The Integrity of German Friends During the Twelve Years of Nazi Rule
By Brenda Bailey
It is such a pleasure to be asked to talk to you about events which should be of significance to Friends everywhere. German Quakers do not want anyone to think they were heroic; this lecture is simply an account of small acts of everyday life lived in the light of their beliefs. In my book called A Quaker Couple in Nazi Germany: Leonhard Friedrich Survives Buchenwald, I have used the pocket diaries kept by my mother, Mary Friedrich, and some writing by father entitled "I Was the Guest of Adolf Hitler".
The experiences I describe tonight are mainly those of my parents.
As the final speaker in the excellent series on "The Queries as Discipline" am relating this story to the Advices of the Society of Friends, leaving you to appreciate their relevance, to the sometimes faltering lives of Friends.
The Advices on Simplicity, Peace and Integrity cover the following phrases "let your lives speak...be honest and truthful in all that you say and do.... Speak the truth at all times.... Respect that of God is each one, even if it be difficult to discern.... Live simply.... Resist social pressures.... Maintain our testimony against war.... Work to achieve a society in which all are equally valued...."
Two personal friends are helping in the presentation this evening: Martin Ostwald will read the sections from Leonhard's writings. Valerie Tamblyn-Mills will read some quotations and Mary's own words, taken from her diaries and I will read the connecting parts.
In some ways there seemed to be a similarity between the suffering of German Friends and those of the 17th Century Quakers. In both periods the common everyday actions revealed personal inner feelings. When a German Friend said "Gruess Gott" in reply to a greeting of "Heil Hitler", he took the same sort of risk as a Friend took in Fox's day by not removing his hat. Even in refusing to make payments to the state lotteries, some German Friends showed a measure of resistance; while others regarded such forms of non-cooperation as taking a senseless risk. Like George Fox, German Friends experienced the arbitrary power of local and state officials; teachers lost their jobs and pensions; some experienced prison, torture and concentration camps, the loss of possessions and legal rights. It eventually became necessary for parents to conceal things from their children, who at school were trained to spy on their families. My mother, Mary Friedrich, probably took more risks than many Friends in recording some of her activities in pocket diaries which she kept under the coal in the cellar, she wrote partly in English, in Pitman's shorthand and used some code words. These diaries give one a vivid picture of her everyday struggles.
The Nuremberg Quaker Meeting grew out of the 1918 post-war relief work. They were mainly a working class group who sustained each other through the hardships of unemployment in the early thirties. This group of some forty Friends seem to have understood the threat of racism, long before Hitler came to power. The brown-shirted SA created frequent disturbances in the town. A great many marches with endless lines of uniformed people passed by our Meeting room windows, on special Sundays. Louisa Jacob, a retired teacher from Moorstown, New Jersey came to support the Meeting; she also focused on the Peace Movement at the League of Nations in Geneva. She stayed with the Nuremberg group for the next six years.
In 1933, on January 30th, Hitler became Chancellor after five general elections had been held.
The Jewish boycott took place on April 1st.
Mary decided this was the day for us both (I was six years old) to walk through the town to visit our Jewish friends and all the small Jewish shopkeepers en route. She ignored the warning signs, simply telling the guards she needed to speak to the shop-owner and walked through any doors that were open to talk to the frightened people inside. No doubt Mary's English accent must have afforded some protection. Camera crews were on the streets to record the events of the day. One of the Quakers went to a cinema that evening and saw us both on newsreel, talking to a guard and then walking past him into a Jewish shop. Friends in Meeting were perturbed and felt Mary had taken a great risk, particularly as she was a German citizen by marriage.
Corder and Gwen Catchpool, the British Quaker Representatives in Berlin, had paid similar visits to Jewish shops during the boycott. Two days later, early in the morning, their house was searched and the family held under arrest. Corder was taken off to Berlin Gestapo HQ for interrogation, though released 36 hours later. The Nazis were skilled at skimming through papers to search for 'disloyal elements'. Whilst this was extremely unpleasant for the Catchpools and their children, it gave great anxiety to the individuals who were being helped by the Friends. It suited the Nazis to try to frighten Corder without actually hurting him. When, under questioning, Corder claimed to "be a friend of Germany," the Gestapo responded by saying he had made insufficient effort to interpret "our great National revolution." This appeared to challenge him to arrange contacts with hard line Nazis, in order to feel that he was not avoiding the most encounters. It was, of course, uncongenial to establish personal relations with leading Nazis, and yet, British Friends felt, how can one try to understand the motivation for joining the movement without establishing dialogue at a personal level? This coincided with the Quaker belief that there is "that of God in everyone" and to work on both sides of a conflict.
A few days after the boycott of Jewish shops a fundamental policy decision was taken by German Friends. Their Executive Committee met on 8-9th April in Frankfurt. Every Friend was worried about the "Enabling Act" which undermined the democratic state. Hans Albrecht, Clerk to the Yearly Meeting, feared it could lead to the closure of the Society of Friends in Germany. Bertha Bracey from Friends Service Council was also present at the Executive Committee and wrote:
"I have never felt the strength and depth of German Friends so strongly though there were differences of opinions about the conclusions we arrived at. However, throughout the weekend there was a dignity, restraint and quietness which made me realize afresh that every ordeal and every moment of critical decision is also a moment of witness to the spirit of true religion. No one can foresee what may happen in the next few months, but Quakerism in its strength and simplicity lives in German today, and will live, come what may."
She recorded some of the decisions:
"As members of the German Yearly Meeting we must now put aside our fears. What are the basic and essential tasks laid on us as Friends...? We are not merely a peace society, or humanitarian welfare organization. The Religious Society of Friends is a community of men and women who are striving to express in their lives their Faith in the direct relationship of man to God.... There can be no gap between our religious conviction and our actions. Others need us, and need to have faith in us. As a religious society politics are not our concern, because no moral regeneration can be brought about by the state.... The path of non violence is not one of weakness; it demands courage, direction and the utmost personal sacrifice.
However we beg our members to think calmly and carefully before taking actions which have consequences and must be considered responsibly by each member. Do not feel that you have to bear witness as Quakers, nor that as a Quaker you should shoulder burdens that are greater than you have strength to carry on your own.
We advise Friends to turn to the Books of Discipline which express our beliefs at this time. If you feel any doubt about these principles you may decide to resign from the Society."
(From this point on, Friends were individually aware of the need to make their own choices about their relationship with the Nazi system without depending on the support of other members.)
When Bertha Bracey reported about the weekend Meeting to British Friends she said:
"How deeply discouraging it was for those in Germany who had struggled after the First World War to create a more open and liberal society. The suffering and hunger people had endured seemed to have given birth to the poison of anti-Semitism."
A Visit to the Braun House - the Nazi HQ in Nurenberg
Elsie Howard, an English visiting Friend, wrote the following account in her book Across Barriers:
"Mary and I took our courage in both hands and went to the Braunhous, having made an appointment with Roehm, the highest official there. We were handed on from one young Brownshirt to another into the august presence.
It was a magnificent house confiscated from Faber, the Jewish pencil factory magnate. Roehm was very friendly when I explained we were English Quakers and deeply interested in the welfare of Germany and that we would like to be enlightened about the aims of the new Revolution.
He said they were trying to clean things up and had to provide more employment. Already a million more men had found work since March. They were encouraging the peasants to feel they had a stake in the country, and if possible to get them a bit of land. They were trying to even up the wage scales, so that manual workers got a decent wage, and officials were not overpaid. So far I agreed this was good. Then we asked a few questions. In England there was interest in the current methods of suppressing opposition, even those on the right. Roehm said: "Well, of course, in one way or another all the other political parties have betrayed the Fatherland, and can no longer be allowed to endanger its safety." Then Elise asked "How about the Jews? Was it not a loss for Germany that so much scientific and other professional knowledge should no longer be available?"
He replied: "Christians have just as much skill and knowledge as the Jews, but they were crowded out of the professions, now they have a chance."
We then spoke about peace and asked why pacifists were so suspect. Is it really treachery to one's country to work for peace?
At this point the phone rang, and he spoke to the caller saying: "yes, of course, call in the police, and occupy the house, and bring him in here. We shall know how to deal with him." Then, turning back to us he said:
"Yes, of course we all want peace".... We were relieved to be able to leave the building and to get back into the sunshine."
The first concentration camps were created in 1933 when the prisons were already overcrowded. They were mainly run by the brown shirted SA in remote places, where their brutality would be less visible. In these camps, torture and degrading punishment were used not only to humiliate and extract money or information, but also to intimidate opposition. Some Jews with contacts abroad were able to purchase their release and to obtain exit visas to leave the country.
British Friends visited some of the concentration camps in the spirit in which earlier generations of Friends, like Elizabeth Fry, had visited prisons in many countries. William Hughes and Corder Catchpool spent about 20 months visiting Jewish families of prisoners all over Germany , to meet their pressing needs and assess the possibilities of emigration for each case.
They asked to see particular prisoners. Their reports convey their uneasiness and describe the evil they sensed. However, they found that after a period of time, there was an improvement in the circumstances of some of the prisoners. William and Corder considered speaking openly about their findings in England, but realised regretfully this would cut off the possibility of further visits.
Children were now being indoctrinated with Nazi beliefs and behaviour patterns. At my primary school Jewish children and teachers were being picked on and bullied. My teacher confided in Mary how deeply she abhorred this. But if she were to protect Jewish children, she herself would be set upon. The intimidation was formidable and my parents now urgently wanted to get me away. At the age of 10 I left home to attend Sidcot Friends School in England.
Mary's Visit to a Women's Prison
In the summer of 1935 Elsie was asked to visit a Jewish woman doctor in prison. She invited Mary and me, now aged 12, to accompany her on the long drive through beautiful countryside to a small town where a wing of the local prison was being used as a concentration camp for political and Jewish women prisoners. Elsie and Mary toured the wing, to shake hands and talk with the women, some of whom were Jehovah's Witnesses. They met the woman doctor in her cell, but emerged feeling that they had been of little help. However, a year later Elsie received a letter from this prisoner, saying that a few that a few weeks after our visit, she had been released to go to the US.
The treatment of the women in this prison appeared to be more humane than Elsie had seen elsewhere. The visit was followed by tea in the governor's private family apartment. Mary pleaded for the women be allowed to do some handicrafts during their long hours in the cells, to which the governor agreed if Quakers would provide materials. Mary arranged for the women to make a quantity of sea-grass hassocks for the Quakerhouse, a few of which still survive. This useful contact continued for a number of years.
In 1938, this same governor saved Leonhard from a potentially dangerous situation. In early August Leonhard was in the office when a stranger walked in, saying he had an important message, but was unable to say who had sent him. The message was to ask Leonhard to walk down to the park on Wednesday at 1:30 PM. When passing a certain statue there, he would notice a man standing under the beech tree. Leonhard should speak with him for a moment and then pass quickly on. He would be given important information.
This threw Leonhard and Mary into considerable anxiety. However, he decided to go to the designated place and was surprised to recognize the governor of the women's prison, who warned that Leonhard had been selected by the regional Gestapo group to be roughed up. He advised Leonhard to leave Pyrmont for a few weeks, because he thought the problem would soon blow over.
One morning in early July of 1937, Mary was walking a few steps from their home when she saw a poster on the billboard beside the small Jewish cemetery opposite the Quakerhouse entrance. The board generally displayed information about woodland walks, but this new one carried an anti-Semitic message. Mary was outraged.
She decided to remove the newly-glued poster with a scraping implement from the kitchen drawer. She must have known the risks she was taking in doing this in broad daylight. With the shreds in her hand she walked the short distance to the town hall and went straight into the Burgermeister's Office. Placing the torn poster on his desk, she voiced astonishment that he would permit such lurid posters to be displayed in full view of the Quakerhouse. After all, he did his best to attract and welcome visitors, on whom the prosperity of the town depended. Could he imagine the dismay of the foreigners who would soon be arriving for Yearly Meeting? After delivering her tirade she left the office and never heard anything further. The usual tourist poster appeared again the next morning.
By 1938, many German Friends were suffering under the Nazis, both at home and at work and they cherished the opportunity of being together. By this time no Friend was unaware of the evil that was being perpetrated by Hitler and his followers. Some Friends felt helpless and withdrew into quietness. Quakers from abroad were very anxious about the evidence of German re-armament and the dictatorial trends they observed. There seemed to be no way to stop Hitler's evil progress.
At the Friends' Service Council in London
The stream of refugees needing help swelled so much that the two grand staircases became more or less permanently blocked by queues of people waiting to be attended to. Interviews were conducted in corridors when the offices were overflowing. A few months later, in February 1939, the work moved to Bloomsbury House. At this time a staff of 80 case workers moved out of Friends House along with 14,000 case records.
Last Minute Help by Friends In Prague
Tessa Rowntree, a young British Friend whom you know as Tessa Cadbury had been in Prague helping the Quaker group there to assist refugees who had escaped from Germany and Sudetenland. On 15th March, 1938, the day the German troops entered Prague, Tessa convoyed 66 refugees by train en route to Britain. She described this to me in a letter:
"I spent a hectic few months from October 1938 onwards, working closely with Friends in Prague and the Germany Emergency Committee in London....
One or two of us who were British passport holders were persuaded to help convoy train-loads of refugees out of the country. I took two groups consisting mainly of German tradeunion leaders. We traveled across Poland by night train. The Polish guard locked me in the guard's van on my own, while the already frightened refugees were crowed into other carriages.
We knew a boat was waiting for the group at Gydnia, but our train was running very late and near panic set in among our people. We finally had to hire a bus, which seemed to lose its way. When we arrived at the dock-side, the boat was just about to pull away. However, it waited for our party, and I was so thankful when the last refugee set foot on board before the gangplank went up. I led a second such party a few days later.
In those last months as war drew nearer we seemed to lead double lives. There was so much tension and panic on the part of those who felt trapped by the Nazi invaders and we felt frustrated by our own inability to find solutions."
Kristallnacht Pogrom, 9-10 November, 1938
In reprisal for an attack by a young Jew on the German Embassy in Paris, Goebbels ordered brutality against the Jews that night in every city, town and village. A thousand synagogues were burnt down, Jewish homes and businesses were smashed and looted. The police did not intervene and many Jews were arrested.
Pyrmont was a small, quiet place, our home was among a few widely-spaced houses on the edge of town. Normally all that could be heard at night was the hooting of an owl. But on 9th November Mary, who was on her own, was awakened by unusual riotous sounds. Next morning she found the gravestones in the Jewish cemetery had been smashed.
Elga Sturmthal, my Jewish Pyrmont friend told me:
"Nicholaus Sturmthal, my grandfather, who lived on the ground floor of our house, had the shop window of his 'Gentlemen's Outfitter' smashed that night. All Jewish men were taken to the police station. The next day we were asked to take them food. I sat in the graffiti-covered cell with my father and grandfather, while they ate what we had brought. (I was 14 years old at this time.) In the early hours of the next morning my father and grandfather mercifully returned home. We believe their release was due to the intervention of the chemist, who was also deputy Mayor at that time."
The anxiety of the Jewish community reached a high level. Elga's father, who was our family doctor, was much loved in Pyrmont. He had hoped might survive with the help and support of his patients. But after Kristallnacht he asked Mary to assist his emigration to England.
In the present time, whenever Germany Yearly Meeting is in session in Pyrmont, during early November, the Friends hold a candle-light vigil at the cemetery. When we met in 1996, on a dark wet evening we unexpectedly heard the melody of a Hebrew Kaddish being sung. Twenty Russian Jews of German origin, who had now chosen to be re-settled in Pyrmont, had joined our vigil.
WAR IS IMMENENT
At the 14th Yearly Meeting, held in Pyrmont, in early August, 1939. Everyone knew that war was imminent, which made our time together seem very precious. On the 24th of August in 1939, Hitler and Stalin signed a non-aggression pact. The British government announced a mutual assistance treaty with Poland and ordered conscription.
Hearing this on the radio late at night Mary and Leonhard realised war was now starting. It was a warm moonlit night and I was sleeping on our balcony. They woke me to explain that I had to decide whether to stay with them in Germany or return to England the next day. Such a decision would be hard to make at any age and I was barely 16. Why did Leonhard and Mary not alsoleave at the same time? I am sure they stayed on because they chose to protect the Quaker group in Germany. They had strong convictions that one does not run away from problems.
I was sad to realise that I would be unable to return home and felt divided by the enmity between Britain and Germany.
I left next day, 25th August on the midday train. It was very crowded and the passengers were anxious and excited. I had no problems. A friend was at Victoria Stationto meet me in response to a telegram from my parents. The British Quaker workers from Berlin, Vienna and Prague had also left for England that day, having handed their responsibilities over to German or American Quaker colleagues.
On the third of September, 1939, I was staying with my school friend, whose parents' new home had wonderful views over the marshlands of the Somerset Levels. We listened to the Prime Minister Nevi Chamberlain announcing the war on the radio. The letters Mary wrote after I had left were returned to her, rubber-stamped saying "communication with enemy countries has ceased. "German Friends were now cut off from Europe, but still had the support of AFSC Friends. Alice Shaffer who returned to Chicago in October, wrote:
"To be honest, I've missed German Friends like anything; they are just some of the finest people I ever hope to meet. They try personally to apply Christian principles in a situation of very bitter reality."
Douglas Steere knew German friends well and visited them in the autumn on 1940. I have summarised his report:
"When writing about German Friends it is important to remember that their median age is between 40 and 50 and that for the large majority of them this is the second world war they have experienced. This means they feel they can survive, because they lived through the previous one, but they grimly expect harder days ahead. There is a calmness about them, and a sense that they are ready for what may come. They express a sense of shame and responsibility as Germans, for what is being done in Poland and for the continually increasing pressure upon the Jews.
The question of conscription of course is an issue for young Quaker men in Germany. There are few who dare resist the call-up. Several of them have enlisted in the medical or ambulance corps.
In visiting different Quaker families and Meetings, I was especially impressed with the way they had kept fellowship with the Jews for whom they felt a special responsibility."
Jews Forced Out of their Homes to Poland
Early in 1942 the remaining Jews were told that they would be taken from their homes to collecting centres for transportation to labour camps further east.
In March Mary wrote in her diary:
"The old, the sick and the children have been crowded together for a couple of weeks, with new arrivals being brought in all the time. We have been going every day to do whatever we can to help with packing, taking messages and shopping. It was all so difficult. Most people were so very tense and strained, and many found it almost impossible to think straight or make decisions about anything. I took pans of cooked food for them. Leonhard and I stayed with the Jews, helping them to prepare sandwiches and talking with them until 2:30 am One group left for Poland on 28th March and a second group left on 8th April."
A few weeks later Mary received a letter from Israel and Anna Heyman, saying that they had arrived in Warsaw on 10th April and would greatly appreciate a food parcel, which Mary then sent. Later I found a postcard among my parents' papers thanking for the parcel.
The departure of the Jews marked another turning point in Mary's life. If the warmth and humanity of the Friends had the effect of helping the Jews to accept their fate calmly, did this make the process of their transportation easier for the Nazis?
Leonhard's Account of His Arrest at Stuttgart, 29th May, 1942:
"In the six months after the United States entered the war the Gestapo felt under no restraints. I was fairly certain that I would not be left at liberty for much longer, but I could see no precautions to take. I left on the train for Stuttgart and was met on the platform by two men from the Gestapo who announced: "You are under arrest." My attempts to travel straight back to Hanover at my own expense were useless. I was held in criminal detention in a cell which was already overflowing with people.
After five days, in the Stuttgart prison, I was taken to Hanover with the "prison transport" group of 300 men, stopping at their prisons on the way. The journey took 26 days.
In Hanover I was given cell number 163, where I was to spend 69 days in solitary confinement A couple of hours after arrival in Hanover I was taken to the Gestapo headquarters, where I was dealt with in one of the notorious dungeons, until a particular officer saw fit to interrogate me. This Herr Nonne showed has friendliest face and pretended to be indignant about the treatment meted out to me since my arrest. He allowed me to phone my wife, Mary, and also permitted her to visit me the next morning."
Mary's Troubles in Pyrmont
When Leonhard had left for the Quaker Finance Committee in Stuttgart, he knew how anxious Mary had been feeling about their safety. Mary wrote in her diary:
"The Gestapo came and made a thorough house search for many hours both at the Quakerhouse and in our home. they took away many files and papers and any money they could find. When they left they took my keys and sealed up the Quakerhouse, saying friends could no longer have access. I asked for a receipt listing items they had taken away. The Gestapo official, Wenger, said he was under no obligation to give as receipt, but I persisted and wrote out a list while he looked on."
Mary had no way of getting in touch with Leonhard after the house search. She was still expecting him home on Wednesday, 3rd June, and waited up for him until past midnight. Eventually, on the Thursday morning, a letter came from the Stuttgart Friends giving her the disturbing news of his arrest.
From Mary's diary:
"Three weeks later, onn Thursday 25th June, I received a phone call from the Gestapo in Hanover to say that they were holding Leonhard. I was allowed to speak a few words with him and was told I could visit him the next day.
I only saw him for five minutes in the presence of a policeman. But I could return the next day. Leonhard looked thin and shaken. He was unshaven, without a shirt collar or braces and had a bad cold. He had been unable to change his clothes since he left home a month ago. I could take some of them home to wash, and found them infested with fleas. Next day I brought him some underwear and collars."
Mary's diary, 31st July:
"I found Leonhard in very low spirits again. On the journey home I decided that I must speak to someone at the Gestapo headquarters in Berlin, to see if I could do anything for him there."
Mary felt that the interrogation was grinding Leonhard into the ground, though they could pin no charge on him and decisions about his sentencing had shifted to Berlin. A member of the Berlin Quaker office, accompanied her for the interview with Regierungsrat Hagenbruch at the Gestapo headquarters at 7 Prinz Albrecht Strasse, a huge gloomy building in the centre of Berlin.
In the notes that Mary wrote for Hans Albrecht about her interview with the Gestapo, she recorded that it had been a very tough interview.
"Hagenbruch read the statement to me which Leonhard had signed during his first night of interrogation."
Hagenbruch faced Mary angrily and asked, "What have you to say about your welfare work for the Jews?"
Mary replied: "We helped anyone who came to us in need." She reminded him of articles which appeared in official newspapers, saying no one should prevent the Jews from emigrating. She said she had helped 33 families to emigrate, and considered this was in accordance with the published policies of the State.
Hagenbruch asked: "Why was Leonhard so anxious to help the Jews?"
Mary replied: "He was not. This was my work. Leonhard worked hard to earn a living from the publishing business, he had no spare time."
Mary asked: "Will Leonhard be charged in a court of law?"
Hagenbruch replied: "No, it will not be public. Why does Leonhard refuse to do military service?"
Mary replied: "He has not refused; he has not been called up."
Mary ended her report to Hans Albrecht:
"This is what I remember of the interview. If you think that this was just a cold official discussion, I assure you it was extremely heated and angry at times. I was, however, surprised not to feel much personal hatred for Hagenbruch. Most disturbing is the knowledge that Leonhard must remain in custody until he shows some change of attitude. Leonhard is to be personally punished for his beliefs and those of the Society."
On the 15th August she went to see Leonhard again, and had to tell him what Hegenbruch had said. "He has to stay in prison until he alters his attitudes." In her diary she wrote:
"I found him very sad and his body was shaking. He was still being taken for frequent interrogations and never knew when they would fetch him. He said he had read the Bible constantly when he was alone. He had read John's Gospel many times, and Corinthians 13 daily."
"I went to Berlin for a second interview with Hagenbruch. It was again a very unpleasant time, held under dazzling interrogation lights. He said Leonhard would be sent to a concentration camp. I was devastated. On Wednesday I visited Leonhard again and I had to tell him they might be sending him to Buchenwald. We both wept. He looked very nice today; he had just shaved, but he was so pale and his hands were particularly white. How shall we live through this? May the time be shortened somehow."
On 29th September Mary paid a final visit to Leonhard in Hanover. In her diary Mary wrote:
"Leonhard appeared hopeful and courageous, and seemed generally somewhat better. For me it was a terrible day. When I got home I was touched to Frau Mundhenk had left a cake for me."
Leonhard in his article Guest of Adolf Hitler, later wrote:
"I will say nothing about the interrogation procedures, or the suffering I was subjected to. What I had to endure reduced me to an extremely low physical and spiritual condition. The endless stress of repeated interrogations affected me badly. The process dragged on for weeks. Their charge was based on my personal attitude and that of the Society. I was greatly shocked when I was allowed to read the indictment at the end of September."
Leonhard had endured 97 days in solitary confinement in a tiny cell in the Hanover prison. He was subjected to interrogation, by night or day and was frequently held in the torture dungeons, which he never described to us.
Mary's diary, 9th October:
"I worked all day in the garden digging up 4 cwt. of potatoes. When I got home exhausted and dirty, I found Leonhard's interrogator, Mueller, from Hanover had been to take away more things from the Quakerhouse. He also brought me Leonhard's keys to our flat. I have no news of where Leonhard is. I am so exhausted and cannot sleep. I had a lovely Red Cross message from Brenda today."
On 3rd December Mary wrote to the Camp commandant SS Colonel Pister at Buchenwald:
"I am enquiring about my husband, Leonhard Friedrich, a publisher who was arrested and sent to you on 1st October. I have heard nothing from my husband although I have written a number of letters and sent him money. I would like to know if he has arrived at Buchenwald and if he is permitted to receive letters."
The Commandant's reply is written on the reverse side, with the official rubber stamp.
"Frau Friedrich, your husband has been instructed to write to you immediately."
This was soon followed by a brief letter from Leonhard saying Mary could write twice a month. she should send him parcels and money, and he would particularly like to receive his pipe and tobacco. He should be addressed as prisoner number 9164 residing at Block 45. Mary was very relieved to know that Leonhard was alive. Although she knew he would be suffering, there were now practical things she could do for him.
Over the three years Leonhard was in Buchenwald, Mary sent 167 parcels to him, keeping a list of contents and dates of dispatch. A new regulation had been made after he arrived there, permitting relatives to send regular parcels to German prisoners, but not to Jews.
Leonhard Tells of his First Months in Buchenwald
In the article I Was a Guest of Adolf Hitler, Leonhard writes:
"We arrived on the 5th October 1942, our first contacts with the SS guards were most unpleasant. Our personal details were noted and we had to give up all the remaining belongings. Then we were taken to the so called bath house, where we left our clothes in a heap. We were pushed into a bath of disinfectant and lined up for the barbers. When we finally stood up clothed in our striped pyjama suits and caps, we looked ridiculous and could hardly recognize our mates, or even ourselves.
We were given our personal identification number and allocated an insignia and a color for the striped pyjama-style uniforms we wore. When I was put to work in the quarry I had an additional black circle marked around my insignia, indicating I was in disgrace and in the penal work gang.
In midwinter I was transferred to the stone quarry, where people were literally worked to death. Whilst there I sometimes thought about the stories told in the Old Testament about slavery in Egypt. I was part of a human chain gang, one man behind another carrying rocks. We did not walk in line but were forced into a trotting pace. I spent 12 weeks excavating stone to build one of the camp crematoria. My health was deteriorating rapidly. I had no particular complaint, I just became weaker, due to lack of food. But even in this evil place I occasionally found good individuals.
I had no news from home and was not allowed to write. One evening in November 1942, after the roll-call, I was summoned to the Camp Commandant's office over the public address system. The Commandant was very angry and accused me of not having written home. I was ordered, to my great joy, to send off a letter that very night. I later discovered this had come about because Mary had addressed an inquiry to the Commandant. I was able to write to Mary and tell her I could do with some boots and other things. From this time onwards my health improved, because I was receiving regular parcels from home.
While on this job I got into trouble for wearing gloves which Mary had sent me. My hands were sore and blistered. the SS man in charge ordered me to take off the gloves and reprimanded me for being slow and disobedient. When his back was turned, I put them on again. but he unfortunately noticed. He took his whip and gave me a severe lashing. One of the blows caught my face and I fell in the mud and lost consciousness. Fortunately I managed to stand up before they could take me to the sick bay. The SS officer to whom I reported asked why I was in Buchenwald. I said the charge against me was that I was a Quaker. He became thoughtful and said that his mother, who was now dead, had told him his life had been saved by the Quaker school feeding programme after the First World War. In view of this he would help me, by taking me on his personal staff, if I would sigh a statement of allegiance to the national Socialist state. He was surprised I did not seem keen, but ordered me to think about it and to report to him the next day. I spent another sleepless anxious night worrying about what would happen. The next day he offered a job in the munitions factory, where I would also earn some money and be moved out of the 'punishment block'. This was quite dilemma for a Quaker! I replied that I could not make bombs to drop on London, because my daughter was living there. He said that as the father of five children he could understand my feelings. I eventually found me a job in a factory tool store. I now had a certain personal independence, at least during the working hours of the day, though I still encountered a lot of unpleasantness now and then.
When, after the war, friends asked Leonhard how he survived these experiences, he sometimes said: "I simply put my head down and clung like a limpet to the rock, letting the waves wash over me." Other writers have echoed this, saying that such attitudes were necessary for survival.
In the Summer of 1943 bombing Creates Public Restiveness
Mary discovered that the Hitler Youth moving into Quakerhouse. This time it was mainly young girls, who were preparing the Quakerhouse as a reception centre for people whose homes had been destroyed in air raids. Mary spent a long day working with the League of German Girls, who welcomed her help, while they were putting up beds, etc. They invited her to share their evening meal. Mary also rather enjoyed having the forced labor of two young Ukrainians allocated to work with her in the garden.
Throughout the summer, Mary offered respite to Friends or their relatives who needed a break from the massive air raids taking place in the cities. After some rearrangements Mary found she could accommodate eight people in her small apartment and offer hot baths heated by wood fire, but it was at the cost of her own privacy. At the end of July she wrote in her diary:
"My kitchen is always full of people doing their cooking. They have lost all their possessions and have suffered severe shock. They are highly strung and insecure about the future. I sometimes feel I don't know were I belong; there is nowhere to relax, so I go out gardening, but I know how fortunate I am to have my own home. I can sleep on a sofa in my own kitchen and have never felt more certain about the caring love of God."
Mary's diary, 10th October:
"At 1am I was got out of bed by two young girls at the Quakerhouse. They had brought a Quaker lady who had suffered in an air raid on Hanover. I found dear Marie Edert on my doorstep, covered in dust from head to foot and her head and eyes were bandaged. I washed her and put her to bed, and she slept most of the next day."
Mary's diary, 11th December:
"I have been unwell, but had to go out shopping and to see the solicitor. The roads were icy and I slipped and fell three times. I sat on a step and fainted. After I had recovered I went to the dairy to buy my rations. there I met Therese Herzog, who quite impulsively offered her week's cheese ration for Leonhard. This unexpected act of kindness brought tears to my eyes."
Mary's health and Spirit
During 1943 Mary had experienced 26 house searches and interviews with the Gestapo on matters relating to the Quakerhouse and Leonhard. Like many people Mary and Leonhard usually spent New Year's Eve reviewing the year which had passed and looking toward the future. This year, Mary shared her thoughts with her diary. Although she was low in health and spirit, she was trying to pick herself up. She must have been very undernourished and wrote:
"The Quakers here say they cannot spare any food for Leonhard but, fortunately, others do help. After the New Year I felt rested and enjoyed reading. I felt drawn into God's care, and hope I can share His love for me with our Quaker group more consistently next year. I seem to be recovering and feel strength from what I hear from Brenda.
I am thankful that many of my needs and hopes in life have been met, but I do need a little tenderness. I have to struggle against depression and the absurdities of my temperament, manner or words. I need to be more clear-sighted and to recognise that I fill my time with exhausting work as an escape from my anxieties. The love I am passionately eager to give, I am also eager to receive. When I pour out sympathy for the needs of others, I long also to have it offered to me. I give, because I understand the hunger of others, but I am often left entirely alone. I need a lover's tender touch, and to feel my grief is understood, and my inconsistencies forgiven."
In a letter to Margarethe Lachmund on 9th August, Mary wrote:
"The Quakerhouse garden is in good order again, after the spate of vandalism. For the past two weeks I have spread sieved compost over the vegetable beds. I should never have been able to do all this work, if I did not love the place so much. When I am in the garden, I feel I am on sanctified ground, an island fenced around with Truth and Love and things that endure. But this fence is not always secure. Most of the good crop of raspberries and strawberries were stolen and the currant bushes have been trampled down. One afternoon 10 windows in the Quakerhouse were smashed and the roofing felt was torn from our new hut. I have much unpleasantness to put up with. The Hitler Youth have now been forbidden to enter the grounds, but of course they do come when I am not there to chase them off. However, these are passing problems, which I don't make much of."
Mary's diary, 11th September, 1944:
"The war news is very exciting. The Allies are now on all the German borders. We had six air raid alarms today. There is bedlam in our flat, as my lodgers are very tense and anxious about the news and quarrel with each other. I worry about Leonhard. There was a raid on Buchenwald on the 7th September in which two SS men were reported killed. It is two years since I last saw Leonhard. I have just sent him the 105th parcel."
Mary's diary over the Christmas period:
"I am in financial difficulties; my monthly allowance from the Berlin Quaker office has not come through. I have made one pork chop last me for four days."
Americans Liberate Bad Pyrmont
Mary's diary, 5th April 1945:
"This is a red letter day! But I have no red ink. At ten this morning we heard the signal for everyone to go into their cellars, as street fighting was expected. I had not finished packing my emergency suitcase. Then I heard a loud speaker announcement:
"People of Pyrmont: We stand outside your beautiful town. Will you surrender and let us pass through peacefully and save your homes and protect the wounded in hospital? If you surrender, not a shot will be fired. Signal your consent by hanging white cloths from your windows."
I ran around our flat, taking the sheets off the beds to hang out of the windows.
In the meantime, the people in the town hall could not decide what to do. Seebohm, the town clerk, favored surrender, but Ahrens, his deputy and the SS Chief, thought they should fight to the last man and blow up the bridges as planned. However, Dr. Glaser, the town's chief medical officer, favored surrender to gain recognition as a hospital zone. A young Lance Corporal who was listening to all this while the minutes ticked by eventually took the decision himself. He got on his bike and hurried towards the American army, waving a white cloth saying: WE SURRENDER! A few minutes later the Americans reached the central square and found Dr. Galser waiting to receive them.
Later on several American soldiers came to our house and called us all out to the doorstep. They said we had to vacate the buildings in one hour, to provide accommodations for 30 American soldiers. We could take anything we wanted with us, but must leave all doors and cupboards unlocked. I pleaded with him for us all. Later, he returned and we were very relieved to hear him say we could stay."
Mary heard how some local Nazis were faring. Ahrens, the Nazi district group leader, had voluntarily given himself up. Police officer Wenger and Seehohm, the former Town Clerk, had been taken to prison. Several local Nazi leaders had hanged themselves and their families or had taken cyanide.
Mary's diary, 18th May:
"I worry, because I still have no word from Leonhard. But I heard in town today that three Buchenwald men had passed through a neighbouring village. People here keep asking if I have any news from Leonhard. By their questions they suggest something may have happened to him."
Leonhard comes Home
Mary's diary, Whit-Sunday 20th May:
"We had our Meeting for Worship in the basement dining room.; the Quakerhouse really belongs to Friends again. I was the last person there and was walking up the internal stairs, when Leonhard came through the front door! What a miracle! I was so glad to have a good meal ready for him, though I had no idea that he was on his way."
Mary's diary, 21st May:
"Leonhard is so happy and excited to be home again. He had a hot bath last night and he was so pleased to wear his own clothes again; the hair on his shaved head is growing and he looks more like himself. He has lost his front teeth and says his eyesight is poor. We burned his flea-ridden red-striped Buchenwald clothing in the garden. We went together to visit the Commandant this morning. He allocated three times the normal food rations for Leonhard. It is wonderful to feel so well off with plenty of milk and butter."
Mary's diary, 25th May:
"This week has been full of exciting experiences for us both. Leonhard is impatient about getting our home and his office in order again. We went to the bank together and to the paper mill, we will be able to retrieve many of our Quaker books, because the mill owner had deliberately left them aside. Leonhard is very tired. His whole body seems puffed up and his face is very white. I do love having him home again and hope I can help him to recover."
Mary's diary, 29th May:
"Today we were visited by two English Quakers from the Friends Ambulance Unit. They are to work with the civilian population and brought the first news of Brenda. They told us she had been married on 26th April at Friends House to Sydney Bailey. I was able to write to Brenda through them."
It was with immense joy and relief that a few days later I received a letter in London from FAU colleagues, telling me of their visit:
"Leonhard had arrived back from Buchenwald a few days before our visit. He has had a bad time, but has come through it all with the quietness and grace that is possible only to those who are grounded in true Faith. As we sat listening to his story, how he was arrested without warning and imprisoned for nothing more than being a Friends and helping the Jews, we felt humble to be with one who had suffered with such freedom from bitterness. Today they are extremely happy to be together and to hear news of you. Certainly no task we have done out here had been happier or more satisfying."
Mary's diary, 10th June:
"I am so thankful that the awful years when I was mistrusted and despised for being an English woman are now over. I feel such joy in my heart, with Leonhard beside me.
On a sunny morning in May 1989 I took the bus from Weimar to Buchenwald, open to visitors as a concentration camp memorial. Leonhard had taken my mother to see it in 1957. It was an experience they needed to share, but a further 30 years had passed before I could bring myself to visit the place where he had lived for 130 weeks. My visit to the camp was on a sunny day in May but I felt a persistent chilly east wind blowing. I sought out Block 45 in which Leonhard had lived. This had been a crowded two-story brick structure with four rooms intended for 800 men. I stepped over the low foundation wall which still remained and paced the length and breadth several times in thought and prayer. The metal shoe scrapers for removing mud were still beside the entrance and some broken red floor tiles lay where the washroom had been.
I later walked for a mile or so through the beech forest to the stone quarry where, in the winter of 1942, Leonhard had endured his harshest 12 weeks. Mercifully all evidence of past human brutality has disappeared under a covering of grass. In the midday sun I watched a shepherd and his dogs lying in the shade of a tree, looking after a grazing flock of sheep."
Updated 1st Month 24, 1999