The Web hosting switch also gives us lots more server space, so in the "Our Books" section, you will find excerpts of books, plays, poems... Check out the excerpt from Abandonment.
Think of something else you'd like to see? Please let us know!
Alternate Opening Chapters
We've noted before that the White Rose histories as published represent the seventh draft of those books. Ruth's initial version was a creative nonfiction novel that depicted Hans and Sophie Scholl as "the" White Rose. A lot has changed since July 1994...
The creative nonfiction novel has recently returned to her "front burner" - you can read the first chapter in her blog. It does not look anything like those initial first drafts. Here's a sample from the early days of her work, before the interviews, before the transcripts, before the truth.
First-first draft, 1995. Working title: Freedom.
Resistance. An impossible word. Whispers littered the streets with bodies of Germans who had doubted Hitler's greatness.
Resistance? The thought alone demanded sacrifice.
Sophie Scholl clutched the down comforter, phrases uttered on the banks of the Isar warming her with cold determination.
Had it been only last night that she snuggled into a familiar pillow in the great house on Cathedral Square in Ulm? Last night, her mother's voice still sounded over an ironing board. "This child shall come to no harm," her mother had sung.
But this May 1, 1942 had dawned brown. And Sophie could not go back.
Second draft, 1997. Less Scholl, but still starry-eyed. Working title is still Freedom.
Come see this happy place. Touch the apple blossoms that caress your face with fragrance so sweet, you have your fill of perfumed days. Run barefoot through great meadows, thornless as at creation's dawn, meadows ending at darkened rivers or soaring peak.
Come sing the song of the titmouse bird. Follow the swallow to her chimney nest, laugh as the stork perches precariously on his smokestack sill. Their melodies remain unchained and free, ancient as day, young as the morning.
Come walk the hallowed streetss where patriots died for freedom. Stand beneath the balcony where five hundred years of freedom for all, rich and poor, noble and indentured, have been solemnly proclaimed and affirmed. Hear the stirring call, here we cry for freedom. Peace. Justice. Liberty for all. One Volk under God. Peace, again that word that beckons us to sacrifice our very souls for our children and their children to come.
This is a land where giggly teenage girls smuggle Heine's sensual poetry into bedrooms under fathers' disapproving eyes. This is a land where Mendelssohn's muse comforts weary spirits. This is a land built on the very wizardry of Albert Einstein and bankrolled by Oppenheimer. This is a land where hungry minds feast on Spinoza.
This land is Germany, and the year is 1933.
The remaining pages of this opening are available to paid subscribers of the expanded version of our newsletter.
Third draft. Getting there! Working title: Building A Wall of Love.
January 14, 1933. Saarbruecken.
This room, this insignificant nothing in the vast scope of the universe, nurtured the innocents who played in its nooks and crannies. Perhaps in Berlin, angry cries filled Parliament. Perhaps in Britain, people prepared for war in secret chambers. Perhaps revolution fomented in the heartland of America. But here in this room, all was well.
Loud laughter spilled out from this room into the streets of French-occupied Saarbruecken, as a band of teenage boys bounced off every wall and fixture. Willi Graf sat on a corner of a sofa, intently discussing plans for the spring production. His words were punctuated by the continual need to push his blond hair away from his eyes.
"Order, order," a tall boy named Rudi Alt cried. "Walter has something important to say."
Rudi yielded the floor to Walter Gombert as twelve or so boys hurried to gather round their leader. Conversations dangled mid-sentence, five boys squeezed onto a couch meant for three, and a reverent hush filled the room. "Let us open this meeting with prayer," Walter's booming voice proclaimed.
So it was that the first annual meeting of the Troop With No Name began. For the most part fourteen and fifteen years old, one by one they had latched onto one another in a world growing crazier by the day.
Walter read a dull but flowery letter from a man who organized groups like theirs. They noisily vowed to live up to the high standards the nameless leader set.
"And in closing," Walter slammed his fist into his hand, startling even Willi Graf, "let us determine here and now that we shall live by these words in 1933: We will be doers of the Word and not hearers only."
The boys jumped to their feet, faced Walter and shouted, "We will be doers of the Word and not hearers only."
Late that night in a darkened room, Willi Graf considered what he should write to describe the profound events of the day. Staring at the blank piece of paper, he chewed for a moment on his pencil, then bent over his diary. "I, Willi Graf, do promise to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only," he said out loud as if to reinforce his words.
We have in fact made it to California (and love the sunshine and beaches!). But we are still camping out, so to speak, without a permanent home address, much less permanent business location.
Watch our publisher's blog (or my personal White Rose blog) for news about long-term change in habitat.
While corresponding recently with Dr. Helen McConnell, and shortly after watching The Sound of Music for the jillionth time, I was struck by the similarities between the Rodgers & Hammerstein version of the Von Trapp family's life, and Inge's White Rose legend. Both are loosely based on actual events, but neither represents historical fact.
You watch Fiddler on the Roof, and you know that while that script has its roots in the pogroms in Russia and Poland (see Isaac Babel's stories for more visceral versions of that era), there was no Tevye, and "If I Were a Rich Man" is not a Russian-Yiddish folk song. You are aware from the outset that it's historical fiction - excellent historical fiction - and that it makes no pretense to the contrary.
Where a movie or book claims to tell a true story, I believe that we as readers should be able to expect a true story. Not a romanticized version of a true story, but the way it really was. The Sound of Music can move you with its glimpse of the courage required to say No when the cost was so high. The Captain's singing of "Edelweiss" can be an emotional moment when you comprehend what it took to leave one's homeland - to leave one's beloved homeland. And the loss of childhood friends as portrayed in the famous graveyard scene where Liesl's flame grows a backbone - in favor of the Nazis - opens your eyes to the very real losses that played out on a daily basis in the Third Reich.
All of that, even though you know that the Von Trapps had basically lost all their money long before Hitler came to power. And that "Edelweiss" is not an Austrian song (but goodness, Rodgers & Hammerstein sure were great composers to fool so many people!). And that Liesl was really named Rupert (the oldest child was a boy); the oldest daughter was named Agathe, her boyfriend Rolf wasn't her boyfriend by then anyway, and that she was years 25 years old in 1938, not 16-going-on-17. The International Movie Database has a short, honest bio about the real Maria von Trapp, since she appeared as an extra in the movie. Joan Gearin of the U.S. National Archives writes even more about the inaccuracies.
Yes, The Sound of Music has the power to sway and tug at a body's heart strings. But it isn't real. As Joan Gearin notes, "In thinking about the fictionalized movie version of Maria von Trapp as compared to this very real Maria von Trapp, I came to realize that the story of the von Trapp family was probably something closer to human, and therefore much more interesting, than the movie led me to believe." Gearin correctly states that the real Maria was "a true force of nature," a person who had survived incredible odds and bettered the world we live in.
Teaching by example, bettering our world, making a difference - those are all far more important than haloes and pedestals. Whether writing about Maria von Trapp, Sophie Scholl, or Christoph Probst. Or you. Or me.
And finally on this September 16, happy birthday, Alexander Schmorell, Schurik to your friends! And happy birthday too to Mildred Harnack nee Fish, the brilliant woman from Wisconsin who likewise gave her all in the fight against fascism, because she loved Germany so very much.
We have not forgotten.
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.