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Opinion: Something to Really Protest About

Protesting a war? Protesting the loss of human life? These causes are worthy of our attention. Protesting a cause "yet to be determined"? Eh, not so much.

Dear Occupy Boston occupiers:

Let me tell you about a protester I’ve been a fan of for many years.

His name was Helmuth Hübener. He was born a child of the German Weimar Republic and grew up as the Nazis came to power. His contempt for the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler and the totalitarian rule of the Nazis swelled during the early years of World War II. Being in possession of a short-wave radio, he, along with friends (and fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Rudi Wobbe and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, began spending late nights listening, illegally, to BBC broadcasts as the war progressed. (As Karl-Heinz explained, “Listening is not a crime; the crime is getting caught.”)

The news from overseas was very different from what the boys were reading in their hometown newspaper and hearing on the streets. Of course, Hitler and the German forces had had great success steam-rolling over the armies of Poland and France in a matter of weeks and occupying most of Europe, but after declaring war against Russia in June 1941, the situation worsened for the Germans, and the “foreign” BBC reported on it, nightly.

Quietly protesting

Helmuth, having decided that, “Yes, something should be done about this!” wanted to alert his fellow Deutschlanders about the true enemy of the state (Hitler) and the status of the war. He wrote up some small leaflets, four to a sheet and some on red-colored pages, which the three boys distributed by posting them on bulletin boards, in mail boxes … even by stuffing them in unsuspecting passersby’s pockets.

The flyers were succinct and to the point: “German Losses Have Reached One and a Half Million in Russia,” read one. “Only Hitler Is the Guilty One,” another. And, “Hitler the Murderer!”

Helmuth was an early-adopter of technology; he typed up carbon copies(!) of the handbills on a church typewriter so that he could make multiple copies more easily. Eventually, the flyers became “full-paged dissertations” according to Rudi Wobbe, with titles such as “Herman Goering and the Failure of His Luftwaffe”, “A Wave of Oil: Gasoline Shortages in Germany”, and “Speeches by Hitler: A Salty Critique Thereof”.

The three friends spent the fall of 1941 distributing these handbills all around their neighborhood. Soon, Helmuth began involving others in his cause. He was able to get the flyers into the hands of soldiers on the front lines of war and increased the number of copies to be distributed by finding a print shop in a neighboring town.

Arrested for High Treason

Expanding the network of co-conspirators proved to be his undoing. Helmuth had asked a friend at his part-time job for help translating one of the leaflets into French (so it could be distributed to captured prisoners of war). The other boy’s involvement was discovered by his boss, who demanded that Helmuth’s co-worker collect more copies of the flyers as evidence. Being caught practically “red-handed”, the boy had no choice but to comply. The flyers incriminated Helmuth.

Helmuth was arrested, and eventually his two friends were, too. Rudi was found guilty by a court of “Preparation to High Treason” and Karl-Heinz of “listening to a foreign broadcast station and distributing the same news”.

Rudi was given a sentence of ten years imprisonment, Karl-Heinz “just” five. In a cruel twist of fate, Karl-Heinz served as a German prisoner of war for three years but, at war’s end, was arrested by the Russians and jailed by them for an additional four years, only gaining his freedom in 1949.

Helmuth was charged with “High Treason and Aiding and Abetting the Enemy”. He was sentenced to death. Defiant to the end, asked if he had anything to say, he replied, “Now I must die even though I have committed no crime. So now it’s my turn, but your turn will come.”

On October 27, 1942, Helmuth Hübener was put to death. The Nazis cut off his head.

He was 17 years old.

Comparison of Protesters

I thought of Helmuth, Rudi, and Karl-Heinz this past week when I read about the Occupy Wall Street / Occupy Boston protests. A woman protester in New York City, when asked by the New York Times her profession, replied, “I’m a revolutionary.” Last Monday night, on the WGBH-TV program “Greater Boston”, Jared Bowen asked a guest whether there was anything in common between the Boston protests and those that took place this spring (and continue) in Egypt. “Yes,” he replied, “I think it’s appropriate.” And online, I’ve seen many photos where those protesting are wearing handkerchiefs over their faces, like you’d see on the streets of Tunis or in Green Square.

Sorry, what?

I would never make the comparison between what these protesters are doing and what those are doing who are actually fighting for their “Lives, Liberty and Pursuits of Happiness,” but these people in Boston, New York, and other cities have no problem with it.

Taking the quotes out of context may seem unfair, but my fear is that these types of things are being said back and forth between hundreds of these people. Delusions of grandeur, to be sure.

Do you need to be at risk of death in order to earn respect? No. Is it fair to compare the Occupy Boston “fight” with the protest of a group of boys in Nazi Germany? No, of course not.

But, they themselves are making the comparison.

When you use terms like “encampment” and “General Assembly”, as they have, when you release a “Declaration of Demands,” when you say things like, “[W]e gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice”; how can you expect to be taken seriously -- seriously, how can you say those things with a straight face, even?

When you truly have something at risk - like, your life - you can use those words. But, when you have “nothing to lose” in the sense that you can roll up your sleeping bag, pull down your tent, get back in your car and head home to Mom & Dad’s (where they complain they have to live), you can’t expect much sympathy (or, empathy) when you make such grandiose comparisons.

Chris Caesar October 16, 2011 at 05:59 PM
The comparisons to Egypt are overblown, and as you seem to acknowledge, these are only a handful of people in a huge movement. I don't see what's so terrible about them saying they are protesting an injustice, however. Seems almost redundant for a protester to say so.
Dan October 16, 2011 at 07:39 PM
John - For someone so well learned you, don't appear to know what is happening in the real world. While your point that people are not putting their lives at risk in protesting as in the Arab Spring protests (so far). There is still similarities between them. You have a group of people who are oppressed economically. Mostly due to to the outcome of someones greed that hoodwinked us all to the point of causing a chain reaction that is still effecting peoples lives. It's one thing to get a scrape or a bruise, but many people lost an arm or a leg economically which is still bleeding from the actions of a few greedy people. Many may end up loosing there lives or have their lives cut short from the economic stress or the lack of food, heat or shelter as they can't get a job. No one wants a free ride here. What they want is a fighting chance. Sure, what you see here in the Boston group is more young camping out and yes, there is a few nut jobs in the group. But at large they do have something collectively in common, the unjustness life has dealt them not by their undoing (at large), but what has been done to them.
Dan October 16, 2011 at 07:51 PM
pt2 Our world is changing the economic ups and downs of different countries (areas) did not effect things as they now do. When someone misbehaves the ripple effect goes around the world at light speed and often bounces back and forth like dropping a pebble in a bucket of water. Our government and others tried to cushion the reverberations as best as they could but there actions where dulled but the refusal of banks and other institutions not pulling their weight. As such we are where we are today and the middle class is now left holding the bag instead of everyone pulling their own weight. Sure their collective voice may not be clear as different subgroups have paid the price differently, Sure, they don't have solutions lined up one of one of the causes. But its clear they are ALL hurting because of someones greed. Give it time I'm sure this group will gel into a still larger movement. I don't think the weather will stop it. Trying to label them as a joke will only embolden them. The better course here is to address there concerns before it does get bloody.
Mike Johnson October 16, 2011 at 09:39 PM
Dan, for someone who throws around insults, you are clueless. You just typed 2 parts and said NOTHING of substance. Your only point is some people are greedy. We will see how much heart these idiots have when it gets cold. BRRRRRRRRR, I'm heading home to mommy's house. Just like the 60's, 99% (sound familiar) of these protesters are lemmings, they don't have a clue what they are protesting. 1% are agitating for an agenda.
Dan October 16, 2011 at 10:53 PM
Insults? What insult did I utter Mike. Its you who are throwing the insults. I'll agree many of the young will seek shelter with their parents as they have little choice. Families will support their kids as best as they can. Whats wrong with that? If Johnny or Sally can't get a job after graduating collage (or even stay in collage) what do you expect them to do? Almost a 15% of out country is either un-employed or under-employed. I know many are working at anything they can get hands on. One of my nieces graduated from Brown Univ last year with a PhD and is doing house cleaning at a hotel as her degree in mathematics is of little use right now and is still living with her mother. As far as substance take your blindfold off people across the board are hurting. I know as my family is hurting trying to support their kids get a start at life as well as survive our selves. Our kids aren't spoiled, just scared at what a bleak future they have.
Mike Johnson October 16, 2011 at 11:25 PM
Dan, read up a few posts when you tell someone they don't know what is going on in the world. Plenty stay home longer know, no issues if they are pursuing something of substance. But my point was in relation to the sacrifice of people protesting, and when it gets cold, these entitlement generation protesters will head home, because they don't have the stomach to really sacrifice. Who said people aren't hurting, our economy sucks, we are fighting wars, the democrat plan to ensure everyone could own a home imploded the construction, banking, and housing markets, not to mention every industry associated with them. There are plenty of issues with bailouts and bonuses to CEO's of failing businesses, but that doesn't change the fact the these protesters are clueless, with no plan. In some economies, you have to be underemployed at a few jobs to survive. A college education does not guarantee a job. Supply and demand dictate jobs, and jobs will not return to the country as long as government continues to over regulate, and creating uncertainty. Or maybe your right, its just about the mean greedy people!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dan October 16, 2011 at 11:46 PM
"For someone so well learned, you don't appear to know what is happening in the real world." If thats an insult in your mind Mike, Boy! I'm so sorry. The protesters have a common theme "Greed" Granted, each sub group has different issues related to it. I can see how you are confused as there is no single phrase that can encompass all of the causes of the greed that effected the different sub groups. Maybe you'll be right, they'll all pack up and go away when the weather gets bad, time will tell, I don't think so. Your view point is still very biased as this is not a young persons fight. Granted, here in Boston the group is mostly younger but that is the exception with all of the other sit-ins. While some maybe spoiled, I wouldn't classify them as the 'Entitlement Generation'. Mostly the ones acting as entitled are kids from the well to do, not the middle class.

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