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May 13, 2008
Roses at Noon
The newsletter of the
Center for White Rose Studies

May 13, 2008 - Volume 7, Issue 2

New Friends
    Through a series of most-serendipitous events, I've had the great good fortune of meeting extraordinary people who remind me all over again why we do what we do. "Ruth" was the last bride in Augsburg's synagogue before it was destroyed, and her son "Pete" was born in Germany shortly before the little family emigrated to England. Ruth's brothers made it out with her, but her parents - father a Justizrat in Augsburg - were not so lucky.
    "Edit" grew up in Mannheim, and hated it when the Nuremberg Laws forced her to leave her German school for an all-Jewish one, where she felt out of place. She was German. Her family left when she was fourteen. But she still does Math auf Deutsch, sixty years later.
    These three friends are unusually open when talking about their experiences. Pete and Ruth have been back to Augsburg six times since 1966; they correspond with people they've met in the city. Pete's even learned German so he can communicate better. Ten or fifteen years ago, Ruth painted scenes from the Augsburg of her youth - by memory. Those oil paintings hang in her living room near her most prized possession, a landscape she painted of the Dolomites before the horror of Hitler happened, the only thing she was able to bring with her when she left her homeland.
    I have learned a great deal in a short time from these people. The power of forgiveness, the sway of memory, the art of living well, the potency of gratitude. At Utah's recent Holocaust Commemoration Day, the coordinator asked Edith to finally join the other survivors in lighting a candle. (Through the years, she has steadfastly refused.)
    She did, but not without protest, explaining later that she does not feel like a survivor, since she never was sent to a concentration camp. Days like that one, she said, made her grateful to be alive, and aware of how lucky she was.
    I hesitated before sharing the above with all of you, our readers, because Pete, Ruth, and Edith are intensely private people. They do not wear the badge of "Holocaust survivor" on their sleeve.
    I therefore hope that they will forgive my sharing their story, the tiny edge of it that I have learned. It strikes me as an important addition to the "why" of what we do. Only when we see the faces of those affected by injustice can we comprehend the reason for civil disobedience and informed dissent, for getting out of our comfort zone to shout the loudest "NO!" possible.
    And only when we join Edith in gratefulness for every new day can we appreciate the freedom, liberty, and measure of justice we still enjoy.
    - Ruth Hanna Sachs

May and June White Rose Dates
    May and June - 1942 and 1943 - were exceptionally active months for those associated with the White Rose. Birthdays celebrated during these months: May 3, Traute Lafrenz; May 9, Sophie Scholl; May 13, Otl Aicher; May 24, Arvid Harnack; June 19, Helmut Bauer; and, June 24, Wilhelm Geyer.
    Other notable anniversaries: Bombing of Cologne took place on May 31, 1942. It is therefore no surprise that the first draft of Leaflet I followed within two to three days of that event. It was briefly (and cautiously) discussed at the Mertens' soiree on June 4, 1942.
    Willi Graf and Hans Scholl had their earliest documented discussion on June 10, 1942, the date that likely should be considered Willi's introduction to the White Rose - although he had met Hubert Furtwaengler, Alex Schmorell, and Christl Probst before that date.
    The first White Rose leaflet was mailed on June 23, 1942, after they (Alex, Christl, Hans, and Sophie) had sent out several trial balloons in the days before. Second leaflet was mailed on June 30, 1942. Although they were careful not to let on that they were the authors, the first leaflet became a topic of guarded conversation at the Schmorells' soiree on June 25, 1942, an event to which Professor Kurt Huber was invited.
    May and June 1943 saw the prison and penitentiary sentences imposed on April 19, 1943 carried out. May 17 - 19, Eugen Grimminger, Helmut Bauer, and Heinrich Bollinger were transferred from Stadelheim Prison in Munich to the penitentiary in Ludwigsburg. May 28, the transport of Susanne Hirzel, Frans Josef Mueller, Hans Hirzel, and Heinrich Guter began. They were unaware of the massive earthquake that rocked southwestern Germany the same day. Susanne's odyssey did not end until June 4.
    And finally, on June 17, 1943, Gisela Schertling, Katharina Schueddekopf, and Traute Lafrenz were shipped from Stadelheim to the women's prison at Rothenfeld. The Gestapo and People's Court had already begun the paperwork for Traute's re-arrest and second trial. They knew she was extremely dangerous.

    Note: If any of this fascinates you because it sounds unfamiliar - please note that it's all covered in depth in our White Rose histories, volumes one and two, and on the CD-ROM as well!

Book Review
Ulrich Chaussy. Keine Stunde Null. Nirgends. Munich: Bayerischer Rundfunk, 2006.
    When Ulrich Chaussy undertook his research for the Rothemund/Breinersdorfer movie, he was intrigued by the lack of information on the Gestapo agents involved in the White Rose case. We "see" them sitting across the table from their prey, and except for Eugen Grimminger's detailed descriptions of his interrogator, know little or nothing about them.
    Chaussy decided to chase this particular rabbit. What he found pretty much annihilates the sympathetic Mohr character so pervasive in White Rose literature and film, including Breinersdorfer's script.
    Robert Mohr's son Willi provided exceptional insight into his father's life, and why Robert Mohr became a Gestapo agent. Contrary to the self-portrayal contained in his post-war musings, Mohr was a staunch Nazi long before that affiliation was required. And he requested the transfer from regular police to Gestapo. He was also a fairly brutal man. His own son feared his violent streak.
    While the debunking of the Mohr myth is useful to understanding White Rose history, what Chaussy learned about Anton Mahler debunks some of our own "American" mythology.
    It seems that the Counter Intelligence Corps - predecessor to the CIA - took a liking to Anton Mahler, as he had edited a Gestapo report entitled High Treason and Combating Communism for that agency ("Bureau IIA") during the war. As we were gearing up for the McCarthy era, the CIC overlooked Mahler's egregious war crimes, for which he had been sentenced to four years penitentiary. The American CIC spirited him away to a safe house near Augsburg, where he assisted Klaus Barbie, another Nazi criminal protected and employed by the CIC.
    Chaussy found that Mahler portrayed the White Rose as "a Marxist inspired conspiracy of a league of men who were homosexually oriented," hinting that he had gotten Hans Scholl to flip on Christoph Probst by threatening to out Hans for his Section 175(2) conviction.
    This document - only thirty pages long - was written specifically for Chaussy's November 16, 2006 radio program on BR2. (And yes, he said the title is a direct reference to the Christa Wolf novel.) It provides a most valuable beginning to research on the topic, underscoring yet again how much we still do not know about the era in general, and about the White Rose in particular.
    I personally hope either that Chaussy will expand his investigation of the subject, or that some PhD student will pick up where he left off.

New Publications and Other News
White Rose History Volume I: The 2007 Update. Now shipping!
    As noted in my blog and on Facebook, the writing of this update, the writing of this update proved to be far more difficult than any previous White Rose publication. Except for the beauty of Alex and Christl's friendship, and what that friendship meant to the origins of the White Rose, this update contains by far the darkest material about the circle of friends we call the White Rose.
    Topics included in this update:
    Fritz Hartnagel's influence on Sophie Scholl's political views. According to the Inge Scholl legend, Sophie's primary source of "political" education came from her father, Robert Scholl. The Sophie-Fritz correspondence blows that theory out of the water. When Sophie does quote her father's views, it's remarkable how often he was wrong. Inge had the benefit of hindsight when she re-crafted Robert Scholl's alleged opinions after the war. Instead, Fritz's front line experiences seem to have profoundly affected Sophie. Her perception of the war was distinctly colored by his letters to her.
    Robert Mohr's evolution from super-nationalistic cop to Gestapo officer, and his son's perspective on that life. Ulrich Chaussy's research for the horrible Rothemund-Breinersdorfer movie yielded excellent information about Robert Mohr and Anton Mahler - information that Rothemund and Breinersdorfer apparently ignored. (See book review about Chaussy's work.) Far from being sympathetic figures, Mohr and Mahler emerge as prime examples of good cop-bad cop authority figures. Neither was above brutality. Both shared extreme, radical Nazi views. From the earliest days of "the movement".
    Christoph Probst's youth, especially how his friendship with Alexander Schmorell mutually affected their desire to do something. The 2007 update may be generally dark, but this aspect of it is unabated sunshine on a wintry day. In their camaraderie, one hears infectious laughter, feels their anger and anguish over Nazi atrocities, senses the strength they drew from one another, and fully comprehends why there would have been a White Rose even if Hans, Sophie, and Willi had never come to Munich. These two young men inspire all of us to get off our rears and work for freedom and justice.
    Sophie Scholl's troubled mental state and her problematic relationship with Fritz Hartnagel. See excerpt below for more about this. It's clear that the "Sophie" documents that remain blocked and off-limits must provide the key to understanding what made her self-destruct every time someone tried to get close to her. It's equally clear that the answer to the "why" will be found within her most dysfunctional family. Although Thomas Hartnagel continues the Scholl censorship of that topic, he is more honest when it comes to his father's side of the Sophie-Fritz relationship. We learn that Fritz remained frustrated at Sophie's physical coldness (towards the end, she considered it sinful even to hug him) and that he had an affair with a Yugoslavian girl at a time when Sophie harshly pushed him away.
    Additional background information (parental home life, schooling, Hitler Youth association, political development for Hans and Susanne Hirzel, Gisela Schertling, and Falk Harnack. Some of this material was briefly included in White Rose History, Volume II, as these people were first introduced in that book. It is expanded here, with additional research.
    Detailed analysis of Scholl censorship, comparing the recently released Scholl-Hartnagel correspondence to the "edited" letters that Inge Aicher-Scholl allowed Dr. Inge Jens to publish. Note: This is available only in the academic version of the update! I examined every letter line by line, looking for deviations from actual text. The results made me comprehend just how devious Inge Scholl was, and how carefully she constructed the story she wished to tell.

    To order this 2007 update, please click here.

Excerpt from 2007 update to White Rose History, Volume I
Chapter 26, pages 6 - 7 (academic version only)
    When beginning this update, I knew that I would have to decide how much of the non-White Rose correspondence between Sophie and Fritz I should include. In the months before writing, I wavered between two extremes.
    Some days I thought it would be best to include every single detail from the Hartnagel-Scholl correspondence. It was new material, I thought, new material that many American readers do not have access to. I had found it fascinating, and I believed everyone else would as well.
    Other days I would read yet another Scholl-centric article or blog or email. On those days, I wondered if I should not exclude everything except the information from the correspondence that directly impacted White Rose efforts. Forget the censorship issue, forget Sophie's personal life.
    I hope I have struck a reasonable balance. Sophie's personal life, her troubled inner self, is important. The Scholl siblings' contribution to White Rose work may be over-inflated, but the White Rose consisted of a group of friends. When one of those friends - Sophie - has difficulty getting close to people, cannot believe that she should be loved, exhibits symptoms of bipolar disorder or something similar that would cause extreme emotional fluctuations, that should be talked about. It affected the entire group, not just her.
    And the positive sides of her personality as revealed in the Fritz-Sophie letters should not be overlooked either, for the same reasons. If it is true that "we are what we have been becoming," then the good and bad of her relationship with Fritz Hartnagel shaped her, molded her into the person who ended up in Munich determined to take on the Nazis. She did not arrive in Munich in May 1942 with no baggage from her youth. She brought everything with her into the new environment.
    That left Fritz Hartnagel. What was I to do once Sophie's letters stopped, and we "hear" a one-sided conversation? Again, I wavered between the two extremes of all or nothing. And again settled on balance.
    Because it became increasingly clear to me that much of what Sophie knew and believed about war came not from her father, as Inge would have us believe, and definitely not from Hans, who remained starry-eyed about a military career until his death. Rather, most of what Sophie knew and believed about war came from Fritz Hartnagel's thoughtful and dreadfully honest letters from the front lines.
    Just because Inge Scholl chose to break with her sister Elisabeth and brother-in-law Fritz after the war, when Fritz and Elisabeth insisted that Nazis should pay for their crimes and Inge thought they shouldn't, that does not mean that we should dishonor Fritz along with her.
    Fritz may have thought that Sophie influenced his political thought processes more than he influenced hers, but he would be wrong. Clearly Sophie could not make up her mind about Fritz, but she listened to him, she understood what he wrote her of battle and blood and the fury of war. And it made a difference.
    Therefore, while Fritz Hartnagel never colluded with a single person to bring about the overthrow of an evil regime, while he avoided contact with Hans Scholl and Hans' friends in Munich (or vice versa), while his only "resistance" during the Third Reich was resistance to the notion of dishonoring the uniform - while all these things are true, we should hear his words, and recognize that his candor lent gravitas to the work of the White Rose. And lends credible background to our understanding of what caused these students in general, and Sophie Scholl in particular, to die for their country.

    Two additional excerpts from the 2007 update are available only to paid subscribers of our newsletter.

In Closing
    Angela Merkel's remarkable speech before the Israeli Knesset is available on our Web site in English translation, with a link to the German-language original. Check it out! It is worth reading in its entirety.

    Two articles worth noting: The first, a short opinion piece in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung Magazin on March 26, 2008. Entitled Die Gewissensfrage, it addressed a question posed by a woman who agreed to help out a friend who cleaned the house of an elderly couple. That couple had a portrait of Adolf Hitler in a corner of the room she was supposed to dust. She could not bring herself to do so. Since she had not dusted Hitler, had she failed to fulfill her duty to her employer?
    Dr. Rainer Erlinger responded to her query. At first, he danced around the issue with philosophical inexactness, posing questions the poor woman probably never intended to consider. Finally, to the meat of the matter. "Fulfilling one's duty may be a virtue, but as a so-called secondary virtue it cannot, however, replace values and convictions." Words to live by.
    The second article, also an opinion piece, was in the April 23, 2008 edition of the New York Times. Regarding student protests at Columbia University in 1968, Paul Auster wrote, "What did we accomplish? Not much of anything. ... We at Columbia were powerless, and our little revolution was no more than a symbolic gesture. But symbolic gestures are not empty gestures, and given the nature of those times, we did what we could." (The Accidental Rebel, by Paul Auster)
    His words echoed those spoken by Christian Petry and Vincent Probst in the summer of 1968, as they pondered the ongoing student revolutions and connected them with White Rose idealism for the reading public in an op-ed piece. (Whereupon Robert and Inge Scholl undertook a smear campaign against Probst and Petry, because the two young men dared to differ from Scholl conclusions.)
    Auster also said what I have often thought about the White Rose. They may have been powerless, and their resistance may have been more symbolic than "real", but it was not for nothing. Dr. Hermann Krings, friend of Willi Graf, spoke similar words at a memorial service for his friend in 1983.
    One week later, the New York Times published "letters to the editor" on Auster's article. Paul Broches said, "What the campus protests accomplished was profound. They instilled passion in many of the participants, their politics, and their sense of social responsibility. ... Instilled in all of us was a commitment to human values and social justice that daily influences our decision-making."
    Bob Kirsch said, "What happened at Columbia was a small step, but it did matter." And Steve Goldberg noted, "The Vietnam War would have continued much longer than seven years without the tidal wave of antiwar sentiment to which the Morningside Park protest contributed enormous energy and momentum. Would that we could accomplish as much today."
    Which made me wonder - how did the idealism of the White Rose affect thise who never participated in their resistance work, who never sat through a "Haecker reading", who never lifted their voices in protest? Yet who read the leaflets and were 'profoundly changed'? We have the words of some of these people: Lisa Grote, Helmut Goetz, Leo Samberger.
    I believe that we will only comprehend the true value of informed dissent and civil disobedience once we examine its long-term effects, not merely on society at large, but on individuals who witnessed the courage of conviction. Firsthand.

All the best,

Ruth Hanna Sachs

(c) 2008 Exclamation! Publishers and Center for White Rose Studies. All rights reserved. Please contact us for permission to quote.
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