Obituary: Kurt Josten

MAY I add to Ian Lowe's obituary of Kurt Josten (11 July) some remarks on Josten's resistance activity in the Third Reich? writes James Buchan. They filled our conversations in the last months of his life. That these activities were the source of unremitting peril and frustration is barely surprising given the success of the Nazi dictatorship in eradicating opposition. 'I was of no significance,' he once said, 'but I was of some use.'

Josten belonged to that group of young men and women, many from the Catholic nobility of Rhineland and Westphalia, who believed that the best hope for the restoration of the German monarchy lay with Hitler's vice-chancellor, Franz von Papen. Josten was employed in the Vice-Chancellery in Berlin and was present, with his friend Wilhelm von Ketteler, on the morning of 30 June 1934 when officers of the SS broke in and shot Papen's secretary, Edgar Jung, and the head of his press office, Wilhelm von Bose. Josten and Ketteler escaped, taking refuge in a barber's shop.

After the murder of Dollfuss in July, Papen reluctantly accepted the post of ambassador in Vienna, largely on the advice of Ketteler, who saw a chance of keeping Austria out of the Reich. At great danger, but helped as he later said by his youthful appearance, Josten acted as courier between Ketteler and the various conservative opposition circles in Berlin, south Germany and the Rhineland. He rapidly became disillusioned, as much by his distrust of Papen as the futility of establishing Vienna as a counterpoint to Berlin. In the course of 1935, he came under Gestapo suspicion and was offered an attache's position in Vienna at the ripe diplomatic age of 23, which he turned down at his family's request. The decision haunted him in later life, because he knew it spared him the fate of Wilhelm Ketteler who was murdered by the Gestapo on 13 March 1938, the day of the Anschluss. By this time, Josten was on the run, finding refuge first in Vichy France and, after its fall, in the eye of the National Socialist storm in Franconia.

For such a peaceable, scholarly man, resistance in the Third Reich was not only a matter of sabotage but of helping those under threat (including his large Jewish acquaintance) and nurturing circles of like-minded individuals that might preserve something from the wreck. His achievement was in the example he set to his large family and to his home city of Neuss, over which he later presided, in tiny rooms 10 floors above the Hamtorwall, wise, disillusioned and benign. For his British friends, he embodied the virtues of an extinct Germany.

But the conclusions he drew from his experiences in the Third Reich would be as unwelcome in modern Britain as in united Germany. He believed that the Germans were, by culture and tradition, vulnerable to dictatorship; and that the best defence of the peace and liberties of Europe lay with Britain's instinctive fairness, indifference and luck.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week