Have you ever found it scary to stand up to friends, classmates or even teachers when you knew something immoral was going on? Imagine being a teenager and standing up to Hitler. That’s what Karl-Heinz Schnibbe and his friends did when they were teens.
It started with Karl’s friend Helmuth Hübener, who was seventeen. Helmuth had a short-wave radio, which let him listen to broadcasts that weren’t approved by Adolph Hitler or the Nazi regime. The Nazis were gathering up and killing Jewish people and others they didn’t approve of and taking over many countries. However, the German people were only able to hear the news the Nazis wanted them to hear. When Karl, age sixteen, and Rudolf Wobbe, who was fourteen, started listening to broadcasts in German from the BBC, the British radio station, they realized there was far more to the story than their country was telling them. Helmuth was especially upset by this and felt his people should know the truth. He began to write what he was learning. He convinced his friends, who were initially nervous about this, to get the articles to the people by handing them to those passing by, sticking them in coat pockets, or posting them.
This was extremely dangerous, because people were encouraged to report anyone defying the Nazis. They could never be sure the people getting their fliers wouldn’t turn them in. They were Mormons, all in the same branch, and this made it even more challenging. Some Mormons supported the Nazis, not understanding what they were doing, and some did not. They knew some church members would disapprove of what they were doing, since Mormons are normally taught to obey laws.
Eventually they were caught. Helmuth was caught first. He was tortured for many days until he finally revealed the names of his friends, but he saved their lives through his courage. Despite the torture, he insisted it was all his doing and that his friends only handed out whatever he gave them. Because of this, the other two boys were not killed. Helmuth was beheaded.
The other two boys were sentenced to a work camp for five years. However, after a few years, Karl was captured by Russians while being sent to fight for the Germans and was put in a prisoner of war camp. By the time he was released, he weighed about 100 pounds even though he was six foot two inches tall. He had been given little food and made to work hard in terrible conditions.
You’d think he’d have spent the rest of his life hating the people who did this to him and that he’d be sorry he’d taken such risks. Instead, he learned to forgive those who had persecuted him. He often spoke to groups of teens and told them he’d do it all again. He worked hard to convince teens to stand up for what they believe, no matter what the consequences.
Karl immigrated to the United States, where he worked on gold leafing on the Salt Lake temple—he was a painter and craftsman. He also worked as a temple worker and wrote a book. A documentary was made about his life and next year a major motion picture starring Haley Joel Osment as Karl will be released.
Karl died recently, but his message to teenagers will live on: Stand for truth and righteousness. Be proud of who you are and what you believe. Fight for the right—no matter what the consequences or how young you are. You’re never too young to change the world for the better.