Silent Heroes

The Courage of Civilians during the Third Reich

On January 23, 2005, Eugen Bolz will have been dead for 60 years. He was Württemberg’s last govenor before Hitler came to power and was regarded as one of Hitler’s most fearless opponents. Because he supported the July 20, 1944, assassination attempt, he was executed. Had Hitler been toppled, he would have become the minister for culture. Today, schools and streets throughout the state are named after Eugen Bolz. However, many less prominent civilians also demonstrated courage and came to the aid of Jews, communists and government opponents. Where did the resistance begin? What did it look like? Several hundred Jews survived the war hidden within the country. each one of them depending on roughly 20 helpers. What has become of these rescuers?

For years Freiburg historian Wolfram Wette has been searching for these “silent heroes”. At first he was met with animosity, his work a provocation for the silent majority. Now time is working against him: most of the witnesses have died, written documents from the Nazi period are naturly rare, and what has not surfaced by now will probably never be known.

Heinz Drossel of Waldkirch, at 88, is one of the few “silent heroes” who is still alive. During the war Drossel saved the lives of a number of Jews in Berlin. Students at the Waldkirch high school shot a film about Drossel and since then have been documenting other stories from the Nazi era: the histories of the Jews Drossel rescued, the history of the Nazi mural in the Waldkirch town hall, the history of the SS murderer Karl Jäger who was from Waldkirch. At present, the Waldkirch students are planning a trip to visit Jäger’s victims in Lithuania.

Jesuit priest Heinrich Middendorf was one of a Freiburg network that hid Jews and helped them to escape. Gertrud Luckner and Grete Borgmann belonged to this network, too. Thus, among others, Ursula Giessler and her parents were saved in the Stegen convent near Freiburg. Even to his death, Middendorf never spoke about it, but a “tripping stone” placed befor the convent by the Cologne artist Günter Demnig is a memorial to this Jesuit priest. Mrs. Giessler still remembers well that day, when Nazi opponent Grete Borgmann took her on her bicycle to the convent.

The film shows how hard it is to find these “silent heroes” and to honor them. Three examples illustrate the courage of civilians during the Third Reich.

Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung, January 22, 2005: "A documentary film, as impressive and well presented as it has to be if you want to reach the younger generation." (Anita Boomgaarden)

Produced by

SWR

A film by

Sigrid Faltin

Year

2005

Running time

30 and 42 min.

Team

  • cinematographer: Hardy Ottersbach
  • editor: Georg Philipkowski
  • sound: Albert Gratz
  • commissioning editor: Felicitas Wehnert

„We produce documentary films - it's real life that interests us.“
Sigrid Faltin, white pepper films

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white pepper Filmgesellschaft

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