I was quite interested in a recent Keepa post about events going on in the Church in July, 1942. World War II was raging. The United States had entered the war seven months earlier and, although it had suffered a number of setbacks in the Pacific theater, had recently won a major victory at Midway. In July, 1942, my own father turned eight years of age and a few weeks later was baptized in the Ford County Lake in Kansas—his mother had converted two years earlier and his father joined the Church the next February.
While reading the post of Church events in July, 1942, I could not help but notice that there were no reports from Church members in Germany. That really should come as no surprise since the German Saints were cut-off from the mother Church in the USA. Nevertheless, the Latter-day Saints in the Third Reich had their share of war-related experiences. Although records are scant specifically for July, 1942, I will relate some of the major experiences of the German Saints for the year 1942. (These accounts are available in the East German Mission Manuscript History and the West German Mission Manuscript History at the LDS archives, Salt Lake City, Utah).
In the West German Mission, Anton Huch became acting mission president. Many believed he was sympathetic to regime. Huch served until after the end of World War II. He was preceeded as acting mission president by Friedrich Biel and Christian Heck, both of whom were drafted into the military and lost their lives on the Russian Front.
In the East German Mission, Herbert Klopfer served as acting mission president from 1939 to 1943. At the beginning of the war, he had been called up for military duty but was stationed in Berlin and was able to continue presiding over the mission. Finally, in 1943 he was transferred to France and later on to Denmark. In 1944 he was reassigned to the Russian Front where he lost his life in the spring of 1945. In his absence from Berlin, his wife, Erna, and his two counselors, Richard Ranglack and Paul Langheinrich, ran the affairs of the mission.
In both the East and West German missions, the Relief Society celebrated its centennial. For this celebration the mission Relief Societies jointly distributed jubilee brochures with the story of this great organization.
On 22 March, the Hamburg district presented a play, The ABC of the Relief Society, written by Sister Inge Baum of the Kassel branch.
On Sunday, July 19, 1942, the West German Mission Manuscript notes the following:
In the officers’ meeting of the Altona branch, Elder Friedrich Thymian, superintendent of the YMMIA, said: “The work with the youth of the Church is greatly hindered by ‘higher powers.’ The only work the MIA can do is to provide entertainment for the branch.”
It is obvious that Brother Thymian, also the branch clerk, referred to the party in power. The young people were forced to participate in the activities of the Hitler Jugend and this made the work of the MIA with the youth almost impossible. It is also interesting to note how careful Brother Thymian is choosing his words describing the difficulty. The books of the branches were checked frequently by the Gestapo and it could have been fatal if they contained any remarks against the NSDAP.
CONDITIONS IN BRANCHES/DISTRICTS:
Both mission histories note the constant perils of air raids. In November, the Wilhelmshaven branch conference was interrupted twice by air raids. Several meeting halls had by 1942 either been damaged or destroyed by bombs. The Bremen branch meeting hall had been confiscated by governmental authorities and other meeting halls were designated air-raid shelters.
Many in leadership positions in the branches and districts had been called up for military duty.
On 1 January 1943, reflecting on conditions, district president Willi Deters of the Bremen district wrote:
The fourth year of the war has started. What has the new year in store for us? The conditions in the branches are becoming increasingly more difficult. The lack of food is more and more noticeable. The constant air-raids make the people nervous and irritable. There are only the real faithful Saints coming to the meetings now. However, these are in sufficient numbers to carry on the work.
LDS PRISONERS OF WAR:
The following information was related to Justus Ernst by J. Paul Jongkees, President of the Holland Stake, on his visit to Salt Lake City on April 7, 1960:
At the time of the invasion of the Netherlands by German troops, I was an officer in the Dutch army. In 1942, I was arrested by the occupation forces and placed as a former officer in the subsequent years in Prisoner of War camps in Nuremberg; Stanisflau (?), Poland; and Neu Brandenburg.
During this time I was with Elder Pieter Blam, the only member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in these several camps. Elder Blam invited us to attend meetings he conducted with the permission of the German commandant in these several camps. I attended along with a dozen or so other men and received at this time a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In these years of despair the gospel brought joy to us and the strength we needed to endure all difficulties.
Besides regular services, we also held MIA meetings and had a small choir.
In 1945 we were liberated by the Russian troops and returned to Holland where six of this group were baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints including myself.
THE HELMUTH HÜBENER GROUP:
In 1941, three young Latter-day Saints in Hamburg organized a resistance group. Led by Helmuth Hübener, Karl-Heinz Schnibbe and Rudi Wobbe listened to BBC broadcasts and published anti-Nazi handbills which they covertly distributed throughout Hamburg. In February 1942, the trio was arrested and incarcerated in Glasmor prison in Hamburg where they endured the wrath of the Gestapo.
In July 1942, the Hübener Group prepared to be transported from Hamburg to Berlin Moabit prison where they were to stand trial before the Volksgerichthof (People’s Court—a.k.a. “Blood Tribunal”). They were found guilty in August, 1942. Hübener was executed on 27 October in the infamous Plötzensee prison. Schnibbe was sentenced to five years in prison and Wobbe to ten years. Both survived the war and migrated to Salt Lake City. Helmuth Hübener was excommunicated at the time by his branch president for his activities. However, after World War II his membership was posthumously reinstated.