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February 11, 2008
ROSES AT NOON
The newsletter of the
CENTER FOR WHITE ROSE STUDIES

February 11, 2008 – Volume 7, Issue 1

 

Why February 11?
    
If you have followed our work for very long, whether through this newsletter or by purchasing our publications, you’ve probably noticed that our release dates coincide with important “White Rose” events. We avoid use of February 18 or 22, usually celebrated as White Rose anniversaries, and focus instead on others we deem more meaningful: April 19 (second White Rose trial), July 13 (execution of Alex Schmorell and Kurt Huber, and third White Rose trial), October 12 (Willi Graf’s execution), along with birthdays of those associated with the work.
    So why February 11?
    The answer is simple, though disturbing to some. By February 11, 1943, the group of friends we call the White Rose had all but dissolved. Between February 8 and 11, Falk Harnack had met with Hans Scholl, Willi Graf, and Alexander Schmorell, along with Professor Huber. The long, heated discussions exposed philosophical divergences so immense, they could not be overcome.
    Schurik decided to leave Germany to work for the liberation of his homeland, Russia. Willi resolved to seek more active resistance; one of his friends recalled Willi’s discussion with Professor Huber on February 11 regarding appropriate targets, either in Berlin or Munich. Kurt Huber understood that the group’s goals did not mesh with his, and vice versa.
    The dissolution of the circle of friends pointed to deep, underlying fissures, to differences so fundamental that they found it impossible to keep going. The January debates, acrimonious and loud, had been productive; the February debates were destructive. The February 18 plan – one that did not meet with universal approval – was to be their last-ditch effort as a team, before they went their separate ways.
    Between February 11 and February 18, they undertook measures to implement their decisions. Willi went to the mountains to clear his head, looking up Johannes Maassen in preparation for further contact with Pater Delp. Alex burned his uniform and paybook. Professor Huber forbade them from using his leaflet draft.
    One cannot separate the events of February 18 from the earlier deliberations. One may not forget that at the heart of these friendships, principle reigned supreme.

An excerpt from our play Abandonment, highlighting the February debate, is available only to
paid subscribers of our newsletter.
 

 

White Rose for the 21st Century
    “Our” BYU students got us hooked on Facebook. We’d always thought of it as a silly college tool one outgrew upon graduation. That was until we explored it ourselves.
    We found that Facebook is more than a social networking tool, its customary description. TCU students have organized a blanket drive for the homeless using Facebook. A quartet from Baylor is raising suicide prevention awareness through a Facebook campaign. Here in Utah, BYU’s service organization communicates through a Facebook group. We even found groups dedicated to Fulbright alumni and citizen diplomacy, issues near and dear to our heart!
    As of January 3, we too are on Facebook. Our group name is White Rose for the 21st Century. You or your students can find us by searching for that group name, or by clicking on this link.
    We’ve set up three discussion groups, themes you’ve seen on these pages before: Eyewitnesses to history (who can be believed, can history be objective as long as family members are still living?); role of faith in “conscience”; and a forum to pose questions of family members and survivors. We hope to prime the pump with these questions, and we equally hope that the conversation will expand far beyond the confines of these topics.
    Please encourage your students to join. We believe that the White Rose is terribly relevant to our “modern” age, that the issues they faced back then haven’t changed much at all.
    Incidentally, the first members of our group are those same BYU students who convinced us how effective Facebook can be! 

 

Book Review

Shareen Blair Brysac. Resisting Hitler: Mildred Harnack and the Red Orchestra. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
    If Shareen Blair Brysac had tackled the topic of the White Rose in 2000, we would not have had to write our White Rose histories. Her account of Mildred Fish Harnack’s involvement in the so-called Red Orchestra resistance is detailed, leaving few stones unturned.
    She paints a portrait of Mildred as she was, the person behind the philosophy. In stark contrast to most White Rose “scholarship”, we see Mildred’s foibles, her feet of clay. And not surprisingly, we’re still drawn to the individual who gave her life fighting the Nazis, despite of – because of! – her humanness.
    Of special significance, Blair Brysac does not seek to minimize the role of Mildred’s affinity for the ‘virtues of Communism’ and her enthusiasm for all things Russian. She doesn’t leave it at that. We also learn who the Harnacks’ American contacts were and the attempts they made to pass along crucial, confidential information to pre-CIA sources.
    But it’s that unflinching willingness to depict Mildred’s complex political beliefs that sets Blair Brysac’s work apart from so much “resistance” narrative that seeks to satisfy a specific political agenda instead of simply telling it like it is. I dare say we’re all full of contradictions, if only we’d admit it. Sad that most official biographies tend to overlook the paradoxes and inconsistencies that befuddle the human race.
    Although the White Rose rates only a footnote in Blair Brysac’s book, she covers topics that increase our understanding of who these students in Munich were, and with whom they were associated.
Falk Harnack’s correspondence with his young nephew Wolfgang Havemann turns out not to have been as superficial as originally suspected.
Blair Brysac confirmed what our research had already yielded, namely that the Bonhoeffer and Harnack families had intermarried for generations. As we reported in White Rose History Volume II, Falk’s invitation to the White Rose friends to meet his cousin Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Berlin was legitimate and demonstrated the potential for effective resistance.
Only when we grasp the horror of the December 1942 and February 16, 1943 executions of “Red Orchestra conspirators” can we get a feel for what drove Falk Harnack and the White Rose friends to seek out one another’s company. Lilo Fürst-Ramdohr gave us a glimpse into the workings of this tenuous cooperative effort. Blair Brysac merely provides a different vantage point for the same experience.
    If Blair Brysac’s book has a weakness, it is solely that she did not interview Lilo Fürst-Ramdohr or use her memoirs as a resource. Lilo did not know Mildred and Arvid primarily as freedom fighters, although she was aware of their work. To her, they were Falk’s beloved brother and sister-in-law, a couple engaged in a noble fight.
    But in skipping Lilo’s account, Blair Brysac missed out on what I think is one of the sweetest Mildred anecdotes around.
    December 31, 1941: [Mildred] cautiously turned the conversation to Arvid. “You know, Lilo, a person must truly love the Harnacks if he is to understand them. Sometimes Arvid can be hard and injurious to me. But I have a good weapon for that. I put flowers on the night stand like nothing has happened. Then everything is all right again. Arvid is completely penitent and full of twice as much love towards me.”
    That small misstep can be forgiven, however. That’s why you need our White Rose histories!
    Disclaimer: In 2001, at one of the lowest points in our White Rose work, I maintained a brief but intense correspondence with Shareen Blair Brysac. I told her about our struggles to get people to listen, how everyone seemed content with Inge Scholl’s “legend”-ary fiction. She encouraged me to keep going, saying that when she researched her book, she began to suspect that what she knew of the White Rose was not the truth, that their story needed the same scrutiny she had given Mildred Harnack’s life. That gave me the lift I needed. – RHS.

New Publications and Other News

&   Robert Mohr: Written Memorandum. Robert Mohr's February 19, 1951 “written memorandum” of his involvement in the White Rose case. Disturbing document that is a must-read for any White Rose scholar, or political scientists looking for a better way to handle de-Nazification (or de-Baathification). His self-serving words were accepted at face value... English translation (annotated) is accompanied by original German document for the serious researcher. Click here to order.

&   White Rose History Volume I: The 2007 Update. Extensive (!) update to our White Rose history that covers January 31, 1933 – April 30, 1942. Even we have been surprised by some of the new information. Click here to order.

&   White Rose History Volume II: The 2007 Update. Same as above – covering the period from May 1, 1942 to October 12, 1943 – except that the update is far more “serious” in tone. If you prefer your White Rose experience to be feel-good, sugar-coated, and “legend”-ary, this update is not for you. If you want the truth, you cannot afford to miss it. Click here to order.

&   Friendships in the White Rose, by Lilo Fürst-Ramdohr. Release date has been pushed back due to lack of funds. The translation is complete, and Lilo’s family is anxious for it to be published. However, since this is a hardcover edition, inventory cost is out of our budget – for now. We will keep you updated, as we believe the English edition of Lilo’s book will warm your heart with her account of the friends she knew. And loved. Click here to order.

&   The Ultimate CD-ROM. Believe it or not, this is back to the front burner! As soon as the 2007 update for White Rose History Volume II is released, we’ll jump start this project. Slight change of plans: Initially this will ship with only Volumes I and II, instead of with all three volumes as originally planned. That’s because the third volume will not be published until 2009 (archival headaches!). All those who order the CD-ROM will receive it when it’s completed in 2008; we will then ship an updated CD-ROM to those same customers once Volume III is finished and added. Does that sound fair? Click here to order.

Short-term, mid-term, long-term
    Since the “Orenburg” turning point described in our November newsletter, we have prioritized our Center’s objectives. Without going into too much detail, here’s what we are planning:
    Short-term: Release of the above publications; finalization of internship program; and establishment of facility where scholars can come to study primary source materials in person.
    Mid-term: Cooperative effort with Holocaust museums (initial contacts already made) to develop curriculum for their specific needs; active solicitation of white papers and essays related to White Rose, German resistance during the Shoah, or the concepts of civil disobedience and informed dissent; if possible, first CWRS-sponsored conference; and completion of White Rose History Volume III, which should completely explode any remaining myths.
    Long-term: Continued acquisition of primary source materials. We would like to obtain the Gestapo files for every single person connected in any way with German resistance, and translate those files into English for use by American (non-German-speaking) scholars. Yes, it’s a massive endeavor. But it’s the only way to fully understand what transpired between 1933 and 1945. You cannot possibly expect to comprehend the “evil” without contemplating those who said no.

In Closing
    We’ve sincerely appreciated the dialog we’ve had with so many of you over the past couple of months. Each of you adds to our ‘knowledge base’. You’ve pointed us to sources, resources, ideas, theories, and notions we’d never considered.
    None of us around here has much patience for those who hoard knowledge. We treasure our friends, customers, and colleagues who share that “open book” approach to life and learning.

    Finally: I was watching one of those silly old sitcoms when I heard something unusually profound. Instead of the typical silly banter to close the show, the guest star’s character noted that living in Berlin had driven her to act. After all, she said, you cannot see those things without doing something, either one way or the other. I was shocked by the not-flippancy of the line!
    The first person to correctly identify the television series and the specific show title will receive a free copy of the Robert Mohr document described above.

All the best,



Ruth Hanna Sachs

(c) 2008 Exclamation! Publishers. All rights reserved. Please contact us for permission to quote.

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