Wednesday 20th September 2017

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

Erwin Jöris… A German With Many Years In Hitler’s And Stalin’s Prisons

March 7, 2014 Featured Today No Comments

By MAIKE HICKSON

Part 2

(Editor’s Note: In this three-part article, Dr. Hickson details the life of the late Erwin Jöris, a prisoner of totalitarian regimes, and explains how his life offers lessons for us today. In the conclusion, part three, she comments on how his experiences show the need to resist gradual violations of our privacy and freedom of thought and speech, before they are further eroded or effectively destroyed.
(Maike Hickson holds a doctorate in French literature from the University of Hannover.)

+    +    +

Erwin Jöris stayed with his parents, even though they lived in the Eastern Zone of Berlin which was, of course, taken over by the Soviets. This was a great threat to him, and as an outsider, it would have seemed more prudent to move to a Western part of Germany, or at least into the Western part of Berlin, inasmuch as he was already on the lists of potential enemies of the Soviet Union.
Jöris, however, tried to survive in postwar East Berlin, with starvation and chaos, and it is understandable that after all of his trials during the past ten years, he was not open for a completely new situation. He loved the quarter he grew up in, and he knew everyone.
Finally, he also met the love of his life, Gerda, who had fled from a more distant part of Eastern Germany, together with the two youngest sons of her sister, who had died during the war. In August of 1949, Erwin and Gerda were to marry.
Jöris put it this way:
“I had so much dirt behind me, that I thought when I leave now, I am again a nothing, and will have to sleep again in one athletic hall or other. We did not have our own apartment, but had a place to stay, our own bed. Gerda had lost everything on her flight. I could not ask her to start all over again. She put so much hope in the business of my father and in the [promised] little piece of land that we might one day inherit” (390 — all quotations come from the Jöris biography by Andreas Petersen, Deine Schnauze wird Dir in Sibirien einfrieren. Ein Jahrhundertdiktat. Erwin Jöris, unless otherwise noted. Translation and comments in brackets by M.H.).
Harder to understand was Jöris’ decision in 1946 to sign again up as a member of the newly formed SED (Socialist Unity Party), the party that came about from the forced unification between Communists and Social Democrats. After all of his experiences with Communism, how could he still in any way support the Communists? The Soviet occupation worked from the beginning unto an establishment of a Communist state, and soon the persecutions of the political and cultural opposition began anew.
Jöris commented: “Russia was no model any more. But I did hope that there would be in Germany now a way against war, against the exploitation and against the National Socialists [But not against the International Socialists?]” (359). He hoped that something new could be established upon the rubble of the war. Yet, shortly after the unification of the two socialist parties, the German Social Democrats were persecuted and put into camps far away in Russia: 100,000 of them had to flee the Russian zone of Germany.
Jöris’ own resistance and alertness grew when he saw how the new Communist Party reached out to his former enemies — the National Socialists — and tried to gain them for collaboration and party membership. Comparably few National Socialists were sentenced and punished for their criminal behavior, in strong contradistinction to what happened in the Western part of Germany. The Communists did not have many moral scruples or ethical principles in choosing their temporary allies. Due to their lax attitude toward former National Socialists, the latter were soon to be found as party members and among the candidates for political offices.
In August of 1947, the de-Nazification of Soviet Eastern Germany was terminated. Jöris comments: “Just as the Communists had turned into National Socialists [after Hitler came to power in 1933], now the National Socialists became Communists” (371). As Petersen reports, the Communist Party had the highest percentage of former National Socialists among the political parties in Eastern Germany. Victims of the National Socialist regime had to keep quiet, despite their own just indignation, about this bitter fact. They, together with the victims of the Soviet system, had to be silent; they could not speak the truth. They were effectively forced to participate in the “conspiracy of silence” (Petersen).

A Lack Of Guilt Feelings

Erwin Jöris himself shows — at least in my eyes — not only a weak political understanding about the situation of 1946, but also a lack of moral formation in his personal life. In the middle of the scarcity of food and other goods, it happened that he stole food from a woman who had invited him for a good meal that she herself had acquired in unjust ways from a pastor who had explicitly sent it to Berlin for the little children in need. Jöris even goes so far as to steal money from his own parents, who were so stingy with their own hard-working son.
Looking back on these events, he does not seem to have any bad conscience about his acts, at least in Petersen’s report. But, as was once more widely held: “Thou shalt not do evil that good may come from it.” And: “Thou shalt not steal” (Seventh Commandment). These important moral laws seem unimportant to him, even when giving the interviews to Petersen in his high age and after much reflection and retrospection.
However, because Jöris refused to be part of this “conspiracy of silence” and continued to speak his mind out loud, his parents and his brother and neighbors started to warn him. “You will soon disappear!” He responded: “At least someone has to speak when you all are silent!” And: “Nobody will forbid me to speak!” (374).
In one conversation with a Communist, he called the official Communist newspaper Neues Deutschland (“New Germany”) simply and bluntly the “Red Völkischer Beobachter” (The Völkischer Beobachter was the newspaper of Hitler), implying that the former Nazi newspaper had just turned red.
After he had unexpectedly met one of his former accusers and truth twisters from his time in the Soviet Union, who himself had just come back to Germany as well, Jöris knew that he would have to flee to West Germany. He and wife had planned the flight for the day after New Year’s Eve in 1949. But, less than two weeks before that planned date, Jöris was again snatched away by Russians who had been alerted by his old above-mentioned enemy from Russia.

An Infamous Method
Of Torture

This was the last tragic moment of his life that brought him again into prisons and hunger and exhaustion and near death. He was again accused of merely invented violations and conspiracies, and was marked as a fascist who tried to undermine the Communist state. The Russian prison, which was now on German ground, was run similarly to the Lubyanka in Moscow: inhuman life conditions, little food, no hygiene, forbidden even to rest any moment during the day. Instead, the order was to sit straight all day long.
Even though he was beaten at times during his imprisonment, Jöris thankfully was spared the cruelest methods of torture that often were applied to many of the supposed “enemies of the state”: standing for days in ice-cold water, repeated beatings, and the breaking of teeth.
Yet, Jöris was not much intimidated even here. The officer who was charged with his case had shown some respect toward him, and even for his outspokenness. In one conversation, Jöris challenged the Russian interrogator with the reminder that he once learned in his Communist political classes that one has to insist before court trials that one is innocent until proven guilty!
However, Jöris even felt some sympathy for his interrogating officer and thought that he also had to fulfill his own duties or otherwise would fall under suspicion himself.
Erwin Jöris spent some time during this period in the prison of Hohenschönhausen in Berlin, which is now a museum and where one can see the terrible conditions under which the political opponents of the Communist system had to live.
The author of these lines was able once to visit this place. I still remember well the dark, small room without light, where there was a bench upon which victims were put, head down, with a pot with water hanging down from the ceiling which was releasing constantly a drip of water upon the head of the targeted person. It was an infamous method of torture to break the will of the prisoners.
In the prison cell which Jöris shared with a few men, he took the role of a counselor. He had already acquired quite some experience and knowledge about Soviet methods, and he gave his comrades in suffering many hints and recommendations on how to protect themselves best during the interrogations. Later, he was accused of fascist activity in his cell, because one of his comrades had passed on to the oppressors what he was saying. He was therefore then sent into another cell.
Among the accusations against Jöris was the claim that he had betrayed the names of former Communist comrades to the Nazis. Jöris refused to sign any of the documents with which he would thereby admit to being guilty. And he never did sign, unto the end. In April of 1951 — more than a year after his latest imprisonment — he was found guilty of all these invented accusations without any proof, and he was again to be sent to one of the stricter prison camps.
While waiting for his final fate, he read Russian books out loud to his cellmates. Among some of his cellmates it so happened that he met one of his former watchmen from the concentration camp at Sonnenburg, and indeed it was a painful meeting between victim and oppressor (this man was known for his commanding tone and cruel orders), these many years later. Now both of them were regarded as enemies of the state.
During all these years of imprisonment, Jöris got to know the tragic lives of many innocent people with whom he shared this fate. He later acknowledged their heroism and sacrifice, even though they were never honored by the public. In May of 1951, Jöris was sentenced by the Communists to imprisonment for 25 years. “Nobody can survive that” (422), was his first thought. Then, his comment, while still in the courtroom, was: “They can go to hell!” A sentence which was overheard by another prisoner who later, in an interview with Andreas Petersen, repeated it again and again, because he was so impressed with Jöris’ courage and dangerous boldness.
Most of the cases where people were imprisoned and even put to death by the Soviets in these years — more than 100,000 Germans — did not even find their way into the courtroom: Many victims were swiftly judged and put into prisons without any trial. On his way eastward to Siberia, Jöris passed the villages where he as a young man had made propaganda in favor of a Soviet Germany. “And now this ‘Soviet Germany’ brought me into a camp for 25 years” (425). The cynicism and the moral evil of such history!
Moreover, Jöris’ wife, Gerda, as well as his parents and brothers, tried to find out something, indeed anything about Erwin and his whereabouts. Not one institution would help them, from the lowest to the highest ranks. That the father — Jöris’ Communist father — had fought in the Spartacus fights, along with Rosa Luxemburg in the 1920s in Berlin, was of no help. “Twice, he [Erwin Jöris] had entered the same Party. Twice they imprisoned him” (440), comments Petersen.
Gerda, who had just been married to Jöris for a few months, was to suffer for years without his presence, not even knowing whether he was still alive. She stayed loyal to him all those years, worked in the business of her father-in-law and waited (even though she was offered better life conditions if she were to divorce her “criminal” husband, that “Traitor of the State”).
A neighbor, a deeply faithful Catholic woman, took a dangerous initiative and accompanied Gerda to an organization (Kampfgruppe gegen Unmenschlichkeit — Combat Group Against Inhumanity) over in West Berlin which tried to help the bereft family members of abducted people. This Catholic woman herself put her life at risk by doing so, inasmuch as even to travel to the Western part of Berlin in those days could be looked at as a disloyalty to the Communist State. (Not too many years later, in August of 1961, the Berlin Wall was built, so as to interdict such communications with the free West.)
Later, in an interview with Andreas Petersen, Gerda describes, laughingly and with warmth, how Jöris at his arrival home in 1955 from the Russian camp suddenly stood in front of her and just said: “Here I am.” As if he just came home from a walk!

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Popular priest disinvited from Catholic University’s seminary after protests over his LGBT book

The Rev. James Martin, a popular priest who published a book earlier this year encouraging a bridge between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church, has been disinvited from giving an address at Catholic University’s seminary. Martin, who was planning…Continue Reading

Latin Mass fans celebrate 10-year anniversary _ without pope

Fans of the old Latin Mass descended on Rome on Thursday for their annual pilgrimage, facing indifference to their cause, if not outright resistance, from none other than Pope Francis. Ten years after Pope Benedict XVI passed a law allowing greater use of…Continue Reading

Pro-gay Vatican adviser gets Catholic group suspended from Twitter

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 12, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A faithful Catholic lay apostolate was suspended by Twitter last week after Vatican adviser Father James Martin complained about a tweet that teasingly stated the pro-gay Jesuit had been bested in a theological…Continue Reading

Durbin, Feinstein and Catholic judges

Washington is currently embroiled in one of its “gotcha” controversies, which often arise when minor missteps are blown into major crimes. It’s a game both parties and a variety of activists play whenever they see political advantage in it. The…Continue Reading

Pope issues new directives on revision, translation of liturgical texts

Vatican City, Sep 9, 2017 / 08:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See has released a new “motu proprio” from Pope Francis outlining a shift in the responsibility of local bishops and the Apostolic See for the revision and approval…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke ‘treasured’ work with deceased dubia Cardinal to oppose ‘gravely harmful confusion’

ROME, September 6, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Raymond Burke paid tribute today to fellow dubia signer Cardinal Carlo Caffarra on his passing after a long illness. In a statement to LifeSiteNews, Burke said he was “deeply saddened” by the 79-year-old’s…Continue Reading

Some Personal Reflections on the Late Cardinal Caffarra

As Steve Skojec reported this morning, our beloved Cardinal Carlo Caffarra died today, in Italy. Our hearts are broken over this news since he was such a lovable and charitable and truthful man for us. Just to know that he was out…Continue Reading

Remarks by President Trump at Signing of Day of Prayer Proclamation

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Americans have always come to the aid of their fellow countrymen.  Friend helping friend, neighbor helping neighbor, stranger helping stranger — we’ve seen it perhaps more so than at any time, so vividly at…Continue Reading

Bishop Schneider: The Pope who ‘seems to’ permit adultery bears a ‘grave responsibility’

POLAND, August 31, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia “seems to” go in the direction of a pastoral “discernment” that “allows the adulterers to continue in adultery,” says Bishop Athanasius Schneider. The consequences for many could be…Continue Reading

REPORT CARD: Faithful college praised for financial aid; Praying for Notre Dame; ‘Pride Prom’ at Marquette

With college affordability becoming an increasingly prominent (and problematic) issue, Thomas Aquinas College’s recognition by The Princeton Review’s national Financial Aid Honor Roll is especially refreshing. “We are pleased that, once again, The Princeton Review has featured Thomas Aquinas College in its annual guide,”…Continue Reading

JEFFERSON CITY’S CATHEDRAL SCHOOL RESISTS LGBT POLICY

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (ChurchMilitant.com) – The flagship school for the diocese of Jefferson City has updated its handbook with clear Catholic instruction to counter the LGBT agenda being foisted on schools. Just in time for the new school year, St. Joseph…Continue Reading

Australian priest rips confession proposal as government ‘intrusion’

An Australian priest has called the Royal Commission’s recent proposal to enforce law requiring that clergy face criminal charges if they do not disclose details of sexual abuse revealed in the confessional a breach of religious tolerance. Fr. Kelvin Lovegrove,…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Today . . .

Pro-Life Speaker Ben Shapiro Answers Pro-Abortion Student’s Question With an “Epic Takedown”

Popular conservative author and speaker Ben Shapiro continued to impress his audience Thursday at UC Berkeley when he rapidly refuted a young man’s abortion arguments. Shapiro’s speech at the liberal California university drew massive media attention because of the violent protests that have broken out on campus during past conservative speakers’ talks. The university and local police increased security, and several people were arrested Thursday. Inside the sold-out auditorium, Shapiro received a huge applause when…Continue Reading

Cardinal Sarah: Reverent liturgy is essential to fighting the culture of death

ROME, September 15, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – One of the chief antidotes to a world “marked by the blight of Godless terrorism, of an increasingly aggressive secularism” and an “advancing culture of death” is to restore primacy to God in the Catholic liturgy, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said Thursday. The cardinal was speaking to an international gathering of cardinals, priests, religious and laity at the Fifth Roman Colloquium on Summorum…Continue Reading

Pope to new bishops: ‘Discernment’ means avoiding ‘rigid’ answers to moral questions

ROME, September 14, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis told a group of newly ordained bishops that “authentic discernment” cannot be reduced to repeating “rigid” moral formulas to persons whose situations “can’t be reduced to black and white.” Discernment, the pope said, “can’t be reduced to repeating formulas such as ‘high clouds send little rain’ to a concrete person, who’s often immersed in a reality that can’t be reduced to black and white.” He cautioned bishops…Continue Reading

Catholic leaders defend Trump after Pope challenges his pro-life views

September 12, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-life Catholic leaders are defending President Trump against Pope Francis after the Pontiff questioned Trump’s pro-life views, despite the fact that Trump has racked up major pro-life accomplishments during his short time in office. “If Pope Francis is so concerned with the commitment of others to the defense of preborn children, he should consider his own words and actions, as well,” said Michael Hichborn, founder and president of the Lepanto…Continue Reading

Sex, sanity, and beliefs that ‘live loudly’ within us

“I do not know any country where, in general, less independence of mind and genuine freedom of discussion reign than in America.” — Tocqueville, “Democracy in America” Alexis de Tocqueville was the great French chronicler of the early United States.  Nearly 200 years ago, he spotted a basic tension in our national character.  It’s this:  Americans place a big stress on individual rights.  But we’re also big conformists.  The dynamic of self-assertion and fear of being…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

Who Were The Colombian Martyrs Beatified By Pope Francis?

By ELISE HARRIS ROME, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) — During his six-day visit to Colombia, Pope Francis beatified martyrs Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve and Fr. Pedro Maria Ramirez Ramos, who provide testimony as the country heals from decades of conflict. Bishop Jaramillo was killed by Colombian Marxist guerrilla forces in 1989, while Fr. Ramirez was…Continue Reading

20 State Attorneys General Lauded… For Opposing Pro-Abortion Judge Orrick’s Gag Order Against CMP

By DEXTER DUGGAN PHOENIX — “It is definitely very encouraging, and it’s great news” that 20 state attorneys general filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to oppose the gag order against videos by pro-life investigators, an official with one of the law firms representing David Daleiden and the California-based Center for Medical…Continue Reading

Preparing To Enter Into The Awesome Mystery Of The Mass

By JAMES MONTI For every Catholic, there can be no more important event in one’s spiritual life than Holy Mass. For in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist we encounter our God in a more intimate manner than in any other sacrament, sacramental, or form of prayer. I recall hearing of a modern writer who…Continue Reading

Moral Judgments — Facts Or Opinions?

By ARTHUR HIPPLER (Editor’s Note: Dr. Hippler is chairman of the religion department and teaches religion in the Upper School at Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.) + + + Allan Bloom began his Closing of the American Mind with this memorable observation: “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the…Continue Reading

The Complete Thinker

By DONALD DeMARCO “The Complete Thinker” is borrowed from the title of Dale Ahlquist’s 2012 book, the subtitle of which is The Marvelous Mind of G.K. Chesterton. “Thinking,” for Chesterton, “means connecting things.” Ahlquist regards G.K.’s thinking as “complete” in the sense that it deals with a wide variety of subjects and integrates them in…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Professor Josef Seifert… Amoris Laetitia’s “Immense Threat” To The Moral Teaching Of The Church

By MAIKE HICKSON (Editor’s Note: In light of Professor Josef Seifert’s recent essay examining some of the dangerous logical consequences of Amoris Laetitia — an essay for which he was dismissed from his teaching position by the archbishop of Granada — Dr. Maike Hickson of OnePeterFive.com reached out to the Austrian philosopher to ask him some additional questions about not…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Can Division In Worship Bring Unity Of Faith?

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Pope Francis has given authority through a new motu proprio, Magnum Principium, issued this month, to local bishops’ conferences to approve translations of the liturgy from Latin into local languages. By doing so he hopes to accomplish a couple of things. First, as we know by now Pope Francis places full trust and confidence in…Continue Reading

God The Sanctifier Of Men… Other Christs

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 In a previous article, I mentioned that sanctifying grace makes us brethren of Christ. It is, by the way, one more reason to have devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of us, our common Mother. The reason is quite simple to understand: Christ is the Head of the…Continue Reading

The Effects And Fruits Of Anointing Of The Sick

By DON FIER The proper time for receiving the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick for a baptized Catholic “has certainly arrived when the believer begins to be in danger of death because of illness or old age” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], n. 1528). However, as we saw last week, the sacrament is not exclusively for those who…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. Please clarify 1 John 5:16-17. Does this refer to mortal sin? What is meant by not praying for one in deadly sin? Isn’t deadly sin a top priority for prayer? — P.S., Indiana. A. The passage in question reads: “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Thomas Villanova

By CAROLE BRESLIN Our Lord drew amazing men and women from the population of Spain to protect that country from the ravages that swept through Germany and the Scandinavian countries in the Reformation era. Two events marked by Augustinian monks sparked these events. In Germany, an apostate Augustinian monk who fell from grace led hundreds of thousands into error —…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Simon De Rojas

By CAROLE BRESLIN The subject of this article lived in a time of great saints, great Spanish saints, so it is not surprising that he is little known. St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) who wrote the Spiritual Exercises, St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) who reformed the Carmelites and wrote The Interior Castle, and St. John of the Cross who wrote…Continue Reading