Monday 22 July 2024

Dragging feet on new initiatives


What must it have been like for Hans Edler? He was designing weapons that were to be used to destroy the United Kingdom. His wife and child were living in England.

As I wrote his story it occurred to me that he may have taken his time. He may have delayed tests or deliberately held up progress on perfecting this horrid killing machine.

A few weeks after I’d written this episode I read that indeed engineers working on the V2  thought it was such a horrible weapon that they deliberately went slowly with is manufacture.

Had those German engineers a greater conscience that those who worked on the nuclear bombs or is it just true that the latter didn’t realise how powerful those weapons were?

Werner von Braun and Walter Dornberger were two well-known engineers who worked  in this area.    

There are stories too of officials processing paperwork slowly.

Renate was protected to some extent by her teachers.  They didn’t force her to join the BDM or to make the Nazi salute. They weren’t exactly hiding her but they just took their time making everything official

When the Waldorf School was inspected, the official delayed sending in his report. It didn’t stop the closure of the school but it did take attention away from them and so the special class was almost forgotten about and continued in the basement of the house that Clara Lehrs built.

Oskar Schindler is of course well-known for employing people in his factory and designating  them as  essential workers.

Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, a German diplomat stationed in Denmark, informed the Danish authorities of the deportation of Danish Jews. This allowed for a large rescue operation and 7,200 Jews were ferried safely across to Sweden.       

Thursday 4 July 2024

Turning a blind eye to others not obeying the rules


During the Nazi era, many individuals and groups turned a blind eye to others who were not obeying Nazi rules. This passive complicity was driven by a mix of fear, sympathy, moral agreement, and pragmatic survival strategies. Understanding these dynamics sheds light on the complexities of human behavior under oppressive regimes.

Ordinary Citizens

Among ordinary Germans, there was a significant number who, while not actively resisting the Nazis themselves, chose to overlook the actions of those who did. This could include neighbors who knew that a Jewish family was being hidden in the attic next door but chose not to report it. For many, this silence was a form of passive resistance; they did not agree with Nazi policies but were too fearful of the potential repercussions to actively oppose them.

For example, in some instances, when Gestapo agents came searching for Jews, neighbors might have pretended not to notice the suspicious activity or provided vague and unhelpful information. This passive non-compliance created a small but significant buffer against the total enforcement of Nazi policies.

Civil Servants and Police

Some civil servants and members of the police force also turned a blind eye to acts of disobedience. While some were ideologically aligned with the Nazis, others privately disagreed with the regime but were unable to openly resist due to the risk of severe punishment. These individuals sometimes engaged in "work-to-rule" tactics, where they would strictly follow procedures to the letter, thereby slowing down processes and allowing time for resistors to escape or hide.

For instance, a police officer might deliberately delay the filing of a report or a bureaucrat might "lose" paperwork that would have resulted in the arrest or deportation of a Jewish family. These small acts of bureaucratic sabotage could make a significant difference in individual cases.

Business Owners and Employers

Certain business owners and employers played a role in quietly aiding those who defied Nazi regulations. They might hire Jewish workers under false identities or provide forged documentation to protect them. These employers recognized the risks but chose to prioritize human decency over strict adherence to the law.

A well-known example is Oskar Schindler, who, while actively saving Jews, also relied on the complicity of his workers and associates who chose not to report his actions. Many other less famous employers did similar things, providing crucial aid without drawing attention to themselves.

Religious Institutions

Religious institutions often found themselves in a difficult position under Nazi rule. While official church positions varied, individual clergy members sometimes turned a blind eye to resistance activities. Churches, monasteries, and convents provided shelter to Jews and political dissidents, relying on the silence of their congregations and communities to protect those they were hiding.

In the Netherlands, for example, the clergy played a significant role in the resistance. Many Catholic and Protestant leaders did not actively preach against the Nazis from the pulpit but instead used their positions to quietly support and protect those resisting the regime.

International Diplomats

Some diplomats from neutral or Allied countries, stationed in Nazi-occupied territories, chose to turn a blind eye to their own nations' restrictions and helped Jews escape. For instance, Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat in Hungary, issued protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory.


Turning a blind eye to the disobedience of Nazi laws was a nuanced and often dangerous form of passive resistance. This silent complicity by ordinary citizens, civil servants, business owners, religious figures, and diplomats played a crucial role in undermining the Nazi regime's total control. Their actions, or inactions, highlight the moral complexities and varied forms of resistance that emerged in response to one of history's most oppressive regimes.

Monday 10 June 2024

Paying lip service

Giving lip-service to Nazi engagement.   

Hans Edler had this down to a fine art. He would always say “Heil Edler” rather than Heil Hitler.” He probably mumbled in order to get away with it.

Many of the examples of this in the Schellberg books come from anecdotes that Renate James, née Edler recited to us.

It spooked his wife; she thought someone would hear and they would get into a lot of trouble about it. He didn’t worry though. His salute remained firm and “Edler” probably sounded enough like “Hitler” for it to be convincing.

And then there is some story-telling. Notably there is the incident of him doing this when the telegram boy arrives. His wife remonstrates with him. This begins a little light relief in the text. There is some foreshadowing here; a later telegram will say that Hani has chicken pox and Renate cannot come to visit. Renate knows that this cannot be true; she and Hani have both already had chicken pox. Something sinister is going on.  

Käthe Edler finds  herself accidentally at one of the Nuremberg rallies she is astounded that she actually also says Edler just as her  husband always did.  Again when she comes face to face with the Führer she uses Edler.

Hans Edler was cautious; he at least raised his arm like a good Nazi should. His daughter was an entirely different matter; she refused to do the Hitler salute at all. This may have been partly to do with her teachers. They hid her in plain sight. Yet they felt they couldn’t force her to join the BDM or salute the Führer. It wouldn’t be right for a young Jewish girl.

One can imagine as well, some households where rather than saluting the dictator they cursed him – in private, behind closed doors and under four eyes.           

Tuesday 28 May 2024

Grumbling Behind Closed Doors: a daughter and mother are at loggerheads


Can you imagine some of the scenarios that might have happened?  For instance:


Lotte, can you help me with Friedrich and Hans?


Mutti, I can’t. I’ve got to get to my BDM meeting.


Can’t you miss it just for once?


You know I can’t. We have our first aid test today.


I could do with some first aid. Shouldn’t your priority be to help the family? They want us to have more children. Don’t they know how difficult this can be? Surely if you’re helping at home, helping to bring up decent German citizens, you’re doing your bit.


I’ve got to go now or I’ll be late.


They haven’t really thought this through. Go on then.


BDM leader:

Heil Hitler. Lotte Kaiser, you’re late.


Heil Hitler. I’m sorry. I had to help Mutti with the twins.

BDM leader:

That’s a sloppy apology for saluting the Führer. You’ll help your two brothers better by being fully here.


Mutti’s finding it hard. It’s all very well having more children but with Vati away fighting and me not available to help ….

BDM leader:

Is your Mutti criticising Herr Hitler?

Lotte (bows her head and shrugs)

She wouldn’t do that.

BDM leader:

I should hope not. She should be honoured.  

Tuesday 30 April 2024

Attempts on Hitler’s Life

1921 Beer Hall Putsch

We could argue that the very first attempt on Hitler’s life was at the Beer Hall Putsch. This happened in November 1921 and he was arrested and imprisoned. He was relatively unknown then.  But when he made a speech, several opponents drew pistols and fired.

1932 Ludwig Assner

Assner sent Hitler a poisoned letter but an acquaintance of Assner’s tipped Hitler off. Earlier in the year there seems to have been an attempt to poison  Hitler and his crew. However, Hitler didn’t even become ill as he stayed with his vegetarian diet.

1934 Beppo Römer

Römer vowed to assassinate Hitler but never got round to it.

1934 Helmut Mylius

Mylius was a right wing radical who conspired against Hitler but the plans of the conspiracy were exposed.     

1935 Marwitz group

Officials of the German Foreign Office thought Hitler should be stopped and distributed letters saying that now was the time to act.  

1936 Helmut Hersch

Hercsh planted two suitcases full of explosive in the Nazi headquarter but they were discovered before they went off.

1937 unknown SS man

This man tried to kill Hitler at a rally.

1938 Hans Oster and Helmut Groscurth

Hoster and Groscurth with the help of a few others planned to overthrow Hitler but gave up when the Munich Agreement was signed, avoiding the immediate threat of war.  

1938 Maurice Bavaud

Bavaud bought a gun and started stalking Hitler. He was actually protected by people surrounding Hitler making the Nazi salute. Bavaud was finally executes in 1941.

1938 Käthe Edler

Edler could have killed Hitler but it never occurred to her.

1939 Georg Elser

Elser created a bomb that indeed went off as planned. Eight people were killed and several injured but Hitler escaped.

1939 Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski

He attempted to detonate explosives during Hitler’s victory parade in Warsaw.

1939 Erich Kordt

Kordt hatched an assassination plot but had to abandon it.

1939-1943 Noel Mason-Macfarlane

Mason-Macfarlane thought of killing Hitler with a sniper but never got round to it.

1943 Henning von Tresckow

This was another attempt at a bomb. Henning was a disillusioned military officer. He handed a member of Hitler’s staff a parcel containing two bottles of Cointreau. The bomb did not go off on as planned. Tresckow manage to retrieve the parcel and found that the bomb had had a defective fuse.

1943 Rudolff von Gertsdorf    

Gertsdorf was willing to become the bomb himself this time. Security was however too tight and he manged to extract himself form the bomb before it went off.

1943 Hubert Lanz, Hans Speidel, Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz

The planned to arrest Hitler during a visit to the Ukraine.

1944 – Stauffenberg

Several German officers, disgruntled after the D-Day  landings, decided to attempt another bomb and then get the Reserve Army to dismantle the line of command.

However, someone moved the bomb and although it went off and killed four men, it only left Hitler with non-life-threatening injuries.  

1944 Eberhard von Breitenbuch

Breitenbuch planned to shoot Hitler in the head at a conference. However, he was no allowed into the conference.


One source mentions forty-four attempts.

Why didn’t they succeed?

Were they badly planned?

Was Hitler’s security too efficient?

Were they plotter found out too soon?

And was Käthe Edler really the only woman who was even in any position to do anything?   

Monday 8 April 2024

Resisting Hitler


I’m exploring this quite a bit now as I prepare to write my final Schellberg Cycle novel.

There is a sort of hierarchy in the resistance:

Grumbling behind closed doors

Giving lip service only to the “rules” – Hans Edler’s ‘Heil Edler’ is an example of this.  

Turning a blind eye to others not obeying the rules

Dragging feet on new initiatives  – as  Hans Edler  did with the fabrication of the V2.  

Some Christian resistance – we have examples of this in the Cycle.

Overtly disobeying

Protest marches

Taking huge risks secretly: e.g. hiding Jews  

Satire – this will figure hugely in my final book.

Some left-wing organisation existed – The Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party  

Some youth organisations – such as the White Rose.

Resistance even within the armed forces.

Resistance outside of Germany  

Attempts on his life  

Monday 25 March 2024

Be Grateful for Your Freedom


We may grumble about our current politicians and I’m certainly getting fed up of this routine where one party raises themselves up only by pushing other people down. We all know that there is a limited amount anyone can do because of the circumstances they face so that sort of behaviour becomes tedious.

Compared with some many we really have it quite good.

We can move freely in our world and even though we might think freedom of speech has taken a bit of a knock we’re tending to debate what it actually means rather than curb it. We are rarely yet punished for what we think. Yes there have been a few warnings recently but compared with many we do have it easy.

Let’s get back to what it must have bene like for the people in this cycle.   

Clara Lehrs didn’t believe that it was actually happening. Humans could never be so cruel, could they? Oh yes they could and it didn’t stop. Look how the Jews in that regime gradually had their freedom taken away.

Thy were distrusted.

Then they were despised.

They couldn’t work

They couldn’t shop

They couldn’t be educated

Then they were imprisoned.

Then came the final solution and they were all killed.    

Freedom is fragile and could disappear at any moment. So let’s take head of those warnings and cherish our freedom.  We may not have it forever.     

Thursday 14 March 2024

Types of Leadership

I’m actually writing two sets of novels at the moment. The one that is talked about here and one for older young adults that is set far in the future.

And they’re crossing over at the moment.

Science fiction anyway often deals with the problems that we face currently and objectifies our own world.

There are several patterns of leadership in our current world:

Democratically elected presidents

Dictatorship (including benign dictators)


Alongside the head of state there is often a prime minister.

Many people today just don’t know how to vote in a democracy.  Not one party seems to offer a completely acceptable solution. Politics often descends into personal brawls with one  party scoring points against the other nd sometime it almost becomes personal. A benign dictator might be the most we could hope for.

What of monarchy in the UK? There have been times recently when I’ve thought that Elizabeth II or Charles III might make a better fist of looking after us than all our democratically elected leaders have in the past few years.

In my futuristic novel the head of state of one people dies.  She is called the President and the title is hereditary. She has just one child, a young girl, seven years old.  There is a protocol for when this happens. The dying president appoints the protagonist as the one who should represent the new young president. Fortunately Petri has enhanced diplomatic skills and is able to bring harmony between the people she now represents and her own people.

If only real life would follow fiction.          

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Stalin, Animal Farm, George Orwell and the Holocaust


George Orwell’s Animal Farm is only 30,000 words long and yet it packs a lot in. Earlier this month we went to see a production of it at which there were several school groups. My impression was that they were all possibly too young to understand it and I worried that they might not concentrate. I was wrong: even though they were noisy at first they were enthralled from the moment the play started.

Orwell wrote the book between 1943 and 1944 but it wasn’t published until 1945 despite its relevance to society then and indeed to any society.  The problem was that it looked as if it was talking about Stalin and Stalin had just become an ally.

There is a reverence to the Holocaust but could Orwell have known and indeed isn’t it really a universal reference? Boxer becomes weak and less useful and is carted off in a van marked “slaughterhouse.”

“It isn’t what it seems,” says Napoleon (and what a name that is). Is that the equivalent of a Nazi lie or indeed any lie in politics when the truth needs to be covered up?

Food becomes short on the farm and there is a hint that it was perhaps better when Jones (the farmer) was still in charge.  Mollie wants to go back to wearing ribbons (animals are not allowed to wear clothes). Would they in fact be better off with a benign dictator than the democracy they try to create?

Leadership goes to the heads of those who have put themselves in charge; they start fraternizing with humans, they change the rules – alcohol is now allowed as long as it is in moderation and animals may sleep in beds as long as they don’t have sheets.  They start walking around on two legs where before they had said four legs were superior to two legs.

They become capitalist; they have to produce goods that they can sell so that they can buy in labour and materials in order to rebuild a mill.

And the biggest change is that all are no longer equal because some are more equal than others.

Democracy dies as the leaders become dilators and no longer hold open meetings.

There is a feeling of inevitability about this. It all started out with good intentions. The animals were to rule themselves and this was going to be better than what Farmer Jones had offered. Yet they have to make compromises on their goals.  And the mill’s lack of success isn’t just down to lack of materials and labour – bad weather also plays a part and we should remember it is only being rebuilt because a neighbouring farmer has sabotaged it.  

So often political leaders in the end can only do what circumstances allow them to do. Out of fear for their status they begin to impose harsher rules on people. Is there that much difference between a far left totalitarian society and a far right dictatorship?

Friday 9 February 2024

Pogroms, asylum seekers, happiness seekers


A member of my creative writing group wrote a very moving piece based very loosely on her family. She wrote of a time when two million Jews fled or rather were forced to emigrate from Russia 1880 -1920. Clara’s Story starts as a time like that in Germany has ended and any persecution of Jews has been made illegal. We know that that particular peace did not last long. My creative writing group member really took us into the time and place and made us understand what that way of life felt like. This is another example of creative writing being a tool for uncovering what we don’t know.  We take what we do know, our humanity, and say how that humanity will react if this or that happens.

Her other piece was a newspaper article about the people who arrive in boats. These are people wo are so scared of the regime they have left, where their lives may be under threat , that they are willing to pay the high prices to exploitive gangs and put their lives at risk  in another way by crossing the sea dangerously. Asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants. However we don’t know who the people are in the boats until we process them.

Jennifer Burkinshaw’s Happiness Seeker features Mareno who has come illegally to the UK simply because there is no work in his homeland. Simply? Wait. There being no work is huge. How are people supposed to support themselves if they can’t find work?

As the people in my creative writer’s story began to leave their already quite poor homes I was actually reminded of John Steinbek’s The Grapes of Wrath. They too were “happiness seekers” but what else could they do if their farms were no longer viable and there was no work available locally?

Many factors can lead to people becoming displaced. Having a home, feeling safe at home, and being able to sustain a home are important. We all do what we can to maintain that. We are or should be grateful for it and it may be worth taking a few moments to reflect on what it might feel like if that were suddenly taken away from us.

We should also remember those displaced people are often or often become very resourceful and creative and thereby also become an asset to the community they eventually join.            

Friday 26 January 2024

The Nazi Attitude to Art


We need to remember first of all that Hitler was a failed artist. He didn’t manage to get into art school after applying twice and he spent a lot of his time before he became the great dictator painting pictures on post cards. He liked Romanticism and detested modern art.  For him painting had to be realistic and heroic.

A main concern for the Nazis was getting rid of Jewish influence in art.  For this reason they admired classical art, Greek and Roman, as this had no Jewish input. They also despised art produced by homosexuals and communist artists.

Much modern art and what we may now label “modernism” was condemned as being “degenerate”.  Expressionism was particularly despised. Also classed as “degenerate” was what we refer to as Cubism, Dada, Fauvism and Surrealism. Works by Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse were destroyed.  

In Munich in 1937 there was an exhibition of “Entartete Kunst” which showed much of the “degenerate” art deliberately displayed in chaotic manner to discredit it. This includes work from Klee and Kandinsky. The Nazis had confiscated 650 modern paintings, graphic works and sculptures from 32 museums.

Meanwhile, around the corner at the respected Haus der Deutschen Kunst there was a more sober exhibition of Nazi approved artists.

In the 1940s, the Nazis compiled a list of favoured artists. These were considered to be ‘divinely gifted’.  42,000 artist were given government approval and had to register with the Reich Chamber of Visual Arts. They were not allowed to be “politically” unreliable and could be expelled if they were deemed to be so, A tribunal was created in 1936.

One favoured sculptor was Arno Breker who produced between 1933 and 1945works that resembled Greek sculptures. He continued to work on this style into the 1950s.  

The Reichskulturkammer was established in 1933. This was to promote the Aryan race through art. This marked the end for the Bauhaus art school and movement, situated in Weimar, Dessau and Bernau. The Bauhaus created what might be called German modernism and which became by Nazi definition degenerate. The Bauhaus also fostered the idea of a community of artists working together. It was in its time the most progressive school of art known.  

Art was used to create propaganda posters:

The work produced by the Nazis was classical and a little dull.         

Much of the Nazi produced art still exists and there has been a call for a work by Adolf Ziegler to be taken down.  Ziegler  persecuted Jews and “degenerate” artists. The work ‘The Four Elements’ is displayed in Munich’s Pintothek museum    

The Nazis also stole great works of art from Jewish owners. Some valuable works of art were hidden and served as a  type of investment. This led to some talented artists producing forgeries in order to keep the original out of Nazi hands. Many British artistic treasures were hidden inside mountains in Wales in case of a German invasion.