27 May 2020

Thoughts Are Free

On their way home after being released from Waldheim prison in May 1945, Henriette Roosenburg and her Dutch friends stayed in a castle outside of Ragewitz. It was occupied by a number of German aristocrats who had relatives connected to the 20 July plot. One of them, a woman with four young daughters, heard the Dutch singing and they gathered for an impromptu concert.



Henriette Roosenburg, The Walls Came Tumbling Down (Pleasantville: The Akadine Press, 2000), p. 91:
Finally, the mother asked us the question we had dreaded from the start: Didn’t we know any German songs? 

This put us in a quandary. Practically the only German songs we knew were those that had been dinned into our ears by German soldiers marching through the streets of our home towns. Often we had been awakened at dawn, when a squad of singing soldiers returned from the dirty business of executing a member of the resistance. We knew the songs all right, but we would have been quartered alive rather than sing them. Nell rescued us. From her long experience with boy scouts she remembered several Wandervögel (hiking-club) songs and kept proposing them till she hit on one we all knew and had no objection to. The title was “Die Gedanken sind frei ”, meaning “Thoughts are free”, and we sang it with feeling. In the dim light I even imagined I saw a responsive wink from the mother, but I couldn’t be sure. They left after this, each of the four daughters solemnly shaking our hands and making a little curtsey for each of us. 
Die Gedanken sind frei  is one of my favourites. I am especially fond of this version by the Rundfunk-Jugendchor Wernigerode (includes English subtitles). The 11th Panzergrenadier Division also recorded it as a marching song in the early 1960s.

Henriette Roosenburg (1916-1972)