Wednesday 28th September 2016

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

2016 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Donald Trump Names Rick Santorum and Other Top Pro-Life Catholics as Key Advisers

Fresh from announcing a list of pro-life leaders who are advising him on issues that matter to pro-life voters, Donald Trump has named a group of pro-life Catholic leaders as additional key advisers, including pro-life former presidential candidate Rick Santorum.…Continue Reading

Argentine bishop threatened with prosecution for condemning ‘culture of fornication’

September 20, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The Catholic archbishop of the Argentinean city of La Plata is under investigation by the country’s “discrimination” police for condemning the modern acceptance of sexual promiscuity and “unnatural” unions, according to local media sources. Archbishop…Continue Reading

First minor killed by euthanasia in Belgium after child euthanasia legalized

BELGIUM, September 19, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Belgium’s federal euthanasia commission confirmed Saturday the country’s first instance of child euthanasia, which became legal in 2014. Belgian media suggested the minor killed via lethal injection was 17. Some media also suggested the…Continue Reading

Donald Trump commits to defunding abortion, Planned Parenthood if elected

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 16, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Donald Trump has pledged to end taxpayer funding of abortion in the United States and to defund the nation’s leading abortion provider. In a new, personally signed letter, Mr. Trump attacked “Hillary Clinton’s…Continue Reading

Pope Francis issues motu proprio harmonizing Canon Law codes

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter motu proprio on Thursday, in which he brings the basic legal instruments that govern the Latin Church and the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome more closely into accord with one another…Continue Reading

Another “Catholic” Politician trying to redefine the Catholic Faith . . . Devout Catholic™ Kaine breaks with his church on gay marriage, with media blessing

Tim Kaine has officially joined the ranks of Devout Catholic™. How do we know? Because he says he’s Catholic, yet criticizes the church. The Democratic vice presidential nominee played weekend prophet and theologian when he told activists in the Human…Continue Reading

Bishop Morlino’s Move to Ad Orientem Masses in Madison

This past weekend the Most Reverend Robert Morlino, Bishop of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin made an announcement of great liturgical importance. Going forward His Excellency will be offering all of his Masses at the Cathedral ad orientem. Make no…Continue Reading

Longtime conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly dead at 92

phillis

Phyllis Schlafly, the iconic pro-family activist who rose to fame in the 1970s when she campaigned against the Equal Rights Amendment, has died at age 92, according to the Eagle Forum, the conservative organization she founded. Schlafly had been an…Continue Reading

Soros’ Catholic useful idiots

By Robert A. Sirico – – Tuesday, August 30, 2016 A most remarkable set of documents was coughed up recently by WikiLeaks. George Soros‘ Open Society Policy Center, it turns out, made donations to two faith-based organizations to the tune…Continue Reading

Pope Francis “gratified” by UN goals that demand “universal access to sexual and reproductive health”

Pope Francis has said that he is “gratified” by UN goals that call on member states to “ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health” by 2030. The term “sexual and reproductive health”, as generally defined, includes access to contraception, including abortifacient methods, and,…Continue Reading

Psychiatrist: The Vatican’s sex ed is the most dangerous threat to youth I’ve seen in 40 years

September 2, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — In recent years, the Catholic Church has been going through one of her most severe crises as a result of the priestly abuse of youth. The primary victims have been adolescent males.1  This worldwide scandal was…Continue Reading

Catholics protest at Tim Kaine’s parish: If priest won’t ‘instruct parishioners’ on Church teaching, we will

RICHMOND, Virginia, August 29, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Roughly a dozen pro-life activists protested Sunday outside of pro-abortion, pro-homosexual Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine’s Catholic parish. “Sen. Kaine has failed in his duty as a Catholic public servant to…Continue Reading

Newsmax

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  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 145 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

Enter Comments Below

This Weeks Comments And Letters . . .

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “An Introduction To The Problem Of Euthanasia”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 23 of The Facts of Life, a 150-page treatise on all of the aspects of euthanasia, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have covered the definitions of the varieties of…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Benedict XVI Admits Qualms of Conscience about Vatican II

After the German publisher Droemer Verlag first released it on 9 September 2016, much has already been deeply discussed and variously reported about Benedict XVI’s new interview-book, Benedikt XVI. Letzte Gespräche (Benedict XVI – Last Conversations) which so far has only been published in the German language. It has been shown, for example, how the former pope supports whole-heartedly Pope Francis’ papacy and how he still defends his decision to leave his Petrine office, not…Continue Reading

">We May Not Have A Church To Go To . . .

Paul Likoudis (RIP)

Calling hours will at Vedder And Scott Funeral home on Tuesday September 27th from 4pm to 7pm. 122 N Genesee Street Montour Falls NY 14865 A Mass of Christian Burial Will Be held at 11am on Wednesday September 28 with a reception to be held immediately following at St. Mary’s of the Lake Church. 905 N. Decatur Street Watkins Glen NY 14891 Dear Friends, Paul Augustine Likoudis, age 61 of Caywood, NY, passed away due…Continue Reading

500 Catholic scholars lash back at Humanae Vitae critics

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2016 / 03:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly 50 years after the “prophetic” papal document Humanae Vitae, the Catholic Church’s longstanding teaching against contraception continues to promote the human good, said a group of Catholic thinkers on Tuesday. “We hold that Catholic teaching respects the true dignity of the human person and is conducive to happiness,” said hundreds of Catholic scholars in a Sept. 20 document. “Humanae Vitae speaks against the distorted…Continue Reading

“Catholic” Tim Kaine: “I Believe Women Should Be Able to” Have an Abortion

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Democratic Vice Presidential pick Tim Kaine, attempted to make his pitch to Millennials by saying that they agree with Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform on the big issues. One of the big issues is obviously abortion. Part of what he said was: “Do you believe women should be able to make their own health care decisions, or don’t you? Millennials do, Hillary Clinton and I do, Donald Trump doesn’t.”…Continue Reading

Never Trump? . . . The Case Against “Sitting Out” The Presidential Election

By BRIAN CLOWES Conclusion (Editor’s Note: To receive an electronic copy of this four-part article with footnotes, e-mail Brian Clowes at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + “When you have a binary choice, you must make a decision. It’s frankly irresponsible to stay on the sidelines right now, given where the republic is heading” — Marjorie Dannenfelser,…Continue Reading

Bibi Backs Trump — On Putin

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Since Donald Trump said that if Vladimir Putin praises him, he would return the compliment, Republican outrage has not abated. Arriving on Capitol Hill to repair ties between Trump and party elites, Gov. Mike Pence was taken straight to the woodshed. John McCain told Pence that Putin was a “thug and…Continue Reading

Sex On The Brain

By DONALD DeMARCO The late Malcolm Muggeridge, who, in his later years, had some sensible things to say about human sexuality, lamented that people “have sex on the brain, and that’s an unhealthy place for it to be.” What he meant by this remark was based on his observation that sex, which is a natural…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101… The Bridge Between Abortion And Euthanasia

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 23 of The Facts of Life, “Euthanasia,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + Speaking at a conference of the Hemlock Society — an organization whose primary…Continue Reading

Restoring The Sacred… At The Hour Of Our Death

By JAMES MONTI The onset of autumn has deeper lessons to offer than merely the return of students to their classrooms for another semester of studies. Our Lord Himself told us to derive spiritual instruction from even the change of seasons when He compared the budding of leaves on the fig tree that presage summer…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . . How Catholics End Up As Practical Protestants

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The Church is in the business of making Catholics, of proclaiming and calling all to the fullness of saving truth in Jesus Christ our Lord. Our mission to those who doubt or refuse some of our teachings is to call them to that fullness, whether Catholics already in our pews or Protestant brothers and sisters…Continue Reading

What Is Faith?… Is Faith Necessary For Salvation?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM For most of us who are cradle Catholics, it is not difficult to believe, since we received the theological virtue of faith in Baptism and grew up with it. Our parents and/or teachers taught us all about the Bible stories, the catechism, the sacraments. We learned to pray the Creed from an early age, and…Continue Reading

The Necessity Of Baptism

By DON FIER The Church’s immemorial tradition of baptizing infants demonstrates in a particular way one of the great truths of our Catholic faith — that every human person is in need of salvation. Born into this world afflicted with original sin, “a sin which is the death of the soul” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], n. 403), even…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Following up on a recent question about how much money the U.S. bishops get from the federal government, an article in LifeSiteNews reported that the Obama Administration is pouring hundreds of million of dollars into Catholic institutions and charities. “We’ve got the most virulently anti-life administration in the history of the United States,” said international child rights advocate…Continue Reading

If It Delays, Wait For It

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Hab. 1:2-3, 2:2-4 2 Tim. 1:6-8, 13-14 Luke 17:5-10 I have commented many times before on the last lines of the Gospel reading today where our Lord tells us to say: “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” Tragically, I wish that…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. John Of Capistrano

By CAROLE BRESLIN In Texas there is an old building that is part of the Missions National Historical Park of the National Park Service near San Antonio, Texas. This restored mission was founded in 1731 on the San Antonio River by the Franciscans and named after the soldier saint, St. John of Capistrano. In San Juan Capistrano, Calif., the Franciscans…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Bernardina Maria Jablonska

By CAROLE BRESLIN Some people look back on their lives and see how differently things turned out from what they had planned. A professor once told his business students that very few students work in the field they studied in college. If someone had told the young Bernardina Maria Jablonska that she would be the superior of a religious order…Continue Reading