Hilde Meisel (July 31, 1914 – April 17, 1945) was a German socialist and journalist who published articles against the Nazi regime in Germany. While in exile in England, she wrote under the pseudonym Hilda Monte, calling for German resistance to Nazism in magazines, books and in radio broadcasts. She acted as a courier and repeatedly undertook secret operations in Germany, Austria, France and Portugal, although as a social democrat and Jew, it was extremely dangerous for her to do so. Other code names she used in exile were Hilde Olday, Selma Trier, Helen Harriman, Eva Schneider, H. Monte, Hilda Monte and Hilde Monte.
- 1 Early political influences
- 2 Nazi era begins
- 3 How to conquer Hitler
- 4 Leaves the ISK
- 5 Sender der europäischen Revolution
- 6 Help Germany to Revolt!
- 7 German Educational Reconstruction
- 8 BBC
- 9 The Unity of Europe
- 10 Secret mission to Switzerland
- 11 Legacy
- 12 Meisel's literary work
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 Further reading
- 16 External links
Early political influences
Meisel was born to Rosa and Ernst Meisel, the younger of two daughters in a middle-class, German Jewish family in Vienna. With hostilities breaking out that resulted in the start of World War I, the family moved back to Berlin in 1915. They had previously lived there and her older sister had been born there in 1912. Meisel's father exported and imported household goods for a living.
According to the Berlin address book, her parents lived in Berlin from 1915 until 1936. Meisel suffered with a physical problem until puberty, necessitating frequent trips with her mother to Switzerland. In 1924, Meisel and her sister, Margot joined a German-Jewish youth group with socialist revolutionary ideas, called the Schwarze Haufen, which was part of the liberal German-Jewish Wanderbund-Kameraden. Margot became friendly with the leader of the group, Max Fürst and Hans Litten, his childhood friend and the ideological head of the group. Margot later became Fürst's wife and Litten's secretary. After Litten's arrest by the Gestapo, as his secretary, she was able to maintain contact with him for a time; she worked tirelessly to secure his freedom.
Meisel attended the Berlin Lyceum from 1924 to 1929. She then went to England, where her uncle, the conductor and composer Edmund Meisel, was then living and working in London. That same year, she undertook her first activities with the Internationaler Sozialistischer Kampfbund (ISK), a socialist group that split from the SPD during the Weimar Republic and was active in the fight against Nazism. The ISK established its own press, Der Funke in 1932 and Meisel contributed a number of articles, writing about the economic problems in France, England and Spain. In 1932, Meisel also began studying art in London.
Nazi era begins
In 1933, the Nazis seized power and Meisel began getting active with the German Resistance. In 1934, she interrupted her art studies and began taking courses in national economy at the London School of Economics. She also began publishing numerous articles on economics.
Meisel became active with the ISK established friendships with political contacts in different countries. Writing under the pseudonym "Hilda Monte", she brought like-minded comrades in Germany information. She also acted as a courier and smuggled literature into Germany and helped those under threat by the Gestapo to escape from Germany. Meisel also wrote for Sozialistische Warte, an exile publication of the ISK, writing primarily about problems with the economy.
As the situation with Litten deteriorated when he went to Dachau concentration camp in October 1937, Meisel began to work intensively to secure his release. She corresponded with other supporters and arranged to publish an article in the Manchester Guardian on January 26, 1938, "In Dachau Camp. The Tragic Case of Hans Litten". These efforts were without success; Litten committed suicide just days later on February 5, 1938.
To avoid being deported, Meisel entered into a marriage of convenience with the English caricaturist and cartoonist John Olday in 1938. In so doing, she became a "British subject by marriage", allowing her to carry out her work in England more easily and Meisel developed a busy career as a journalist, writing articles for The Vanguard, Sozialistische Warte, Left News and Tribune.
How to conquer Hitler
Writing as Hilda Monte, Meisel and Fritz Eberhard published How to conquer Hitler – A Plan of Economic and Moral Warfare of the Nazi Home Front. It is believed that the greater portion was written by Eberhard.
In order for her name to be pronounced properly by English-speaking readers, Meisel modified the spelling of her name from Hilde to Hilda. In her German manuscripts, however, she continued to use the original spelling. On occasion, because of circumstances where there was fear about using her real name, it was abbreviated or she used "Hilda Olday".
Fritz Eberhard mentioned his association with Meisel in exile in England.
- The outbreak of the war was a turning point in my work in exile. I separated myself from the organization, from the ISK at that point. After that, I was not political, but rather worked with unions; so then, in England, I was a political loner. My admission ticket, to speak, to a more tolerable and fertile life in exile was a book, which I had written with Hilde Monte very soon after the war began because of previously ongoing preparations. She left Germany just one day before the outbreak of war, but had previously been in England.
- She had recently experienced the psychological situation of the population in Germany. This book, How to conquer Hitler, gave advice on the economic and psychological war against Hitler. This book had magnificent reviews; the book is a rarity, since most of the edition happened to be in a warehouse at the port when it was destroyed by Nazi bombs. Even if, as a result, the book never became very widespread, some important people did know of it, and so many doors opened for me.
Leaves the ISK
In autumn 1939, feeling that the ISK was not being militant enough against the Nazis, Meisel left the ISK along with Fritz Eberhard and Hans Lehnert (1899–1942). Even during the war, Meisel kept trying to go to Germany.
Sender der europäischen Revolution
In early 1940, Meisel and Eberhard were appointed to be advisors with the Gillies Committee, under the direction of William Gillies. They were to develop concrete plans to set up a "black propaganda" radio station. Called the Sender der europäischen Revolution ("European Revolution Broadcasting Station"), it first went on the air October 7, 1940.
After the Gillies Committee was dissolved in 1941, she continued working till 1943 with the unionist Walter Auerbach, the lawyer Otto Kahn-Freund and Eberhard to form a discussion group that would work in the fight against National Socialism in Germany.
On assignment by the Minister of Economic Warfare, Hilde Meisel worked with the Central European Joint Committee, which was set up by émigrés to Great Britain to for propaganda and to analyze news and information coming from Germany.
Help Germany to Revolt!
The booklet, Help Germany to Revolt! was published in 1942. It is the last book she wrote with Fritz Eberhard. About this project, Eberhard wrote, "On behalf of the Fabian Society, I wrote a small booklet with Hilda Monte, Help Germany to Revolt. It was written as a letter to the members of the Labour Party and proceeded from the idea that not all Germans were Nazis."
German Educational Reconstruction
In 1942, Meisel worked with Fritz Borinski, Werner Milch, Minna Specht, Walter Auerbach, Werner Burmeister, Fritz Eberhard and Otto Kahn-Freund to establish the German Education Reconstruction, a project of the "Union of German Socialist Organisations in Great Britain" launched to plan and prepare a reorganization of the system of education and upbringing in postwar Germany.
Founded in spring 1941 at the request of the British Labour Party, the Union was a consortium of German Socialist refugees from several German political parties, Sopade, the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany, Neu Beginnen and the ISK. They set themselves to work on the downfall of the Hitlerian system and to work with the Allies to defeat Hitler. They also discussed the conditions and work of a future united socialist party in Germany, exchanging ideas on a common objective so as not to repeat the mistakes of the Weimar Republic in a democratic, postwar Germany.
Meisel also appeared on the broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) geared toward German workers, was worked with the education program of the British forces, and toward the end of the war, got involved again with the ISK group in London.
One surviving radio manuscript, written in mid-December 1942, deals with the murder of European Jews.
- What is happening today in Poland, the cold-blooded extermination of the Jewish people, this is being done in your name, in the name of the German people. [...] Show evidence of your solidarity to these people, even if it requires courage - especially if it requires courage.
The Unity of Europe
Originally, Meisel worked on the book, The Next Germany. A Basis of Discussion on Peace in Europe with Walter Auerbach, Fritz Eberhard, Otto Kahn-Freund and Kurt Mandelbaum, but left the project because of differences of opinion.
Her ideas and comprehensive approaches to the economic integration of Europe were then published in her own book, "The Unity of Europe". Among other topics, it covered the economic requirements of a postwar Europe. Many German university students have written their diplom theses using this book.
Both books were published in 1943. The "Sozialistische Mitteilungen: News for German Socialists in England" wrote,
- In a short chapter of her new book, The Unity of Europe (published by the Left Book Club), Hilda Monte debates the status of Germany in a new Europe; in principle, in the same sense as The Next Germany, published around the same time. Monte's highly readable book is rich in factual material and instructive discussion of the political and economic problems in Europe's future. It stresses, in particular, the recent opposition of the highly industrialized West and agrarian southeastern Europe; the export difficulties on the one hand, rural poverty on the other, crises, tensions and which involved uncertainty and was one of the causes of the war.
Secret mission to Switzerland
In summer 1944, Meisel was recruited for the "Faust Project" of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), who were looking for some 200 agents to obtain military and political news from Germany. The OSS held several training programs for the participants in a small private house outside London. The teachers were members of the U.S. Army, including several immigrants. The participants were briefed on practical aspects of everyday life in Nazi Germany, such ration cards, how to acquire an apartment and other bureaucratic requirements they'd need to navigate in order to find work. At the end of the course, they were trained in parachuting. Because the pending trips were secret, they were forbidden to talk to their friends about their plans.
In September 1944, Meisel and Anna Beyer flew to France. The original plan was for them to be dropped near Lyon, but there were skirmishes in the area, so they were landed by light aircraft in Thonon-les-Bains, near Lake Geneva, in a meadow used as a landing field by the British Special Operations Executive.
They were transported by French farmers in an old open wagon to an unused tunnel, where they were met by an English officer. He helped them reach Thonon-les-Bains, where they stayed four weeks, until they were picked up by Rene Bertholet. Surreptitiously, they crossed the border into Switzerland and went to Zurich, where they were given new identification documents and went with Hanna Bertholet to a meeting of the group in Geneva, centered around Willem Adolf Visser 't Hooft.
Shortly thereafter, Meisel and Beyer traveled to the Ticino Alps near Intragna, Switzerland. The Bertholets maintained a weekend home there, called "Al Forno", which was used by emigrants as a residence. In autumn 1944, Zwangsarbeiter (forced laborers) began trying to escape Germany by swimming their way to Switzerland, so the Germans, attempting to stanch the escape route, sealed off the border to Switzerland.
Near the end of the war, Meisel, Beyer, Hanna Bertholet and Anne Kapius received an invitation from the American headquarters in Bern to discuss returning to Germany to engage in acts of sabotage, but they declined. A little later, Meisel made contact with Karl Gerold, who later became editor of the Frankfurter Rundschau, to establish Austrian resistance groups in Ticino.
On April 17, 1945, while trying to cross the border illegally from Germany into Liechtenstein, Meisel was shot when she made a dash for the frontier at Tisis near Feldkirch. Shot in the thigh, she bled to death while still on the border.
There are two streets named after Hilde Meise, Hilda-Monte-Straße in Bergkamen and Hilda-Monte-Weg in the Bergedorf quarter of Hamburg. There is a memorial dedicated to Meisel in Feldkirch and a Stolperstein for her (in her pen name, Hilda Monte), in Berlin (see photo, above). There is a permanent display about Hilde Meisel at the Jewish Museum in Hohenems, Austria, not far from where she was born.
Much of what is known about Meisel's life in England came from her husband, whose recollections were embellished. In 1946, she was identified as the mastermind behind the 1939 Bürgerbräukeller assassination attempt on Hitler's life, though convincing evidence of this is unverifiable.
Meisel's literary work
Books and brochures
As Hilde Meisel:
- Gedichte Hans Lehnert - Europäische Verlagsanstalt, Hamburg (1950)
As Hilda Monte:
- How to conquer Hitler, with Fritz Eberhard. - Jarrolds, London (1940)
- Help Germany to revolt!, with Fritz Eberhard under the pen name of Hellmut von Rauschenplat - Victor Gollancz Ltd and the Fabian Society, London (1942)
- The Unity of Europe, with introduction by Henry Noel Brailsford - Victor Gollancz Ltd, London (1943)
- Where freedom perished, foreword by Jennis Lee - Victor Gollancz Ltd, London (1947)
Articles in the Sozialistische Warte
(Pen name used is given in brackets)
- [Selma Trier] Der Griff nach der Saar, Vol. 9, 1934, No. 8 (December), pp. 192–201
- [H. Monte] Krise und Ausbeutung, Vol. 11, 1936, No. 1 (January), pp. 13–16
- [H. Monte] Neues Labour-Programm, Vol. 12, 1937, No. 10 (May 15, 1937), pp. 220–222
- [H. Monte] Evolutionaerer Kommunismus, Vol. 13, 1938, No. 12 (March 25, 1938), pp. 267–270
- [Hilde Monte] Die wirtschaftliche Unabhaengigkeit der CSR, Vol. 13, 1938, No. 26 (July 1, 1938), pp. 603–609
- [Hilde Monte] Ungarn vor der Wahl, Vol. 13, 1938, No. 28 (July 15, 1938), pp. 658–662
- [Hilde Monte] Die Erschliessung Polens, Vol. 13, 1938, No. 36 (September 9, 1938), pp. 845–848
- Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland, Der Freiheit verpflichtet. Gedenkbuch der deutschen Sozialdemokratie im 20. Jahrhundert. Schüren, Marburg (2000), p. 227. ISBN 3-89472-173-1 (German)
- Thomas Tretzmüller, "Sozialistische Europapläne während des 2. Weltkriegs am Beispiel des Internationalen Sozialistischen Kampf-Bundes und der Socialist Vanguard Group" University of Vienna, official website. Internetgestützten Lehre (IGL) am Institut für Geschichte. Retrieved July 9, 2010 (German)
- Knut Bergbauer, "Widerstand gegen Hitler: Den Namenlosen ein Denkmal setzen" der Freitag, No. 31 (July 23, 2004). Retrieved July 8, 2010 (German)
- Cord Brügmann, Unvergessener Anwalt (PDF) Deutscher Anwaltverein, Deutscher Anwaltverlag (February 1998) pp. 75-81 (German)
- Ilse Fischer, Biography of Hilda Monte Neue Deutsche Biographie, Volume 18, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin (1997) p. 43 (German)
- Frédéric Stephan, Ideas about Europe in the German and French Resistance to National Socialism from 1933/40 to 1945 (PDF) Dissertation in two files (abstract in English at the end of file 2), pp. 51-52 University of Stuttgart, Faculty of Humanities. Retrieved July 9, 2010 (German)
- Short biography of Hilde Meisel German Resistance Memorial Center. Retrieved June 11, 2010
- Werner Röder, "Wer war Hilda Monte?" cited in Peter Koblank, "Union Time, Hilda Monte und der Illegale 'A'", Online-Edition Mythos Elser 2006 (German)
- Knut Bergbauer, Sabine Fröhlich and Stephanie Schüler-Springorum, Denkmalsfigur. Biographische Annäherung an Hans Litten 1903 - 1938 p. 292, Wallstein-Verlag, Göttingen (2008) ISBN 3-8353-0268-X Retrieved June 9, 2010 (German)
- H. Lauterpacht, International Law Reports Volume 107, Cambridge University Press (January 1, 1994), p. 183. Retrieved July 11, 2010
- Fritz Eberhard, "Arbeit gegen das Dritte Reich" (PDF) German Resistance Memorial Center, Berlin, pp. 23-24. Retrieved June 18, 2010 (German)
- "Sozialistische Mitteilungen: News for German Socialists in England" Friedrich Ebert Foundation, official website. Issued by the London Representative of the German Social Democratic Party (December 1943). Retrieved July 2, 2010 (German)
- Matthias Arning, "Karl-Gerold-Platz 1" Frankfurter Rundschau Online, official website. (February 19, 2009). Retrieved July 9, 2010 (German)
- Map link to Hilda-Monte-Straße, 59192 Bergkamen, Germany Google Maps. Retrieved July 8, 2010
- Map link to Hilda-Monte-Weg, 21035 Hamburg, Germany Google Maps. Retrieved July 8, 2010
- "Hilde Monte grave" Sonderausgabe der Evangelische Kirchengemeinde A.u.H.B. (11-2005), p. 13. Retrieved July 12, 2010 (German)
- Peter Koblank, Union Time, Hilda Monte und der Illegale 'A', Online-Edition Mythos Elser 2006 (German)
- Anna Beyer, Politik ist mein Leben. Frankfurt am Main (1991) (German)
- Willi Eichler, "Hilda Monte" in Geist und Tat, Vol. 2, No. 4, April 1947 (German)
- Max Fürst, Gefilte Fisch und wie es weiterging. Dt. Taschenbuch-Verl. (2004) ISBN 3-423-13190-X (German)
- Gisela Konopka, Mit Mut und Liebe, Weinheim (1996) (German)
- Annedore Leber, Das Gewissen steht auf. 64 Lebensbilder aus dem deutschen Widerstand 1933-1945. Edited in cooperation with Willy Brandt and Karl Dietrich Bracher, Berlin-Frankfurt (1955) (German)
- Sabine Lemke-Müller, Ethik des Widerstands. Der Kampf des Internationalen Sozialistischen Kampfbundes (ISK) gegen den Nationalsozialismus. Bonn (1996) (German)
- Heiner Lindner, "Um etwas zu erreichen, muss man sich etwas vornehmen, von dem man glaubt, dass es unmöglich sei" in Der Internationale Sozialistische Kampfbund und seine Publikationen (German)
- Dieter Nelles, Widerstand und internationale Solidarität. Die Internationale Transportarbeiter-Föderation (ITF) im Widerstand gegen den Nationalsozialismus unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Seeleute. Klartext Verlag, Essen (2001), ISBN 3-88474-956-0 (Dissertation 2000) (German)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hilde Meisel.|
- Hilde Meisel in the German National Library catalogue
- Literature by and about Hilde Meisel in the catalogue of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation
- Photo gallery of Hilde Meisel
- Jewish Museum of Hohenems official website. Retrieved July 8, 2010
- Hilde Meisel in the Sozialistischce Mitteilungen from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, in (German) and Supplement: Survey of the discussion on the future of Germany in daily papers and periodicals (English)