• resisting the abuse of power

    'December 1931. A horrible year comes to an end, full of crises, collapses, and useless conferences. The economy is on a precipice.'

    'February 1932. Huge worries in my factory. I go to a meeting of the League for Human Rights.'

    During the 1920s and 1930s, Herbert Sulzbach was a businessman in Berlin. His diary records increasing political and economic turmoil, and escalating racial violence.

    He responded by writing letters to newspapers, and also joined the German League for Human Rights. This organisation had been set up in 1914, and was committed to lasting peace in Europe. By 1922, when Sulzbach became involved in resisting totalitarianism and making a positive contribution, the League was working to foster better relationships with Germany's neighbours – particularly France. Sulzbach renewed friendly contact with the French people with whom he had lodged during the war.

    In January 1933 Adolph Hitler became chancellor of Germany. Ten days later:

    '27 February 1933, The Reichstag burns. Every day there are killings. Newspapers are prohibited. There is trouble everywhere.'

    That summer, Sulzbach wrote in his diary,

    '30 June 1933. The National Socialist revolution has come to an end. We have totalitarianism. All Jews have been removed from public office, countless numbers have emigrated. It is a completely different Germany.'

    By then, resistance was impossible for Jews. Sulzbach fled to Britain.

    Only after the end of the war did he begin to appreciate the extent of resistance that had developed. He was grateful and much encouraged that – after all – the values of the 'other' Germany had survived. He became friends with some of the resisters, such as Otto John and Fabian von Schlabrendorff, and spread the word about others:

    'A vast cross-section of Germans - working class men, Trade Unionists, Labour movement leaders, Civil Servants, soldiers, officers - had formed groups of anti-Nazi movements; even students dared to issue and distribute leaflets (the Scholl group in Munich for example) telling of the horrors of Nazism.'

    For Sulzbach, resisting the abuse of power was a moral necessity, an empowering activity for those involved, and an encouragement for those at the receiving end of abuse.

    (photo: Nuremberg rally 1933. text: © Ainslie Hepburn. original diaries: © Yvonne Klemperer)


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On my blog I write about biography, Anglo-German reconciliation, and the life of Herbert Sulzbach.


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