Latter-day Saint who defied Nazis dies in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Nearly 70 years ago, three German teenagers defied the Nazis to try to tell the truth about what was happening in their country. The last of those brave young men died Sunday in Utah, where he lived for many years.

Helmuth's the hero, not me ... Sooner or later, sooner, I will see him again and that will be a nice, nice pleasure.

–Karl Heinz Schnibbe

Karl Heinz Schnibbe was 86 when he passed away in Salt Lake City this weekend. The incredible story of these three young Latter-day Saints was the subject of a PBS documentary and will soon be told to a much larger audience.

In August of 1941, Adolf Hitler controlled Germany. Three teenagers in Hamburg defied the military police, or Gestapo, by secretly listening to BBC broadcasts from London.

One of the teenagers, 16-year-old Helmuth Hubener, decided they should write, print and distribute pamphlets to tell their neighbors the truth about the evils of the Nazi regime. His friend, Karl Heinz Schnibbe, eventually came to live in Utah.

"We were not so naive to bring Hitler down to his knees," Schnibbe said in a 2003 interview. "Helmuth wanted the people to think."

But they were arrested, interrogated and tortured in a Gestapo prison. Matt Whitaker, who directed the 2002 PBS documentary, co-wrote the script for a feature film he will soon direct. He remembers Schnibbe's reaction to the casting.

What was... the "Hübener Group?"
In 1941 the Hübener group, consisting of three teenagers, 16-year-old leader Helmuth Hübener, 17-year-old Karl-Heinz Schnibbe and 15-year-old Rudolf Wobbe, distributed flyers throughout Hamburg exposing the Nazi propaganda and sharing the truth about Hitler and the war. The three boys were eventually caught by the Gestapo in 1942, repeatedly beaten, then convicted and sentenced. Hübener was executed, the youngest person to be sentenced to death for opposing the Nazis, Schnibbe was sentenced to five years in a labor camp; Wobbe was sentenced to 10 years.

"Karl had questions about it. 'Well, who is this young man? What does he look like? What kind of a guy is he?'" Whitaker said. "So, when Karl and Jamie King actually had an opportunity to meet, it was just beautiful."

Whitaker continued, "Karl said to me over and over again, 'Kids today need to know this story. They need to know that they can stand up.'"

Schnibbe and Rudi Wobbe were sent to work camps in Poland, but the Nazi court sentenced Hubener to death; the guards beheaded him.

In KSL's last conversation with Schnibbe, he expressed his gratitude for his courageous friend and his longing for a reunion.

"Helmuth's the hero, not me; and Helmuth is my hero," Schnibbe said. "Sooner or later, sooner, I will see him again and that will be a nice, nice pleasure."

Filming for "Truth and Treason" will begin this fall in Budapest, starring Haley Joel Osment and Max von Sydow. The film should be released in the fall of 2011.


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