Some of the images OCR’d and put together into one piece.
Libby Jones (via Twitter):
Most people who know the name Sophie Scholl know she was a 21 year old German student activist who was executed by the Nazis for distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets on her college campus. But people don’t talk about what happened leading up to her execution, or what happened after.
Sophie and her brother Hans were caught by a university janitor named Jakob Schmid as they distributed pamphlets in a courtyard. He grabbed them, declared them “under arrest,” and turned them over to the Gestapo. Four days of interrogations later, they were in front of Nazi judge Roland Freisler (one of Hitler’s favorites, his “hanging judge” flown in from Berlin) for a show trial that Hans and Sophie’s parents weren’t allowed in the courtroom for.
Hans, Sophie, and their friend Christoph Probst were all found guilty of treason, sentenced to death, and beheaded a few hours later.
No one talks about this janitor, Jakob Schmid. He got a cash reward and a promotion for turning in Sophie and Hans. The University of Munich threw him a celebration. Hundreds of students attended and cheered for him. He thanked them with a Nazi salute.
After the war, Jakob Schmid was arrested and put on a trial of his own. He said he only turned the Scholls in because distributing pamphlets was against university policy – it wasn’t because of the content of the pamphlets.
When you think of Nazis, you probably think of uniformed officers. But the Nazis were a political party of everyday people. So also think of a janitor tsk-tsking that someone wasn’t protesting “the right way.” A student at a rally applauding him. A judge towing the party line.
We like to tell ourselves Nazi Germany was so horrific it could never be repeated. Maybe you don’t personally know someone who would have flipped the switch on the gas chambers. But I can almost guarantee you know a Jakob Schmid.
Tumblr user sentientcitizen:
Here’s the opposite story, though. With apologies because I don’t have the book in front of me, so I may get some details wrong, but I read this [in] “Irena’s Children” by Tilar J. Mazzeo.
Irena lived in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation, and dedicated her life to rescuing Jewish children from the Ghetto, and her story is complicated in a lot of ways but – well, this story isn’t actually about Irena, per se.
It’s about a bus driver.
It’s about a day when she’s traveling across town by bus with a very young Jewish child, and partway to their destination the child looks up and asks a question – in Yiddish. and the whole bus goes quiet, because everyone knows what that means. And Irena thinks, okay, we’re going to die here today.
And she’s running through her options – all of them bad – and suddenly the bus stops, and the bus driver announces that there’s been a mechanical failure and the bus needs to return to the depot immediately. Everyone off, please.
And she stands and goes to get off the bus and the driver says – not you two. Sit down. So she sits down as everyone else leaves, because, well, what else is she going to do? the options are all still bad, at this point.
And when the bus is empty the bus driver says, “Where do you need to go?”
And then he drives them as close to their destination as he can, and lets them off, and drives away. And Irena lives, and the kid lives, and they never cross paths again.
So a janitor got three people killed, and a bus driver saved two lives – not to mention all the other lives indirectly saved because Irena was able to continue her work.
I think about that almost every day now, to be honest.
We can’t all be Irena. I couldn’t be Irena. She was in a unique place with very specific skills and connections that let her do what she did. I am just one mentally ill librarian. I can’t be her. But – I can be the bus driver. Or I could be the janitor. Because it doesn’t matter what your job is. It doesn’t matter who you are. In a world like this, every single one of us has the opportunity to do massive harm or massive good. We can save lives or end them.
And that’s scary. but it’s also very comforting? at least for me. Because at the end of the day it means this: no matter of how small and helpless and unimportant you feel, you’re never powerless in the face of great evil.
You can choose to be the bus driver.
Tumblr user athingofvikings:
I have another story from the Holocaust.
One is long, and one is brief.
The first story is about my grandfather.
He was a slave in a Krups munitions factory in a Nazi concentration camp in Czestochowa, Poland.
He was also a smuggler. If I did not have multiple corroborating witnesses to the sheer ludicrous balls that he had, I would dismiss the stories as exaggeration. But he was a food smuggler-he would buy some kind of sugar from the Polish day workers coming into the factory, make candy out of them, sell the candy back to the workers at a profit, and buy food with the proceeds-which he then proceeded to share with the other slaves, free of charge. Without him, they would have starved to death, but an extra hundred calories a day made a difference enough to keep them alive.
But that’s not the story.
The story is what happened in Spring of 1945.
My grandfather could hear the guns of the Russian Army off in the distance, and he and the other captives in the camp figured that they would be liberated any day now.
And then a truck packed full with preteen Jewish children who had just been captured comes into the work camp instead of the extermination camp up the road. Because the Nazis were so fixated on their hatred of Jews that they diverted war resources to hunting us down even as they were losing.
So it’s pandemonium. They’re unloading the truck of the kids, the guards are yelling at the driver, the kids are milling about not knowing what’s going on…
And my grandfather sees one boy who looked a little older, a little more mature, and figured that this one he can save. It’s just a few days until the Russians arrive, after all.
So he tells the boy to come with him.
And the rest… got loaded back onto the truck and off they went to the gas chambers.
But it wasn’t a couple of days.
It was six weeks.
Stalin personally ordered the Army to slow their advance and told the Polish Resistance to rise up, and that the Russians would support them with food and weapons.
So they rose up… and were slaughtered. Because they got nothing from the Russians. Stalin knew that anyone who would be resisting the Nazis would be resisting him next, and it was an elegant way to weaken Poland before he took it.
Meanwhile, my grandfather is hiding a fourteen year old boy in a NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP.
The risks they took to hide him… they would hold him up over empty shoes sewn to long pants at the evening roll call so that he would look taller. They smuggled food to him… If they had been caught… I have nightmares of what would have been done to them.
Finally, one night, they are all locked in their barracks as the Nazis evacuated the camp and the Russians were coming in, with the Nazis using the camp for cover for their escape.
And in the chaos…
My grandfather lost track of the boy.
Twenty-two years later, he tells this story to my father when my father is 12, and has demanded to know something, be told something concrete.
So he doesn’t know what happened to the boy. Did he live? Did he die? Did he find his mother and sisters?
He doesn’t know.
Six months later, my grandmother is planning my father’s bar mitzvah. Not as a religious obligation, but as a 200 foot tall flaming middle finger to the Third Reich. You are gone, and WE ARE STILL HERE.
So she plugs into what my father called the “Camp Network”-the trombonist in the band was on a death march with an uncle, the florist was in a work camp with a friend, etc. And she’s asking, “I need a photographer, who is good?”
“You want Joe Brown, up in Queens,” she’s told.
So she invites him down to talk terms at their house in Brooklyn, which is quite a haul in NYC.
And the first question one Holocaust survivor asks another is, “Where were you?” Because maybe you know someone, maybe you can tell what happened.
“I was in Czestochowa,” he says.
“You were in Czestochowa? My husband Teddy was in Czestochowa!”
“I didn’t know a Teddy Baum.”
“Oh, everyone knew Teddy.”
“I didn’t know a Teddy Baum!”
“When he gets home, you’ll see. Everyone there knew Teddy.” Because he was smuggling in the food that kept them all alive.
So the thing is, you live in the US for 20 years, you forget that your name was not “Teddy Baum” but “Tuvyas Bumps.”
And when my grandfather got home from work…
…sitting there at his kitchen table…
…was the boy he had saved.
(I’m not crying…)
That’s the first story.
The second story is that of my grandfather’s brother.
It is short.
He collaborated with the Nazis to save his own skin. He let my grandfather’s first wife and son starve to death in the ghetto and informed on people who tried to escape or resist. My grandfather said that “Good people went up the chimney and he stayed behind.”
One saved over a hundred lives.
The other betrayed his own flesh and blood to save his own skin.
Your choices define you.
Whoever destroys a single life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world. – Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5