Resisting Tyranny and Hugo Chavez

Article excerpt


What could surpass the courage of individuals who resist a tyrannical regime, knowing that any miscue could lead to death by cruel torture? A handful of brave Germans receive their deserved credit in Anne Anderson's study of the resistance to the Nazi regime in wartime Germany. She focuses on the intellectuals, artists and bureaucrats - half of them women - who comprised the German offshoot of the Rote Kapelle, or Red Orchestra, the name German security gave a broad European network aligned with Soviet intelligence.

These persons faced a cruel dilemma: Should they suffer Hitler's barbarities in silence, as did the mass of the German populace, or oppose him by telling the outside world of his plans and abuses, and risk being branded as traitors to their country? Among the principal figures in her ensemble were Germans who met while studying at the University of Wisconsin, Greta Kuckhoff and Arvid Harnack. With spouses and friends, they were at the core of a network that worked within the Nazi bureaucracy, gathering information to smuggle out of Germany and running an underground network to publicize atrocities.

Harnack's wife, Mildred, who had immigrated to Germany, became the only American woman to be executed by Hitler. Other dashing figures included Harro Schultze-Boysen, a communist from the early 1930s who relied on family connections to become a Luftwaffe intelligence officer. (His vivacious socialite wife, Libertas, was a favorite of Hermann Goering.) Schultze-Boysen was one of many sources who warned Moscow of the imminent German invasion in 1940, only to be ignored as circulating British disinformation. He, too, was eventually executed.

One dislikes faulting such a pioneering study, and especially one featuring brave persons, most of whom indeed were not communists. But Ms. Anderson goes a bit far in divorcing the entire effort from Soviet intelligence. She apparently chose to ignore the most authoritative overview of the Red Orchestra, a post-war CIA study based on interviews with veterans of the organization. She does not refer to the study in her text nor cite it in her extensive bibliography, even though a commercial reprint is readily obtainable via online used book dealers.

As the CIA history notes, The Rote Kapelle was not, in fact, a wartime creation, but derived directly from the Soviet prewar networks in Europe. It operated throughout Europe, not just in Germany. Rote Kapelle veterans interviewed by officers from the Army Counterintelligence Corps said the Soviets set up the organization as early as 1935 or 1936, drawing upon specially trained and first-rate Red Army intelligence officers. Not until 1940 did Nazi Germany become its main target. All the while, it was the principal component of the Soviet Military IS [Intelligence Service].

Alas, much of the Red Orchestra's work went for naught because of Stalin's paranoia. As the CIA study noted, the Soviets deeply distrusted any information not supplied by their own agents through their own channels. Horrible Soviet tradecraft - including the names of Orchestra agents in radio messages, for instance - had disastrous results. As Ms. Anderson writes of the German group, it was hard to argue that they did any real damage to the Nazi war machine.

But, in the end, the Soviet connection was irrelevant. The Red Orchestra resisted Hitler at a time when the rest of the world turned a blind eye [to Hitler]. Consider, for instance, the New York Times reviewer who in 1934 praised a Nazi propaganda film screened in New York as genuinely entertaining. Or Joseph Kennedy Jr., sent to Berlin by his London ambassador father, who reported that "the dislike of the Jews ... was

well-founde "because they"were at the head of big business, in law, etc"

Greta Kuckhoff, one of the few survivors, lived on until 1981, and she wrote an autobiography. …