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Why we fight: Karl Schnibbe and newspapers

14 May 2010 · by Blaine Sundrud

Karl Schnibbe decided that the German people must be told about the terrible things the Nazis were doing to their Fatherland.

Karl Schnibbe, age 86, passed away this week.

He is the reason I believe in publishing today.

Schnibbe was 17 years old in Nazi Germany when he and his two friends, Helmuth Heubner and Rudolf Wobbe, decided that the German people must be told about the terrible things the Nazis were doing to their Fatherland. The three companions listened to clandestine BBC radio broadcasts and were horrified to learn what their government was doing without telling the German citizens. Fear was everywhere and people disappeared and were never heard from again.

Heubner convinced Schnibbe and Wobbe to follow him on an audacious plan where they would transcribe the British broadcasts and put them into leaflets telling the people what was happening. They snuck into their church building and used the copy machines to publish thousands of copies and distributed them at night in Hamburg. They put their lives on the line for one goal: to publish the truth.

All three were eventually caught. Schnibbe and Wobbe were sent to concentration camps where they spent seven years in hard labor. Heubner was beheaded.

Wobbe and Schnibbe immigrated to the United States after the war. I had the honor of working closely with Schnibbe when I was at the university working on a production-telling his story. Each performance, I would see him sit on the front row of the audience and watch his story acted out. I saw the pain in his eyes as the death of his friend was recounted nightly. But I also felt the fierce pride in his heart knowing his friend gave his life for the truth.

I could try to compare their fight with what we must do in the news industry. We must fight to uncover the truth and not just be printing the spin doctor’s pablum. But I won’t.

I will simply take off my hat today, and say a prayer for the man who touched my life.

Godspeed, Karl.

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