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Faces of Courage, Berthold


When Berthold was 12 years of age, his father was killed in an accident in the steel mill. His mother had to work as a domestic to feed her family of four children. Berthold was the oldest and when he was 14 years old, he left school and found a job in a factory. He was glad to be making some money to make life easier for his mother.
Hitler promised to make a good life for all Germans, but his mother worked harder than ever trying to support her family. There were no benefits for ordinary working people. The people who profited were the rich, the factory owners. Workers had few benefits. The Nazis were always boasting about the good life they were making, but Berthold knew it was a lie.

“Everywhere you see signs, “Forbidden” “Prohibited”, Not permitted” and “Forbidden on pain of death” “What kind of country am I living in?” Berthold made no secret of his hatred of the Nazis and he joined the Pirates at the same time as Franz. There were ten boys and two girls in their group.

Unlike the Nazi Youth, the Pirates tolerated differences and found a sense of solidarity with other young people who wanted to escape the strict control of the Nazi Youth groups. Having fun together was as important as the freedom they found in their activities. Being with the Pirates broke the monotony of life in the steel mill and made life exciting.

The high points of the week were the weekend hikes into the countryside and the parties in the café. Some members of the Pirates wanted to be more political and fight openly with the Nazis. They wrote anti-Nazi slogans on the streets with chalk and even distributed papers describing Allied victories. They wrote songs and sang them in the cafes at night. Although, most of the time they tried to avoid the Nazi Youth Patrols, they sometimes had to fight with them on the streets.

Despite the bombings, Berthold and Franz met their group of Edelweiss Pirates almost every evening. Food shortages, increased work loads in the mill, and the heightened efforts by the Patrols to suppress the Pirates hardly affected their activities. They knew that the Nazi authorities were more determined than ever to suppress them, especially after they began to carry on more serious resistance activities. Berthold and Franz listened to the forbidden British broadcasts on the radio and wrote a leaflet describing the Allied victories, which they printed and distributed them to people in their neighborhood. They also began to help young people who had run away from reform schools and labor camps.

Franz and Berthold helped to clean out an old empty warehouse that was used to shelter people who were hiding from the Nazis. Albert found his way to freedom with Berthold’s help.