Hitler and Göring are standing atop the Berlin radio tower.
Hitler says he wants to do something to put a smile on Berliners’ faces.
So Göring says: “Why don’t you jump?”
Marianne Elise Kürchner, a 21-year-old war widow working as a technical draftswoman at an armaments factory in Berlin sometime in the summer of 1943, told that joke to a coworker. The coworker denounced her.
Making wisecracks at Hitler’s expense was, in theory at least, a capital crime, but most people who did so faced no consequences. They were rarely denounced, and if they did come before a court they were usually given a warning, at most a few months of “re-education” in Dachau concentration camp.
People who caused problems for the Nazis could expect them to use sedition as an excuse to arrest and execute them. Law-abiding Germans, though, had little to fear until the war began to turn against Germany. Then, punishment for sedition became more severe.
Marianne was forced to appear before the People’s Court. President Roland Freisler was notorious for berating defendants, and his death sentences. Marianne acknowledged making the joke, but said she hadn’t been herself at the time, feeling bitter about the recent loss of her husband at the front.
Freisler didn’t care. In fact, Marianne’s status as a war widow made her crime worse. In fact, he was proud to take no account of individual suffering.”
In his ruling, Friesler wrote:
As the widow of a fallen German soldier, Marianne Kürchner tried to undermine our will to valiant defense and efficient work in the armaments sector toward victory by making hateful remarks about the Führer and the German people and by uttering the wish that we should lose the war … She has excluded herself from the racial community. Her honor has been permanently destroyed and therefore she shall be punished with death.
Friesler rendered his judgment on June 26, 1943. Marianne was guillotined for the joke shortly thereafter.
|Plotzensee Prison execution room|
|Plotzensee guillotine after an air raid|
Aren’t you glad we don’t have to worry about such a fate?