Sunday, February 23, 2014

Winrich Behr Stood Up to Hitler: A Portrait of Courage


Winrich Behr was a German Panzer captain during World War II. He served on General Paulus' intelligence staff in the Sixth Army during the German assault on Stalingrad. After months of the most horrific battle and destruction imaginable, the Soviet army completely encircled the German Sixth Army. Hopeless in the situation, Captain Behr was sent to German command headquarters to try to convince Adolf Hitler to allow the German army to break free and to retreat. Hitler, of course, would not hear of it, preferring to let the men suffer and die, rather than to allow retreat. In the end, the Sixth Army surrendered to the Soviets, which presaged the eventual defeat of Germany at the hands of the Soviets.

Imagine, if you will, the task given to Captain Behr. Essentially, he was sent to ask Hitler's permission to allow the army to retreat, against Hitler's own orders. Behr had to inform Hitler that the Führer's strategy regarding the Soviet Union was not working.

Instead of merely delivering his message to Hitler, Behr chose to stand up for the officers and men of the Sixth Army, arguing against the war plan of one of the deadliest and most ruthless dictators of all time. Captain Behr did not shrink from the task, pleading the hopeless cause of the Sixth Army directly to Hitler who, uncharacteristically, allowed the Captain to speak his mind. However, once finished, Hitler proceeded with his original plans, as if Behr had not spoken at all.

Imagine the courage it took for Behr to confront his Führer. Behr could have delivered General Paulus' message, described the poor conditions of the Sixth Army, and left it at that - safe in the knowledge that he had discharged his duty.

But duty spoke differently to Behr. Risking his own life, he stood up to Hitler and told Hitler exactly what he thought should be done with regard to the trapped German Sixth Army. Imagine the courage and will Behr had, giving up everything for the safety of the men of the Sixth Army.

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Standing up for what is right is not easy, nor is it necessarily a safe proposition. As the US government becomes more and more statist, as the federal government fills our lives with bureaucratic oversight, and as the federal government, including the Supreme Court, takes away the power of the people to promote the power of the government, we will find it more difficult to stand up against power.

Yet we must stand for what is right. As Captain Behr demonstrated, we must not be afraid to place truth in front of powerful lies. We must not let our liberty - the freedom to act without government interference - be taken by those who would replace liberty with "hope," or "change," or "fairness." This country was founded, quite successfully, on the principle of individual liberty, not on the principle of mob rule. We must stand up for all of the rights granted in the Bill of Rights: free exercise of religion, as well as free speech; the right to bear arms; free assembly; freedom from the government taking property or life without due process; the right of the individual states to act in their own best interests.

What made our country great was the men and women who dedicated themselves to preserving the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. Our country is at risk from those who would wield ideology above individuals. We are at risk from those who would try to silence the voices of those who love freedom, liberty, or God. And we are at risk from our very own government, which was created in order to secure the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Giving in to the demands of statist presidents and politicians is easy. Standing up for what's right is difficult, but in the end, the difficult path is the better path.