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February 22, 2011

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

February 22, 2011 - Volume 10, Issue 1


Egyptian White Rose الوردة البيضاء من مصر

February 22, a 22-year-old college student stood before a corrupt judge. His crimes: Advocating the separation of “church” and state and installation of a secular government, and “defamation” of a dictator with blood on his hands.

His transgressions included public statements regarding lack of academic freedom, criticizing professors who “stand against anyone who thinks freely.” He nicknamed his university a university of terrorism. University administrators retaliated by testifying that he endangered national security – leveling a charge of treason against him for his writings.

Perhaps his statement that these same professors would “end up in the dustbin of history” stirred them to action…

As the anything-but-impartial judge sentenced him to prison for sedition and insults of the dictator, the prosecutor applauded the harsh sentence. “If we leave the likes of him without punishment, it will be like a fire that consumes everything.”

While a few groups here and there protested on behalf of the student, the student’s own father mocked their efforts. He believed that his son should be given three days to repent, and if he refused to do so, he should be killed. (See the YouTube video dedicated to freeing him.)

 

New information about Hans Scholl, Christoph Probst? No. This is the case of Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman كريم عامر‎, better known as Kareem Amer. He lives in Alexandria, Egypt. Law student. His favorite movies include Titanic, Shakespeare in Love, and I Am Not Scared. His interests: Reading novels, writing poetry, traveling, and making friends. He likes Flickr, online dating (he is twentysomething, after all), and history.

The date may have been February 22, but the year was 2007.

Many journalists and pundits like to compare the recent events in Egypt to the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the Wende. Maybe the domino effect that we are witnessing, as “revolution” spreads across the Middle East, looks a bit like the landscape in former East Germany, Hungary, Poland, then-Czechoslovakia, and even Romania.

But Egypt and its aftermath show us what would have happened had the voice of the White Rose not been silenced between February 22 and October 12, 1943. What could have transpired in Germany had millions of fellow citizens taken to the streets, protesting government actions that denied liberty and justice to the minority populations, demanding an end to mass murders and violations of basic human rights.

As “Egypt” is demonstrating, it would have been messy. Competing interests would have jeopardized the nascent democracy. In Egypt, it may be Copts, Muslim Brotherhood, secularists like Kareem, and the military duking it out for supremacy; in Germany, it would have been the National Socialists outside Hitler’s inner circle, the Communists, the democrats, the federalists, the SPD, and the military vying for power. Then as now, there would have been no guarantee that the revolution would have been successful.

The predicament facing Egyptian democrats underscores the debate that tore the White Rose apart: Which is more important? Toppling the despot and then worrying about what happens next, even if it means allying yourself with people whose politics you detest? Finding a smaller group of like-minded people and hoping against hope that your ideas will win out in the end?

Considering the comparison, I like to contemplate two what-ifs:

What if Alex, Hans, Sophie, Christl, Willi, and their friends had had access to the Internet? If they could have tweeted and blogged about the concentration camps? If their 300,000 Jews have been murdered! could have been heard across Germany and around the world? If they could have sent out their leaflets (especially the last two) to a mass market instead of such a limited edition? What if?

And, what if the leaders of the Valkyrie or July 20, 1944 resistance had resembled George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? If they had thought not in terms of Germany’s potential military losses, but rather in terms of liberty and justice? If they had united the country behind a revolution based on right versus wrong, relying on idealists like White Rose, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Johannes Maassen, Martin Niemöller, and Pater Delp to craft a constitution that would have fused diverse ideologies and infused an uprising with the integrity of ideas?

The first set of what-ifs shall always remain theoretical, a parlor game, the stuff of Stammtisch or Hillel meetings. We can see the difference technology makes in changing the world. Channeling Rod Serling to envision those same differences in Munich in 1942 and 1943 does not change history. It’s simply fun, a wistful glimpse at how a noble sacrifice could have been nobler still.

The second set of what-ifs? Far more consequential and relevant to events of our day. We cannot transform Stauffenberg, Beck, Goerdeler, Tresckow, and their co-conspirators into Washingtons and Jeffersons.

But we can hope for, and work for, election of wise leaders in Egypt – in the United States – who will cultivate divergent opinions and blend those voices into a harmonious government that reflects the true will of the people.

These are the things we should discuss with our peers, our friends, our students, our teachers, our children, our parents. These are the things that would have made a difference in February 1943 in Germany, in February 2007 in Egypt, in February 2011 in these United States.

These are the things that matter.

– Ruth Hanna Sachs.

Postscript: We found out about Kareem and his blog quite by accident. Noticed one day that someone had downloaded every bit of material from our White Rose Web site, including art work and graphics. Our primary graphic - the February 22, 1943 memorial "stone" - even served as primary graphic on that site.
    
Initially, we were annoyed by the “theft” of intellectual property – until we read Kareem’s story on his blog and realized his very real connection to the White Rose. Not only had he paraphrased their leaflets with his “dustbin of history” comment, but injustice was meted out to him on the anniversary of the first White Rose trial and executions.

Kareem survived, having been released from prison shortly before the protests erupted (I like to think there’s a connection!). But his courage cost him dearly. Reports of beatings while in prison, loss of the right to study at university, being disowned by his family: Doing the right thing has hardly been a path to riches and fame.

We wish him much success as he continues, in his own words, “to defend the rights of Muslim and Arabic women against all forms of discrimination and to stop violent crimes committed on a daily basis in these countries.”

Kareem, may you find other democrats who share your convictions, and who will join you in your goal of opening up a law firm dedicated to human rights. – RHS.

 

In Memoriam

Michael Probst: June 7, 1940 – April 2, 2010

Rarely has the beloved son or daughter of a White Rose protagonist touched lives and protected the verity of history as did Michael Probst. Not yet three years old when Freisler pronounced his father guilty, “Micha” is best known to us as the little boy riding atop his daddy’s shoulders. A daddy laughing, smiling, a daddy at home in his native Bavaria. A daddy, who – for the moment at least – focused on Herta and his babies, leaving thoughts of resistance for another day.

Michael Probst admitted that he spent the better part of his youth, perhaps even his young adulthood, attempting to get out from under that famous father’s shadow. Christoph Probst’s untimely death made him larger than life. Known for his backbone and integrity, Christoph Probst the hero dwarfed Christoph Probst, the flawed human being. For Michael and his brother Vincent, that birthright inspired both awe and frustration.

Once Michael the son came to terms with the legacy of father as hero and human, he advocated audaciously for a true, accurate telling of the work done by Christl, Willi, Hans, Traute, Sophie, and the rest. He was the first to admit that occasionally, this cost him more than should have been demanded for the act of remembering. When The Powers That Be seek a sanitized study, those who paint portraits complete with zits and dirty fingernails rarely find their work hanging in the gallery.

Luckily for those of us who care about fact, who prefer our heroes real, Michael Probst remained undeterred.

I well remember sitting with him and his mother on the patio of their home near Ammersee, our Kaffeeklatsch covering topics serious and not-so-much. What had begun as interview morphed into pleasant conversation – a conversation that taught me more about Christoph Probst the person than any well-recited list of questions could have done.

Gingerly – knowing the potential peril in a particularly problematic topic when broached with other, more official representatives of White Rose folklore – I asked Michael and Herta about the love letters that flowed between Alexander Schmorell and Angelika Probst, Christl’s sister. Christl’s very married sister, Angelika Knoop nee Probst.

These letters have been held hostage by persons who once were commissioned to publish an edited (but never censored) collection of the letters. The Schmorell and Probst families want this book released. Maybe one day it will be. But it’s been back burnered for at least twenty years, likely because it does not present a public face the official representatives care for.

That sunny afternoon in Bavaria, Michael Probst did not bother to mince words. All of us, Probst, Schmorell, Scholl, Graf, he said, all of us chose to talk out loud about our families. We consciously put them in the spotlight. Now we may not pick and choose what people know and write about them.

How I wish his attitude were contagious!

Michael Probst personally ensured that White Rose scholarship – the real thing, not the superficial historical fiction version – was given a chance to grow and thrive. Even as his health failed and life began to slip away, he exerted the extra effort necessary to participate in board meetings, lectures, concerts, and other commemorations that celebrated a flawed group of friends who sacrificed everything to stand up for justice, freedom, and an end to crimes against humanity.

Dr. Michael Probst, born June 7, 1940 in Sonthofen, died April 2, 2010 in Herrsching. Funeral service with Holy Communion held at Andechs Monastery Church, buried in Hechendorf.

Your memory is truly for a blessing.

 

Meet Our Board

While this newsletter may have been published extremely … irregularly over the past eighteen months, we have been hard at work behind the scenes.

On May 8, 2010, our 501(c)(3) application was approved, effective January 18, 2005, classified as a public charity. A copy of the notification from the Department of the Treasury will be included in the print version of this newsletter that is mailed to our paying subscribers. We will also upload the PDF of the notification to our Web site.

 

Once we reached that milestone, we recruited a top-notch Board of Directors to keep us on track and focused. The Board consists of the following imminently qualified individuals, each of whom brings unique strengths, perspectives, and background to our work. In strictly alphabetical order (because listing them in order of how good-looking they are would certainly generate heated debate at our next board meeting):
    Dr. Richard Allen, Professor of Film-TV-Digital Media, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas. Richard has won two Emmy awards for writing (As the World Turns), has been nominated for a third (Days of Our Lives), and has numerous soap scripts, teleplays, and theater productions in his IMDB credits. But it's not those things, nor even his being named to "The List" of fifty most influential Jewish Americans that caught our eye.

Instead, Richard is well-known for his role as teacher. TCU administration has lauded him for his research and creativity, but TCU students have honored him for teaching excellence and mentoring skills. He makes a difference every day in the lives of current undergraduates and alumni alike. We want him to bring that same sense of connection to our White Rose work.
    Robert Barton, Senior, Accounting Major, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Rob will graduate in April 2011 with his accounting degree and MBA. He speaks fluent Portuguese, plays a mean game of Ultra Frisbee, and has the most beautiful baby girl imaginable. (He would never forgive me if I didn't mention Heidi.)

Rob’s passion for helping others impresses me immensely. He is known among his friends as someone who will look for ways to make someone’s life better, and do it without fanfare. An “alpha male” with a heart of gold, Rob has the initiative and backbone to translate compassion into action. His “change – and love – the world” attitude adds greatly to our capabilities.
    Dr. Clare Colquitt, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, San Diego State University, San Diego, California. Clare has been a "super friend" since 1974. With shared interests in mathematics, German, and music, and shared experiences with the Fulbright-Hayes Fellowship (she to Berlin, I to Augsburg), we have a great deal in common. Which hardly means that we always agree on everything!

Clare’s literary talents have been recognized by the MLA, as she has served as co-chair of the Edith Wharton subcommittee of that esteemed organization since Edith asked her to do so. (She was not the co-chair of that committee who was killed off in a murder mystery, thank you.) In 2011/2012, we will be handing over many of our editorial duties to her, ensuring an even higher quality reading experience for those of you interested in German resistance and Holocaust education.
    Dr. David Dowdey, Professor of German Language and Literature, Pepperdine University, Mailbu, California. David never had any intention of immersing himself in Holocaust education. He loved "classical" German literature, good old Goethe and Schiller, the heart of non-controversy (except among "classical" scholars). Oh, and Moses Mendelssohn, in the context of religious enlightenment in Germany. David's fascination with Mendelssohn's world morphed into considerations of anti-Semitism and Christian views of Jews in 18th-century Germany.

And about ten years ago – the same time that we started this newsletter – that topic got David to thinking more about the Holocaust, and the considerations of anti-Semitism and Christian views of Jews in twentieth-century Germany. At Pepperdine, he spearheaded efforts to add Holocaust education and Jewish studies to their curriculum. (He’s also a Fulbright advisor at Pepperdine.) We value his counsel.
    Timothy Hansen, Management Consultant, Accenture, Palo Alto, California. Rob and Tim may be really-good friends, but when football season rolls around, you have to be careful what color you wear around them. Though both are BYU Cougars, Rob secondarily roots for Michigan, while Tim obsesses over Ohio State. The playful banter lightens even the toughest work day. Tim is known for his sunny, happy outlook that brightens team efforts.

But there’s nothing superficial about his approach to life, “happiness” aside. He thinks long and hard about matters of faith, ethics, values, morals. While we do not share religious creeds, we work from the same foundation that defines unflinching integrity as strength of character worth striving for. We want him to remind us of that when we face tough choices regarding funding, grants, and archival decisions.
    Christopher Matheson, Risk Associate, Ernst & Young, Irvine, California. It's always fun to find people who have your birthday in common (or almost in common). But with Chris, it's more than a date. He asks the Why questions: Why this process? Why this methodology? Why this way and not the other? Those Why questions birthed our White Rose research, so we treasure people who not only know to ask the question in the first place, but who have the courage often required to pose it.

Another BYU grad, Chris combines accounting and risk assessment with composing and performing (acoustical guitar) his songs in venues large and small. Since Chris is often mistaken as a serious type, his musical social (and self-deprecating) satire can crack up the stodgiest listener. We look forward to his involvement in the business – and creative – elements of our work.
    Dr. Helen McConnell, Curriculum Development, The Fetzer Institute for the Charter for Compassion, Washington, DC. Helen is another member of our Board who shares the Fulbright experience in Germany. She obtained a Fulbright Full Student Grant in 1994-1995 while working on her PhD at The Catholic University of America. (Her resume raises one of those hmm-questions, as she has her bachelor's degree in music. Almost all our board members either have majors-minors in music or are otherwise musically gifted. Is there a correlation between social conscience and musical ability?)

Before our Board had even formed, Helen was already advising us on nonprofit matters we must consider, and consider soon. From branding to fund-raising, her depth of experience will guide us in the business aspects of running the Center as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It’s icing on the cake that Holocaust education happens to be an area of German history that is familiar territory to her!
    Gwendolyn Miertschin, School Board Member and academic advisor, St. Mark's Lutheran School, Houston, Texas. John Miertschin, Petroleum Engineer, ExxonMobil Corporation, Houston, Texas. Gwen obtained her undergraduate degree in German language and literature in Chicago. Even as a career in accounting and business pushed "German" to the background, she kept up her language skills. Foley's may have paid her bills, but German "stuff" nourished her intellect.

John earned his undergraduate degree from Rice University, with master’s degrees from Rice and University of Houston. He may be “just” a petroleum engineer to some, but those who know him well love him for his wacky sense of humor, his dedication to teaching science and history to young people, and his uncanny ability to puzzle through the stickiest wickets.

Gwen and John are old, dear, and dear old friends from German Club days at Spring Branch High School in Houston. We were lucky to have teachers who challenged and nurtured us in mathematics, German, and music – our lives overlapped in all three areas. It’s been good to grow with the two of them, to have known them as silly teenagers and to respect them as thoughtful, caring adults. Their joint passion for quality education and social justice – with Gwen the driving factor, thank you dear heart! – brings a great deal to our White Rose table.

Of course, the first order of business as addition to the by-laws: We hereby decree that any and all photographs pertaining to the TAGS (Texas Association of German Students) conventions between 1973 and 1977 shall be banned, deleted, burned, and shall never be made part of CWRS archives.

Dr. Stephani Richards-Wilson, Assistant Dean, Helen Way Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Conversations with Stephani seem to come at just the right time, when we feel like giving up. She was probably the very first professor who used our materials in her research, who gave us feedback, who took our publications and built on them (what we love to see). She is working on a second PhD at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, probing Willi Graf's life in depth. Hooray!
    This past summer (2010), Stephani landed a fellowship from the Rheinisch Friedrich Wilhelms Universität in Bonn, carrying out onsite research into Willi Graf’s life story. She’s a natural addition to our crew!

 

New Publications and Other News

The only “new” publications in the pipeline are the ones previously announced but not yet released: White Rose History Volume III (October 13, 1943 – postwar); Evolution of Memory: Historical Revisionism as seen in the Words of George (“Jürgen”) Wittenstein; Leaflets of Our Resistance, Volume II; Roses at Noon: The White Rose Novel; and, Lilo Fürst-Ramdohr’s Friendships in the White Rose.

There are two behind-the-scenes things going on that inform these delays.

First, we are currently working on converting all of our existing publications to eBook format for Google Book Editions. This would mean that you could download the eBook version to your Droid, Google Android Tablet, even (according to Google Book Editions hype) to Sony and Kindle eBook readers. The price will be considerably lower than the print version, which should make our materials more accessible – and hopefully get them into the hands of students too.

Second, for projects like White Rose History Volume III, we are looking at ways to make unfinished versions of our publications available “in the cloud”. This would enable our readers who have prepaid that volume to become part of the process. We would upload it to a secure, password-protected location (either Google Documents or something similar) that you could access, use for your own research, and comment on.

Stay tuned! Our April newsletter will have more on this undertaking. – Note to our customers who have prepaid WRH Volume III, you will hear from us before that newsletter goes out, as soon as we get the “cloud” version operational.

 

In Closing

The April newsletter should be chock full of more practical information. We’re working on setting up our CWRS Web site separate and apart from Exclamation! Publishers. Already have the new URL: White-Rose-Studies.org. Sorry, there’s nothing there yet. We’ve just purchased the domain name.

Additionally, the same IT guy (and these days, everyone needs an IT guy!) who advised us on eBook software, is also advising us on ways to make our database of primary source materials available on a subscription basis online.

 

We’re also striving for transparency in our work, whether in our research methodology, in decision-making about publications, or about financial and business matters. We will look for ways to provide as much information as we can, so you feel comfortable with the results – from the accuracy of translations of Gestapo interrogation transcripts, to the truthfulness (versus “truthiness”) of our histories, to compliance with tax code and GAAP principles.

We intend to earn your trust on every level.

 

Finally, we wish to remind our readers that – despite the Center for White Rose Studies moniker – we wish to include lesser-known resistance movements and individual freedom fighters in our archives. Complete with translations into English, to enable interdisciplinary discussion and research.

We will start with the people we feature in Leaflets of Our Resistance anthologies, and build from there. If we could eventually document all 15,000 or so courageous persons who risked their lives to say No, well, let’s just say it’s a most worthy (if ambitious) goal.

 

While we speak of tedious things like databases and cloud computing, eBooks and financial statements, we must never lose sight of one basic thing: These are powerful stories. What a handful of college students and their mentors did in 1943, in turn inspired a young law student in Egypt in 2007.

As we document the lives of flawed human beings who overcame fear, prejudice, cowardice, pride, themselves; who messed up personal relationships big time, but got the big things right; who felt helpless, invincible, powerless, potent, hopeless, expectant; who could not change their government, but could give up their bus seats to the Other; who lived life on the edge, underground, above board, pushing the proverbial envelope to speak the truth to fellow citizens who did not want to hear it…

As we document these lives, may we remember that we are neither better nor worse than they. We carry within ourselves the same faculty of change, the same options, the same chance to choose right over wrong.

If only we would.

 

All the best,



(c) 2011 Center for White Rose Studies and Exclamation! Publishers. All rights reserved. Please contact us for permission to quote.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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