Wednesday, February 24, 2010

a courageous act of defiance

I wrote yesterday about one member of my family tree who confronted the society in which he lived. Today I write of another. Both men were forced to stand before local magistrates to answer for their actions and both were condemned by the court in harsh language. After trial, both were convicted of crimes against society. Both served out sentences the courts imposed. And finally, both were shunned by neighbors, though in neither case is this a matter of court record.

Despite these similarities, the gulf that separates the two men is enormous.

They lived four centuries apart and on different continents and they belonged to different religions. The one was cantankerous, aggressive, and, I'm pretty sure, annoyingly ego-centric. His crime was attempted seduction of a woman in the neighborhood where he lived.

There are no reports that the other man shared the same character traits or ever broke the law for personal gratification. Apart from one courageous act, he was an unaggressive and undeserving victim of an overwhelmingly powerful and wholly evil political regime.

The first is Henry Lennington.

The second is Salomon Windmüller. I'm not a direct descendant of him as I am of Henry: Salomon's great-great-grandfather was brother to the great-grandfather of my great-grandfather Louis.

{Salomon Windmüller; source:}

The heroic act of resistance for which Salomon is known concerned an anti-Jewish poster. The contents of the poster aren't known, but the level of rhetoric in that time and place is conveyed by a song the Nazi storm troopers sang as they marched through the streets of places like the town of Beckum where salomon lived: "Wenn das Judenblut vom Messer spritzt, geht’s uns noch mal so gut!" (We shall rejoice when Jewish blood will squirt from the knife…)*

The story of the poster's removal is conveyed in this document:

{This is the court sentence in the case against Salomon Windmüller; source: The Holocaust in Beckum}

It says Salomon Windmüller instructed one of his employees, Franz Becker, to take down an anti-Jewish poster that had been stuck on the wall of his house. He told Becker that the one poster already plastered on his gate was enough. Here's the court's sentence translated:
In the Name of the German People

Criminal Case Against:
          The Merchant Salomon Windmüller, Beckum, Weststrasse 19
          born 11 March 1862 in Beckum,
          concerning offense according to Par. 134 of the Penal Code.

The following participated at the 10 August 1935 Session of the Beckum District Court:
          Judge: Court Consultant Schrage,
          Official of the State Attorney: Inspector Redeker,
          Document Official: Advocate Knepper

The District Court has passed the following sentence:
          The accused is guilty of removing and damaging a public announcement
          and is sentenced to 6 weeks in prison. He also has to carry the expenses
          for the proceedings.


The accused has confessed that he ordered his employee Franz Becker to remove from his house a poster signed by Gauleiter (Party official) Meyer, with the heading "German People, Awake!”. He claims that he had not been aware of the contents of the poster. He admits, however, to have told Becker, one poster affixed on the gate next to the house will be sufficient. His claim that he was unable to read the poster because of the height of the place where it was affixed, is thus not credible. The accused saw the poster on the gate and could read it; he cannot pretend shortsightedness. Moreover, he should have taken into consideration that the poster originated from a Government and Party source. There was no alternative possibility. Undoubtedly, the accused was aware of this possibility, and should thus be deemed fully responsible.

Since the witness Becker, as an employee, only acted on orders of the accused, he cannot be held responsible. The accused has also acted with malevolence, by attempting to prevent the public from reading the poster.

In assessing the penalty it was duly taken into consideration that the accused is of Jewish descent. In view of the attitude of the State and the Party towards the Jewish race, the accused had all the more reason to avoid any provocative action.

A sentence of 6 weeks imprisonment was considered appropriate.

The costs for the proceedings will be carried by the accused, in accordance with Par. 465 of the Penal Code.

          (signed) Schrage, Court Consultant


                    Beckum, August 10, 1935

          (Stamp) Preuss. Amtsgericht, Beckum

Dr. Hagedorn, Attorney of Law, Beckum

{This translation was published in the Windmueller Family Chronicle (p 213). It is shown here with slight editorial changes. source:}
Salomon served his sentence and, very soon after, he died. His death in the northern Germany spa of Badenweiler suggests that he came of out jail a broken man and failed to recuperate in the health resort.

Here is a news account of the arrest:

It reads:
Priest and Jew Arm-in-Arm
Subversive agitators sentenced

Last Saturday several persons were sentenced at the Beckum district court, to several weeks’ imprisonment for damaging posters of the Westfalen-Nord district command. They were the following opponents of the National-Socialist movement and government: Mrs Franz Windhövel, Wilhelmstrasse 61 (three weeks imprisonment), the innkeeper Ferdinand Hagedorn, Weststrasse 45 (three weeks imprisonment), the Priest Stroetmann, Provost of the St Paulus Workers Association (three weeks imprisonment), and the last of this illustrious company; the 73-year-old cattle Jew Salomon Windmüller, Weststrasse 19 (six weeks imprisonment). All those sentenced were taken into custody. The Jew Windmüller was imprisoned immediately.

With this verdict, the Beckum district court has made it abundantly clear that the National-Socialist state will not be intimidated by anybody, not even by the Catholic clergy. All subversive activities will in future be severely punished.”

{Newsclipping, translation by Zeev Raphael, June 2007; source:}

{An actual Beckum windmill (Windmühle); source:}

{Beckum; source:}

{Salomon could probably see this house from his own at 19 Weststrasse; source:}

{SA troops in Beckum, 1936; source:}

{Nazi Storm Troopers with anti-Jewish posters, 1933; source: US Holocaust Memorial Museum}


*My main sources for this post are the Beckum pages on the web site. I highly recommend these pages and this site.



Salomon Windmüller's cousin, also Salomon, with his wife and sons, was a passenger on the ill-fated 1939 voyage of the MS St. Louis. As wikipedia explains: "The MS St. Louis was a German ocean liner most notable for a single voyage in 1939, in which her captain tried to find homes for more than 900 German Jewish refugees after they were denied entry to Cuba. The event was the subject of a 1974 book, followed by a 1976 motion picture Voyage of the Damned with the same title." The family eventually found refuge in a French town where they surived the war and, afterwards, emigrated to the United States.

{St. Louis surrounded by smaller vessels in the port of Havana, June 1939; source: wikipedia}

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