Saturday, July 15, 2006

No satisfactory guarantee for Nazi education (Elizabeth von Thadden)

During the first years of Nazism, Elisabeth von Thadden, a Protestant school mistress, was attracted to the ideas of the new Reich. She was still quite blind to the intentions of the Nazis. But as the Nazi’s evil agendas became more and more exposed, she gradually became disappointed.When the Nazis came to power, they banned von Thadden to enroll Jewish girls in the Christian bording school which she founded, but she defied those rules.

Unknown to von Thadden, one of the girls enrolled in her school was the daughter of a Nazi mother. She was sent by her mother to spy on the school’s activities. Once, von Thadden held a worship service in her school and chose some verses from the Psalms as text. The girl immediately reported this to her mother, and the Gestapo were sent to the school. The Bavarian Culture Ministry threatened the school with closure for “activities endangering the state” because there was no portrait of Hitler hanging in the school building, and because at worship services, where the texts are mostly from the Psalms, therefore making it Jewish. Von Thadden was interrogated, and most of the topics in interrogation was about religion. Von Thadden didn’t close the school, however. So the school was nationalized and Von Thadden was unceremoniously suspended from the school's governing board without compensation. The Nazis saw in the school “no satisfactory guarantee for National-Socialist-aligned education.”

Von Thadden went back to Berlin and joined the Red Cross as a nursing assistant. She also developed contacts with opponents of the Nazi régime such as Helmut Gollwitzer, Martin Niemöller and Elly Heuss-Knapp and also engaged in activities such as gathering food stamps for people in hiding and affording those threatened by the régime a chance to leave the country. She quite underestimated the danger of doing these things.

Von Thadden became involved in the “Solf Circle”, which was organized by an ambassador’s widow and her daughter and tackled pressing issues about Nazism in tea parties. The Nazis saw this as a threat to the Reich. On September 10, 1943, von Thadden invited members of the circle to her birthday party, where they talked about Nazism. One of the guests was a Swiss Doctor who was spying for the Nazis.

Over the next faw months, members of the circle and von Thadden were arrested. Von Thadden was sent to Ravensbruck. She was sentenced to death for “attempted high treason because of the assumed connection with Reichchancellor Wirth and his circle, and the destruction of the army’s morale through the conversations about hopelessness of the state of war.” The sentence was delayed because of the attempt on Hitler’s life. She was beheaded on September 8, 1944, in Plotzensee prison. The pastor who accompanied her to death said that she walked with steady steps. She went the way in a brave fight against her enemies, but without rebellion against God.

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