Friday, September 25, 2020

“You Know a Jakob Schmid”

This is a Twitter thread from @libbyjones715:

Most people who know the name Sophie Scholl know she was a 21 year old German student activist who was executed by the Nazis for distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets on her college campus. But people don’t talk about what happened leading up to her execution, or what happened after.

Sophie and her brother Hans were caught by a university janitor named Jakob Schmid as they distributed pamphlets in a courtyard. He grabbed them, declared them “under arrest,” and turned them over to the Gestapo.

Four days of interrogations later, they were in front of Nazi judge Roland Freisler (one of Hitler’s favorites, his “hanging judge” flown in from Berlin) for a show trial that Hans and Sophie’s parents weren’t allowed in the courtroom for.

Hans, Sophie, and their friend Christoph Probst were all found guilty of treason, sentenced to death, and beheaded a few hours later.

No one talks about this janitor, Jakob Schmid. He got a cash reward and a promotion for turning in Sophie and Hans. The University of Munich threw him a celebration. Hundreds of students attended and cheered for him. He thanked them with a Nazi salute.

After the war, Jakob Schmid was arrested and put on a trial of his own. He said he only turned the Scholls in because distributing pamphlets was against university policy - it wasn’t because of the content of the pamphlets.

When you think of Nazis, you probably think of uniformed officers. But the Nazis were a political party of everyday people. So also think of a janitor tsk-tsking that someone wasn’t protesting “the right way.” A student at a rally applauding him. A judge towing the party line.

We like to tell ourselves Nazi Germany was so horrific it could never be repeated. Maybe you don’t personally know someone who would have flipped the switch on the gas chambers. But I can almost guarantee you know a Jakob Schmid.

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