Once in a Great While…the Speechwriter as Hero

GARDEN2Let’s face it, while I believe speechwriting is a noble profession, it’s not heroic. Every once in a while, we summon the courage to stand up to a boss or client to fight for a phrase or a line or an approach, but we’re not in the business of putting our lives on the line.

However, David Murray, Editor of Vital Speeches of the Day found a fascinating and rare instance where a speechwriter really did take heroic action. The speechwriter was Edgar Jung, who in 1934 was working for Franz von Papen, Adolf Hitler’s vice chancellor. Though Hitler was in power, he had not taken absolute control, and it still appeared it might be possible to stop the Nazis.

Murray quotes a long passage from In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson’s terrific book about prewar Berlin, that describes how Jung got von Papen to give a bold speech in the German capital criticizing the Nazi’s actions and calling them “doctrinaire fanatics.” The speech received thunderous applause.

Unfortunately, despite the courageous act it was too late to stop Hitler. Two weeks later the Nazis launched the infamous Night of Long Knives. Edgar Jung and many other critics of the Nazis were the murdered.

Many thanks to Larson for recounting that fascinating story, and to Murray for highlighting it.



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