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Belated honours for a resistance fighter

10.07.2014 - Article

On 10 July, Foreign Minister Steinmeier paid tribute to Ilse Stöbe, a former Foreign Office employee who fought against the National Socialist regime as a member of the communist resistance.

Brüning, Gysi, Steinmeier, Conze and Gehrcke in front of the commemorative wall
Brüning, Gysi, Steinmeier, Conze and Gehrcke in front of the commemorative wall© Photothek/Imo

On 10 July, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid tribute to Ilse Stöbe, a former Foreign Office employee who fought against the National Socialist regime as a member of the communist resistance and paid for this with her life. Stöbe is the first woman to be named on the Federal Foreign Office’s list of resistance fighters.

The corridor in the first floor of the Federal Foreign Office is a special place, not only because it has a red carpet and leads to the Foreign Minister’s office. It also features a large wall where the Federal Foreign Office commemorates employees who lost their lives in service. A new name was added to the wall a few days ago, that of Ilse Stöbe, a resistance fighter in the Third Reich, and the first woman to be named on the wall.

Resistance or treason?

Several historical documents provide evidence of Ilse Stöbe’s work in the Foreign Office.
Several historical documents provide evidence of Ilse Stöbe’s work in the Foreign Office.© Photothek/Imo

Speaking at the ceremony, Foreign Minister Steinmeier pointed out that it had taken some time before her name was added to the wall. Even in post-war Germany, Stöbe’s actions were regarded for a long time as treason rather than as resistance. As a press officer in the Information Department, she learned about Germany’s plans to deploy troops to the East, and passed this information on to the Soviet Union. Stöbe was arrested by the Gestapo in September 1942 and executed in Plötzensee Prison on 22 December 1942. Many details of her life are unclear, including whether or not she was in fact a member of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).

A lengthy process

Foreign Minister Steinmeier delivering his speech
Foreign Minister Steinmeier delivering his speech© Photothek/Imo

“Spying was regarded as second-class resistance,” Steinmeier said. “Ilse Stöbe’s name has only now been added to the commemorative wall, as the last name in the list of resistance fighters. We should not pretend that her name was put there earlier. In fact, we should feel ashamed that we have only now completed the list of people who were killed while fighting against Hitler.” At the same time, the Foreign Minister added, including Ilse Stöbe’s name on the list also gives us a chance to look towards the future.

The history of how we paid tribute to Ilse Stöbe should serve as a reminder to us to keep memories alive and to constantly and critically review them.

Steinmeier thanked the supporters

Steinmeier thanked the people involved in researching Ilse Stöbe’s life and actions. They include the author Elfriede Brüning, who wrote a book about Ilse Stöbe’s life; the Members of the Bundestag Gregor Gysi and Wolfgang Gehrcke; and the head of the Independent Commission of Historians, Eckart Conze. Without their help, the Foreign Minister said, a chapter about resistance against Hitler in the Foreign Office would have remained unpublished.

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