The Price
Chapter 3

Recruits for the Cause


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People had become close-mouthed during the Nazi years. If anyone talked too much about anything, someone else might think he knew something.
This chapter begins with Karl-Heinz and Helmuth huddling in the dark with their ears against a radio, so as not to awaken his grandparents, listening to a German-language report which was being broadcasted by the BBC. They started to recognize that the Germans were being lied to because their government only ever reported enemy deaths, whereas the BBC reported casualties on both sides, "and there were enormous discrepancies" between the two reports. Helmuth had apparently already been listening to this report for several weeks. He noted that the Germans had reported sinking the same aircraft carrier three times.

Karl-Heinz was hooked, and asked if he could come listen with Helmuth again. His parents were strict, however, and he often could not go. Helmuth worked in an office and knew shorthand, so Karl-Heinz suggested he take notes for him so he wouldn't miss anything. This led to Helmuth's infamous leaflets. "Don't you think everybody in Hamburg is entitled to know the truth?" he said."

Included at this point in the chapter is a transcript, in both English and German, of one of the leaflets Helmuth created. These were"eventually disguised as official Nazi announcements with a swastika on the letterhead."

The boys distributed the leaflets in the expected manner–in telephone booths and mailboxes–but they also got creative, even going into opera houses and placing them in coat pockets.

Karl-Heinz made the mistake of showing one to a Nazi neighbor, who chastised him and told him to burn it. He was careful never to bring any home, and burned leftovers before returning.

In the beginning, Helmuth made a new leaflet every two weeks, eventually increasing to two per week. Karl-Heinz says he must have written about sixty leaflets in the eight or nine months before they got caught. Helmuth's office job also led to him acquiring access to the clerk's office at the church building, where they got paper, and to his gaining access to a typewriter.

Because Helmuth was so careful, both Karl-Heinz and Rudi Wobbe had been helping with the distribution for months without the other knowing. When they run into each other at Helmuth's house and make this discovery, they all agree that if one gets caught he will take all the blame. They had no illusions about how much trouble they would be in if they got caught. They knew about a Mormon from another area who was sent to a concentration camp simply for making disparaging remarks about a Nazi statue. Helmuth spoke with this man, who–despite a gag order–told him all about the torture he endured there, which led to his death six weeks after being released.

There was also the disappearance of another Mormon whose only "crime" was looking Jewish.

The main problem was that the Nazis passed a law in 1936 "authorizing the death penalty for "enemies of the state"," after which "anything could get a person killed." Every time they went to see a movie, the newsreels beforehand showed executions, and the Nazis put out announcements declaring who was being hung or beheaded. The boys knew that "illegal listening… and antifascist propaganda were capital offenses."

Karl-Heinz points out that they didn't think they could single-handedly defeat the Nazis; they only hoped to inspire others to spread the truth and that eventually there would be enough people awake to do something. They knew that the Nazis weren't immune to world opinion. In fact, when they had started to practice euthanasia, murdering those who were handicapped, they had tried to spread propaganda about how humane it was, but a Catholic Bishop got people sufficiently riled up about it that they eventually stopped the practice.

Helmuth tried to recruit others in their efforts, which Karl-Heinz says "was to be the fatal step that led to our undoing." He approached a fellow worker in his office, and asked him to translate flyers into French, but was overheard by another employee. Unfortunately, this other employee was "the overseer of loyalty and patriotism in the office," and he reported them to the Gestapo.

Helmuth and the other employee were questioned and their houses were searched. The other employee had a flyer in his pocket, which was confiscated. At Helmuth's home that discovered the radio and flyers, and the typewriter, which held a work-in-progress. The two were formally arrested.

Karl-Heinz notes that Helmuth "signed the first of several confessions only after two days of torture," and that he never confessed to the involvement of either himself or Rudi.

Karl-Heinz did not see Helmuth for a few days after his arrest, and he was unaware that it had happened, until it was announced, without specifics, to the congregation at church on Sunday.
The fact that the Nazis never reported their own casualties, and that they reported the sinking of the same aircraft carrier multiple times is reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984 [1], where the government announces the increasing of rations that have actually been reduced, and frequently change who they announce they have always been at war with.

When we consider Helmuth's quote, "Don't you think everybody in Hamburg is entitled to know the truth?", we must ask ourselves what we are doing in the fight to spread the truth? The forces of evil are well-provisioned and funded. The only hope for good is that everyone will do his part.

Others, like Helmuth, know that there are people out there not doing much, and so they take it upon themselves to go above and beyond. For instance, the fact that he eventually created two flyers a week is amazing when we consider that he did not have a computer, printer, or copy machine. Every flyer was hand-typed, in the beginning, and later he used a "duplicating machine." While it is unknown which type of duplicating machine he used, they were all relatively labor-intensive. [2] He also was able to gain possession of carbon paper, which allowed him to type on several sheets of paper at once.

Although we have understood since the beginning that Karl-Heinz and the others were not yet adults, it is only in this chapter that we learn their ages: Rudi was fifteen, Helmuth was sixteen, and Karl-Heinz was seventeen.

Also in this chapter we learn that at some point all of the German people were aware of the concentration camps. Looking back, we wonder how they would have allowed it to happen, but we forget that the government just went and did it. By the time the people found out, they were afraid they would end up in one themselves. They were heavily-guarded, the guards were not afraid to shoot people (and could easily justify it under the "enemy of the state" law), and if they spoke out about it to a neighbor they risked losing their lives. It was a difficult situation to be in.

In this chapter, Karl-Heinz also mentions that some people were saying, regarding the concentration camps, that "Heads must roll for victory." This is a fallacious argument that basically equates to our phrase, "You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs." These both boil down to it being alright for others to suffer, so long as the outcome is beneficial (to the survivors). In America today, we are seeing a resurgence of this attitude, but at its base it also exists in the modern attitude about it being okay for stupid people to die because they are cleaning up the gene pool, and other such nonsense. Think Darwin Awards.


[1] 1984 Audiobook by George Orwell (YouTube) <, accessed 2021-02-08.>

Duplicating Machines (Wikipedia) <, accessed 2021-02-08.>
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