Helmuth Hübener

Helmuth Günther Guddat Hübener (8 January 1925 – 27 October 1942), was the youngest opponent of the Third Reich to be sentenced to death by the infamous Special People's Court (Volksgerichtshof) and executed.[1]

Helmuth Hübener
Helmuth Hübener, flanked by Rudolf "Rudi" Wobbe (left) and Karl-Heinz Schnibbe (right)
Born8 January 1925
Died27 October 1942 (aged 17)
Criminal statusDeceased
Criminal penaltyDeath by beheading (guillotine)


Hübener came from an apolitical, religious family in Hamburg, Germany. He belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), as did his mother and grandparents. His adoptive father Hugo, a Nazi sympathizer, gave him the name Hübener.

Helmuth had, since early childhood, been a member of the Boy Scouts, an organization strongly supported by his church, but in 1935 the national socialists banned scouting from Germany. He then joined the Hitler Youth, as required by the government, but would later disapprove of Kristallnacht, when the Nazis, including the Hitler Youth, destroyed Jewish businesses and homes. When one of the leaders in his local congregation, a new convert of under two years, undertook to ban Jews from attending its religious services, Hübener found himself at odds with the new policy, but continued to attend services with like-minded friends as the Latter-day Saints locally debated the issue. (His friend and fellow resistance fighter Rudolf "Rudi" Wobbe would later report that of the two thousand Latter-day Saints in the Hamburg area, seven were pro-Nazi, but five of them happened to be in his and Helmuth's St. Georg Branch (congregation), thus stirring controversy with the majority who were non- or anti-Nazis.

After Hübener finished middle school in 1941, he began an apprenticeship in administration at the Hamburg Social Authority (Sozialbehörde). He met other apprentices there, one of whom, Gerhard Düwer, he would later recruit into his resistance movement. At a bathhouse, he met new friends, one of whom had a communist family background and, as a result, he began listening to enemy radio broadcasts. Listening to these was then strictly forbidden in Nazi Germany, being considered a form of treason. In the summer of that same year, Hübener discovered his older half-brother Gerhard's shortwave radio in a hallway closet. It had been given to Gerhard early that year by a soldier returning from service in France[2]. Helmuth began listening to the BBC on his own, and he used what he heard to compose various anti-national socialist texts and anti-war leaflets, of which he also made many copies. The leaflets were designed to bring to people's attention how skewed the official reports about World War II from Berlin were, as well as to point out Adolf Hitler's, Joseph Goebbels's, and other leading Nazis' criminal behaviour. Other themes covered by Hübener's writings were the war's futility and Germany's looming defeat. He also mentioned the mistreatment sometimes meted out in the Hitler Youth.

In late 1941, he managed to involve three friends in his listening: Karl-Heinz Schnibbe and Rudi Wobbe, who were fellow Latter-day Saints, and later Gerhard Düwer. Hübener had them help him distribute about 60 different pamphlets, all containing typewritten material from the British broadcasts.[3] They distributed them throughout Hamburg, using such methods as surreptitiously pinning them on bulletin boards, inserting them into letterboxes, and stuffing them in coat pockets.[4]

Arrest and execution

On 5 February 1942, Helmuth Hübener was arrested by the Gestapo at his workplace, the Hamburg Social Authority in the Bieberhaus in Hamburg. While trying to translate the pamphlets into French and have them distributed among prisoners of war, he had been noticed by Nazi Party member Heinrich Mohn at his place of work, who had denounced him.

On 11 August 1942, Hübener's case was tried at the Special People's Court (Volksgerichtshof) in Berlin, and he was sentenced to death. After the sentence was read, Helmuth faced the judges, and said, "Now I must die, even though I have committed no crime. So now it's my turn, but your turn will come." Two months later, on 27 October, at the age of 17, he was beheaded by guillotine at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin.[4] His two friends, Schnibbe and Wobbe, who had also been arrested, were given prison sentences of five and ten years respectively.

On 27 October 1942 the proclamation from the Special People's Court (Volksgerichtshof) announces Hübener's execution.

As stated in the proclamation (at right), Hübener was found guilty of conspiracy to commit high treason and treasonous furthering of the enemy's cause. He was sentenced not only to death, but also to permanent loss of his civil rights, which meant he could be (and was) mistreated in prison, with no bedding or blankets in his cold cell.

It was highly unusual for the Nazis to try an underaged defendant, much less sentence him to death, but the court stated that Hübener had shown more than average intelligence for a boy his age. This, along with his general and political knowledge, and his behaviour before the court, made Hübener, in the court's eyes, a boy with a far more developed mind than was usually to be found in someone of his age. For this reason, the court stated, Hübener was to be punished as an adult.

Hübener's lawyers, his mother, and the Berlin Gestapo appealed for clemency in his case, hoping to have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. In their eyes, the fact that Hübener had confessed fully and shown himself to be still morally uncorrupted were points in his favour. The Reich Youth Leadership (Reichsjugendführung) disagreed, however, and stated that the danger posed by Hübener's activities to the German people's war effort made the death penalty necessary.[5] On 27 October 1942, the Nazi Ministry of Justice upheld the Special People's Court verdict. Hübener was only told of the Ministry's decision at 1:05 p.m. on the scheduled day of execution, and was beheaded in the execution room at 8:13 p.m.[6]

Church reaction

Plötzensee Prison 01
The execution chamber at Plötzensee Prison

In 1937, LDS President Heber Grant had visited Germany and urged the members to remain, get along, and not cause trouble. Consequently, some LDS members saw Hübener as a troublemaker who made things difficult for other Mormons in Germany. This recommendation did not change after Kristallnacht, which occurred the year following Grant's visit, after which he evacuated all non-German Mormon missionaries.

Local LDS branch president Arthur Zander was a supporter of the Nazi Party, and had affixed a notice to the meetinghouse entrance stating "Jews not welcome". Ten days after the arrest of Hübener, on 15 February 1942, Zander excommunicated the young man demonstratively,[7] without consulting his church superiors or holding a church court.[8]

The day of his execution, Hübener wrote to a fellow branch member, "I know that God lives and He will be the Just Judge in this matter… I look forward to seeing you in a better world!" — from a letter written by Hübener, the only one believed to still exist.[9]

Four years later and after the war, Hübener was posthumously reinstated in the Church in 1946 by new mission president Max Zimmer, saying the excommunication was not carried through with the proper procedures. He was also posthumously rebaptized, ordained an elder, and endowed in 1948.[10]


A youth centre and a pathway in Hamburg are named after Helmuth Hübener. The latter runs between Greifswalder Straße and Kirchenweg in Sankt Georg. At the former Plötzensee Prison in Berlin, an exhibit about young Helmuth Hübener's resistance, trial, and execution is located in the former guillotine chamber, where floral tributes are often placed in memory of Hübener and others put to death by the Nazis there.

Depiction in books, drama and film

Hübener's story has been the subject of various literary, dramatic, and cinematic works. In 1970, German author Günter Grass published the book Local Anaesthetic, about the Hübener group.[11]

In 1979 Thomas F. Rogers, a university teacher at Brigham Young University, wrote a play titled Huebener, which has had several runs in various venues. The two Hübener's co-accused, Karl-Heinz Schnibbe and Rudi Wobbe attended some of the performances, albeit in different circumstances. Wobbe died of cancer in 1992; Schnibbe died in 2010. In February 2014, Huebener made its high school premiere in St. George, Utah.[12]

In 1995, the first-hand account When Truth Was Treason was published, narrated by Karl-Heinz Schnibbe and written by Blair R. Holmes, a professional historian, and Alan F. Keele, a German-language specialist. A newer edition was publisher in 2003 (see Holmes & Keele 2003).

The book Hübener Vs. Hitler by Richard Lloyd Dewey (2004), is, in this revised and expanded edition, a biography written in a popular-historical style. It includes interviews with all then-living friends and close relatives of Hübener. It also utilizes primary investigative documents from the Nazi era.

Rudolf Gustav Wobbe (Hübener's other co-resistance fighter) wrote the book Before the Blood Tribunal.[13] Published in 1989, the book provides a personal account of his own trial before the Special People's court of Nazi Germany where he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his participation in anti-Nazi resistance. Rudi, as he was known, also describes events leading up to the trials of the three German youths and his own experience as a prisoner. This book was later republished as Three Against Hitler.[14]

The 2008 juvenile novel The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, while fictional, is based on Hübener's life. Bartoletti's earlier Newbery Honor book, Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow, [15] also covers Hübener's story.

Hübener's story was documented in the 2003 documentary Truth & Conviction, written and directed by Rick McFarland and Matt Whitaker.[16]

The story was also depicted in Resistance Movement, an independent 2012 film.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Beuys (1987).
  2. ^ Bartoletti, Susan. "Resisting Hitler". Nelson Literacy. Nelson. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  3. ^ Lexikon des Deutschen Widerstandes, Hrsg., Wolfgang Benz ; Walter H.Pehle, Frankfurt Germany, 1994, ISBN 3-10-005702-3, p. 236ff.
  4. ^ a b Matt Whitaker (2003). Truth & Conviction (DVD). Covenant Communications.
  5. ^ Geerling, Wayne (2001). "Protecting the National Community From Juvenile Delinquency: Nazification of Juvenile Criminal Law in the Third Reich". Eras Journal. Monash University.
  6. ^ Holmes & Keele (2003), p. 241 (1995 ed.).
  7. ^ Beuys (1987), p. 488.
  8. ^ Nelson, David Conley (2015). Moroni and the Swastika: Mormons in Nazi Germany. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 309. ISBN 978-0-8061-4668-3. ...without consulting with District President Otto Berndt, Zander excommunicated Helmuth Hübener from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
  9. ^ "Hübener at Dixie State College". 14 March 2005. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  10. ^ Dewey (2004), pp. 174-5.
  11. ^ Günter Grass (1989). Local Anaesthetic. Mariner Books. ISBN 978-0156529402.
  12. ^ Scott, Kimberly (24 February 2014). "'Huebener' playwright discusses LDS Church-suppressed play, first high school performance". StGeorgeUtah.com. Archived from the original on 25 February 2014.
  13. ^ Wobbe, Rudolf Gustav (1992) [1989]. Before the Blood Tribunal. co-author: Borrowman, Jerry. Covenant Communications. ISBN 9781555033965.
  14. ^ Wobbe, Rudolf Gustav (2002). Three Against Hitler. co-author: Borrowman, Jerry. Covenant Communications. ISBN 9781608615865.
  15. ^ Bartoletti, Susan Campbell (2005). Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow. Scholastic. ISBN 9780439353793.
  16. ^ Millett, Lisa (28 January 2003). "Documentary captures anti-Nazi Mormon youths". The Daily Universe. BYU.
  17. ^ Resistance Movement on IMDb


  • Beuys, Barbara (1987). Vergeßt uns nicht - Menschen im Widerstand 1933-1945 (in German). Berlin: Rowohlt Verlag. ISBN 3498005111.
  • Gedenkstätte Plötzensee (Brigitte Oleschinski, published by the Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand, and also listed in the German article).
  • Review of Ulrich Sander's book Jugendwiderstand im Krieg. Die Helmuth-Hübener-Gruppe.
  • The Price: The True Story of a Mormon Who Defied Hitler, by Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, with Alan F. Keele and Douglas F. Tobler. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984. (This book was the first "rough" and considerably shorter version of the later expanded and revised title, When Truth Was Treason).
  • Holmes, Blair R.; Keele, Alan F. (2003). When Truth Was Treason: German Youth Against Hitler. Narrator: Karl-Heinz Schnibbe. Foreword: Klaus J. Hansen. Academic Research Foundation. ISBN 9780929753140.
  • Dewey, Richard Lloyd (2004). Hübener Vs. Hitler: A Biography of Helmuth Hübener. Academic Research Foundation. ISBN 978-0929753133.

External links

Alan Keele

Alan Frank Keele (born November 17, 1942) is an American professor of German at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.


Decapitation is the complete separation of the head from the body. Such an injury is always fatal to humans and animals, since it deprives all other organs of the involuntary functions that are needed for the body to function, while the brain is deprived of oxygenated blood and blood pressure.

The term beheading refers to the act of deliberately decapitating a person, either as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished with an axe, sword, knife, or by mechanical means such as a guillotine. An executioner who carries out executions by beheading is called a headsman. Accidental decapitation can be the result of an explosion, car or industrial accident, improperly administered execution by hanging or other violent injury. Suicide by decapitation is rare but not unknown. The national laws of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Qatar permit beheading, but in practice, Saudi Arabia is the only country that continues to behead its offenders regularly as a punishment for crime.Less commonly, decapitation can also refer to the removal of the head from a body that is already dead. This might be done to take the head as a trophy, for public display, to make the deceased more difficult to identify, for cryonics, or for other, more esoteric reasons.


Feindsender (English: enemy radio station) is a term used in Nazi Germany to describe programs produced by radio stations of the enemies of the German Reich before and during World War II, such as the United Kingdom or the United States, or by radio-stations inside Germany broadcasting material against the Nazi government. The term has not been in general use since the downfall of the Third Reich.


Hamburg-Nord (meaning Hamburg North) is one of the seven boroughs of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, in northern Germany. In 2016, according to the residents registration office, the population was 306,732 in an area of 57.5 km2.


Helmuth is both a masculine German given name and a surname. Notable people with the name include:

Given name;

Helmuth Theodor Bossert (1889–1961), German art historian, philologist and archaeologist

Helmuth Duckadam (born 1959), Romanian former footballer

Helmuth Ehrhardt, German psychiatrist

Helmuth Hübener (1925–1942), German opponent of the Third Reich

Helmuth Koinigg (1948–1974), Austrian racing driver

Helmuth Lehner (born 1968), Austrian musician

Helmuth Lohner (1933–2015), Austrian actor and theatre director

Helmuth Markov (born 1952), German politician

Helmuth von Moltke (disambiguation), several people

Helmuth Nyborg (born 1937), Danish professor at Aarhus University

Helmuth von Pannwitz (1898–1947), German SS Cossack Cavalry Corps officer executed for war crimes

Helmuth Plessner (1892–1985), German philosopher and sociologist

Helmuth Rilling (born 1933), German conductor

Helmuth von Ruckteschell (1890–1948), German navy officer

Helmuth Schneider (1920–1972), German actor

Helmuth Schwenn (1913–1983), German water polo player

Helmuth Søbirk (1916–1992), Danish amateur footballer

Helmuth Stieff (1901–1944), German general and member of the OKH

Helmuth Weidling (1891–1955), German Army officeSurname:

Frits Helmuth (1931–2004), Danish actor

Justus Christian Henry Helmuth (1745–1824), German-American Lutheran clergyman

Osvald Helmuth (1894–1966), Danish stage and film actor and revue singer; father of Frits Helmuth


Hübener may refer to:

Helmuth Hübener (1925–1942), the youngest opponent of the Third Reich sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof

Erhard Hübener (1881–1958), an East German politician

Thomas Hübener (born 1982), a German footballer

Karl-Heinz Schnibbe

Karl-Heinz Schnibbe (January 5, 1924 – May 9, 2010) was a former World War II resistance group member who, as a 17-year-old growing up in Nazi Germany in 1941, was an accomplice in a plan by three German teenagers, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), to distribute information to the citizens of Germany on the evils of the Nazi regime during World War II. Led by 16-year-old Helmuth Hübener, the three boys created, posted and distributed cards and pamphlets denouncing Hitler and the Nazi party. They were eventually caught by the Gestapo and, after repeated beatings, were convicted and sentenced. Hübener was executed, the youngest person to be sentenced to death for opposing the Third Reich, and Schnibbe was sentenced to five years in a labor camp. After the war and his release from a Soviet POW camp, Schnibbe emigrated to the United States in 1952, living in the Salt Lake City, Utah area until his death on May 9, 2010.

List of former or dissident LDS

This is a list of well-known Mormon dissidents or other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) who have either been excommunicated or have been resigned from the church – as well as of individuals no longer self-identifying as LDS. While the church doesn't regularly provide information about excommunication or resignation, those listed here have made such information public. In a very few cases, the list below may include former adherents of other Latter Day Saint movement denominations who have ceased identifying as Mormon, as well.

See: List of Latter-day Saints for current members of the LDS Church.

Local Anaesthetic (novel)

Local Anaesthetic (German: Örtlich betäubt) is a 1969 novel by the German writer Günter Grass. It tells the story of an idealistic high-school teacher who believes society, like a pupil, is learning from experience and reason.

October 27

October 27 is the 300th day of the year (301st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 65 days remain until the end of the year.

People's Court (Germany)

The People's Court (German: Volksgerichtshof) was a Sondergericht ("special court") of Nazi Germany, set up outside the operations of the constitutional frame of law. Its headquarters were originally located in the former Prussian House of Lords in Berlin, later moved to the former Königsberg Wilhelmsgymnasium at Bellevuestrasse 15 in Potsdamer Platz (the location now occupied by the Sony Center; a marker is located on the sidewalk nearby).The court was established in 1934 by order of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, in response to his dissatisfaction at the outcome of the Reichstag fire trial, in which all but one of the defendants was acquitted. The court had jurisdiction over a rather broad array of "political offenses", which included crimes like black marketeering, work slowdowns, defeatism, and treason against the Third Reich. These crimes were viewed by the court as Wehrkraftzersetzung ("disintegration of defensive capability") and were accordingly punished severely; the death penalty was meted out in numerous cases.

The Court handed down an enormous number of death sentences under Judge-President Roland Freisler, including those that followed the plot to kill Hitler on 20 July 1944. Many of those found guilty by the Court were executed in Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. The proceedings of the court were often even less than show trials in that some cases, such as that of Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans Scholl and fellow White Rose activists, trials were concluded in less than an hour without evidence being presented or arguments made by either side. The president of the court often acted as prosecutor, denouncing defendants, then pronouncing his verdict and sentence without objection from defense counsel, who usually remained silent throughout. It almost always sided with the prosecution, to the point that being hauled before it was tantamount to a death sentence. While Nazi Germany was not a rule of law state, the People's Court frequently dispensed with even the nominal laws and procedures of regular German trials, and was thus easily characterized as a kangaroo court.

Plötzensee Prison

Plötzensee Prison (German: Justizvollzugsanstalt Plötzensee, JVA Plötzensee) is a men's prison in the Charlottenburg-Nord locality of Berlin with a capacity for 577 prisoners, operated by the State of Berlin judicial administration. The detention centre established in 1868 has a long history; it became notorious during the Nazi era as one of the main sites of capital punishment, where about 3,000 inmates were executed. Famous inmates include East Germany's last communist leader Egon Krenz.

Roland Freisler

Roland Freisler (30 October 1893 – 3 February 1945) was a jurist and judge of Nazi Germany. He was State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice, and President of the People's Court. He was also an attendee at the Wannsee Conference in 1942, which set in motion the Holocaust.

Sophie Scholl

Sophia Magdalena Scholl (9 May 1921 – 22 February 1943) was a German student and anti-Nazi political activist, active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany.She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich (LMU) with her brother, Hans. As a result, she was executed by guillotine. Since the 1970s, Scholl has been extensively commemorated for her anti-Nazi resistance work.

The Boy Who Dared

The Boy Who Dared is a 2008 novel by American children's author Susan Campbell Bartoletti. It is based upon the true story of Helmuth Hübener, the youngest person to be sentenced to death by the Nazis during World War II. He was arrested and killed on October 27, 1942 sent to a death penalty by guillotine.Bartoletti fleshed out one episode from her non-fiction Newbery Honor Book, Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow (2006), into this novel.

Vierergruppe (German Resistance)

A Vierergruppe ("group of four") was a small German resistance group that fought the National Socialists. There were three "groups of four" working simultaneously and independently of each other in Hamburg, Munich and Vienna.

Each of the groups consisted of four young males aged 16 to 18 and each group was led by someone whose precociousness set him apart.

The groups had no political agenda, no background in party politics and moved in a religious environment. All twelve young men came from predominantly Christian, lower- and lower-middle-class families. All were influenced by having heard foreign radio broadcasts, which affected their actions. All of them used leaflets and wall slogans to agitate against the war, against the regime of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, and all came to the conclusion that the war Germany was leading, then two years old, could not be won. They all hoped for an Allied invasion and victory and the resulting liberation from the domination of the Nazi regime.

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