!
I was in Elder Beerman, minding my own business . . . Actually I was helping a student sell booklets. Somehow I started talking . . . I guess it’s a gift, and I met the nephew of Hans and Sophie Scholl. I didn’t remember Hans or Sophie, but I remembered the White Rose.
He told me his name, and I so wish I could remember it. The Scholls and the White Rose are famous in Germany. Here’s their postcard from the German Democratic Republic, East Germany. Two million went into circulation in 1961. I was 2 back then.
Imagine meeting their nephew in 2008 and hearing how his uncle and aunt were executed. It was an amazing experience. When I went back to Germany the next summer, I was asked for his name. I’m still sad I couldn’t remember.
Story #3 Eavesdropping – I was back at the Bendlerblock, the summer of 2008, resting in the shade, waiting for our turn to take the new American kids in for a tour. While we waited, some teenagers decided to act inappropriately with the statue of Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (I’ll tell you his story tomorrow).
The Germans don’t use air-conditioning. Their windows were open, and they heard me talking, telling the students to behave. (I must have been using my teacher voice).
Somehow during that conversation, I mentioned the Scholls. I told their story, how I’d met their nephew, how they’d died by execution. I assumed it was firing squad. That’s what I saw in the movies.
When the conversation ended, we headed in for our tour. That’s when I discovered I’d been overheard. One of the Germans pulled me aside and told me how they’d heard everything. Why? She wanted me to know how the Scholls died. I was shocked! Those kids never got to grow up – They were beheaded. I had no idea!
Then she wanted to know the name of the nephew. Imagine my surprise to discover – that they’d love to have this descendant return. Over the years, I’ve always wished I could find him again, and this is my attempt for a redo. I discovered when I wrote the other post in February – that two of Sophie’s sisters married. Inge died in Germany so it wasn’t her. Their other sister, Elizabeth married Sophie’s boyfriend, Fritz Hartnagel. I don’t know if my guess is right, but maybe chance will work again, and I’ll find Sophie and Hans’ nephew once more. Maybe you can help me. Fingers crossed!
Story #4 – Project Valkyrie
This is Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. I had never heard of him or Project Valkyrie until I took my first tour of the Bendlerblock in 2007. I’ll never forget his story . . .
In 1943 and 44, part of the German military was having second thoughts about Hitler. Valkyrie started as a backup plan to save the German High Command if communication breakdowns threatened to destroy them. Hitler approved the plan, but had no idea the resistance was preparing to get rid of him.
Claus saw Hitler regularly, so he would plant the bomb in the Wolf’s Lair, a Nazi military headquarters. His chance arrived July 20, 1944. Claus activated the briefcase, took it into the meeting, and planted it next to Hitler. Within minutes, he left the meeting to take a phone call, prearranged, of course.
The bomb went off around 1PM, and the photo shows the damage done to the conference room. Claus watched from outside and believed no one survived. He hopped on a plane, flew to Berlin to activate Valkyrie. By the time he arrived, radio reports said Hitler survived, but Claus thought it was fake news. He pushed on.
What really happened to Hitler? Someone moved the briefcase behind a thick table leg. Hitler survived, with slight wounds. General Goebbels got on the radio and announced that Hitler was alive. Later that day Hitler spoke for himself.
The plot quickly unraveled. It was tracked back to the Bendlerblock, and it ended in a quick shootout. The resistance lost, and the High Command was back in power.
When I toured the building in 2007, I was in the room where the shootout took place, where Ludwig Beck tried to take his life. If the plot had been successful, he would have replaced Hitler, and the war might have ended a year early.
By 1AM on July 21st, 12 hours after the plot began, General Friedrich Fromm charged and court-martialed Claus and three other officers. He was ordered to keep the four alive. This is where he executed them - in the courtyard of Bendlerblock. BTW General Fromm was arrested the next day. He was executed in March of 1945.
The statue in the courtyard is Claus. When I was there in 2007, Hollywood was shooting a movie about the July Plot, and they wanted to film some of it in the Bendlerblock. It was a no when I was there, but I’m glad the German government changed their mind. I’m glad people can take a peek into this story.
The name of the movie, Valkyrie. It came out December 25, 2008, Christmas Day. I’m glad I got to see the movie before I returned to the Bendlerblock in 2008. BTW – the photo above is of Tom Cruise and the real Clause von Stauffenberg. Can you tell who is who? The real Claus is the 1st man. One of the reasons Tom took this part – his resemblance to the true hero.
I can’t imagine the runup to July. This is the real Claus recuperating. He was injured April 7, 1943 in Tunisia. He lost his left eye, right hand, and two fingers on his left hand. The photo includes a niece and nephew, and 3 of his 4 children. His wife was pregnant when he died. His 5th daughter was born 7 months after his execution.
After the July plot his four children were put into foster care and their name changed. My research doesn’t say when, but the children were restored to their mother, probably as soon as the Allies arrived in Germany. Nina lived to the ripe old age of 92, dying in 2006, a year before I walked into the Bendlerblock.
1. Claus von Stauffenberg - Wikipedia
2. German Resistance Memorial Center - 9 Stauffenberg and the Assassination Attempt of July 20, 1944 (gdw-berlin.de)
3. Valkyrie (film) - Wikipedia
1. Movie Poster - By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19478688
2. Tom and Claus: Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13270560
Story #5 – The Final Story – A Poem I’ll Never Forget – There aren’t many poems I can quote or summarize, but this is one of them. It was read to me in 2007, in the Bendlerblock. I was in the room dedicated to the Christian resistance. Some of the Christian heroes are listed below. You can go to the page dedicated to them on the German Memorial Resistance page, click on their pictures, and read about them. One of the people you see below, he wrote this poem.
The Poem – First They Came
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak for me.
This poem is blunt and to the point. It’s how we used to act after 9/11 – if you saw something, you said something. Now we’re in an era where people are afraid to speak. Sub in the words Republican, Conservative, Trump supporter, or Christian – they all fit.
Recently I saw Katie Couric say something that really bothered me. I used to like her when she was on the Today Show. Then she smeared Sarah Palin – and I thought it said something, not so nice about Katie. A month ago Katie said, “The question is how are we going to really almost deprogram these people who have signed up for the cult of Trump.”
Does that mean people are coming for me, for people who think like me? You betcha! They’re trying to silence us on social media. If I were the least bit inconvenient, people would watch, and stay silent. If they felt guilty, it’d be too late to say something.
Dietrich was a well-known Protestant pastor. I’ve heard his name in church discussions, but it wasn’t him. It was Martin Niemoller. It doesn’t matter who wrote it. The important thing is that the poem was written. The two men were friends, and colleagues. They both would have believed in this poem back in the 30’s, and I believe in it now, 90 years later.
1. Martin Niemöller, "First They Came..." - Quote or No Quote? - Professor Buzzkill - History's Myths Debunked
2. German Resistance Memorial Center - 5 Resistance out of Christian Faith (gdw-berlin.de)
3. Katie Couric Quote - Katie Couric Says Trump Supporters Need to Be 'Deprogrammed' | CBN News
This is me in 2007. If you know my story – I started writing because I held a bat – on a mop – in Germany – in 2007. I believed it was a Godwink moment, that I was called to write.
Now I wonder if I was called then, to speak now. Only God knows, and he usually doesn’t whisper in my ear. Life would be a lot easier if he did, but here’s another famous quote – It’s not for us to question why. It’s for us to do or die. Me – I prefer not to die, but, God’s will is God’s will.
I also wondered back in 2007, if I could speak out, if I were in the situation the Germans were in the runup to WWII. Now, I know the answer . . . I just spoke up, and some people will not like it.
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!