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.

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

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices