The White Rose

Who were The White Rose members?

“Good and wonderful young people, your death will not be in vain, you will not be forgotten.”

This is what Thomas Mann said on the radio in exile, on June 27, 1943, when the activity of the student group opposing the Nazi regime from Munich, “The White Rose”, and the execution of all the members of the group, became known worldwide.

The group consisted of six students and these are their names: Christoph Probst, Hans Konrad Leipelt, Alexander Schmorl and Willi Graf, as well as the brothers Hans and Sophie Scholl. They were later joined by 48-year-old lecturer Kurt Huber.

The name “The White Rose” was chosen as a symbol of purity and innocence in the face of evil and impurity.

The young students from Munich acted mainly from ideological motives. Most of them served in the German army and saw the horrors of war and the inhuman conduct of the German occupation army. Hans Scholl, the son of the former mayor of Furchtenberg, and his sister Sophie, three years younger then him, grew up in a home that encouraged critical and rational thinking. Both of them were indeed members of the Hitlerjugend in their youth, initially willingly and with disillusionment – against their will.

With this disillusionment, came a strong desire to do even a small thing that would enlighten the eyes of mankind, that would express the contempt that the siblings had for the oppressive and brutal regime.

In June 1942, Hans and his classmates began duplicating subversive leaflets in hiding and distributing them by the thousands. Later they were helped by financial support from the outside managed to distribute the leaflets beyond Munich as well. The group also sprayed protest inscriptions on the walls of the university and the city, inscriptions that inflamed the wrath of the regime.

After completing the mandatory work for the Nazi regime, Sophie arrived in Munich in May 1942 and later she also entered into the secret of affairs. Lecturer Kurt Huber joined the group later.

The defiant political leaflets, which were accompanied by a few selected quotes from the best authors such as Aristotle, Lao Tzu and Goethe, were considered treasonous in the Nazi regime.

The Gestapo was on the trail of the group. The first to be caught were the Scholl brothers and Christoph Probst, through tricks they managed to reach the other members of the group. All were immediately arrested and sentenced to death, beheaded by a guillotine. Alexander Schmorl and Kurt Huber had families, but neither the pleas of the entire group’s families nor the fact that Schmorl and Huber had small children helped.

Sophie and Hans Scholl were executed on February 22, 1943. Hans was 24 when he died and Sophie was 21.

Next month will be the 80th anniversary of their death. Today they and the other members of the group serve as an example of courage and humanity in the face of the Nazi regime of terror.

The Writings of Sophie Scholl

From Sophie Sholl’s diary, in the winter of spring of 1942, one might discern the strong contrast between the love of nature, man and the world and the horrors and dehumanization around her.

“Just as I can’t see a clear brook without at least stopping to dangle my feet in it, I can’t see a meadow in May and simply pass by. There is nothing more seductive then such fragrant earth, the blossoms of clover swaying above it like a light foam, and the petal-bedecked branches of the fruit trees reaching upward, as if they wanted to rescue themselves from this tranquil sea. No, I have to turn from my path and immerse myself in this richness . . .
“Many people think of our times as being the last before the end of the world. The evidence of horror all around us makes this seem possible. But isn’t that an idea of only minor importance? Doesn’t every human being, no matter which era he lives in, always have to reckon with being accountable to God at any moment? Can I know whether I’ll be alive tomorrow morning? A bomb could destroy all of us tonight. And then my guilt would not be one bit less than if I perished together with the earth and the stars.”

“Isn’t it a riddle . . . and awe-inspiring, that everything is so beautiful? Despite the horror. Lately I’ve noticed something grand and mysterious peering through my sheer joy in all that is beautiful, a sense of its creator . . . Only man can be truly ugly, because he has the free will to estrange himself from this song of praise.

“It often seems that he’ll manage to drown out this hymn with his cannon thunder, curses and blasphemy. But during this past spring it has dawned upon me that he won’t be able to do this. And so I want to try and throw myself on the side of the victor.”

The White Rose Leaflets

An extract from the 3rd White Rose leaflet, issued in June 1942.

we want to site the fact that since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way. Here we see the most frightful crime against human dignity, a crime that is unparalleled in the whole of history. Is this a sign that the Germans are brutalized in their simplest human feelings, that no chord within them cries out at the sight of such deeds, that they have sunk into a fatal consciencelessness from which they will never, never awake? It seems to be so, and will certainly be so, if the German does not at last start up out of his stupor, if he does not protest wherever and whenever he can against this clique of criminal, if he shows no sympathy for these hundreds of thousands of victims. He must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt. Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!

And now every convinced opponent of National Socialism must ask himself how he can fight against the present “state” in the most effective way, how he can strike it the most telling blows. Through passive resistance, without a doubt. We cannot provide each man with the blueprint for his acts, we can only suggest them in general terms, and he alone will find the way of achieving this end. Try to convince all your acquaintances, including those in the lower social classes, of the senselessness of continuing, of the hopelessness of this war; of our spiritual and economic enslavement at the hands of the National Socialists; of the destruction of all moral and religious values; and urge them to passive resistance!

Epilogue

Ilse Eichinger, a young half-Jewish poet from Vienna, described after the war her feelings upon seeing a public poster that announced the names of those condemned to death, members of the “White Rose” group:

“I had never heard these names. But as I read, an indescribable hope arose in me, and I was not the only one who felt this way. This hope, which allowed us to continue living, was not just a hope to stay alive. It helped so many people who faced Their death. Even they could die full of hope. It was like a secret light spread over the earth. It was bliss.

I remember one day I went out on the street to meet a friend and he said, “Don’t look so radiant, they will arrest you.”

There were not many chances of survival, but that was not the main thing. It was not staying alive, but life itself that spoke to us through the death of brother and sister Scholl and their friends.

We can live without anything, but we cannot live without having something in front of us, in front of us in the sense of something within us.

We cannot live without hope.”

The Raanana Symphonette’s homage to the White Rose members was performed in Raanana, Tue 24.1.2023 and Wed 25.1.2023.

Participants: Gil Shohat, Keren Hadar & Nahar Eliaz.

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