Category Archives: 1940’s

Long Live Freedom! Hans and Sophie Scholl and The White Rose in Germany (1942-1943).

By John P. Walsh

On February 18, 1943, following the illegal distribution of anti-Nazi leaflets by the White Rose at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München—the leaflets instructing students and all others to actively resist the 10-year-old Nazi regime—three young German university students were arrested. In the next four days these students will be tried in a Nazi kangaroo court, convicted of treason, and condemned to death. Their crime?—public vocal resistance to the totalitarian state that suppresses freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience in addition to reprehensible war crimes, including the Holocaust, during World War II.

On February 22, 1943, in Stadelheim Prison in Munich, Germany, these three White Rose resisters are the first of their group to die for freedom and whose legacy in the 21st century is to be listed as some of the most important Germans of all time—namely, 21-year-old Sophie Scholl, her brother, 24-year-old Hans Scholl, and 23-year-old Christoph Probst, a married father with three children.

Christoph Probst: It wasn’t in vain.

Sophie Scholl: The sun is still shining.

The execution scene from Marc Rothemund’s 2005 German film, Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (“Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage”). On February 22, 1943 the three condemned White Rose students—Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch), Christoph Probst (Florian Stetter) and Hans Scholl (Fabian Hinrichs)—are allowed a final moment together before being beheaded in Munich’s Stadelheim Prison.

By the start of 1943, the the Nazis were badly losing the Battle of Stalingrad in Russia that had been raging since August 1942. Its outcome was a major turning point in the war. The German armed forces experienced nearly one million casualties in six months. The American, British, and the Russian armed forces were closing in on Hitler’s Third Reich from many sides.

Since June 1942 five anti-Nazi leaflets had been written and distributed in and around the university in Munich. The distribution channels as well as the network of this new clandestine anti-Nazi group—who eventually called themselves the German Resistance Movement, a.k.a. the White Rose—had steadily expanded during the creation of these leaflets.

Conditions were growing tense in Germany. There was a developing global consensus—that included some even in Germany— that Hitler’s war was ultimately unwinnable for the Fascist tyrant. As these totalitarian thugs had lashed out to consolidate power so, as ultimate military victory was slipping away, the regime stooped to any means to crush its internal enemies.

Sophie Scholl, May 9, 1921-February 22, 1943.

Sophie Scholl had almost not graduated from high school in May 1940 because she was sick and tired of the curriculum’s relentless political (Nazi) indoctrination. Scholl was fond of children and took a job teaching kindergarten. But her motivation was not simply that she had found an early vocation but hoped to steer clear of Germany’s six-month National Labor Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst).

The Nazis found her anyway— and Sophie taught at a National Labor Service-approved nursery as part of the war effort. Scholl might not have bothered with the National Labor Service at all except that the Nazis had set it up as a prerequisite for attending university.

In her personal reading Sophie Scholl had already developed an interest in philosophy and theology and wanted to pursue these subjects academically. The Labor Service experience did contribute, however, to Sophie’s outlook—she reacted completely against its militaristic aspects to the point where she started to practice forms of nonviolent resistance.

1940 Letter from Sophie Scholl to a Friend – White Rose Memorial Room – Interior of Main Building of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat – Munich – Germany.

In May 1942, 21-year-old Sophie started at the University in Munich. Her older brother Hans, studying medicine and philosophy at the school, introduced his younger sister to all his friends. Though Hans had evolving and increasingly strong anti-Nazi views, as did his friends, camaraderie revolved around the arts, music, philosophy and theology. The Scholls were also physically active—especially hiking and swimming.

Sophie pursued her intellectual interests at the university making connections with artists, writers, and philosophers. Her father, a hometown mayor, had been put in prison for an indirect critical remark he made about Hitler—and Sophie’s quest to understand how she, as an individual, should act under a dictatorship was intensely personal.

The White Rose formed and began writing and publishing anti-Nazi leaflets in June and July 1942—but Hans Scholl kept his dangerous undertaking secret from Sophie. But, in November 1942, when Sophie learned about the White Rose, she immediately joined.

Hans Scholl (Fabian Hinrichs), left, and Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch) in the 2005 German historical film, Sophie Scholl – The Final Days.

On February 18, 1943, in the wake of the battle of Stalingrad, and major Allied victories in Africa which had the Americans and British closing in on Hitler’s Europe, the sixth and final leaflet produced by the White Rose was distributed by Hans and Sophie Scholl and others of the White Rose at Munich University. The leaflet had been written by Kurt Huber, a university faculty and White Rose member, and stated that the “day of reckoning” had finally come for “[Hitler,] the most contemptible tyrant that the German people has ever endured.”

The Atrium, Munich University, where the Scholls dropped the sixth leaflets on February 18, 1943, which led to their arrest by the Gestapo.

Atrium, Munich University.

Bringing the leaflets in suitcases, the Scholls stacked them in corridors of the main building—and the hurried activity, including tossing the last leaflets into the atrium, was noticed by a maintenance man who reported it. Before their arrest by the Gestapo, Sophie had successfully gotten rid of any incriminating evidence. But the Gestapo did find fragments of a seventh leaflet by Christoph Probst on Hans Scholl’s person and, upon searching the Scholls’ apartment, confirmed the White Rose writings. The Gestapo was going to let Sophie free, but when she discovered her older brother had been arrested, she confessed to her full role.

Hans and Sophie Scholl lived in the rear of this apartment building at 13 Franz-Joseph Strasse in Munich from June 1942 until their arrest on February 18, 1943 and execution on February 22, 1943.

Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst.

During the interrogation following her arrest, transcripts show that Sophie defended herself mainly by claiming her right to act based on an individual “theology of conscience.”

On February 22, 1943, the Scholls and Christoph Probst were tried in the Volksgerichtshof (The People’s Court) before rabid Nazi judge Roland Freisler. Sophie interrupted the judge several times during his tirades. The court record shows her saying to the judge: “Somebody—after all—had to make a start. What we wrote and said is believed by many others. They just don’t dare to express themselves as we did.” The trio were found guilty of treason and condemned to death. They were guillotined the same day at Munich’s Stadelheim Prison.

Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst, a married father of three children, were tried in the Volksgerichtshof (The People’s Court) before the rabid Nazi judge Roland Freisler. Transcripts show Sophie told the judge, Somebody—after all—had to make a start. What we wrote and said is believed by many others. They just don’t dare to express themselves as we did.

White Rose stamp – Sophie and Hans Scholl.

Hans Scholl was, with Alexander Schmorell (1917-executed by the Nazis in prison, July 13, 1943), a founding member of the White Rose in 1942. After serving as a medic on the Eastern Front in 1939, Hans Scholl became determined to do something to change the German people’s minds about the Nazi regime and its war effort.

By June 1942 the White Rose (Weiße Rose) had been founded on principles of nonviolent intellectual resistance to the Nazis—a highly dangerous proposition in a totalitarian regime.

Detail of Typewriter Used to Produce White Rose Anti-Nazi Leaflets – White Rose Memorial Room – Interior of Main Building of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat – Munich – Germany.

Between June and mid-July 1942, Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell wrote four leaflets against the Nazis appealing to the truth of the people’s consciences based on facts. “Isn’t it true that every honest German is ashamed of the government these days?’ the writers asked in their first leaflet. “Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of the shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible crimes reach the light of day?”

Alexander Schmorell was. with Hans Scholl, a co-founder of the White Rose. Schmorell co-wrote their leaflets. A Russian-German student at Munich University, Schmorell was sentenced to death at 25 years old on April 19, 1943 at the second trial of the White Rose at the Volksgerichtshof. With Munich University faculty member Kurt Huber, also a White Rose member and leaflet writer, Schmorell was beheaded at Munich’s Stadelheim Prison on July 13, 1943. In 2012, Schmorell was declared a saint and martyr in the Russian Orthodox Church.

In the second leaflet the White Rose spoke of the crimes of the Holocaust: “Since the conquest of Poland, 300,000 Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way…The German people sleep in a stupid sleep and encourage the Fascist criminals…”

The third leaflet appealed to the German people’s “spirit” to eliminate the Nazi system in their midst.

Leaflets, Memorial to Scholls at Munich University.

For the next four months, until November 1942, Scholl, Schmorell, and other young members of the White Rose were drafted to again serve as medics on the Eastern Front. War’s ongoing horrors that they witnessed only strengthened their resolve to resist.

At their return to Germany in autumn 1942 Sophie Scholl, Hans’ younger sister (born May 9, 1921), learned about the White Rose and Hans’ involvement in it, and eagerly joined the group.

Sophie Scholl bust, Munich University.

With the Battle of Stalingrad raging since August 1942, the White Rose (now called the German Resistance Movement) produced a fifth leaflet in January 1943. It was an appeal addressed to all Germans and the White Rose made almost 10,000 copies to distribute. The leaflet presented a straightforward analysis of the situation so to jog people’s intellect to take moral action. To state, as the leaflet did, that “Hitler cannot win the war; he can only prolong it.” was pure heresy to the all-encompassing propaganda arm of the dictatorship.

In the Battle of Stalingrad which the Nazis lost—it was the major turning point in the war—Hitler made an intense appeal to the German people’s patriotism. By one count, the German armed forces experienced nearly one million casualties in about six months.

The German populace—as well as people around the world– understood that Hitler’s defeat was inevitable. But, unlike the Americans and British who, in November 1942, successfully began and concluded Operation Torch in French Morocco pushing the Germans east and out of North Africa and next out of Southern Europe, few Germans were willing to even yet criticize the Nazi regime let alone take action as did the handful of young students and faculty of the White Rose.

White Rose Leaflets, memorial.

The White Rose’s fifth leaflet called all Germans to “Support the resistance movement!” The leaflet labeled Nazi policies as racist and subhuman, imperialist and militarist—and to be resisted. But further, a future Germany and Europe must, stated the White Rose in this penultimate leaflet, protect “freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of any dictator states.”

It was in January 1943 that the White Rose was beginning to expand its operation to make connection with older anti-Nazi groups already formed and operating in Germany, such as the Kreisau Circle led by Helmuth James von Moltke (1907-executed by the Nazis in prison, January 23, 1945).

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke (1907–1945) was one of the leaders of an early diverse group of anti-Nazi intellectuals known as the Kreisau Circle. In prison since January 1944, Von Moltke is photographed at his trial in July 1944. The Nazis executed Moltke in prison in January 1945. By early 1943, members of the mostly student-led White Rose were starting to expand their network of contacts to include other anti-Nazi groups such as the Kriesau Circle.

With the defeat at Stalingrad officially announced by the Nazis in early February 1943, the totalitarian regime blamed the German people. This included pointing a finger at university students as unpatriotic who did not serve in the army. Such slanderous and cowardly accusations from Nazi leaders who pompously impugned German intellectual youth in the wake of a massive Hitler-led military defeat making for one million casualties and devastating the nation’s morale, sparked a riot by students at the university in Munich. A growing chaos under the totalitarian regime had a heartbeat—and as in all totalitarian regimes, scapegoats must be found and made examples of. The leaflets of the White Rose had been disseminating anti-Nazi literature since June 1942. Its perpetrators had yet to be found out—and stood square at the tip of the Fascist dictatorship’s spear.

The White Rose, its members actively looking to capitalize on the energy of the students’ righteous indignation, decided to send out their sixth and last leaflet—which they did on February 18, 1943. The sixth leaflet, written by Munich faculty Kurt Huber (1893-executed by the Nazis in prison, July 13, 1943), and revised by Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell, said that with “the dead of Stalingrad [to] adjure us!,” the “day of reckoning” had finally come for “[Hitler,] the most contemptible tyrant that the German people has ever endured.” The group also stenciled slogans on university walls and buildings throughout Munich, the Nazi Party’s home base, stating “Down with Hitler!” and “Freedom!”

Munich University, Main Corridor.

The distribution of the leaflets packed in suitcases—this time including the public participation of Sophie Scholl—took place on Thursday, February 18, 1943. It is what led to the arrest, trial, conviction, and execution by beheading of Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst by the Nazis within the span of the next four days.

Sophie Scholl’s last words were: It is such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go. But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days? How many young, promising lives? What does my death matter if by our acts thousands are warned and alerted? Among the student body there will certainly be a revolt!

Hans Scholl’s last words were Es lebe die Freiheit! (Let Freedom live!)

Christoph Probst, Hans and Sophie Scholl graves, Perlach Cemetery in Munich.

Scholl graves, Perlach Cemetery, Munich.

PHOTO CREDITS–

Hans and Sophie Scholl, painting —“Hans and Sophie Scholl, painting” by Ralf van Bühren is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Sophie Scholl” by jimforest is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“1940 Letter from Sophie Scholl to a Friend – White Rose Memorial Room – Interior of Main Building of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat – Munich – Germany” by Adam Jones, Ph.D. – Global Photo Archive is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

“White Rose film” by jimforest is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Atrium, Munich University” by Alex J Donohue is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Atrium, Munich University” by Alex J Donohue is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“13 Hans Joseph Strasse, Munich” by Alex J Donohue is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst–“The White Rose” by jimforest is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Sophie Scholl on trial – film” by jimforest is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“White Rose stamp – Sophie & Hans Scholl” by jimforest is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Detail of Typewriter Used to Produce White Rose Anti-Nazi Leaflets – White Rose Memorial Room – Interior of Main Building of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat – Munich – Germany” by Adam Jones, Ph.D. – Global Photo Archive is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

“White Rose Public Memorial – Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat – Munich – Germany – 05” by Adam Jones, Ph.D. – Global Photo Archive is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

“Leaflets memorial for Hans and Sophie Scholl” by Alex J Donohue is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Sophie Scholl bust, Munich University” by Alex J Donohue is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“White Rose Movement Public Memorial – Geschwister-Scholl-Platz – Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat – Munich – Germany – 01” by Adam Jones, Ph.D. – Global Photo Archive is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

“File:Bundesarchiv Bild 147-1277, Volksgerichtshof, Helmuth James Graf v. Moltke.jpg” by Unknown is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

“Interior of Main Building of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat – Munich – Germany – 01” by Adam Jones, Ph.D. – Global Photo Archive is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

white flowers/leaflets–“White Rose Movement Public Memorial – Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat – Munich – Germany – 02” by Adam Jones, Ph.D. – Global Photo Archive is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Probst–“Hans and Sophie Scholl graves, Perlach Cemetery in Munich” by Dage – Looking For Europe is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Hans and Sophie Scholl graves, Perlach Cemetery in Munich” by Dage – Looking For Europe is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Frieheit–“Hans and Sophie Scholl graves, Perlach Cemetery in Munich” by Dage – Looking For Europe is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Heino Eller (1887-1970) and Lepo Sumera (1950-2000): Two Influential 20th-Century Estonian Composers Whose Contemporary Classical Music Spanned from World War I to the “Singing Revolution” of the 1990s.

Heino Eller (1887-1970) and Lepo Sumera (1950–2000) were both influential Estonian composers and music composition teachers. Following his graduation in 1920 from the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, Heino Eller taught music theory and composition in Estonia for the next 50 years.

The list of Eller’s students who are well-regarded composers in Estonia and internationally is lengthy and Eller’s musical legacy lives on through them.

Lepo Sumera is one of those students who, in Eller’s last years, studied with the legendary Estonian composer in Tallinn. Other notable Estonian composers who studied with Eller, starting in Tartu, are Eduard Tubin (1905–1982), Olav Roots (1910–1974), Karl Leichter (1902–1987), and Alfred Karindi (1901–1969). Eller’s students also included religious/minimalist music composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1985) and classical/film music composer Jaan Rääts (1932-2020), among others.

Heino Eller (center) in a group portrait with his students from The Tartu Higher Music School of composition in the 1930’s. Left to right: Estonian composers Eduard Tubin (1905–1982), Olav Roots (1910–1974), Eller, Karl Leichter (1902–1987) and Alfred Karindi (1901–1969). Photo: Public Domain, author unknown.

Lepo Sumera (1950-2000), Estonian composer, student of Heino Eller, and Minister of Culture during Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” between 1988 and 1992. Sumera is shown in his official government capacity in 1991. Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” signaled Estonia’s second revolution of independence from the Soviet Union in the twentieth century (the first was in 1920) which helped end the Cold War following World War Two. Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0.

From 1920 to 1940, Heino Eller, born in Tartu, Estonia, taught music theory and composition at Tartu Higher School for Music (today known as the Heino Eller Music School). During World War II, Eller’s wife, pianist Anna Kremer (1887-1942), was executed by the Nazis in a concentration camp because of her Jewish ethnicity.

After the war and following the Soviet occupation, Eller taught at Estonia’s Tallinn Conservatory until his death in 1970. It was at Tallinn State Conservatory (today the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre) that Lepo Sumera studied with Heino Eller. Following Eller’s death, Sumera graduated from Tallinn Conservatory having studied with Estonian composer Heino Jürisalu (1930-1991).

Eller: Romanticism, Modernism and Folk Songs.

Eller’s early music (before 1940) is characterized by a broad romanticism which takes in impressionism, expressionism and modernism. His melodies and orchestrations are lyrical and refined by way of varying modernist modes of polyphony. Eller’s orchestral, ensemble and piano works often utilize the melodies and/or structures of Estonian folk songs.

Charles Coleman’s arrangement of Heino Eller’s Three Pieces for Flute and Piano (or string orchestra) was created in 2005. In three movements: 1. In the Valley 2. On the River and 3. In the Meadow, the performance of “In the Meadow” features soloist Maarika Järvi on flute. She performs with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra conducted by the flutist’s brother, Kristjan Järvi. (2:06 minutes).

Three Pieces, flute and piano was composed in 1952. Whereas Eller’s music had been generally lyrical-romantic, influenced by Chopin, Grieg, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin, Eller’s musical idiom changed after World War II.

Eller’s music turned simpler and relied increasingly on folk melodies. By the early 1950’s his orchestral works with an illustrative idiom such as Flight of the Eagle (1950) and Singing Fields (1951) reflected official Soviet cultural policy to which Estonia, in Eller’s lifetime after 1940, was incorporated. It wasn’t until the end of the 1950’s, however, that Eller’s symphonic arrangements grew structurally denser.

Lepo Sumera: introduced electro-acoustic trends to Estonian music

As a student of Heino Eller, Lepo Sumera shared with the legendary composer a keen attention to compositional detail as well as being a key figure in his generation to introduce international contemporary music ideas and trends to the country.

In his 50 restive and creative years the late-20th century Estonian composer and teacher, Lepo Sumera, wrote six symphonies, the bedrock of his musical corpus. Sumera regularly collaborated with theatrical figures, film directors, choreographers, and artists to create over 70 film scores and music for the stage.

From 1988 to 1992, during the days of Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” which helped to end the Cold War, Lepo Sumera was his country’s Minister of Culture. It was not easy for the new government minister as his own house was subject to restitution to its rightful owners following the end of a half century of Soviet occupation.

Lepo Sumera was known by his students as a kind and thoughtful man. The professor and composer thought it nothing to bend down in the middle of a discussion on musical composition to tie the untied laces of a child’s shoe of one of his students. Whereas Sumera’s themes, especially in his symphonies, tackle quintessential issues of humanity—life, death, love, torment, and so on, in music that is multi-layered, dramatic and richly colored—his other and shorter works frequently offer a weightless, shimmering quality that lend to the music a sense of timelessness.

Performance at the 2019 Pärnu Music Festival of Lepo Sumera’s waltz from the animated 1986 color short film Kevadine kärbes (“Spring Fly.”). Arranged by Mihkel Kerem, Sumera’s music is characteristically playful and humorous but expressively direct. It is performed by the Estonian Festival Orchestra founded by Paavo Järvi in 2011. (7:39 minutes).

Heino Eller, Estonian stamp, 125th anniversary of Eller’s birth (2012).

Sketch portrait of Lepo Sumera, 2018, by Khanzhin Ivan. CC BY-SA 4.0.

SOURCES: https://www.emic.ee/?sisu=heliloojad&mid=58&id=11&lang=eng&action=view&method=biograafia

https://estonianworld.com/culture/lepo-sumera-a-restless-creative-mind-and-an-extraordinary-human-being/

https://www.masterstudies.com/universities/Estonia/Estonian-Academy-Of-Music-And-Theatre/

Quotations: President Watching. (10 Quotes).

The advent of the new president changed everything. The Roosevelts transformed the White House as completely as the swift march of public thoughts and events had changed the country. No longer did the Executive Mansion resemble a medieval castle besieged by the forces of progress. The drawbridges were figuratively let down, and the moats drained of their timeworn prejudices. The archers of reaction withdrew from their turrets, and the victorious New Deal army took over the battlements.” George Abell and Evelyn Gordon, Let Them Eat Caviar, Dodge Publishing Co., New York, 1937.

“Even that son of a bitch looks impressive in that getup!” Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980), at the White House after visiting President Warren Harding in the Oval Office. Quoted in Katherine Graham’s Washington, Knopf, 2002.

Alice Roosevelt was President Teddy Roosevelt’s oldest child and the only child of Roosevelt and his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, who died in childbirth. Alice grew up to be an independent, unconventional and outspoken “first daughter” and was an important figure in the women’s movement in the first half of the 20th century.

Alice Longworth was perfectly realistic about Harding—and didn’t like the Republican president very much. Sen. Brandegee of Connecticut, a member of Harding’s own inner circle, called the former newspaper owner of The Marion Star, Senator from Ohio, and 29th U.S. President, “no world-beater, but he’s the best of the second-raters.”

[The Wilsons] finally settled on a house in the 2300 block of S Street, Northwest, and purchased it…[W]e rode by everyday, and the President was eager as a bridegroom about getting back to private life. He seemed to gain new strength as he shed the idea of responsibility and assumed the freedom of a civilian. But he did not forget his dreams.” Colonel Edmund W. Starling, Starling of the White House…as told to Thomas Sugrue…, Simon & Schuster.

Colonel Edmund William Starling (1875-1944) was chief of the Secret Service detail in the White House from 1914 to 1943. In his thirty years of service at the White House he was responsible for the personal safety of five President of the United States—Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Starling idolized Woodrow Wilson. His first exposure to Wilson left him “in a daze.” Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the posthumous book is based on over 11,000 personal letters Starling wrote over the decades, mostly to his mother back home. Starling’s ashes are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

SOURCES: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/ewstarling.htm; https://hoptownchronicle.org/hopkinsville-native-edmund-w-starling-protected-five-presidents-as-a-secret-service-agent/

“As Senate majority leader, I participated in many private conferences with President Franklin D. Roosevelt….Usually we would talk in his bedroom at the White House, and the President, wrapped in his cherished gray bathrobe, which he clung to year after year….would interrupt work on a pile of papers and puff at a cigarette through his long ivory holder as we exchanged views.” Alben W. Barkley (1877-1956), That Reminds Me, 1954.

Senator Barkley (later Vice President Barkley under President Harry S. Truman) describes an almost iconic FDR- one can almost imagine a bespectacled 32nd president smoking a cigarette from a long cigarette (in this instance, ivory) holder and jauntily thrusting his chin forward.

Alben W. Barkley, Democrat of Kentucky, was one of the most prominent American politicians of the first half of the 20th Century. Barkley hoped expectantly to someday be the U.S. President–or at least his party’s sometime presidential nominee, particularly in 1952. The longtime majority leader of the U.S. Senate had to settle, however, for being a one-term vice-president in the executive branch. After Truman chose Barkley to be his running mate in 1948 and that ticket triumphed in one of American history’s most astounding upsets, Alben Barkley became a popular national figure known everywhere as “The Veep.” Like his Kentucky forebear Abraham Lincoln, Vice President Barkley was a noted story-teller and often started his sentence with, “And that reminds me…” 

“It was all gone now-the life-affirming, life-enhancing zest, the brilliance, the wit, the cool commitment, the steady purpose….[President Kennedy] had so little time: it was as if Jackson had died before the nullification controversy and the Bank War, as if Lincoln had been killed six months after Gettysburg or Franklin Roosevelt at the end of 1935 or Truman before the Marshall Plan.” Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) on the death of JFK. From A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, Houghton Mifflin, 1965.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. was an American historian who resigned from Harvard and was appointed Special Assistant to the President in the Kennedy Administration in January 1961. Per Kennedy’s desire, Schlesinger served as a sort of ad hoc roving reporter and troubleshooter on behalf of the president. In February 1961, Schlesinger was told of the plans for what developed into the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 and wrote a memorandum to the president telling him that he opposed the action. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 Schlesinger aided United Nations ambassador Adlai Stevenson on his presentation to the world body on behalf of the Kennedy Administration’s ultimately successful efforts to peacefully remove Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. On November 22, 1963, Schlesinger had flown to New York for a luncheon with Washington Post owner Katharine Graham and the editors of her magazine, Newsweek. As they still sipped pre-luncheon libations and amiably talked about upcoming college football games that weekend, a young man in shirtsleeves suddenly entered the gathering. He tentatively announced to the group that, as Schlesinger relates in A Thousand Days, “the President has been shot in the head in Texas.”

“[George Washington’s] mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong, though not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon, or Locke; and as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion.” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president, Letter, January 1814.

After returning from France where he served as Minister Plenipotentiary with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin in Paris in the mid-to-late 1780’s, Thomas Jefferson accepted President George Washington’s invitation to serve as the nation’s first Secretary of State in the early 1790’s. Jefferson eventually left Washington’s cabinet over his opposition to Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s promotion of a national debt and national bank in contrast to Jefferson’s vision of a minimalist federal government (see Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Random House, 1998, pp. 221-222). Thomas Jefferson was elected the third president of the United States in 1800 and served two terms as president. In 1803 Jefferson transacted the Louisiana Purchase that doubled the size of the United States and in the process acquired the most fertile tract of land of its size on Earth.

“During the inaugural parade [President George H.W.] Bush kept darting in and out of his limousine…These pop-outs were much better received than the Jimmy Carter business of walking the whole parade route. We Americans like our populists in small doses and preferably from an elitist.” P.J. O’Rourke, PARLIAMENT OF WHORES, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991.

The Bushes were a big family and family oriented. O’Rourke reported in his best-selling book that on the first night of Bush’s presidency 28 members of the Bush family spent it at the White House.

“Mr Jefferson has reason to reflect upon himself. How he will get rid of his Remorse in his Retirement I know not. He must know that he leaves the government infinitely worse than he found it and that from his own Error or Ignorance. I wish his Telescopes and Mathematical Instruments, however, may secure his Felicity. But If I have not mismeasured his Ambition, he will be uneasy, and the Sword will cutt away the Scabbard. As he has, however a good Taste for Letters and an ardent curiosity for Science, he may and I hope will find Amusement and consolation from them: for I have no resentment against him, though he has honoured and Salaried almost every Villain he could find who had been an Enemy to me.” Former president John Adams (1735-1826), at Quincy, letter to Benjamin Rush, April 18, 1808.

The punctuation and capitalization are Adams’ original. see– https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-5238

John Adams (1735-1826), the second president of the United States, a Federalist, and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), a Democratic-Republican, were fierce political rivals. Both lawyers—Adams from Massachusetts and Jefferson from Virginia—each were enlightened political liberals who served in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia as well as headed the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. Adams and jefferson also served together as ministers to France in the 1780’s. Into the 1790’s, as president (Adams) and vying to be (Jefferson), each served opposing visions for the direction of the new nation. At their extreme, the Federalists advocated to establish a strong Federal government that could alienate the individual rights of large groups. Jefferson’s vision of limited government included his advocacy in certain instances for state government to have the right to resist those federal laws that were injurious to local interest.

Jefferson’s narrow victory in the presidential election of 1800 made John Adams the nation’s first one-term president, and sent the New England patriarch into early retirement to Quincy, Massachusetts. For the next decade, John Adams harbored a barely hidden resentment of his political rival, if not enemy when measured by some of their florid rhetoric. Though these two sparring giants of the early republic eventually resumed civil correspondence—Adams and Jefferson stayed in contact until the day they died, both remarkably on the same day, July 4, 1826— Adams had been especially upset by the relentless propaganda campaign of Jefferson’s Republican party against him during the second president’s first term. The years-long libelous accusations described President Adams, in part, as narcissistic, incompetent, dangerous to democracy, unbalanced, and corrupt—all of which Jefferson had personally paid for and approved and which led to a premature and hasty departure of Adams as chief executive on March 4, 1801. (See Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphnix: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Random House, 1998, pp. 281-82).

Also see- https://openendedsocialstudies.org/2018/09/25/adams-jefferson-and-two-visions-for-the-united-states/

“Isn’t it nice that Calvin is President? You know we never really had room before for a dog.” Grace Coolidge (1879-1957), First Lady of the U.S. (1923-1929), in 1927.

Grace Coolidge was the wife of the 30th President of the U.S., Calvin Coolidge. Throughout her husband’s career, whether as Governor of Massachusetts, Vice-President, or President, Grace Coolidge avoided politics. Though the young Grace broke off a marriage engagement to marry Coolidge, her mother advised against marrying this young man. Calvin Coolidge and Grace Coolidge married on October 4, 1905—and Calvin Coolidge never settled his differences with his mother-in-law who felt her daughter was completely responsible for his rising political fortunes. The Coolidges had two sons, John (1906–2000) and Calvin (1908–1924). After Calvin Coolidge, Jr. died of blood poisoning in July 1924, the Coolidges were inconsolable. The story is well-known: while playing lawn tennis with his brother, John, at the White House, the teenager developed a blister on one of his toes. Within the week, the 16-year-old was dead of a blood infection despite being admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. (see- https://www.coolidgefoundation.org/blog/the-medical-context-of-calvin-jr-s-untimely-death/)

By 1921, the wife of Vice-President Coolidge entered Washington society and quickly became the most popular woman in the capital. In 1927 when Mrs. Coolidge made these remarks, the world that her husband was facing was in flux. In 1927, as France called to outlaw war, which was endorsed by the U.S, a Great Depression already began in Germany with its economic collapse on “Black Friday.” After President Coolidge called for a Naval Disarmament Conference, only a couple of global powers showed up.

The world seemed to be getting smaller in 1927. In May 1927 American Charles Lindbergh flew solo, nonstop, from New York to Paris and started the era of transatlantic air travel. Regular transatlantic telephone service also began in 1927. In the U.S., as the stock market boomed, much of it on shaky credit, lawyers and doctors earned around 3½ times more than a teacher or factory worker. Baltimore-born “Babe” Ruth hit a record 60 home runs in New York.

The first full-length sound motion picture, The Jazz Singer, opened in 1927. In Chicago there was an important art exhibition of Chinese Buddhist art of the Wei Dynasty. In 1927, Hemingway published Men without Women; Willa Cather published Death Comes for the Archbishop; and Thomas Mann published The Magic Mountain. That year’s Pulitzer Prize went to Thornton Wilder’s second novel, The Bridge of the San Luis Rey. It told the story of people who unexpectedly die together in a rope bridge collapse in Peru and the friar who witnessed the accident looking to figure out the possibly cosmic answers as to why.

“The days of transition from Kennedy to Johnson were as hard on me as they were on anyone else–harder. I was losing a dog and gaining a President I didn’t know. Not only didn’t I know him, I didn’t think I wanted to know him. He wasn’t boyish or good-natured or quick-witted like Kennedy and I heard him cussing out the help when things weren’t done fast enough.” Traphes Bryant, Dog Days at the White House, 1975.

Traphes Bryant started out working at the White House as an electrician on the afternoon shift. That was in 1951. Bryant soon moved on to respond to other maintenance calls such as a broken White House elevator. In the 1950’s Bryant was already looking after the incumbents’ family pets, such as it was for the Trumans and Eisenhowers. That line of work became official for Traphes Bryant when John Kennedy became president in 1961. Kennedy asked Bryant to become the new presidential kennel keeper. The president liked how Bryant trained the dogs to meet the presidential helicopter that would often be seen in photographs and on film.

Though Kennedy himself was sometimes allergic to animals, First Lady Jackie Kennedy adored all sorts of animals. During the next 1000 days in office, the Kennedys kept several pets. At one point the first family, which included two small children, Caroline and John, Jr., had 9 dogs. The Kennedys also kept hamsters, horses, birds, a rabbit, and a cat. Some of the animals were gifts from foreign heads of state.

In 1961 Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent the Kennedys a mixed breed dog named Pushinka. The dog’s mother had been sent into orbit on Korabl-Sputnik 2 in 1960. Though a surprise, the Kennedy’s welcomed the canine gift. In fact, the Kennedys’ Welsh terrier, Charlie, not only had another companion but a new mate: Pushinka gave birth to four puppies fathered by Charlie. Kennedy called the litter, “the pupniks.”

Bryant was officially in charge of Pushinka’s and Charlie’s grooming, exercise, and diet—along with all the rest. Those special responsibilities for John Kennedy ended abruptly with his assassination on November 22, 1963.

see BRYANT, TRAPHES L.: ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW – JFK #1, 5/13/1964; Traphes Bryant, Dog Days at the White House, 1975; Katherine Graham’s Washington, Knopf, 2002, pp. 542-43; https://www.facebook.com/WhiteHouseHistory/posts/traphes-bryant-pictured-here-had-been-a-white-house-electrician-since-1948-worki/3374666809225225/

Hedy Lamarr: Hollywood Glamour Portraits of the 1930’s and 1940’s, a History and Commentary.

Hedy Lamarr, M-G-M, 1940. Photograph by László Willinger (1909-1989).

Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) posed for this glamour portrait in 1940 when the legendary beauty was 27 years old. Since her first American film, Algiers, in 1938, Lamarr was considered one of the most beautiful women in the movies, if not the world.

This publicity photograph of Lamaar is for the 1940 American adventure film Boom Town. It co-stars Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Claudette Colbert. The beautiful color portrait was taken by László Willinger (1909-1989), a German-born emigré who made many glamour photographs of celebrities starting in the later 1930’s.

In Boom Town, Austrian-born Lamarr plays Karen VanMeer, a sophisticated and elegant corporate spy. She is recruited by Clark Gable who plays “Big John” McMasters, an oil speculator.

Hedy Lamarr, 1939, László Willinger.

Hedy Lamarr, 1938. Photograph by Clarence Sinclair Bull (1896-1979).

Text©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

A Critical Look at Madame Bovary (1949) by Vincente Minnelli: the Waltz Scene with Jennifer Jones and Louis Jourdan.

By John P. Walsh

In the 1949 film Madame Bovary directed by Vincente Minnelli, a beautiful and charming Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) meets wealthy Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan) at a ball where he literally sweeps her off her feet. Selfishly aggravated by her husband Charles Bovary (Van Heflin) for not fitting into high society, Madame Bovary begins a love affair with Rodolphe. Though the pair scheme to elope to Italy, Rodolphe does not love Madame Bovary. 

The Waltz Scene was Filmed to the Music 

One of the film’s most carefully wrought and delightful scenes is this ballroom sequence. It was one of the last segments to be shot. The film footage was tailored to Miklós Rózsa’s music. Minnelli explained to the composer in advance the camera movements so he could write the music in an arrangement for two pianos. The scene was then filmed to match it. Their artistic collaboration produced one of cinema’s most original scenes uniting robust music with weaving and gliding images on film.

Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) and Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan) waltz at the ball. It is one of the film’s most delightful scenes and one of the last to be shot. Director Vincente Minnelli made certain its choreography carefully matched the music of Miklós Rózsa. Madame Bovary was nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.

“Break the Windows”

As Rodolphe swirls her, Emma Bovary’s head spins until she becomes dizzy. The viewer sees her disorientation as the camera takes her viewpoint. She keeps dancing but asks for fresh air. Her request leads to an extraordinary and incredible reaction by the stewards. They start to smash the ballroom’s windows with chairs to help her cool down. This fantastically destructive action of broken glass aligns with the destruction of Emma’s romantic illusions throughout the film. 

In reaction to Madame Bovary becoming dizzy while waltzing with a new lover, the stewards smash the ballroom windows to give her air. The extraordinary action ultimately becomes symbolic of the destruction of Madame Bovary’s romantic illusions with handsome and wealthy Rodolphe.

Night of Repressed Passion

Along with her husband’s boorish behavior at the ball and everywhere else, madame Bovary’s romantic disappointment leaves her feeling publicly humiliated. Instead of love and excitement, Madame Bovary runs out of the ball in shame. Though she yearns for happiness and excitement, her pursuit of selfish pleasures ends in scandal and ruin.

Jennifer Jones as Madame Bovary offers a performance that is elegant and beautiful. It is equally insightful to the selfish and nervous personality of Flaubert’s fictional character.

A film poster for Vincente Minnelli’s Madame Bovary. Several different versions of the film poster were produced for the marketing of the 1949 film.

This publicity photo for Madame Bovary showed the love triangle of Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones), her handsome lover Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan), and her hapless and cuckolded husband Charles Bovary, a medical doctor (Van Heflin).

Thirty-year-old Jennifer Jones plays Gustave Flaubert’s doomed title character, Madame Bovary, from his 1856 serial novel. Vincente Minnelli’s film of the same name offered two costume and wardrobe managers: Walter Plunkett for women and Valles for men.

Walter Plunkett was a prolific costume designer who worked on more than 150 projects in his Hollywood career, including Gone With The Wind. In 1951, Plunkett shared an Oscar with Orry-Kelly and Irene Sharaff for An American in Paris.

Valles specialized in men’s costumes at M-G-M. Valles received two Academy Award nominations, including Spartacus in 1960.

Van Heflin is Charles Bovary, whom Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) had loved and hoped to build a respectable life, but in whom she grew disillusioned.

Costumes were by award-winning Valles and Walter Plunkett, award-winning Hollywood costume designers.

A unique example of the Valles’ costume design for Louis Jourdan and Walter Plunkett’s costume design for Jennifer Jones for the 1949 film Madame Bovary. The next year, in 1950, both Valles and Walter Plunkett were nominated for the Academy Award for Compton Bennett’s That Forsyte Woman/Saga.

Madame Bovary who danced wildly with Rodolphe at the ball loves him. In the story the illicit couple plan to elope to Italy. But Rodolphe leaves for Italy without her and shatters Madame Bovary’s dreams and spirit.

Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) is indulged by an unscrupulous shop-keeper as she lives beyond her means in the pursuit of happiness. She takes on a heavy debt that is impossible to pay back.

The film plot is told from the point of view of the author, Gustave Flaubert (James Mason). a leagl porceedings takes place where Flaubert is accused of corrupting morals by writing Madame Bovary. It is an historical fact that, in 1858, Flaubert and his publisher had faced government charges of immorality for Madame Bovary. But the outcome of the trial was that Flaubert was completely acquitted.

From the waltz scene through to her death scene Jennifer Jones as Madame Bovary offers a performance that is elegant and beautiful. It also provides insight into the contradictions offered by a selfish and nervous personality.

In the end Madame Bovary finds that her own death is more attractive to her than living with her shattered dreams.

Charles, who never stopped loving his wife, begs her to wait for a doctor to arrive. Madame Bovary sighs, “Oh, Charles, why are you always trying to save me?”

A 1949 film poster for Madame Bovary that includes a head shot of James Mason as Gustave Flaubert, the story’s author.

Minnelli’s film is told in flashback through the character of Flaubert who is on trial for charges of immorality for writing the novel. After Flaubert’s work was serialized in the Revue de Paris in 1856, the government charged and tried the author and his publisher for immorality. Both were acquitted in 1859. After Madame Bovary appeared in book form in France, it became an instant classic.

Vincente Minnelli directs Jennifer Jones and Louis Jourdan in a scene from Madame Bovary. Reviews from critics were mixed and the film lost money at the box office. Whether it is the fault of the film-makers or the unhappy story is a debatable point.

Prison Meditations of German Pastor and Nazi Resister Alfred Delp, S.J. (1907-1945), executed by the Nazis in Berlin’s notorious Tegel Prison towards the end of World War II.

Alfred Delp, S.J.
All text by John P. Walsh unless otherwise noted. Color photographs by author are noted.
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FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT.

During World War II in Germany, Alfred Delp, S.J. (1907 – Berlin, 2 February 1945) was a member of the Kreisauer Kreis (The Kreisau Circle) composed of German men and women from a variety of backgrounds who opposed Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. Fr. Delp was arrested by the Nazis in 1944 and, after six months in prison in shackles, the German Catholic priest and Jesuit was sentenced to death for high treason and executed by hanging on Candlemas 1945. Following the Allied victory, Delp’s prison writings were assembled into a posthumous book called Facing Death (German: Im Angesicht des Todes). A highlight of the 37-year-old Delp’s writings are his seasonal sermons and meditations for Advent and Christmas which were written as he languished in a cell “three steps wide” surrounded by Nazi guards. His writings, scrawled on numerous slips of paper and smuggled out before his death, have been compared to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison also written in Tegel prison in Berlin, Germany, during World War II. Father Delp was developing his thoughts and writing about the annual Advent drama at least as early as 1933 so his prison writings became a concluding chapter of a lasting adult interest as he faced his death.

Alfred Delp

German-born Alfred Delp S.J. (15 September 1907 – Berlin, 2 February 1945) wrote his meditations and sermons on Advent and Christmas when he was a political prisoner of the Nazis in Germany in World War II.

From Alfred Delp, S.J., “Figures of Advent,” Advent of the Heart, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2006 (adapted):

“I see this year’s Advent (December 1944 in Berlin’s Tegel Prison) with an intensity and discomposure like never before….Along with these thoughts comes the memory of an angel that a good person gave me for Advent in 1942. It held a banner: ‘Rejoice, for the Lord is near.’ A war bomb destroyed the angel as well as that good person although I often sense that she continues to do angel-services for me. It is the knowledge of the quiet angels of annunciation, who speak their message of blessing into the distress of our world situation and scatter their blessing’s seeds which begin to grow in the middle of the night which informs and encourages us of the truth of a situation. These angels of Advent are not loud angels of public jubilation and fulfillment but, silent and unnoticed, they come into private and shabby rooms and appear before our hearts as they did long ago. Silently they bring the questions of God and proclaim to us the miracles of God, with whom nothing is impossible. Advent is a time of refuge because it has received a message – and so to believe in God’s auspicious seeds that the angels offer an open heart are the first things we must do with our lives. The next is to go through the days as announcing messengers ourselves. We wait in faith for the abundance of the coming harvest – not because we trust the earth or the stars or our own good sense and courage – but only because we have perceived God’s messages and know about His herald angels – and even have ourselves encountered one.”

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SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT.

Thomas Merton in his introduction to Alfred Delp’s Prison Writings – a modern compilation of a young German Jesuit’s writings in prison in Berlin before he was executed for high treason as a Nazi resister in World War II – states that Delp was condemned because he and others “hoped to build a new Germany on Christian principles.” (p. xxv.) Merton links Delp’s political activity in the Kreisau Circle—an underground group of about twenty-five German dissidents of diverse backgrounds opposed to the Nazi regime—to broader Church doctrine and the western tradition of liberalism in evidence since the Ancient Greeks that “always hoped to attain a more equitable world order by peaceful collaboration among nations.” (ibid.) For Delp, according to Merton, the stark choice before human beings remained the crucial one of global order or global destruction. Father Delp observed that even religious people in his time had fallen into the militaristic government’s syllogistic trap of “conquest first and a new and better world later.” Delp’s concern when making this sort of choice is that “if the person who says it tolerates or helps further conditions which are fatal to mankind…or weakens his or her own spiritual, moral, and religious sense” – then even “the most pious prayer can become a blasphemy.” (ibid.) Delp proposed that any human indifference to honesty and justice originating in passionate conviction vitiates human nature which is left to then express itself in a vicious circle of fear and arrogance. From Delp’s perspective, his active participation in Kreisauer Kreis for which he was executed by the Nazis in February 1945 pointed to the eschatological character of the Advent drama by Delp’s hope in his time for the political and social ruin of Germany which had sunk into bitter darkness and that it would find its way ahead by the light of each person’s burning candle “for honesty and justice.”

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From Alfred Delp S.J., Prison Writings, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2004:

“So this Sunday we must again fold our hands and kneel humbly before God in order that his salvation may be active in us and that we may be ready to call upon him and be moved by his presence. The arrogance so typical of modern men and women is deflated here. At the same time, the icy loneliness and helplessness into which we are frozen melts under the divine warmth that fills and blesses us …If we are terrified by a dawning realization of our true condition, that terror is completely calmed by the certain knowledge that God is on the way and actually approaching. Our fate, no matter how much it may be entwined with the inescapable logic of circumstance, is still nothing more than the way to God, the way God has chosen for the ultimate consummation of his purpose, for his permanent ends. Light your candles – such candles as you possess – for they are the appropriate symbol for all that must happen in Advent if we are to live.”

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THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT.

On Friday, July 28, 1944, two Gestapo men were waiting outside St. George’s church in Munich, a simple Baroque pile in an almost pastoral setting near the Englischer Garten. Eight days before there had been an assassination attempt on Hitler’s life which failed. For active German dissidents to the Nazi regime in custody and, for the time being, still walking free – things were going to get worse. Helmuth James Graf von Moltke (1907 – 1945), one of the leaders of the Kreisau Circle, a type of anti-Nazi salon, had been in prison since January 1944. Now, following the failed bombing at the Wolf’s Lair, the other leader of the Kreisau Circle, Peter Yorck von Wartenburg (1904 –1944), was arrested immediately, sent to Berlin and tried and executed on August 8, 1944.

St. Georg München-Bogenhausen

Interior, St. Georg München-Bogenhausen.

Interior, St. Georg München-Bogenhausen. Parish church of German resister and martyr Alfred Delp, S.J. who was serving as its pastor in World War II.

One of the two Gestapo men waiting outside St. George’s to arrest Father Alfred Delp, S.J. happened to be an old schoolmate of his. Like other Catholic bishops and priests who were de facto dissenters working against the Nazi regime, especially its social and racial ideologies and practices, Delp too had long been under close surveillance by the Gestapo. As a member of the Kreisau Circle – a group of professionals of varying religious, social, and political backgrounds but all of them dyed-in-the-wool anti-Nazis – Delp was their social scientist with a Ph.D. who illumined their minds to cutting-edge labor issues including the German worker’s role after the war in a post-Nazi Germany.

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke (March 11, 1907 – January 23, 1945). Count Moltke had close sympathies with the democratic forces of the day and expressed open criticism as he watched the rise of Hitler. In 1933 he refused to accept Nazi appointments. After the outbreak of World War II, as an expert adviser on international law and the laws of war he served as war administration councilor in the Office for Foreign Affairs/Counterintelligence in the Armed Forces High Command in Berlin. He was particularly active in advocating for humane treatment of prisoners of war and observance of international law. In 1940 Moltke with Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg became the leading figures in a group that emerged as the Kreisau Circle with its discussions held in Berlin and Kreisau. Moltke, formulating memoranda on the establishment of a new political order in Germany, systematically extended his contacts to Protestant and Catholic church leaders and to leaders of the social democratic political opposition. Moltke was arrested on January 19, 1944 after he had warned members of the Solf Circle that they were under Gestapo surveillance. His involvement in the plans for a coup against Hitler was not exposed until after the failure of the assassination attempt of July 20, 1944. Helmuth James Graf von Moltke was sentenced to death by the People’s Court on January 11, 1945 and executed on January 23, 1945 in Berlin-Plötzensee.  http://www.gdw-berlin.de/home/

Once under arrest, Delp disappeared into Nazi prisons in Munich and Berlin for almost three weeks. None of his friends could find him. At Lehrterstrasse, a Gestapo prison in Berlin that specifically dealt with German resisters, the doctor-priest was regularly beaten. Delp was charged by the National Socialists with a half dozen crimes—being in Kriesau Circle; holding resistance meetings; knowing von Moltke and other anti-Nazis; knowing Claus von Stauffenberg who placed the bomb on July 20, 1944 to assassinate Hitler; knowing in advance of the assassination plot; and, displaying a general attitude of anti-Nazism. The charge of knowing about the assassination plot before it happened greatly concerned Delp. He categorically denied it and, consequently, worked vigorously through his lawyer to disprove it.

On August 15, 1944, having moved to Tegel Prison in Berlin on August 8, Delp’s whereabouts were finally discovered by Marianne Hapig (1894-1973), a social worker and indefatigable friend to German resistance. Delp found another significant friend at Tegel—Harald Poelchau (1907-1972) the prison’s Lutheran chaplain since 1933. With the agency of chaplain Poelchau, Catholic Father Delp had wafers and wine to say mass and messages could be smuggled in and out by way of the laundry. It was through such a clandestine route that Father Delp made his final vows as a Jesuit on December 8, 1944. In front of a visiting witness, Fr. Delp pronounced the vow formula and, later apologizing for the emotion, sank into a prison chair and wept.

Marianne Hapig.

Marianne Hapig (March 5, 1894 – March 23, 1973) discovered Father Delp’s presence at Tegel prison in Berlin after his disappearance following his arrest in Munich three weeks earlier. A career social worker and anti-Nazi Marianne Hapig and her lifelong jurist friend Marianne Pünder managed to smuggle Alfred Delp’s prison writings out of Tegel prison where soon after the war they were published.

HARALD POELCHAU.

Harald Poelchau (October 5, 1903 – April 29, 1972). He gained his doctorate in 1931 under Paul Tillich, the leading representative of Religious Socialism. At the end of 1932, Poelchau applied for a prison chaplain’s post in Berlin and became the first cleric to be employed by the National Socialist regime in a penal institution. As an official in the Justice Department he rapidly became an important source of support for the victims of National Socialist violence, and gave spiritual comfort to hundreds of people sentenced to death as they faced execution. From 1941 onwards he was a member of the circle around Helmuth James Graf von Moltke and attended the first major Kreisau Conference. After the failed coup attempt of July 20, 1944 Poelchau was able to pass on last messages and farewell letters to the relatives of many of those sentenced to death. Harald Poelchau managed to avoid being investigated by the Gestapo and survived the war.

Many of Delp’s Advent writings come from these months in prison, smuggled out by Marianne Hapig and her lifelong friend Marianne Pünder. For more than a decade, Delp had written extensively on the Christian season of expectant waiting for the coming of Christmas. During these months in prison, his hands almost always in chains, Delp had identified with a specific artwork as he wrote his Advent thoughts onto endless slips of paper. It was a sixteenth century German wood sculpture of St. Sebastian known as Die gefesselten Hände (English:“Bound Hands”) by Tilman Riemenschneider (c.1460-1531).

Tilman Riemenschneider

detail Tilman Riemenschneider bound hands

Die gefesselten Hände (“Bound Hands”) by Tilman Riemenschneider (c.1460-1531). In his months in prison, Delp’s hands almost always in chains, the Catholic priest and Nazi resister identified with this specific artwork as he wrote down his thoughts.

At his two-day trial in January 1945, rabid Nazi judge Roland Freisler was interested in one charge against Delp – his association with von Moltke. The leader of Kreisauer Kreis would be soon on death row and executed on January 23, 1945. Friesler’s reign of terror already included five thousand death sentences as president of the People’s Court since 1942. It did not help that Delp was a Catholic priest and Jesuit. So with Hitler, Friesler was maniacally anticlerical. Although many Nazis grew up as Catholics, in adulthood such notorious men as Hitler, Josef Goebbels, Martin Bormann, Heinrich Himmler, and others, held Christianity in utter and complete contempt. (Ian Kershaw; Hitler: a Biography; pp. 381–82). Once in power, Hitler believed that Christianity signified “the systematic cultivation of the human failure” and that its religious organization and central beliefs had to be marginalized and eventually purged from a heroic German worldview (Alan Bullock; Hitler: a Study in Tyranny; p. 218). When Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, the Superior-General of the Jesuits was just then a Pole, Wlodimir Ledóchowski, S.J. (1866 –1942). Ledóchowski who was in charge of neutral Vatican Radio made international broadcasts about Nazi wartime atrocities in many languages.

Wlodimir Ledóchowski, S.J.

Wlodimir Ledóchowski, S.J. (1866 –1942) had been the Polish Superior-General of the Jesuits since 1915 when Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, setting off World War II. A renowned institutional builder, Ledóchowski established several notable institutes and colleges in Rome. In January 1940, Vatican Radio controlled by the Jesuits and with Pope Pius XII’s authorization broadcast the details of the Polish wartime situation. When the German ambassador protested the German language broadcasts, the Pope honored the request.  But Vatican Radio broadcasts in other languages of the Poland situation continued and in even more explicit detail. The British press at the time hailed Vatican Radio as “tortured Poland’s powerful advocate.” (Peter Hebblethwaite; Paul VI The First Modern Pope, Paulist Press, 1993, p. 140.)

That Father Delp remained a Jesuit—even after he was offered a plea deal by the Nazis to walk free of all charges if he renounced his religious faith—undoubtedly deserved the death penalty in Freisler’s court. After the death sentence was pronounced on January 11, 1945, the typical procedure of immediate execution was delayed. During this time, the bombing by British and Americans intensified. Delp desperately hoped that the Allies would arrive in time to set political prisoners like him free. But, finally, on February 2, 1945, at Berlin-Plötzensee Alfred Delp was taken from his holding pen by the Nazi executioner and executed by hanging. The next day, February 3, 1945, Roland Freisler presiding in his People’s Court, was killed by collateral damage in an Allied bombing attack.

Original Painting of Jesus by Thérèse of Lisieux.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (French, 1873-1897) traced and painted this image of the Holy Face of Jesus and tacked it to wool for hanging as a gift to her sister Céline who was at home at Les Buissonnets taking care of their widower father who was suffering from illness. The National Shrine of St. Thérèse in Darien, Illinois. A similar sort of facial expression may be expected to be found on Father Delp for his condemnation and execution by the Nazis on February 2, 1945 for “hop[ing] to build a new Germany on Christian principles.”

From Alfred Delp, S.J., “Meditation for the Third Sunday of Advent Written in Tegel Prison, Berlin, December 1944” (adapted), Advent of the Heart, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2006:

“Mankind is challenged again to stand and deliver. Only man does not merely exchange one set of chains for another – God’s calls are always creative. They increase the very reality within us that is called upon – precisely because of their realness and authenticity…Freedom is the breath of life. We sit in musty bomb cellars and cramped prisons and groan under the bursting and destructive blows of fate. We should finally stop giving everything a false glamour and unrealistic value and begin to bear it for what it is – unredeemed life. As soon as we do this, the jangling of chains and the trembling of nerves and the faintness of heart transform themselves into a small prayer – “Drop down, dew…” We should much more definitively unite our concrete destiny with those kind of connections and call upon God’s redeeming freedom. Then the narrowness widens, our lungs breathe in fresh air again, and the horizon has promises again. Existence still weeps and mourns, but already a soft, joyous melody of longing and knowledge is ringing through the mourners’ broken voices. With this knowledge and attitude humanity releases itself from the lonely relationship to things and circumstances. A person finds wholesomeness and healing – not the goal-oriented, cool distance of calculation, mechanization, and organization. It is rather that higher level of freedom, the perspective given to someone looking from the heights to what lies below. The voice of such a person is not so quickly silenced!”

“The conditions for true joy have nothing to do with conditions of our exterior life but consist of humanity’s interior frame of mind and competence, which make it possible now and again for the person to sense, even in adverse circumstances, what life is really about…And the first answer is found in the figure of John the Baptist who personifies Advent. Humanity must be brought to an absolute clarity about himself and honestly before himself and others. He must come down from all the pedestals of arrogance onto which he always climbs…From the high-horses of vanity and self-deception that, for a time, let themselves be trotted out so proudly. Those horses though finally throw off their “master” in the wilderness…Two criteria identify whether we are following an authentic impulse or not…Both are found once again in John the Baptist. The first is service – human honesty requires a person to see himself as a servant and perceive his reality as mission and an assignment…The second criterion keeps us on track- annunciation, which calls us to praise of God. An extended personal effort is required to keep giving oneself the impulse to rise above, move away from self. But at the same time this is how a human being attains the necessary openness in which he or she must continue if sincerely wanting to strive toward the great realities God has prepared for him or her.”

Advent Nativity
Advent Nativity.

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT.

Merton makes clear about Father Delp that his writings on Advent are usually a simple presentation of the traditional Christian faith with no special originality to his images. (p. xxxv, Prison Writings). It is Delp’s application of those facts based in his personal experience – that is, as an active dissident and prisoner of a Germany in ruins during World War II – that infuses a sometimes hackneyed outcome to Advent of its original hope. In Fr. Delp’s world, if humanity is fully alert to the desperation and bitterness of the times, Advent’s basic image of God-made-man becomes opportune, favorable, for humanity’s future although not holding any foregone conclusions or sudden outcomes.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19.

Thomas Merton views Father Delp’s Advent meditations in Pauline terms, although Delp himself found St. Paul had a ‘tendency to over-emphasize.’ (p. 55, ibid.). Humanity hopes in God’s close alliance so to win back or have restored a future that is not any longer in ruins and in which humanity – and even life itself – is absurdly helpless to fix.

From Alfred Delp S.J., Prison Writings, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2004:

“God in the Christmas encounter is still the challenging God. The greatest misconceptions all center round the typical Christmas picture of God.  Humanity becomes so wrapped up in appearance that the breathtaking reality of the birth of God as a human child scarcely enters our mind and the soul doesn’t grasp its significance….Of course the externals, the sweet sentimental pictures, carols, cribs and so on, are a comfort….but there is a great deal more to the nativity than that. The truth of it is too tremendous to be appreciated unless one concentrates on it fully. Since the birth of God, humanity has been confirmed in the hope that when we turn to God’s throne for favor that God is on our side. This does not mean that God has dethroned Himself any more than it means that human life has become a primrose path in the wake of that stupendous event. We need to look critically at the tendency to sentimentalize the divine attributes by personifying them in an innocent child or over-beautifying the adult Jesus. The glamorizing of the nativity story – the making the whole tone of Christ’s life equal to a Baroque sermon full of ominous warnings and grave moralizing –  has contributed quite a lot to the West’s being paralyzed in the face of those conditions that hinder us and keep us trapped. God became man but nevertheless is God, master of all creation. Human beings must approach the God-made-man with reverence and adoration – disenthralling themselves in order to find themselves. It is the only way.”

Nativity window.
Nativity stained glass window (detail), Sts. Peter & Paul, Naperville, IL.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Bullock, Alan, Hitler: a Study in Tyranny, Completely Revised Edition, Harper & Row, New York, 1964.

Delp, S.J., Alfred, Advent of the Heart, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2006.

Delp, S.J., Alfred, Prison Writings, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2004.

Hebblethwaite, Peter, Paul VI The First Modern Pope, Paulist Press, New York, 1993.

Kershaw, Ian, Hitler: a Biography, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2010.

Kidder, Annemarie S., Ultimate Price Testimonies of Christians who Resisted the Third Reich, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2012.

Royal, Robert, The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century A Comprehensive World History, Crossroad, New York, 2000.

Bl. Franz Jägerstätter (1907-1943): Austrian Farmer, Husband and Father, Conscientious Objector, and Martyr.

Text by John P. Walsh

Dated October 26, 2017.

In his 17-minute speech at the TED conference in April 2017, Pope Francis talked about the importance of human interdependence, equality, and inclusion. Perhaps surprisingly, the pope stressed the power of the human individual to affect positive change. While one might expect a pope to wax on communal connections reflected in a Gospel passage such as, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20), Pope Francis looked instead to the radical nature of the single individual to bring about a message of hope into the world. Pope Francis said: “A single individual is enough for hope to exist and only then it turns into ‘us.’ And so, does hope only exist when it turns into us? – No. Hope starts with the individual ‘you.’ When there is an us, it starts a revolution.” Grounded in an individual’s conscience and action, hope for the world can begin. The pope is savvy enough to know that this message of hope by way of a single individual—and he encourages his TED auditors to be that individual— does not comes without its price. What Mother Teresa of Calcutta said on love the pope adapted to any message of hope: that it cannot be done “unless it comes at your own expense.”

The power of an individual to be the cause of hope with potential to revolutionize even a nation is what Richard Attenborough (1923-2014) dramatizes from history in his 1983 Academy-Award-winning bio-pic film, Gandhi (1983). Early in the three-hour film, in segregated South Africa, young Indian lawyer Mohandas K. Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) is visited at his ashram by an equally young American journalist (Martin Sheen) who tells Gandhi he is an awfully small minority to be taking on governments and empires. But Gandhi replies: “If you are a minority of one – the truth is the truth.”

Questions of the conflict of the morality of individual conscience and the social morality which is directed to the attainment and conservation of the values represented by the state and the nation is part of what the young American journalist, in the film Gandhi, warned the hero about—and which remains in tension in any era, including today. The debate surrounding the nature or limits of individual conscience as well as its interaction with cultural earthly values and things is bound to be— at least philosophically and even theologically— complex and indefinite. Arguments and subtleties become rife when these topics are raised. Following some of the definitions and descriptions of conscience from Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) — and as only part of the range for hope that Pope Francis alludes to in his TED speech— the conscience’s normal function relates to resisting action demanded from within or outside the self. Although conscience, according to Bonhoeffer, is not called upon in the face of good—it simply acts—nor includes the whole fabric of life, when the individual conscience encounters a forbidden act, it views it as “a peril to life as a whole, that is to say, disunion with oneself.” Bonhoeffer’s Protestant theology will not boast of having a good conscience except to say that, by it, humans importantly discover their lack of knowledge of God as well as their own corruption and that by this self-knowledge expressed in conscience find a road to God. Bonhoeffer writes: “All knowledge is now based on self-knowledge….Knowledge now means the establishment of the relationship to oneself; it means the recognition in all things to oneself and of oneself in all things. For man who is in disunion with God, all things are in this disunion, what is and what should be, life and law, knowledge and action, idea and reality, reason and instinct, duty and inclination, conviction and advantage, necessity and freedom, exertion and genius, universal and concrete, individual and collective; even truth, justice, beauty and love come into opposition with one another, just as do pleasure and displeasure, happiness and sorrow…All these disunions are varieties of the disunion in the knowledge of good and evil. The point of decision of the specifically ethical experience is always conflict. But in conflict the judge is invoked; and the judge is the knowledge of good and evil; he is man.”

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Franz Jägerstätter (May 20, 1907-executed, August 9, 1943).

On October 26, 2007 at St. Mary Cathedral in Linz, Austria, Pope Benedict XVI in front of 5,000 pilgrims beatified Franz Jägerstätter, a relatively unknown 36-year-old Austrian farmer who was executed by the Nazis in August 1943 because—similar to Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music—he was anti-Nazi and refused to fight in their armed forces. Blessed Jägerstätter’s 94-year-old widow, Franziska (1914-2013), and his four daughters, one from a previous relationship, attended the beatification. Franziska rode to the cathedral in the sidecar of a motorcycle, in memory of her husband’s love of motorcycling. After being drafted three times into the German army, Franz Jägerstätter decided after his training and noncombatant military service ended in April 1941 that he would not comply with any future compulsory enlistment in the Third Reich. To this end, he compiled gut-wrenching notes with his opinions on his conscientious objection in the face of the Nazi régime. After her husband’s arrest in early 1943, Franziska hid his writings and brought them into the light of day after the war. By that time,  Franz Jägerstätter lay buried in an obscure and sometimes defaced grave in St. Radegund, Austria, a mountainous village northwest of Salzburg. In notes written during his erratic military service—Jägerstätter had been sworn into the German army on June 17, 1940 at Braunau Am Inn which lasted only a few days before he received a deferment and then called-up again to serve from October 1940 to April 1941 until another deferment —the Austrian farmer examined issues surrounding his refusal to fight anymore. By expounding in writing as well as posing argumentative questions Jägerstätter judged what he should do in response to his deep-seated antipathy to the Nazi régime and its war effort.

For his beatification in 2007—a first step to Catholic sainthood—Jägerstätter’s family and supporters recalled his clear rejection of National Socialism because of their racial policies, including the myth of racial purity; war glorification; state deification; and their declared program of annihilating all faith and religion. Jägerstätter’s total rejection of Nazism echoed Bishop Johannes Maria Gföllner of Linz (1867-1941) whose extensive writings and sermons in this period provided a phrase Jägerstätter would consider his motto: “It is impossible to be a good Catholic and a true Nazi.” When Hitler came to Linz on March 12, 1938 Bishop Gföllner refused to meet with him and lamented other bishops in Austria who were more ingratiating. Bishop Gföllner regarded the myth of racial purity propagated by Nazism as “a backsliding into an abhorrent heathenism.” In 1933 Gföllner wrote: “The Nazi standpoint on race is completely incompatible with Christianity and must therefore be resolutely rejected. This also applies to the radical anti-Semitic racism preached by Nazism. To despise, hate and persecute the Jewish people just because of their ancestry is inhuman and against Christian principles … “

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Bishop Johannes Maria Gföllner (center) at a celebration in 1935.


Adopting St. Thomas More, St Thérèse of Lisieux and other saints (including the patron of Switzerland) as his role models, Jägerstätter challenged virtually everyone he knew or came into contact with—be it his mother, neighbors, or church or civil representatives— with his developing conviction to refuse to fight for the Third Reich. What was seen to be his civic duty and the only action he could concievably follow so to “save his life” Jägerstätter was having serious doubts over. Even Jägerstätter’s loving wife Franziska argued that he should comply with any conscription order. Less than two years before, in April 1938, Franziska had to insist that he not shirk attending the Anschluss plebiscite which Jägerstätter declared he had every intention to do. On March 12, 1938, less than one month before the plebiscite, German troops occupied Austria and, that same day, Hitler personally crossed the long-closed border to visit Linz. Under penalty of being sent to a concentration camp for electoral truancy, the official turnout for the Anschluss plebiscite was reported at 99.71%—with 99.73% in favor of annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany. Thirty-year-old Franz Jägerstätter formed part of that microscopic minority in Austria who voted “no” to Hitler’s Anschluss and was the only one of St. Radegund’s 500 citizens to do so. Though never part of an organized resistance, Franz Jägerstätter was soon identified by an informer to the Gestapo as anti-Nazi which the town mayor—who on his own initiative did not report Jägerstätter’s vote to the authorities and had obtained Jägerstätter’s two deferments —quashed. Now as 1941 turned into 1942 and 1943, Franziska once and for all decided to stand by her husband in this matter of his refusal to fight for Hitler in the Wehrmacht after seeing him for many months and years argue his points alone. “If I had not stood by him,” she later explained, “he would have had no one.”

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Franz Jägerstätter on a motorbike in St. Radegund, Austria, following his first deferment in summer 1940 after a few days in the German army.

Für eine „klare Haltung gegen rechtsextreme Umtriebe“ hat sich die Katholische Aktion Oberösterreich (KA) ausgesprochen.

Franz Jägerstätter (third from the left) during training as a military driver in Enns, Austria, in November 1940 during his second call up.

While firmly against Nazi ideology, Franz’s ultimate refusal to serve in the German armed forces developed more deliberately. After being conscripted twice in 1940, it was during basic training on December 8, 1940 in Enns that Jägerstätter entered the Secular Franciscans. After taking “Third Order” vows in St. Radegund church in 1941, he grew more determined to be a pacifist in regard to the German war effort. Jägerstätter believed as an individual who formed his conscience and acted upon it —in his case, saying a resolute “no” to Nazism, including as a conscientious objector— would “change nothing in world affairs.” But Jägerstätter hoped that his conscientious objection would be “a sign” that not everyone let themselves be “carried away with the tide.” Jägerstätter acted on his conscience until, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta observed, “it came at his own expense.” Any of his thoughtful wrangling—if he hoped it would sway others—did not occur. Almost thirty years after the fall of the Third Reich, some villagers continued to view Jägerstätter’s brand of pacifism as unnecessary, extreme, “religious,” and even traitorous in terms of national defense. At war’s end, except for his wife and daughters—and they were denied state benefits until the 1990’s—there was a handful of anti-Nazi resisters—some of whom were Catholic priests— who supported or otherwise mirrored Jägerstätter’s brand of conscientious objection. But many of the individuals who, like Jägerstätter, acted on what they recognized as a Biblical call to social justice laid in their own obscure, premature graves because they, too, had been condemned as enemies of the state.

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Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter refused to support the Nazis and participate in the war effort, despite a tidal wave of pressure to do so in World War II.

EXCERPTS OF FRANZ JÄGERSTÄTTER’S WRITINGS:

ON CALLS TO PATRIOTIC DUTY.

“Who dares to assert that among the German people in this war only one person bears the responsibility, and why then did so many millions of Germans have to give their ‘Yes’ or ‘No’? Can one be reproached today for lacking patriotism? Do we still even have a mother country in this world? For if a country is supposed to be my mother country, it may not just impose duties—one must also have rights, and do we have rights here today? If someone becomes ineducable and might be a burden on the state, what happens to them? Would such a mother country be worth defending at all? Which we cannot speak of anyway, because Germany was attacked by no one. Once, I believe, we would have had the right to defend ourselves, and that was four years ago when we were still Austrians…”

ON THE ANSCHLUSS. 

“Let’s just ask ourselves: are Austria and Bavaria blameless that we now have a Nazi government instead of a Christian one? Did Nazism just simply drop on us from the sky? I believe we needn’t waste many words about it, for anyone who hasn’t slept through the past decade knows well enough how and why everything has come about in the way it has…In March 1938, what horror stories weren’t spread and invented here in Austria against Chancellor [Kurt] Schuschnigg (1897-1977), a still Christian-minded man, and against the clergy? Those few who didn’t catch the madness and who couldn’t be persuaded to cast that misguided ‘Yes’ vote were simply labeled fools or Communists, yet today the Nazis still haven’t given up the struggle to maybe win those fools over to the Nazi movement after all, or at least to sacrifice them to their ideology!”

ON WHETHER IT IS A JUST WAR.
“What Catholic can dare to say that these raids which Germany has carried out in several countries, and is still carrying out, constitute a just and holy war?”

ON THE CONSEQUENCES OF HITLER’S PROGRAM
“Oh, we poor German people, bedazzled by delusions of grandeur, will we ever return to reason again? As the saying goes: ‘Nothing comes about by chance, everything comes from above.’ Then did this war, which we Germans are already waging against almost all the peoples of the world, break over us as suddenly as, perhaps, a terrible hailstorm, which one is forced to watch powerlessly, only praying that it will soon stop without causing too much damage? For, thanks to the radio, newspapers, rallies, etc., nearly all of us knew what program Hitler was planning to carry out, and that the shrugging off of the debts and the demonetization of the Reich mark would bring about the very consequences which have now occurred in plenty …”

ON THE GERMAN INVASION OF THE SOVIET UNION.

“It is very sad to hear again and again from Catholics that this war, waged by Germany, is perhaps not so unjust because it will wipe out Bolshevism. It is true that at present most of our soldiers are stuck in the worst Bolshevist country, and simply want to make harmless and defenseless the people who live there and defend themselves. But now a question: what are they fighting in this country – Bolshevism or the Russian people? When our Catholic missionaries went to a pagan country to make them Christians did they advance with machine guns and bombs in order to convert and improve them? Most of these noble warriors for Christianity wrote home that if they only had the means to hand things out, everything would go much faster… If we look back a little into history, we note almost the same thing again and again: if a conqueror attacks another country with war, they have not normally invaded the country to improve people or even perhaps give them something, but usually to get something for themselves. If we fight the Russian people, we will get much from that country which is of use to us here. If one were merely fighting Bolshevism, these others things – minerals, oil wells or good farmland – would not be a factor.”

ON BEING MARRIED WITH YOUNG CHILDREN.

“Again and again, people try to trouble my conscience over my wife and children. Is an action any better because one is married and has children? Is it better or worse because thousands of other Catholics are doing the same?”

ON THE CHURCH HIERARCHY.

“If the Church stays silent in the face of what is happening, what difference would it make if no church were ever opened again?”

ON THE CAUSE OF ALL THE INJUSTICE AND SUFFERING. 

“Ever since people have existed on this earth, experience teaches us that God gives people free will and has only very seldom noticeably interfered in the fate of individuals and peoples, and that therefore it will be no different in the future either, except at the end of the world. Adam and Eve already completely ruined their destiny through their disobedience towards God; God gave them free will and they would never have had to suffer if they had listened more to God than to the tempter. Even His beloved Son would then have been spared infinite suffering. And so it will remain until the end of the world: that every sin has consequences. But woe to us if we always try to avoid shouldering those consequences and aren’t willing to do penance for our sins and errors.”

Nationalratspräsidentin Barbara Prammer gratuliert Franziska Jägerstätter zum 99. Geburtstag

Franz Jägerstätter’s wife Franziska on her 99th birthday (center) with two of their three daughters, Maria (left) and Aloisia (right). With local dignitaries in 2012.


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At the Beatification for Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, conscientious objector, on October 26, 2007 at St. Mary Cathedral in Linz, Austria.

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Franziska Jägerstätter with Bishop Ludwig Schwarz, Beatification of Franziska Jägerstätter, October 26, 2007.Jagerstatter-window-Newman-Centre-rev-e1487610325818

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Austrian layman Blessed Franz Jägerstätter depicted in stained glass in St. Radegund with his beloved motorcycle . Quote by Jägerstätter: “I can say from my own experience how painful life often is when one lives as a halfway Christian; it is more like vegetating than living.”

Franz Jägerstätter sought advice from friends and clergy about his intention to be a conscientious objector. His decision caused arguments in his family and among his friends. One local priest told Jägerstätter that his decision to not serve in the Nazi military was “suicidal” and although the church hierarchy had accommodated Nazism under the rationale to keep Austrian Catholic parish church doors open to bestow the sacraments, Jägerstätter was, at least in this instance, refused absolution. Since Bishop Gföllner’s pastoral letters had significant influence on Franz Jägerstätter’s evaluation of Nazism, he hoped to receive helpful advice from Gföllner’s successor, Bishop Joseph Calasanz Fliesser (1896-1960). Prepared as usual, Jägerstätter brought eleven difficult questions to ask the bishop. But this new bishop, the Anschluss already in place, was  taciturn. Fliesser did not resolve Jägerstätter’s questions but reminded him of his family responsibility. Jägerstätter bristled, however, at the bishop’s traditional advice that as a soldier he would not be held accountable by the church for following orders.  Jägerstätter wrote: “We may just as well strike out the gifts of wisdom and understanding from the Seven Gifts for which we pray to the Holy Spirit. For if we’re supposed to obey the Führer blindly anyway, why should we need wisdom and understanding?” To be fair to the bishop, some have claimed his cautious response was that he feared Jägerstätter could be a Nazi spy. Others claim that such a pall of collective dread had settled over the populace that the bishop could not understand or accept how one individual farmer could be so truly courageous. Later, at Jägerstätter’s trial that condemned him, Jägerstätter simply said: “The Bishop has not experienced the grace that has been granted to me.”

Franz Jägerstätter was born on May 20, 1907 between Salzburg and Braunau am Inn as the illegitimate child of Rosalia Huber, a housemaid, and Franz Bachmeier, a farmer. Jägerstätter was only 15 months younger than German pastor, theologian, and anti-Nazi dissident, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was also murdered by the Nazis for his nonconformity. Franz was first cared for by his paternal grandmother, Elisabeth Huber.

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Birthplace of Franz Jägerstätter. Born on May 20, 1907, Jägerstätter was an illegitimate child of a housemaid and a farmer.

After Franz’s father died in World War I, Rosalia married prosperous farmer Heinrich Jägerstätter in 1917 who adopted the boy. As Franz’s formal education ended when he was just 14 years old, it was out of necessity as much as pleasure that he remained an avid reader. “People who don’t read,” Jägerstätter quipped, “will never be able to stand on their own feet. They will all too easily become a football for the opinions of others.” Many in St. Radegund were impressed by this popular young man who rode a motorbike he bought in the mining town of Erzberg, Austria, with his earnings.

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Franz Jägerstätter at 18 years old. The young man was an avid reader, worker, and motorcycle rider.

Working as a farmer in Teising, Germany and, in 1927, in the iron ore industry in Eisenerz, Austria, Jägerstätter returned to St. Radegund in 1930 where, in 1933, this “raufer” soon fathered an out-of-wedlock child. There was no question that 26-year-old Jägerstätter would not marry Theresia Auer, a working maid. At first he even disputed his paternity, but then helped care for both the mother and child (named Hildegard) and forged an affectionate lifelong father-daughter bond. This experience started Jägerstätter on a different path in life. His future wife, Franziska Schwaninger (1913–2013) of Hochburg, Austria, was working as a dairy and kitchen maid when in 1934, the 21-year-old Austrian woman met Jägerstätter at a local parish social. One of the first questions Franziska asked “raufer” Franz was whether he attended church. From the start of their relationship, her religiosity influenced him. Franz and Franziska were married on April 9, 1936, during Holy Week. Working as a farmer, in the next four years Jägerstätter and Franziska had three daughters. Franziska included Jägerstätter’s illegimate daughter as part of the family. After 1945, however, Hildegard lost contact with her half sisters. This family riff is attributed to their grandma Rosalia (Jägerstätter’s mother) who never liked Theresia Auer, Hildegard’s mother.

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Franz Jägerstätter

The peasant mother of Franz Jägerstätter (left), his three daughters, Maria, Aloisia and Rosalia, and his wife, Franziska. Franziska sent this photograph to Franz on November 3, 1940 when he was in the military service (basic training) from October 1940 to April 1941. It was the town mayor who  obtained repeated deferments for Franz Jägerstätter.

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Photograph of Maria, Louisi and Rosi.

After many delays, Jägerstätter was finally called to active duty a  third time on February 23, 1943.  It was the day after Hans and Sophie Scholl were executed for high treason. Three weeks earlier, the German public was informed of the official surrender of the German Army at the Battle of Stalingrad. It marked the first time the Nazi government admitted to a failure in the war. Able-bodied Austrian farmer Jägerstätter reported to duty at Enns (Austria) on March 1, 1943 and promptly declared his mulled-over conscientious objection. The Nazis responded by putting him in jail. A priest from home visited him and repeated the advice to do his civic duty and come out of jail. Jägerstätter refused and was sent to Linz prison for the rest of March and April 1943 and then transferred to Tegel prison in the western suburbs of Berlin in May 1943. Incarcerated at Tegel in the same time period was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was there from his arrest on April 5, 1943 until October 1944. Bonhoeffer would be moved to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse (today’s Niederkirchnerstrasse) in Berlin where he stayed until February 1945. Until Bonhoeffer’s execution by hanging at Flossenbuerg concentration camp on April 9, 1945, the theologian had been also transferred to Buchenwald concentration camp and to Regensburg. There is no known evidence that Franz Jägerstätter and Dietrich Bonhoeffer met one another at Tegel. Jägerstätter did learn at Tegel that a Catholic priest was executed as a conscientious objector citing reasons very much like his own. This single individual’s martyrdom brought a message of hope to Jägerstätter’s plight. Bonhoeffer wrote some of his best known letters at Tegel and Franz also sent missives.  In one letter to his wife Franziska he wrote: “Most beloved wife, today I received with joy your dear letter. Not a God or a church gives a commandment requiring that we must under a burden of sin commit ourselves in an oath to obeying the civil authorities in all matters. I cannot take an oath in favor of a government that is fighting an unjust war. The true Christian is to be recognized more in his deeds than in his speech. Let us love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who persecute us. For love will conquer and endure for all eternity.”

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Yard at Tegel prison in Berlin.

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The sign Jägerstätter’s daughters hold reads: Lieber Vater komm bald! (Dear Father come [home] soon!). This is the photograph sent to 36-year-old Jägerstätter held in Tegel prison that brought him tears of joy.

About ten minutes by motor car from Tegal prison, in the period between August 1939 and February 7, 1945, the Reichskriegsgericht filed almost 1,200 sentences of capital punishment for various forms of treason, spying, resistance (frauen und männer des widerstand) and conscientious objection (kriegsdienstverweigerer)—and nearly 90% of these death sentences were carried out.  Accused by the Third Reich of undermining Wehrkraftzersetzung (or “military morale”) —as had been passive resisters Sophie Scholl (1921 – 22 February 1943) and other members of the White Rose — Franz Jägerstätter was found guilty at military trial at the Reichskriegsgericht, the highest German military court during the period of national socialism, and sentenced to death on July 6, 1943. Standing before the second panel of the national court martial led by Werner Lueven, Jägerstätter was “condemned to death for sedition” and, sentenced to loss of civil rights and of eligibility for military service, punitively cut off from society. The written judgment of the court is a summary of Jägerstätter’s path to conscientious objection. It reads: “In February 1943 the accused was again called up, by written command, for active service with motorized replacement unit 17 in Enns from 25 February 1943. At first he ignored the call-up, because he rejects National Socialism and therefore does not wish to do military service. Under pressure from relatives and the persuasion of his local priest, he finally reported on 1 March 1943 to the permanent company at motorized replacement unit 17 in Enns, but immediately announced that because of his religious views he refused to do armed military service. During questioning by the court officer, despite detailed instruction and advice as to the consequences of his conduct, he maintained his negative attitude. He explained that if he fought for the National Socialist state, he would be acting against his religious conscience. He also assumed this negative attitude during questioning by the court investigating officer of Division No. 487 in Linz, and by the representative of the national court martial. However, he declared himself willing to serve as a medical orderly as an act of Christian charity. At the main trial he repeated his statements and added that it was only during the last year he had reached the conviction that as a believing Catholic he could not perform military service and could not simultaneously be a National Socialist and a Catholic. That it was impossible. If he had obeyed the earlier call-up, he had done so because at that time because he had regarded it as sinful not to obey the commands of the state. Now God had made him think that it was not a sin to reject armed service, There were things over which one should obey God more than man. Because of the command ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ he could not fight with weapons. He was however prepared to serve as a medical orderly. The accused had already been a soldier for six months  (1940-41 call-up), had taken the oath of loyalty to the Führer and Supreme Commander of the Army, and during his period of service was amply informed about the duties of the German soldier. Nevertheless, despite being told about the consequences of his conduct, he stubbornly refuses for personal reasons to fulfill his patriotic duty in Germany’s hard struggle for survival. Accordingly, the death sentence is pronounced.”

Facade of Reichskriegsgericht, Berlin.

In this building at Witzlebenstrasse 5, Berlin, on July 6, 1943, the Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter was sentenced to death by the Supreme Military Court of the Third Reich (Reichskriegsgericht) on grounds of his conscientious objection to military service. In addition to dealing with various charges of treason, this building dealt with proceedings associated with Hitler’s “Night and Fog” decree. The order of December 7, 1941 directed that persons captured in occupied territories who acted to undermine German troops were to be taken “by night and fog” to Germany to face trial in special courts which could ignore procedures and conventions for a prisoner’s humane treatment.

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Memorial sign outside today’s former Reichskriegsgericht building in Berlin.

Following his July 6, 1943 condemnation by the supreme military tribunal, Jägerstätter was given several weeks at Tegel to ponder his conscience’s perilous consequence. The Third Reich, desperate for manpower in 1943, allowed conscientious objectors to recant their objection unconditionally and be immediately assigned to a military probation unit. The practice of conscientious objection was relatively rare in Western societies prior to World War II. It was only after the military defeat of Hitler that the Catholic Church began to vocalize a mission to be a moral advocate in terms of social justice. Throughout World War II individuals like Jägerstätter but also Bonhoeffer, Hans and Sophie Scholl, Alfred Delp, S.J., Blessed Nikolaus Gross, Max Metzger, Erich Boch, Ernst Volkmann and others stood up for their faith as well as human rights and were executed as enemies of the state. In their lifetimes these martyrs’ actions received little to no sympathy from bishops or ordinary Catholics because social justice— including conscientious objection—was basically absent from standard church teaching. Even with the advent of democracy, there remained the church’s ancient teaching that governments derive their authority from God and citizens should obey them. However, the obvious illegitimacy of the Nazi regime despite legalities helped make religious sense of disobedience, refusal, and conscientious objection by Jägerstätter, Bonhoeffer, the Scholls, etc., who cited Biblical and philosophical truth and justice as greater than state authority—and, oftentimes, church authority. Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) proved sufficiently intrepid to try to get in front of this new spiritual juggernaut of social justice that had martyrs’ blood spilled upon it. On February 18, 1946 he appointed three new German Cardinals who had publicly opposed the Third Reich. Yet for the rest of this Germanophile pope’s time on the seat of Peter, the church’s goals and objectives for social justice remained vague and ambiguous.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (4 February 1906 – 9 April 1945). Lutheran pastor and theologian, it was after the failure of the July 20, 1944 plot on Hitler’s life—and discovery of Abwehr documents (Abwehr was a German military intelligence organization Bonhoeffer had joined) relating to the plot—that Bonhoeffer, already under Nazi arrest, was accused of conspiracy.  Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging at Konzentrationslager Flossenbürg on April 9, 1945, just two weeks before the camp was liberated by American soldiers.

Hans-et-Sophie-Scholl

Hans Scholl (German, 22 September 1918 – 22 February 1943) and Sophie Scholl (German, 9 May 1921 – 22 February 1943). Upon distributing anti-Nazi political resistance leaflets on February 18, 1943 at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, students Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst were immediately arrested. On February 22, 1943 they were tried in the Volksgerichtshof and found guilty of high treason. They were executed by beheading the same day.

Alfred Delp

Alfred Delp, S.J. (German, 15 September 1907 – Berlin, 2 February 1945) was a member of the Kreisauer Kreis composed of men and women from a variety of backgrounds who were opposed to Hitler’s Nazi regime. Delp was arrested in 1944, sentenced to death and executed in 1945. Delp’s book Facing Death, written during his six months imprisonment has been compared to Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison.

Nikolaus_und_Elisabeth_Groß

Blessed Nikolaus Gross (German, 30 September 1898 – 23 January 1945) and Elizabeth Koch Gross (March 11, 1901-February 21, 1971). An anti-Nazi journalist, Nikolaus Gross was arrested on August 12, 1944 in connection with the failed plot to kill Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair (July 20, 1944). In September 1944 he was taken to Tegel prison where Elizabeth visited him twice and saw torture markings on his body.  Gross was hanged on January  23, 1945 at Plötzensee Prison.

bolz

Servant of God Eugen Bolz (German, 15 December 1881 – 23 January 1945) was a politician and member of the resistance to the Nazi régime. Bolz had been Protestant Württemberg’s first Catholic president when the Nazis came to power in 1933. Since Bolz loathed the Nazis, they immediately forced him from office and sent him to a concentration camp. When he was released, Bolz went into semi-retirement near Ulm, where he was constantly monitored by the Gestapo. In 1942 Bolz secretly accepted the post of Culture Minister in a shadow German “government in waiting” ready to replace Hitler. But when the plot to kill Hitler failed on July 20, 1944, Bolz was arrested where he was tried and, on January 23, 1945,  beheaded at Plötzensee Prison.

MMetzger

Max Metzger (German, 3 February 1887 – 17 April 1944) was  a Catholic priest and longtime peace activist in Germany. After Hitler came to power in 1933, Metzger was arrested many times by the Gestapo. A pamphlet writer, his 1943 essay on German state reorganization in a post-war world was given to a courier who betrayed him.  Metzger was arrested on June 29, 1943. The presiding judge at his trial said Metzger and people like him should be “eradicated.” Fr. Metzger was executed in Brandenburg prison on April 17, 1944.  

Father Franz Reinisch

Franz Reinisch (1903-1942), an Austrian Catholic priest, was conscripted for military service in the Third Reich on September 12, 1941. Reinisch refused to swear allegiance to Hitler but publicly noted he would swear allegiance to the German people so to join the Wehrmacht. Reinisch was arrested and charged with undermining military morale. Brought to Tegel, a prison chaplain denied Reinisch communion for failure to perform his civic duty. Tried and convicted, Reinisch was moved to Brandenburg in Berlin where he was beheaded by guillotine on August 21, 1942.

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Pope Francis with a portrait of Franz Reinisch.

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Ernst Volkmann (1902-1941). Ernst Volkmann had to die because he refused to fight for Nazi Germany on religious grounds. In 1929, he married Maria Handle from Bregenz, Austria, with whom he had three children. He ignored all Wehrmacht conscription orders, which is why Ernst Volkmann was arrested in June 1940. The Berlin court sentenced him to death on July 7, 1941. A month later on August 9, at 5:05 am, Ernst Volkmann was beheaded in the Brandenburg-Görden prison.

Portrait-of-Pope-Pius-XII-008

Almost immediately after the war was over, Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) appointed three German bishops to be Cardinals who had publicly defied the Third Reich. These were Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen (16 March 1878 – 22 March 1946), Konrad Maria von Preysing (30 August 1880 – 21 December 1950) and Josef Frings (6 February 1887 – 17 December 1978). A fuller development for social justice as a mission of the church would need to wait for future popes.

In his last letter written from Brandenburg-Görden prison where he was executed on August 9, 1943, Jägerstätter wrote these words: “Now I’ll write down a few words as they come to me from my heart. Although I am writing them with my hands in chains, this is still much better than if my will were in chains. Neither prison nor chains nor sentence of death can rob a man of the Faith and his free will. God gives so much strength that it is possible to bear any suffering…. People worry about the obligations of conscience as they concern my wife and children. But I cannot believe that, just because one has a wife and children, a man is free to offend God.”

Jägerstätter was then led out to the executioner’s guillotine and beheaded on August 9, 1943. Franziska did not learn of her husband’s death until about a month later. She had sent him a letter in early September 1943 but the response came from the prison chaplains at Tegel and Brandenburg who informed her of his death. Sometime after that, Franziska received the official announcement of the execution of her husband, together with his last letter, from the Nazis.

Franz Jägerstätter’s final essay

First page of Franz Jägerstätter’s final essay written in prison. The first sentence reads: “Now I’ll write down a few words as they come to me from my heart. Although I am writing them with my hands in chains, this is still much better than if it were my will in chains.”

LEGACY.

Thomas Merton was influenced by the life of Franz Jägerstätter. Merton included a chapter on Jägerstätter in his popular 1968 book Faith and Violence (University of Notre Dame Press – available in several reprinted editions).

Gordon Zahn (1918-2007) from Loyola University in Chicago, wrote A Solitary Witness: The Life and Death of Franz Jägerstätter in 1964. Zahn was a conscientious objector during the World War II who related that one of the great moments of his life was when he heard a student during the Vietnam War say he was burning his draft card “in memory of Franz Jägerstätter.” Zahn was a guiding light in the Catholic peace movement as a co-founder of Pax Christi USA. Today Pax Christi focuses on human rights and security, disarmament and demilitarization, a just world order and religion and peace. Its president Kevin Patrick Dowling, a South African Redemptorist. Its website: http://www.paxchristi.net/about-us/why-pax-christi

The Refusal (Der Fall) is a 94 minute-dramatized film about Franz Jägerstätter. Directed by Alex Corti with a screenplay by Hellmut Kindler, it stars Kurt Weinzierl and
Julia Gschnitzer as Franz and Franziska Jägerstätter. It was originally released in (West) Germany in 1971. Villagers are interviewed almost 30 years later.

CATHOLIC MASS READINGS FOR OCTOBER 26:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102620.cfm

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Grave of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, St. Radegund, Austria.

FRANZISK

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Pope Francis TED Speech, April 2017 – – https://www.ted.com/talks/pope_francis_why_the_only_future_worth_building_includes_everyone?language=en. Web. – retrieved October 26, 2017.

Gordon Zahn, A Solitary Witness: The Life and Death of Franz Jägerstätter, Templegate Publications; revised edition, 1986.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics,The Macmillan Company, New York, 1968.

Diözese Linz, Franz Jägerstätter 1907 – 1943 – Martyr, Katholische Kirche in Oberösterreich, n.d. Web. – retrieved October 26, 2017.

H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture, Harper & Row Publishers, NY, 1975.

Robert A. Krieg, Catholic Theologians in Nazi Germany, Continuum, NY, 2004.

Martin Conway, Catholic Politics in Europe, 1918-1945, Routledge, 1997.

Walter M. Abbott, S.J., The Documents of Vatican II, Guild Press, NY, 1966.

The Holy See, The Vatican, n.d, Bl. Franz Jägerstätter (1907-1943) – Biography. Web. – retrieved October 26, 2017.

Eran Putz, Franz Jägerstätter Martyr – A Shining Example in Dark Times, Grünbach: Steinmassl, 2007, Print and Web. – retrieved October 26, 2017.

Footnotes will be made available on request.

Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner: History of Hollywood Glamour Portraits of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Marlene Dietrich, 1947.

Marlene Dietrich. Paramount, 1947. Photograph by A.L. “Whitey” Schafer.

MARLENE DIETRICH.

This Hollywood glamour portrait of forty-six-year-old Marlene Dietrich (1901, Berlin – 1992, Paris) wearing a green turtleneck sweater was taken when the movie actress was starring in Golden Earrings, a romantic spy film made by Paramount Pictures. It was her comeback film following World War II.

It was also in 1947—the same year that this photograph by A.L. “Whitey” Schafer was made— that Dietrich received what she called her life’s proudest achievement: the Medal of Freedom.

While Golden Earrings was a decent film, its main purpose was to provide the actress with a job. Further, it would lead into her next project—the 1948 American romantic comedy A Foreign Affair directed by Billy Wilder—which made Dietrich once again a top star.

Following Dietrich’s meteoric rise at Paramount Pictures starting in 1930 her acting parts later stagnated as film directors —including Josef von Sternberg and others—seemed to use her more as a piece of expensive cinematic scenery than as a serious dramatic actress.

1940’s blondes.

Like other leading ladies of the time, the Hollywood glamour machine in the 1940’s transformed Dietrich into a golden-haloed blond which accentuated her magnificent cheekbones and sultry eyes under penciled-arc eyebrows and painted nails that this color portrait makes evident.

Photographer A. L. “Whitey” Schafer (1902-1951) was a still photographer who started shooting stills in 1923 and continued in that line of work at Columbia Pictures when he moved there in 1932. Personally outgoing, Schafer was appointed head of the stills photography department at Columbia three years later. In the 1940’s Shafer wrote copiously on his craft and advocated for techniques in glamour photography that are seen in this Dietrich color portrait.

Seminal book on glamour photography.

In 1941 Schafer published Portraiture Simplified, a book in which he argues that “portraiture’s purpose is the realization of character realistically.” Among his technical observations Schafer wrote elsewhere that “composing a portrait is comparable to writing a symphony. There must be a center of interest, and in all portraits this naturally must be the head, or your purpose is defeated. Therefore, the highest light should be on the head.”

It was in 1941 that Schafer replaced Eugene Richee (1896-1972) as department head of still photography at Paramount Studios. Schafer remained in that position where he photographed the stars until he died at 49 years old in an accident in 1951.

Elizabeth TAYLOR 1949

Elizabeth Taylor. M-G-M, 1949. Photograph by Hymie Fink.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR.

Though still a teenager, Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) in 1949 when this photograph was made, was celebrated as the new generation’s great beauty.  In 1942, at 10 years old, Elizabeth had her film debut and her life and beauty blossomed over the decade in front of the cameras. This photograph captures her near the beginning of her cinematic career as an M-G-M star.

Who is Hymie Fink?

Who exactly was her photographer, Hymie Fink? His identity remains a mystery. Was Hymie Fink a studio photographer? Freelancer? Pseudonym for an unknown talent or combination of unknown talents? His name appears among the stars starting in the late 1930’s until his death was announced in the mid-1950’s by Hedda Hopper. The gossip columnist ended her newspaper column for September 28, 1956 with the epitaph: “Hymie Fink, one of the sweetest men in Hollywood, died of a heart attack on Jane Wyman’s TV set. Hymie photographed every star and every major event in (Hollywood) for twenty-five years.”

Lana Turner. 1939.

Lana Turner. 1939, photograph by László Willinger.

LANA TURNER.

Before she became in the 1940’s the well-known Hollywood platinum sensuous blond of movie legend and fame, Lana Turner (1921-1995) was just a pretty redhead from Idaho named Julia Jean Turner.

By the time this unretouched color portrait was made, 18-year-old Lana Turner had been discovered three years earlier in a manner that has made it into the annals of show-biz mythology. The immediate result of her discovery in an iconic malt shop near Hollywood High School where she was a student, was a movie contract with producer-director Mervyn LeRoy (1900-1987).

Sweater Sweetheart.

The title of Lana Turner’s first film in 1937 for Warner Brothers was They Won’t Forget. The title proved prophetic for Lana Turner’s Hollywood career. By 1938 Lana Turner was a sex symbol who went on to make over 50 glamorous films, most of them at M-G-M. Lana Turner was only 16 years old when she played her debut five-minute part that at one point sees her strut across the screen in a tight-fitting sweater and cocked beret for about 20 seconds. Her image created such a stir among movie-going audiences that gossip columnist Walter Winchell coined the term “America’s Sweater Sweetheart” for Lana Turner because of her now-classic film appearance. Over the next 20 years, a bevy of Hollywood actresses would wear tight sweaters over specialty bras that emphasized their bust line in the hope of possibly sparking for themselves another Lana Turner movie career success story.

Lana Turner became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

New Harlow.

Originally groomed to be a new Harlow, Lana followed this sex-bomb course in full force when in 1941 the studio dyed her hair white blonde for Ziegfeld Girl, where she co-starred with Judy Garland and Hedy Lamarr and stole the show. 

Hungarian-born photographer László Willinger (1909 – 1989) started his professional career in Vienna, Austria. He left Europe for America in 1937 where he joined M-G-M that same year. Soon after, he made this lush shot of 18-year-old Lana Turner in a silky green dress seated on a red divan (or chair) with her head turned and looking to one side with slightly bloodshot eyes.

Willinger’s color portrait of red-headed Lana Turner emphasizes the sensuality of her personality manifested in her full red sensuous lips and painted nails. In 1944, László Willinger left MGM and established his own photography studio in Hollywood. For the next 40 years he successfully practiced his craft.

About her own reputedly rowdy personal life in those M-G-M years, Lana Turner later remarked: “My plan was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out the other way…” 

Lana Turner passed away on June 29, 1995. She was 74 years old.

SOURCES:

DIETRICH – “Miss Dietrich to Receive Medal,” The New York Times, November 18, 1947;
https://ladailymirror.com/2013/11/04/mary-mallory-hollywood-heights-mdash-a-l-whitey-schafer-simplifies-portraits/;
http://vintagemoviestarphotos.blogspot.com/2014/11/a-l-whitey-schafer.html;
They Had Faces Then. Annabella to Zorina: The Superstars, Stars and Starlets of the 1930’s, John D. Springer and Jack D. Hamilton, Citadel Press, Secaucus, New Jersey, 1974.
Hollywood Color Portraits, John Kobal, William Morrow and Company. Inc., New York, 1981.
https://www.aenigma-images.com/2017/04/a-l-whitey-schafer/

TAYLOR -http://tatteredandlostephemera.blogspot.com/2009/06/who-is-hymie-fink.html;
http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1956/09/29/page/22/article/diana-dors-isnt-homesick-shes-set-for-film-in-britain;
Hollywood Color Portraits, John Kobal, William Morrow and Company. Inc., New York, 1981.

TURNER – Hollywood Color Portraits, John Kobal, William Morrow and Company. Inc., New York, 1981.
Lana Turner interview with Phil Donahue, 1982 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhu6_V7pNL0
“Hollywood Photographer Dies,” The Hour, Associated Press, August 9, 1989 – https://news.google.com/newspapers nid=1916&dat=19890814&id=azIiAAAAIBAJ&sjid=uXQFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1804,2177679

A History, Commentary and Criticism of Grace Kelly’s Acting and Modeling Career, 1946-1956.

Philadelphia-born Grace Kelly (1929-1982) had a short but dazzling film career in Hollywood. Called the “Greatest Screen Presence in Film,”1 passionate and dramatically talented Grace Kelly was Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite actress when she starred in three of his classic films of the 1950’s: Dial M For Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955).  After Grace was discovered in 1951 by Gary Cooper who said that she was “different from all these actresses we’ve been seeing so much of”2—and subsequently cast in High Noon (1951) as Cooper’s movie wife—Grace Kelly’s incomparable charm and allure swiftly impressed Hollywood and the world. From September 1951 to March 1956 Grace Kelly’s star blazed in eleven major motion pictures for five different Hollywood studios.

Grace on the set of Rear Window

On the set of Rear Window (1954). In the 1930’s costume designer Edith Head leaned liberal in her costume designs. But in the 1950’s her designs became more conservative.

Grace Kelly in a chiffon-draped gown by Edith Head for To Catch a Thief (1955). Edith Head and Grace Kelly became lifelong friends so much so that Edith Head, who was a very busy and successful costume designer in Hollywood, visited Grace in Monaco after she became princess.

Grace and Dorothy Towne High Noon

Grace Kelly and her stand-in Dorothy Towne on the set of High Noon. Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Gary Cooper, Co-starred with Grace Kelly in High Noon. Gary Cooper took credit for discovering Grace for the movies. He said about Grace: she was “different from all these actresses we’ve been seeing so much of.”

Grace and Edith Head To Catch A Thief

Grace Kelly in wardrobe by Edith Head for The Bridges of Toko-Ri. Filming began in January 1954 where Grace played a small but pivotal role as Nancy Brubaker, wife of Lt. Harry Brubaker (William Holden). By this time Grace was becoming as well-known as Audrey Hepburn for her fashion sense, and Edith Head found it a joy to work with her.

famous eau de nil suit work in Rear window

Edith Head’s famous eau de nil suit and matching hat for Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954).

Following High Noon for United Artists, her performance for M-G-M on John Ford’s Mogambo (1953) led to Grace’s first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Grace began work in July 1953 on Dial M For Murder for Warner Brothers where she met Alfred Hitchcock who became a cinematic mentor. Soon after, The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954) at Paramount Pictures began Grace’s ground-breaking multi-film collaboration with Academy-Award winning costume designer Edith Head. Grace refused other lucrative film offers to work again with Hitchcock, this time at Paramount Pictures, on Rear Window co-starring Jimmy Stewart.

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For Rear Window released in the summer of 1954, Grace Kelly received equal billing with co-star Jimmy Stewart and director Alfred Hitchcock.

In this landmark film which came out in summer 1954, one of Hitchcock’s dramatic emphases for Grace Kelly’s film persona was to display her natural elegance and sex appeal—he was amused by her public image as an “Ice Queen”3—by having her costumed in an array of fabulous Edith-Head-designed lingerie, dresses, and pants. Growing up in Philadelphia Grace Kelly as an adolescent and teenager had modeled in local fashion shows but, by the middle 1950’s in her mid-twenties, she became an international fashion and style icon. 

Grace Kelly portrait from the film “Rear Window” photographed by Virgil Apger, 1954.

Grace Kelly was a style icon for the era of the 1950’s.

Following these first phenomenal film credits, what happened for Grace Kelly next was perhaps surprising but not unexpected, and a clear and certain capstone to, and beacon for, her professional acting career that was barely five years old. Never just a pretty face, Grace Kelly insisted in her studio contract that she be allowed regular breaks to be able to act in live theater.4 Grace admired the art of the live stage and welcomed demanding theater and film roles that challenged and exhibited her acting range and abilities. This was part of her motivation to go after the hardly glamorous but dramatically impressive role of Georgie Elgin in George Seaton’s The Country Girl (1954) for Paramount Pictures.

Grace Kelly studying the script during filming of George Seaton’s The Country Girl. The 1954 film received 7 Academy Award nominations and won two. One of them was for Grace who won the Oscar for Best Actress.

With co-stars Bing Crosby and William Holden, the film featured Grace playing the long-suffering wife of an alcoholic actor struggling to resume his career (played by Crosby). At its release, the film was a hit and nominated for seven Academy Awards. On Wednesday, March 30, 1955, at the telecast of the 27th annual Academy Awards held at RKO Pantages Theatre,5 The Country Girl won two Oscars, including one for Grace Kelly for Best Actress. At just 25 years old Grace Kelly—of the ambitious and hugely competitive Philadelphia Kellys—had reached the highest echelons of the cinematic arts by way of her profession’s gold-plated statuette.

gk with oscar

Grace Kelly backstage after the 27th annual Academy Awards on March 25, 1955 when she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in The Country Girl.

27th Annual Academy Awards Bette Davis presenter, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly

The 27th Annual Academy Awards, Bette Davis presenter, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly, with their Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars. 

Always looking ahead, Grace’s film career had already turned international. She did Mogambo for a host of reasons not least of which was being able to see Africa with “all expenses paid.”6 In early 1954 she had flown to South America to make Green Fire (1954) for M-G-M with Stewart Granger and then in May 1954 she was at the French Riviera to make her third film with Alfred Hitchcock: To Catch a Thief (1955) co-starring Cary Grant for Paramount Pictures.

HITCH &GK

Grace Kelly sitting in Cary Grant’s chair while director Alfred Hitchcock serves her a beverage on the set of To Catch A Thief. The cast and crew had such a respect for the young film star that a hush would come over the set at her first appearance.

Grace Kelly and Cary Grant
La Victorine studios 1954 Hitch directs GK on To Catch a Thief grace kelly

Grace liked the Riviera enough to travel there one year later, in April 1955, this time for the 8th annual Cannes Film Festival. To what degree Grace could imagine in advance how that particular journey to that most beautiful part of the world would impact her film career as well as future life as wife and mother was beyond her. It was during that early spring 1955 Mediterranean trip that Grace Kelly was first introduced to Prince Rainier III of Monaco.

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Twenty-six-year-old Grace Kelly and 31-year-old Prince Rainier III at their first meeting at the palace in Monaco, May 6, 1955. They would be engaged to be married by the end of the year. Photograph by Edward Quinn.

Grace Kelly stood five foot seven inches tall and weighed 118 pounds. Her dress size was two.7 She was born on November 12, 1929 into the Kelly family of Philadelphia. Grace Patricia Kelly was the third of four children and one of that Irish-German family’s three girls. Elder sister Peggy and younger sister Lizanne were athletic and shared their mother Margaret’s model looks. Margaret was also the family disciplinarian who the Kelly children liked to call “the Prussian General.”8 

GK with MOm

Grace Kelly modeling a fashionable dress for her mother in the mid 1950’s. Grace’s reflection is in the mirror.

As a child Grace was dreamy and shy while her siblings were outgoing and athletic. Yet Grace too inherited a keen awareness of her body using her arms and legs to be dramatically expressive in an actress’s rather than athlete’s way.9 By the time she was 18 years old Grace’s beautiful rectangle-shaped face with soft pear-shape dimensions displayed thick blond hair, almond-shaped blue eyes, a small high-bridge nose and ruby lips evident in many later glamour photographs. 

Grace Kelly in red by Howell Conant, 1955.

Grace Kelly by Howell Conant, 1955. Conant was Grace Kelly’s friend and favorite photographer.

Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly MGM portrait

Each member of the Philadelphia Kelly family was an exuberant competitor in areas of American life such as athletics, business, politics, or high society.  As an adult one of Grace’s major strengths in addition to her incredible beauty was her ability to focus on whatever goal she decided to pursue whether professionally or personally until that goal was achieved. When Grace won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1955 it was also a brick in the Kelly wall of ambition for success.  Before she was a teenager Grace performed in plays so that in her teenage years a desire to be an actress grew. Since Grace was situated within a protective and affluent family as well as educated in Philadelphia Catholic and private schools she sought theater work in New York City instead of Hollywood which Grace, even after she achieved film success, considered a pitiless machine of cinematic production.10

Kellys 1945

The Kelly siblings in Philadelphia. Grace and Peggy flank Jack with Lizanne on his shoulders, c. 1946.

GK 1951

Grace Kelly moved to Southern California to be in motion pictures. She appeared in her first film called Fourteen Hours for 20th Century-Fox in 1951 when she was 22 years old.

It was Aristotle Onassis who suggested to Prince Rainier that he marry a beautiful American movie star to bring the glitterati back to Monaco. Onassis’s list at the time did not include Grace Kelly.11

Grace 1955

Invited to the 1955 Cannes Film Festival after she had won the Academy Award for Best Actress for The Country Girl one month before, Grace was curious enough about the prince to be introduced to him in Monaco on Friday, May 6, 1955. What is memorable from the photographs of their meeting at the palace is that the Prince looks chic and handsome and Grace is at her most beautiful in a black silk floral print dress with her blond hair pulled back into a German-style bun. That evening she returned to Cannes for the festival’s screening of The Country Girl helping to conclude a day that Grace herself called “pretty wild.”12 But Grace’s career in Hollywood wasn’t over—nor her life half begun. She was back in Paris before the festival’s winners were announced (she had won nothing there),13 and soon returned to Hollywood to make what turned out to be her final two Hollywood movies – The Swan and High Society.

Grace Kelly High Society 1956

Grace Kelly in High Society (1956).

Grace Kelly wears her new engagement ring from Prince Rainier on the set of High Society. One of her female co-stars observed it was the size of a “skating rink.”

Grace Kelly make up test High Society 1956

Grace Kelly in a make-up test for the honeymoon scene in High Society.

The Swan Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly, The Swan.

Grace Kelly MGM publicity photo The Swan

Grace Kelly in a MGM publicity photograph for The Swan. Grace was at the height of her career when she exited Hollywood and the movie never to return for Monaco.

Grace Kelly in Ball Gown To Catch A Thief

Grace Kelly dressed for the ball in the penultimate scene of her penultimate film, To Catch A Thief.

Grace Kelly in 1956.

Grace Kelly at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz during filming of High Society (1956).

TEXT NOTES:

  1. It was actually my brother Kevin, now deceased, who when he was working in the Chicago Film Office wrote to me this apt description of Grace Kelly and Rear Window as the greatest film ever.
  2. Quoted in Roberts, Paul G., Style Icons Vol 4 Sirens, Fashion Industry Broadcast, p. 74.
  3. Dherbier, Yann-Brice and Verlhac, Pierre-Henry, Grace Kelly A Life in Pictures, Pavilion, 2006, p. 11.
  4. Edith-Head-designed apparel for Rear Window – Haugland, H. Kristina, Grace Kelly: Icon of style to Royal bride (Philadelphia Museum of Art), Yale University Press, 2006, p. 956; so she could act in live theater – TBA
  5. Date and place of 1955 Oscars- see https://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/1955 – retrieved April 26, 2017.
  6. did Mogambo for an all-expense paid visit to Kenya – TBA
  7. height and dress size- http://www.bodymeasurements.org/grace-kelly/ – retrieved April 28, 2017.
  8. Dherbier and Verlhac, p. 9.
  9. Conant, Howell, Grace: An intimate portrait of Princess Grace by her friend and favorite photographer, Random House, 1992, p.18.
  10. Preferred theater to film-TBA
  11. Leigh, Wendy, True Grace: The Life and Times of an American Princess, New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2007, p.100.
  12. ibid., p. 112.
  13. Dherbier and Verlhac, p. 12.

Grace Kelly, Andy Warhol, 1984.