Or: “You don’t have to say that any more!”
Musician, artist, linguist, equestrian, entrepreneur: he’s an outstanding representative of the Mittelstand – the medium-sized, family-run companies often described as the backbone of the German economy. He’s Claus Hipp – my latest guest on Talking Germany. Before the show he tells me about an aspect of his family’s story that doesn’t get a lot of publicity.
“My uncle was mayor of Regensburg under the Nazis and denied Hitler permission to hold a speech in the town. He spent months in the Dachau concentration camp. And my aunt was a secret courier, who smuggled a copy of the Nazi-critical papal encyclical With Burning Anxiety into Germany. It was read from the pulpits of Catholic churches around the country. She looked so innocent. But if they’d caught her, they would have shot her.”
His father and a friend also apparently took big risks: “They waited for trains on their way to Dachau when they stopped at their local station in the town of Pfaffenhofen. They opened up some of the carriages, giving people a chance to get out.” And, he adds: “He also gave shelter to a number of Jewish citizens – something that only emerged after his death in 1967.” The message is: this wasn’t heroics. This, Claus Hipp clearly believes, is what more Germans ought to have done.
Now in his seventies, Claus Hipp says he has never shaken off his memories of the Nazis. “I felt then, and have always felt, a terrible fear of uniforms.” So what was his first memory of liberation? “Well, my father and I were walking down the street one day when the headmaster from my school came our way. ‘Heil Hitler!’ I shouted, as I had always done. ‘You don’t have to say that any more,’ my father told me: ‘Just say Grüß Gott!’”