Karl-Heinz Schnibbe

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Karl-Heinz Schnibbe Mormon anti-Nazi hero
Karl-Heinz Schnibbe Mormon anti-Nazi hero (at right)

Karl-Heinz Schnibbe was one of three young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who resisted the Nazis in his native Germany. The Nazis called the boys the "Battalion of the Damned.” He was born January 5, 1924, in Hamburg. Schnibbe joined Hitler Youth at the age of 12, but grew impatient with the regimentation and conformity. He grew rebellious and was expelled from the group. He became active in the resistance in 1941.

"Schnibbe could have been sentenced to death when he stood in front of the Volksgerichtshof, the Nazis' blood tribunal. Or he could have died in the camps, where he endured abhorrent conditions and emerged, in 1949, with his 95 pounds stretched thin across his 6 feet and 2 inches." [1]

Karl always said he was not a hero, but he knew how dangerous his activities were. As an 18-year-old in Hamburg, Schnibbe distributed the pamphlets written by Helmuth Hübener, a teenage friend who secretly listened to BBC wartime broadcasts on his radio and used the information to battle Nazi propaganda. Schnibbe and friend Rudi Wobbe slipped the leaflets into phone booths and coat pockets in hopes of spreading truth throughout the city. They distributed flyers for several months, also putting them in mail boxes and dropping them in public places. The Gestapo began an investigation to find the authors, and they found out that Hübener was involved. They arrested him, and after days of torture and interrogation, he told them of his accomplices. However, Hübener said that he was the mastermind and only gave the flyers to them, and took all of the blame. [2] The Hübener Group was arrested, tried, and convicted in 1942.

Schnibbe, 18, was sentenced to five years in a labor camp. Wobbe, 16, was sentenced to 10 years. Hübener, the mastermind, was sentenced to death and beheaded, the youngest person ever to be executed by the Nazis. Schnibbe and Wobbe spent three years together in a German labor camp, where they suffered beatings and starvation. They spent the freezing winter months wading in water up to their thighs as they dug in peat bogs, which Schnibbe would later blame for the severe arthritis in his knees.

Schnibbe, in one of his many speaking engagements, explained that every day was a fight for survival. Conditions in the camp were squalid and life-threatening. Schnibbe said that the boys were owned by the lice that infested the camp. In the final days of the Third Reich, political prisoners were drafted to fight, and Schnibbe was sent to Czechoslovakia.

"The Americans came while I was waiting in uniform," he said. "Was I liberated? Think again! The Americans only wanted fighter pilots and rocket specialists."

Soviet soldiers took Schnibbe, and he spent four years as a prisoner of war. In the Soviet camps, Schnibbe worked at forced, hard labor, and sunk to the point where he was absolutely hopeless. In his most despairing moments, his spiritual communication with the Lord saved him.

When he was released, and made his way back to Germany, his mother didn't recognize him in his emaciated state.

Schnibbe came to the United States in 1952 and made Salt Lake City his home. He worked as a painter and craftsman, doing much of the gold leafing in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Salt Lake Temple. He spent the last 18 years of his life as a temple-worker there.

In 1985, Schnibbe was honored by the German government as a resistance fighter, a year after he wrote a book about his experience, The Price: The True Story of a Mormon Who Defied Hitler. Karl-Heinz & Hübener's story was documented in the 2003 movie Truth & Conviction, written and directed by Rick McFarland and Matt Whitaker. The movie, later released on DVD, was sponsored by the BYU College of Humanities. Truth & Treason, a major motion picture based on the Hübener Group, is currently being produced by Russ Kendall, Micah Merrill & Matt Whitaker of Kaleidoscope Pictures. Whitaker will also direct the film.

In his final months, Schnibbe's knees became worse, bending into each other until his legs looked like X's. He was placed in a care facility after a knee replacement, and there, it was discovered he had Parkinson's Disease. Schnibbe died on May 9, 2010, in the Salt Lake-area care facility, the last of the trio who fought Hitler’s propaganda with leaflets filled with truth. He was 86 at the time of his death.