German Refugees and Swedish Furniture

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“Maria Helene Francois Izabel von Maltzan…he daughter of a German count who had been raised on a beautiful 18,000-acre estate, had not been surprised by the roundup of Jews in Berlin. In fact, she wasn’t surprised by any of Hitler’s actions against the German Jews. Because she was a count’s daughter and closely related to several Nazi officers she was at first considered above reproach and was able to obtain useful information from elite Nazi social gatherings. But eventually she came under suspicion of assisting the enemies of the Third Reich. When called in for questioning, however, her cool demeanor, her Nazi connections, and her excellent acting skills always led to her release.”

Maria…also smuggled people out of Germany and into Sweden in a system that was called schwedenmöbel (Sweden furniture). Sometimes she would use a vegetable cart to transport refugees out of Berlin and into the woods...When (the train arrived], a group of men, hidden in a different part of the woods, would rush to the train and open one of the boxcars. (The conductor and train workers had been previously bribed with food and money.) Inside the boxcar would be crates of furniture. The men would remove the furniture and replace it with the refugees, seal the box back up, and eventually destroy the furniture. The crates of people would then be loaded onto a freighter and later unloaded in Sweden, where it would finally be safe for the refugees to come out of hiding.”

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action) by Kathryn J. Atwood

The Rose Is Your Conscience

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“We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!”
—from the fourth White Rose leaflet

On February 22, 1943, Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and Christoph Probst were executed just hours following their trial. There would be more arrests, imprisonments, and executions of those who had been involved, but as of that sad day the work of the White Rose, as it had been, was no more.

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action) by Kathryn J. Atwood

American Racism European War

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Given the current tensions (and the history of tension) in St. Louis, a few quotes about performer, activist and French Resistance fighter Josephine Baker, seemed appropriate.

Also, the following quotes are the reason why these books have been added to my To Read list:

  • Haney, Lynn, Naked at the Feast: The Biography of Josephine Baker (Robson Books: London, 1995).
  • Wood, Ean. The Josephine Baker Story  (Sanctuary Press: United Kingdom, 2000).

“Increasing racial tensions in East St. Louis, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis…Black homes were destroyed, and white mobs attacked and killed black people while the police watched and did nothing. Some blacks tried to fight back, but most of them—about 1,500 in total—fled to St. Louis. Josephine stood by the foot of the bridge, watching them come. She would never forget their panicked and terrified expressions as they rushed desperately across the bridge away from the violent racism that had chased them out.”

Because Josephine seemed to embody everything that was beautiful about African Americans, she was an absolute fascination to Parisians. She was the most photographed woman of 1926 and became a symbol of the decade.

“Before the Germans invaded Paris, Joseph Goebbels had denounced Josephine as a decadent artist. After the invasion, the Germans passed a law that expressly forbade the performance of black or Jewish entertainers. However, none of this mattered to Josephine.

It was in North Africa that Josephine was reminded of the racism that was still rampant in the United States. Before her shows began, she noticed that the white soldiers were always seated in the front and the black soldiers in the back. She refused to perform until the seating was desegregated. It usually was.

She was wearing the FFL uniform when she spoke at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963, just before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his stirring “I Have a Dream” speech.”

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action) by Kathryn J. Atwood

Women and Resistance Work

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“Women were involved in all aspects and all levels of Resistance work, although the most common job for a female in the Resistance was that of a courier, someone who carried messages and documents from place to place. Women, less in demand for factory work, could move about in public more freely. Plus, the Germans did not—at first—imagine that women could possibly be involved in Resistance activities.”

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action) by Kathryn J. Atwood