Robert Scholl, Mayor in Ingersheim-Altenmünster from 1917 to 1919

By Hannes Hartleitner and Giselher Technau

Robert Scholl was born on April 13, 1891 in Weiler Steinbrück near Geißelhardt (today's Mainhardt) and died in 1973 in Stuttgart. He became a well-known person in contemporary history, not only as the father of the Scholl siblings who were executed in 1943, but also because the intellectual and moral bonds which he established with his children had a definite impact on their thinking and actions. It is no wonder that Hans Scholl wrote this to his parents in December, 1937 during his pre-trial confinement: "Only now do I wholly feel the wish of my father, which he held for himself and which he passed on to me: to do something great for humanity . . ."

Robert Scholl, at age 26, found employment in June, 1917 in Ingersheim-Altenmünster in the area of administration. The year before, he had married Magdalene Müller, who had been educated in Schwäbisch Hall as a nurse. The couple had hardly moved into their new home in Schollenberg 6, when Inge, their first daughter, was born. After Robert Scholl was almost unanimously elected to the office of mayor of Ingersheim-Altenmünster in September, 1917, there appeared to be nothing which stood in the way of a longer stay in this community. Soon the family increased in size, as son Hans was born in September, 1918.

In 1964, Robert Scholl recalled that the whole community joined in the celebration of Hans' birth in Schollenberg 6 in Ingersheim: he was greeted on this earth with firecrackers. "Even the beginning of the ceasefire was consummated on the day of his baptism, November 11, 1918. He seemed to be a blessed child of luck." That which Robert Scholl experienced as a day of joy was certainly for most of the rest of the Germans an unlucky day, as the end of WWI meant-counter to what was expected at its beginning in 1914-the end of the monarchy and the submission to the entente. The convinced pacifist Robert Scholl, who until 1917 had served as a sanitation sergeant in Ludwigsburg, had no patience for the nationalistic circles who believed in the cultivated myth of the "undefeated army" which had been betrayed by a "dagger thrust into its back."

After the war was lost, the returning soldiers had to become integrated into the working world. Among them was Eugen Grimminger, who, like Robert Scholl, had attended the School of Administration in Stuttgart before WWI had begun. Like Robert Scholl, Grimminger stepped into a position in December, 1918, as an official in municipal government. In addition to a similar education, Robert Scholl and Eugen Grimminger had something else in common: Eugen Grimminger was convinced that war should never again take place. Grimminger shared these thoughts in the novel Rosel Steinbronner's Love ("Rosel Steinbronners Liebe") and allowed the protagonist Robert Sürry-whose first name, by no accident, is the same as Robert Scholl's-to dramatically discover that "war took on continually atrocious forms. Ruinous sacrifices were demanded . . . And war continued, bringing death and destruction ignoble to humanity."

In 1943, during interrogation by the Gestapo, Eugen Grimminger admitted to having "official contact" with Robert Scholl since 1918. He stressed, however, that Robert Scholl "was a keen idealist who was always concerned with the welfare of his family. He always tried to do his best for people with whom he came into contact." This personal evaluation shows that Eugen Grimminger also had private contact with the Scholls and their children in Ingersheim. In 1945, Grimminger admitted to Robert Scholl that he indeed "gave money to Little Hans (!)." Essentially, both young men were social-outsiders after WWI, as neither of them was submissive to authority nor allegiant to a church, and not supporters of the revolutionary events which preceded the Weimar Republic. Grimminger gives Robert, the hero in his novel, bold thoughts and lets him dream of the ideal country which is surely to come. Two opposing visions of the future are found in the novel: on the one hand "time will come when the differences between people will disappear, where people accept each other as brothers". On the other hand, many people "will forget the difficult and horrible happenings. And as time passes, the old addiction to power and grandeur will become alive again, and war will once again take place where millions will die and fall into madness."

During the agitated times of the years 1918-1919, there were enough problems which troubled Mayor Scholl in his job in Ingersheim-Altenmünster. For decades, the affluent and reputable father and son of the Haf Family were "Farmer/Mayor" and executed the duties for the town. Now came the first professional administrator from the outside, who was seen as a perfectionist, whose "smell from the stall" was missing, and who was not interested in the village talk in the local inn. Robert Scholl even conflicted with the dignitaries. In January, 1920, after the Scholl Family had already left Ingersheim, a teacher in the school in Altenmünster was upset because Scholl had prevented neglected children from being taken from their mother and placed in a home. The mother of the children, "quite a female hyena" had attracted attention through her "continuous daily complaints about the school, church, mayor, etc." The teacher believed that the reason for the sympathetic social behavior of Robert Scholl lay in the fact that "the communist-mayor Scholl aided such low-class people and prohibited every possibility to interfere."

At the same time, right in Altenmünster, Robert Scholl was confronted by the left-wing council members who belonged to the Workers' Council in Crailsheim and who in 1919 fiercely demanded the annexation of Altenmünster to Crailsheim. As an argument, they stated that only the city of Crailsheim was in the position to eventually install water pipes in Altenmünster. Therewith it became evident that since the building of the railway, the "mother city" Ingersheim and the "workers' bedroom suburb" Altenmünster had drifted apart from each other. Indeed, the stately city hall, representing the center of city administration, had stood in Ingersheim since 1873, but in the meantime the population of Altenmünster, which was closer to Crailsheim, had surpassed that of Ingersheim. In addition, the new housing developments of Altenmünster-- "Türkei" and "Neumünster"-- were oriented towards Crailsheim. The division of Altenmünster, however, was not acceptable to Robert Scholl. Overall, it can be assumed that the dispute between the two districts-which weren't even connected with a direct road-impeded a relaxed and fruitful work in the community.

Robert Scholl had to deal with the desires of the council members and numerous citizens of Altenmünster to break up the city because he had earlier taken great steps "to make it possible for an improved bond on the one hand to Ingersheim and on the other hand to Altenmünster and the suburb ´Türkei'." In order to bring this about, in March, 1919, Scholl requested to the city council that "a wooden bridge be built over the Jagst River from the train's guard house directly to Ingersheim." This footbridge was to provide a way less-endangered during times of high water than the connection which existed at the mill in Ingersheim. The city council hesitated, as the galloping inflation would drive costs upward. In order to encourage the approval, Mayor Scholl had already obtained an estimate from a carpenter shop in Crailsheim and suggested that the bridge be built as an "emergency project" and that a "subsidy for over-priced works" be applied for from the Department of Labor.

In addition to this, he surprised his council with his willingness to donate "300 Marks for the cost of the footbridge, so that this project would not fail. "Furthermore, another resident of Ingersheim donated another 100 Marks. When the footbridge was completed, it was appropriately named "Robert's Bridge" by the people; in a map dated 1939, it was named "The Mayor's Bridge."

At the close of 1919, Robert Scholl was afforded the opportunity to apply for the position of mayor in the city of Forchtenberg because the current leader of the council of workers and soldiers had "brought the displeasure of the citizens upon himself" and was forced "to vacate his position." Robert Scholl was elected with a narrow majority of votes, perhaps because he had a "home advantage", as his father-in-law was born in Forchtenberg and some relatives still lived there. His term as mayor in Ingersheim-Altenmünster had lasted only two and a half years. But these were turbulent and formative years: politically, because the professed pacifist had to cope with the revolutionary transition from the age of an emperor to the time of the Weimar Republic; professionally, because as an inexperienced mayor, he had to gain his skills in a difficult time where changes in a community were taking place; personally, because as a young husband and parent, he had to take care of his wife and the two newly-born children, Inge and Hans. Finally, there was the relationship with the "friend from his youth"-as Inge Scholl called him: Eugen Grimminger. If it hadn't been for the time spent in Ingersheim, there would have been no foundation of trust laid which prompted Grimminger to help Robert Scholl when he was arrested 25 years later and which enhanced his readiness to finance the pamphlet formulated by "Little Hans" Scholl.

It can even be assumed that Eugen Grimminger wrote down many thoughts in his novel Rosel Steinbronner's Love which he gleaned from discussions with Robert Scholl and which he offered-in vain-to Hans Scholl in 1943 in the form of a pamphlet. Sophie Scholl was born in Forchtenberg in 1921, the same year in which the novel appeared, and thus a statement by Rosel turned out to be prophetic: "Robert, it must be beautiful to die, even when one is young. I hope that a person can thus fathom everything which in this life on earth is a mystery."

(translated into English by Janice Langohr)

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