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December 31, 2009

Roses at Noon
The newsletter of the
Center for White Rose Studies

December 31, 2009 - Volume 8, Issue 4

Writers in Exile
    It was a serendipitous moment. I'd been standing in a disorganized line, waiting for food and drink. Not in an especially big hurry, just floored by the rudeness that self-importance lends some people.

    “Here, please,” I heard him say. And recognized him as the writer-in-exile who was to have spoken that evening, introducing his work. But who had been ignored in favor of faux-intellectuals who prattled about Fraktur as art and music from trash.

    I found myself sandwiched between him and his lovely, quiet wife, both wearing the raw emotion that comes from life in a strange country. That emotion somewhere between gratitude at safety, and itching to rejoin the fight for freedom in a dangerous homeland.

    We talked that night of their families in Sri Lanka, families endangered even now by the courageous stand he had taken. How his wife had given up her work as an artist for children’s books. Or rather had seen her work stolen from her. How they could not let friends know where they currently lived, because the death threats had followed them to America.

    What? Death threats for a journalist living in America? How could that be possible? We can say, think, write whatever we wish. Why shouldn’t guests in our country have the same privilege, the same freedom from fear?

    I returned a month later when he spoke at length about the battle raging in Sri Lanka. The turnout was about half that of the previous gathering, but at least those in attendance were there for the right reasons.

    In halting English, Sanath described the historical background of the struggle for democracy on his native soil. Why the Tamil had taken up arms. What they had done wrong (suicide bombings, for example). How religion is and is not integral to the fight (Hindu versus Buddhist). He narrated the events of the civil war as a good journalist should, dispassionately and even-handedly. Only those of us who had talked to him privately knew that he and his wife are Tamil.

    Because Sanath and the journalists he cherishes in Sri Lanka are not rooting for either Tamil or Sinhalese to win. Rather, they want Sri Lanka – the country they love – to win, to know a government that cares for all its citizens equally, that honors election results, that values peace above bloodshed. They want Tamil to stop the futile suicide bombings and assassinations. They want Sinhalese to release the hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians imprisoned in concentration camps under inhumane conditions.

    These journalists have formed a “bipartisan” Sri Lankan committee called Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, comprised of Tamil and Sinhalese alike. Though most (like Sanath) are forced to live in exile – generally in Canada and Germany – they blog about the situation on the ground, especially election dilemmas and the plight of refugees.

    I would not dare to assume that I know all there is to know about the Sri Lankan civil war, not even about its historical basis. I don’t envy the work that Hillary Clinton and her European and Canadian counterparts must undertake, work that involves negotiating a difficult peace. I certainly could not contribute to the conversation surrounding elections and displaced persons.

    But it is clear that the concepts of informed dissent and civil disobedience are central to whatever solutions will be implemented. Concepts that underpin the very nature of White Rose leaflets and the courage displayed by ‘freedom fighters’ almost seventy years ago in Germany. Concepts that we as Americans embrace, at least in theory, because without them, we would not exist as a nation.

    The battle for democracy on Sri Lankan soil is one that we should join. Not necessarily with troops or weapons. But with the power of words, the diplomacy of unshakable ideals, the rock-solid belief that every individual matters.

    Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the protection of the individual citizen from the caprice of criminal, violent States – these are the bases of the new Europe.

    Those words appeared in the fifth White Rose leaflet, penned by Hans Scholl. They could have been written by Sanath.

- Ruth Hanna Sachs.

In Memoriam

    Anneliese Knoop-Graf, born January 30, 1921, younger sister of Willi Graf, died on August 27 of this year. She was 88 years old. Hers is a complex, complicated legacy.

    On the one hand, unlike others, she never insinuated herself into White Rose heroism. She honored their collective memories as few before and after her did, refusing to turn her incarceration into anything more than Nazi thoroughness. She even brushed off my interview questions about what I perceived to be a youthful feminist streak, a trait terribly un-Nazi. No, she insisted, she was a product of her generation.

    And any of us involved in real White Rose research are grateful for the latitude she granted Dr. Inge Jens as Jens edited the edition of Will Graf’s letters and diary entries. If you find anything negative about my brother, she told Jens, print it. After decades of Scholl censorship, that openness provided much-needed fresh air.

    She was also generous with her time and resources. She gave me a full afternoon of her busy schedule back in 1995. When I followed up with a page full of questions a few months later, she graciously photocopied reams of documents in response to seemingly trivial questions, and those documents (Willi Graf’s report card, pre-White Rose, unpublished correspondence) answered questions I’d not even thought of asking.

    On the other hand, when the White Rose families left the Weiße-Rose-Stiftung en masse in late 2002, forming the Weisse Rose Institut e.V. in May 2003, Anneliese Knoop-Graf alone stayed with the Stiftung. Though she wished for transparency in the narration of her brother’s life story, she accepted the heavy-handed censorship (and the financial irregularities) perpetrated by the Stiftung. Unlike the other families, she refused to fight the Scholl-centric version of the story that marginalized Christoph Probst and Alex Schmorell, and ignored Wilhelm Geyer, Lilo Ramdohr, Eugen Grimminger, Traute Lafrenz, and the rest.

    Additionally, those of us who spoke with her in person were aware of her distaste and disdain for the Roman Catholic Church. One reads her youthful words in letters to her brother. Willi’s dismay at her rejection of “his” faith is palpable. His dissertations about Karl Jaspers and Michael Schmaus fell on deaf ears. In postwar conversations, she made no secret of her continued contempt for the faith she was raised in, along with religion in general.

    Yet in public interviews, she wore a religious façade that confused the issue. And contradicted the open persona she otherwise projected.

    Finally, another Knoop-Graf mystery centered on the leadership she and her husband Bernhard Knoop gave the boarding school in Marienau. That Internat had been founded by the German-Jewish educator Max Bondy and his wife Gertrud, an Austrian-Jewish psychoanalyst and friend of Sigmund Freud.

    Knoop had assumed Bondy’s position under National Socialism, after the Bondys had been forced into exile in America. In fact, Angelika Probst (Knoop’s first wife) wrote of Christl’s visits to Marienau and the long conversations they had, conversations that alarmed her for the convictions he expressed out loud. Angelika worried that his words would cost him his life, though she evidently trusted her then-husband Bernhard.

    After the war, Knoop and his new wife Anneliese Graf remained at Marienau. Despite Anneliese’s connection to the White Rose and German resistance through her brother Willi, she did nothing to memorialize the lives of Max and Gertrud Bondy as founders of the school. More than one Marienau historian noted that the Knoops seemed to go out of their way to keep the school as ‘Prussian’ as it had been during the Third Reich, not even restoring the camaraderie between students and teachers that had characterized Marienau under the Bondys. Much less acknowledging or celebrating the school’s German-Jewish roots.

    That paradox was explained by recent revelations that Bernhard Knoop had (unsurprisingly) been a member of the National Socialist Party. His level of involvement, his enthusiasm for ‘the movement’, has yet to be documented, so it’s unclear whether it was a membership born of necessity or of free will.

    Yet the paradox underscores the part of Anneliese Knoop-Graf’s legacy that remains most troubling. While she clearly and unequivocally did not belong to the National Socialist camp, she steadfastly refused to speak out regarding the parts of her youth that could have shed much-needed light on the upper classes who were passionate Party members, or happy Mitläufer.

    Not only was Bernhard Knoop in that camp. Anneliese’s father Gerhard Graf was too. Gerhard Graf’s Nazi fervor earned him the distinction of being included in a League of Nations lawsuit against the NSDAP, for a Watergate-type conspiracy.

    If Anneliese Knoop-Graf would have broken her silence about her father and husband, she could have truly been the torchbearer for her brother’s work. We who research and write about that era without having lived through it could have gained a better understanding of what caused smart people to fall for such obvious lies and misanthropy. We could perhaps get a handle on how fringe groups attract intelligentsia and brainy business people to join their cause.

    Because these issues are not limited to Germany under the Third Reich. We have our own Henry Fords and Joseph Kennedys to deal with. Not to mention the creeping rise of right-wing extremism we are witnessing in this country. And abroad. Among people who are bright enough to know better.

    Until we can comprehend how twisted words can be perceived as truth, we will not have learned all there is to learn from the Third Reich and the hate and genocide that accompanied it.

    So, rest in peace, Anneliese Knoop-Graf. May those who come after you take up your tradition of candidness and truth – reinforced with the courage to shine that light into dark and uncomfortable corners, so that the horror of your youth may never be repeated. Rest in peace.


New Publications

    Leaflets of Our Resistance, Volume II will be released on February 22, 2010. It includes profiles of two Holocaust survivors, Ruth Schwager nee Teutsch of Salt Lake City, and her brother Walter Teutsch of San Diego. Among “resistance” heroes, we are pleased to tell the story of the Japanese consul to Lithuania who saved over 6,000 Jewish Lithuanians, going against direct orders issued by his government.

    We’ve already started working on Volume III, with a tribute to Marie Louise Pieratt, our first German teacher and daughter of a “Valkyrie” conspirator. Please query us with essays and articles about Holocaust survivors, lesser-known freedom fighters, and your own “leaflet” that embodies the dangerous words that bring life and health.

    To learn more about this anthology, click here. To order Volume II, click here.

    Excerpt from Leaflets of Our Resistance, Volume II available only to paid subscribers of this newsletter.


    Evolution of Memory, or Historical Revisionism as seen in the words of George J. (“Jürgen”) Wittenstein
has a scheduled release date of April 26, 2010. Although Wittenstein is still considered a member of the White Rose among the American academic community, his claims have long been debunked in Germany.

    In my early-2003 review of Detlef Bald’s awful book about the White Rose – a book based almost entirely on Wittenstein’s "reconstructed" (his description) diary – I noted that he had been an “Anwärter” or applicant for membership in the Nazi Party. Dr. Johannes Tuchel’s subsequent review of the same book pointed out that Wittenstein had been a member of the Party, member #7667868.

    Since then, other historians and writers in Germany have taken on the Wittenstein problem. To date, however, this has been done piecemeal, with this bit of evidence or the other, nothing overwhelmingly authoritative. (One researcher did write a definitive deconstruction of Wittenstein’s White Rose claims – and he remains unnamed at his request – but withdrew his book from circulation after Wittenstein threatened him with a lawsuit.)

    I’ve taken the model employed by the above anonymous author and expanded it to include documents he did not have access to. Evolution of Memory uses Wittenstein’s own words to demonstrate what Traute Lafrenz claimed about him, namely that he was never part of the White Rose, because they did not trust him after he started wearing his Party pin in public.

    Although the book focuses solely on Wittenstein, it would be useful for an interdisciplinary course on the obstruction of the historical process by those who reinvent themselves, rewriting personal histories, presenting themselves as “eyewitnesses” when what they say is a falsehood.

    Note too that this is the first in an “Evolution” trilogy. Volumes two and three will look at historical revisionism perpetrated by Franz Josef Müller and Inge Aicher-Scholl.

    To pre-order and lock in current pricing, click here.

    Our documentaries have been front-burnered for 2010/2011. The first one (working title – When Freedom Sings: The True Story of the White Rose) nails down what really happened, essentially a more concise and student-friendly version of our Histories. The second (working title – On the Trail of the White Rose) talks about historical revisionism in Shoah narratives, using the White Rose as example of how and why the truth has been distorted.

    We are offering the opportunity to our readers and friends to join these projects. You can volunteer to work with us, hands-on. You can contribute materials or expertise. You can buy into the projects with hard, cold cash. Any contribution will be treated as investment in a joint venture, with your earning shares of the revenue.

    To learn more about the documentaries, click here. To keep up to date with the progress of the films, click here. To join our work, click here.


    We’ve added a special section to our Web site for those who purchase either of our White Rose Travel Guides. It’s a password-protected area with updates from returning travelers, with new photographs and anecdotes related to their experiences.

    To read the unlocked master page, click here. To order the simple version of the guide, click here. To order the customized version, click here.


    A reminder to our readers engaged in interdisciplinary fields: We have two non-White Rose anthologies you may wish to point out to your students or friends. Our poetry anthology accepts poetry of any genre (and we would of course be interested in poems inspired by White Rose readings). Common Ground features essays that highlight conflict resolution, peace negotiations, interfaith work – things that emphasize our common humanity, tikkun olam, repairing this old world.


News from Ulm

    Thanks to Don Dembling of Raleigh for alerting us to one of those stories we’ve waited a long time to read! On Tuesday, May 5, 2009, city council voted unanimously to allow and support the construction of a new synagogue and Jewish Community Center in Ulm.

    Although down from pre-1933 numbers, around seventy people currently celebrate Shabbat in Ulm every week, without a shul to call home. Another hundred or so consider themselves members of the Ulmer Jewish community, attending High Holy Day services and otherwise raising their children “Jewishly”.

    Site of the new synagogue will not be the original location, but rather ‘virgin’ property directly across the street from the location of the old synagogue, destroyed during Kristallnacht. The city had already erected a memorial at that site. But a living, functioning assembly beats a memorial any old day!

    To read the (German-language) news article announcing the decision, click here. Pictures and additional information are available only to paid subscribers of this newsletter.

In Closing
    Remember to check my blog occasionally for news about White Rose research, doings, and related. Since September 16 (date of last newsletter), I’ve posted on topics as diverse as Susanne Zeller nee Hirzel’s right-wing activism in Germany (Susanne Zeller-Hirzel, the Enigma), Dr. Klaus Krippendorff’s excellent essay about the design school in Ulm and Inge Aicher-Scholl (Truth Will Tell), and the eerie correlation between the mass murder at Fort Hood and Kristallnacht (The Major).

    Simultaneous with publication of this newsletter, I’ll be uploading what’s likely to be the final post of this year, entitled White Rose Holy Wars. “Follow” the blog or subscribe to its feed to stay informed about ongoing events and news.


    Joyce’s poor health has made us aware of our collective mortality. While we have no intention of walking away from White Rose work any time soon, we are beginning to plan better for the future.

    We’ve therefore added a Careers page to our Web site. Nothing on it for now, but as we begin to restructure and hand over portions of our work to younger co-workers, we will add staff. That’s where you will find job postings, both on the administrative side with DEHeap Enterprises, Inc. and Exclamation! Publishers, as well as with Center for White Rose Studies.

    Along those same lines – so we can eventually hand over an organization that is fully capitalized and capable of surviving for decades to come – we are now issuing common stock. No, no IPO, nothing on the New York Stock Exchange. Just a way for you to invest in DEHeap Enterprises, Inc., the umbrella corporation that keeps everything going.

    Of course you can buy the stock online.
 

    A retrospective of the past year is available only to paid subscribers of this newsletter, complete with photographs and silly stories that will give you a better sense of who we are and why we do what we do.

    Finally, as we round out 2009 and look hopefully to a better, healthier new year, a few important “happy birthdays” that have nothing to do with White Rose.

    First, happy birthday to DEHeap Enterprises, Inc., celebrating ten years in business as of October 1, 2009. This is the first year we’ve shown a healthy profit and therefore paid dividends (which made us feel comfortable with offering stock to our friends and readers).

    Next, happy birthday to Exclamation! Publishers, which marks TWENTY years in business on January 2, 2010 (the anniversary of Willi Graf’s birthday). Our indie publishing house was founded a full five years before any of us had ever heard of the White Rose. And we still love our earliest publications – poetry, personal essays, cookbooks.

    Most importantly, happy birthday to Joyce! She’s a New Year’s Eve baby. We’re thankful to doctors here in California for giving us more time with her. Our work will not be the same when she ultimately retires, whenever that will be.

    This edition of our newsletter is therefore dedicated to her, to her exceptional contribution through the years. When you see (or participate in) our documentary projects, you’ll understand better what I mean.


    To all of you, our friends and readers, we wish a peaceful, successful, and wonder-full NEW YEAR. May all your dreams come true, and may your real-life families be closer and more loving than ever before. May writers in exile find their way home, and may peace break out in an irreversible pandemic of understanding and mutual cooperation
.


All the best,



Ruth Hanna Sachs


(c) 2009 Center for White Rose Studies and Exclamation! Publishers. All rights reserved. Please contact us for permission to quote.

 

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