Benjamin C. Hett


On his book Crossing Hitler: The Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand

Cover Interview of February 10, 2009


My hope is that readers will take several things from this book.

The first is simply that I want Hans Litten to become better known on this side of the Atlantic.  He was as brave as other well-known resistance fighters against the Nazis – Sophie Scholl or Count Claus von Stauffenberg – and he paid the same price for his courage.  But his memory has been neglected since the Second World War.  Much of the reason for this neglect lies in his own complex character and beliefs.  But Litten is finally starting to receive some of the honor due to him.  Since 2001, the German Bar Association has had its headquarters in the Hans Litten House on Hans Litten Street in Berlin.  Every two years, a German and a European lawyers’ association together give a prize for human rights advocacy in Hans Litten’s name (the 2006 winner was an American, Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights).  I hope with my book to contribute to the spread of Hans Litten’s name – and the names of his equally brave friends, such as Max and Margot Fürst, who risked their lives to save him from a concentration camp.

The second thing is that what happened to Hans Litten is a warning: a warning of what happens to a society when fear, crisis, and a sense of emergency drive people to lose faith in human rights and the rule of law.  A lawyer who knew Hans Litten once wrote that the powerful are always inclined to get along with law if they can; law is the tool for the rest of us.  This is a timeless danger, and a timeless warning.

© 2009 Benjamin Hett