Ziegler: Eugen Grimminger

Armin Ziegler. Eugen Grimminger: Widerständler und Genossenschaftspionier. Crailsheim, Germany: Baier Verlag, 2000.

    Ziegler's 216-page biography of Eugen Grimminger may be the only one you need. Most of the others (generally in essay form as part of larger anthologies) seem to be plagued by lack of attention to detail. As a retired PhD economist, Ziegler has no problems with attention to detail.
    The first seventy pages of the book deal with Grimminger's life up to his involvement with the White Rose: His life as a soldier during the first World War, how he came to embrace Buddhism and pacifism, his marriage to the German-Jewish woman named Jenny Stern and the consequences that marriage had - in 1922, long before the Nazis came to power.
    We learn from Ziegler not only that Grimminger helped Jewish friends and in-laws get out of Germany safely - something mentioned in other biographical articles about the man - but how he did it. This is a perfect example of why the whole person is important to a biography. You have to know about Grimminger's service in World War I to grasp his connections to the French underground.
    As a former accountant, now a writer, I especially enjoyed the section about Grimminger's too-short career as romance novelist. His novel Rosel Steinbronners Liebe was published by Bruno Bolger Verlag in Leipzig in 1921. When Dr. Gustaf Adolf Müller reviewed the book before Christmas 1921, he noted that many in Crailsheim would know the author as representative of an official and not-always-beloved post in the city.
    That strong sense of ethics - that which made Grimminger unpopular in his hometown - is a golden thread that follows him throughout his life and career. He does not last long in Crailsheim. The anti-Semitism is overwhelming. He and Jenny seek refuge in Stuttgart, where things are better... for a while.
    Ziegler covers Grimminger's White Rose activities on pages 71 - 128 of this book. Grimminger was their financier, raising perhaps $40,000-$50,000 to underwrite the leaflet campaign. (True to his Buddhist beliefs, the money was not to go towards anything that involved violence, such as an assassination attempt.)
    In fact, the best line anywhere in White Rose literature comes from one of Grimminger's post-war memoirs, quoted here by Ziegler. "Women make the best anti-fascists," Grimminger said, when the only people who would donate to White Rose work were women.
    Ziegler draws liberally on Grimminger's post-war writings. Those documents give us a sense of who Grimminger was. His wordsmithy demands respect!
    Without benefit of access to his Gestapo interrogation transcripts, Grimminger recorded what the interrogations were like, how they proceeded, what he was asked, and how the Gestapo agents behaved. His credibility (contrary to most post-war writing) rises substantially when you compare his memories to the transcripts themselves. His dual career as CPA and writer stood him - and us! - well, as he quoted parts of his interrogation almost as if he had the transcripts sitting in front of him.
    From him, we get a better idea of the process and the personalities at Gestapo headquarters. Kurt Huber repeatedly and erroneously denounced him. Grimminger was threatened with harm to his wife. We learn about conditions in the Gestapo jail, about prisoners who were moles, about the capriciousness of much of what went on.
    Grimminger is also one of the five prisoners/defendants who memorialized the April 19, 1943 trial, one who stood in awe of Kurt Huber's courage (despite the incomprehensible denunciations).
    Ziegler's book is the only one I've seen that gives Tilly Hahn credit for her role in the White Rose resistance. Most Grimminger biographers (and I use the term loosely) write about Tilly's bravery during the April 19 trial, because her brazen audacity did in fact save Eugen Grimminger's life.
    But she was far more than extraordinary "witness" for the defense. She contributed her own money to the cause, and she acted as liaison between Grimminger in Stuttgart and the students in Munich. She undertook several risky trips to Munich, taking them stationery, duplicating machines, and money. Tilly deserves honor equal to the standard crew cited at every White Rose memorial service, because her informed dissent was no less vital to the overall operations than the act of running off leaflets or painting graffiti.
    Back to Grimminger: He is the only person besides Susanne Hirzel to record prison life after the trial. His record takes on extra meaning when one considers that unlike Susanne Hirzel, who spent less than six months at a minimum security prison, Grimminger was jailed at a penitentiary for the duration of the war.
    Neither Grimminger nor his biographer Ziegler whitewashes that experience. When Grimminger suffers repeated mental breakdowns, we suffer along with him. When he tries to commit suicide after he learns that his wife Jenny has been murdered at Auschwitz, we feel his pain.
    We also learn more about Helmut Bauer and Heinrich Bollinger, two unsung White Rose members who were imprisoned with Grimminger at the penitentiary in Ludwigsburg. And in so doing, we gain a deeper appreciation for these friends of Willi Graf.
    Ziegler tracked down minutiae. When Grimminger wrote about the installation of a guillotine at the Ludwigsburg penitentiary, Ziegler found out why it was installed there. (The courthouse in Stuttgart had been bombed and the public atrium where beheadings had taken place was destroyed.)
    The last almost-100 pages of the book deal with Eugen Grimminger's life after the war. While of little "interest" to White Rose scholarship, it reminds us what was lost from 1933 - 1945. Not only the six White Rose people who were beheaded, but the six million Jewish lives sacrificed for what?, plus the millions of Roma, Sinti, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, Poles slaughtered, and those in other resistance movements, German, French, Greek, and more. Not to mention how-many-soldiers-lives on all sides.
    I don't agree with all of Ziegler's conclusions. For example, I believe that most of Grimminger's meaningful conversations while deputizing for Robert Scholl were with Sophie, not Inge. But even on the rare occasion where I disagree with a conclusion, I value his process, because that process is sound. There are still far too many "gaps" in White Rose scholarship to categorically state that one conclusion or the other is valid.
    Every person in the White Rose deserves a biography as solid as this one. Too bad that to date, White Rose establishment has been so blastedly fixated on Scholl. The whole group was made up of people who, like Franz Eugen Grimminger, lived in Germany during the Third Reich but refused to be part of the criminal insanity. Their stories are begging to be told.
    Thanks to Armin Ziegler, at least one of those stories got the treatment it merits.

(c) 2005 Ruth Hanna Sachs. All rights reserved. Please contact Exclamation! Publishers for permission to quote.