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September 30, 2004

The newsletter of the
Center for White Rose Studies

September 30, 2004 - Volume 3, Issue 1

    Last week, neo-Nazis converged on our beloved Valley Forge National Park. Heil Hitlers commingled with messages of hate reverberated across fields where green recruits had wintered over 225 years ago.
    Many young patriots succumbed to frost and dysentery, unsure whether their fantastic noble adventure in democracy would even succeed. Today, we revere George Washington as the general of that ragtag band and first president of our United States, but in 1777, his notions of liberty, freedom, and fair representation seemed elusive, if not ridiculous.
    The images then of men decked out in brown National Socialist costumes waving swastika-bedecked flags, standing where others had died to make us free, frightened me. True, they were small in number, dwarfed both by the immense size of the park and the crowds of protesters who greeted them.
    But the NSDAP in Germany was likewise small, likewise inconsequential in its earliest days. Economic woes, skyrocketing crime rates, and an erosion of Germany's stature in the global community gave the Nazis the fertile ground they needed to plant seeds of hate. They simply had to promise security, peace, and jobs, and they were in.
    These would-be Adolfs at Valley Forge made me wish that we could ban all political parties like the Nazis who desire the legalization and legislation of hate.
    But my rational mind tells me that - as grotesque as I find them - it is more important that they be permitted to have a voice, that even our Valley Forges must not be off-limits to their speechmaking.
    Equally important: Teaching our children why they are dangerous, and what their brown words lead to. They must know of the destruction that follows "white" lies.
    And we, the grownups in this affair, must take care that when hate-full thought becomes murder and mayhem, we are first in line to prosecute and protect.
    When a nation is robbed of freedom, no one wins.
            - Ruth Hanna Sachs

In Memoriam
    Dr. Hermann Krings, good friend to Willi Graf, died in Munich on February 19, 2004. We never met face-to-face, as he was already too ill to grant us an interview as planned in April 2002.
    But his correspondence accorded us insights into Willi's person and character. He wrote simply and honestly about his friend and the small community of faith that met in Krings' Munich apartment (better known as the Siegfriedstrasse).
    After years of dealing with those who tried to insinuate themselves into the inner circle of the White Rose, I found Hermann Krings to be a breath of fresh air. He would be the first to tell you he did not participate in their resistance; it was clear he had thought and rethought that 1943 decision to stay away.
    Dr. Krings' post-war work validates Willi's efforts. A philosophy professor at the university in Munich from 1968 - 1980, Krings kept returning to the idea of freedom as the basis of human reason. He wrote: Freedom is not a political program. Rather, it is a name by which mankind bestows dignity upon itself.

    Hermann Krings, September 25, 1913 - February 19, 2004

The 2003 Update
    It was with a great deal of excitement mixed with trepidation that we sent out the pre-paid copies of the 2003 update to White Rose History, Volume I: Coming Together (January 1933 - April 30, 1942).
    Excitement, because:

  • This is our first update, and we believe that only when you see our updates can you understand our admittedly unusual binding method for this book;
  • We think you will be intrigued by some of the new names, especially those of White Rose mentors like Pfarrer Franz Weiss and Richard Scheringer, who have received short shrift in most recitals of White Rose history;
  • You'll definitely like the story of how Traute Lafrenz and Alexander Schmorell became friends;
  • The narrative of Hans Scholl's buendische-Hitler Youth trip to Sweden makes him and his circle of friends come alive. You will laugh at their languid lakes and sparkling trees, and nod knowingly when Hans tries to show off and nearly wrecks their (stolen) rowboat.
  • Additional positive aspects of Hans Scholl's personality come to the forefront in reports given by former army comrades, describing who he became and how he behaved during the occupation of Paris in 1940; and,
  • The depth of Willi Graf's resolve will become clearer to you as you see how he stood up to what must have been immense family pressure to 'go along' - Willi emerges as one of the most honorable among the students who later became known as the White Rose.

Trepidation, because:

  • Even Willi Graf yielded to the temptation to "belong" by joining a Nazi paramilitary organization, something ignored in most White Rose literature;
  • Sophie Scholl's Hitler Youth years will disturb you, as you comprehend that her girls and others in Ulm feared her for her fanaticism. It's a side of Sophie that makes us all a little uncomfortable, perhaps because her vulnerability makes her easier to identify with.
  • We had to tackle the emphatically thorny issue of Hans Scholl's sexual crimes, glossed over (if mentioned at all) in other extant literature. Note that in the update for the regular edition, we limited this discussion, since the book may be read by younger students. The specifics are covered only in the update to the academic version; and,
  • Also in the academic version only, we address the post-war issues surrounding the Hirzels (Susanne and Hans) based on Susanne Hirzel's revisionist comments that directly contradict statements she made in her memoirs.

To order the 2003 update to White Rose History, Volume I, please click here.

Spotlight on Students

    Alicia is a psychology/history double major at New College of Florida. Her passion for White Rose studies came about purely by accident.
    As a ten- or eleven-year-old, Alicia devoured personal memoirs from the Holocaust. Her reading list included standards such as The Diary of Anne Frank, Night, Ruth's Journey, and of course, Alicia: My Story. One day she happened to knock a book off the shelf - Hermann Vinke's The Short Life of Sophie Scholl. She's been hooked ever since.
    As a college freshman, Alicia wrote a series of short stories about the White Rose. Though not a German major, Alicia has found support for her efforts from Dr. Glenn Cuomo of NCF's German department. She says that her interest is spurred by the fact that the White Rose feels like a very personal story, like the students who resisted could be any one of her friends, or even herself.
    "Whether for my senior thesis or a graduate dissertation or just for personal edification, I would be especially interested in examining the role of the family as it influenced [their] actions. ... There seem to be many family dynamics that really shaped who these people were, and thus their decision to resist. Especially in the case of the Scholl family, there are a lot of issues - enmeshment, depression, perfectionism, etc. - that had a profound effect. I have always been interested in family systems, and so, to me, it is the most compelling place to start searching."
    Alicia hopes to combine her fascination with the White Rose with graduate psychology work. Since she wants to pursue a degree in clinical psychology, she's unsure how this will progress. But one thing is for certain: She is asking all the right questions. We anticipate great things from this student!

    If one of your students - high school, undergraduate, or grad student - is using our publications for their research, please let us know so we can spotlight their work here.
    Never underestimate the power of 
interdisciplinary studies using primary sources in English language. Once you expose your students to un-spun words, you can awaken a curiosity that will change their lives.

    While Googling for something unrelated to White Rose research, I ran across the following essay posted to the "Rabbi's Desk" column of Malverne Jewish Center's Web site.
    Rabbi Singer's audience consisted of his congregants. His theological terminology may be unfamiliar to our readers to adhere to a different faith. But that does not render his words ineffectual.
    How do we determine what is ethically and morally correct? What standards should we use to "gauge the values and actions of those around us"? When can we be certain that our actions are right and proper? What exactly is a "worthy person", and how can I possibly strive to be one?
    These questions must first be answered before we can even begin to contemplate the one he poses at the outset: If I was not Jewish and was living in Germany during the time of the Shoah, would I have risked my life by hiding Jews or actively resisting the Nazis?

The Hillelian Imperative
"Where there are no worthy persons, strive to be a worthy person." Hillel (Pirke Avot 1:6)
    Lately I have been struggling with a difficult question: if I was not Jewish and was living in Germany during the time of the Shoah, would I have risked my life by hiding Jews or actively resisting the Nazis?
    I consider myself a God fearing, moral and generally good person, so my initial answer is, “yes.“ I believe that this answer may be a security blanket of sorts, which lets me sleep well with myself. And yet, when I am brutally honest, my answer is that, at best, I probably would have remained silent or possibly even gone with the crowd.
    What haunts me today is not merely a past hypothetical question but whether I am honestly confronting and responding to the moral challenges of today.
    In Pirke Avot, Hillel taught, “Where there are no worthy persons, strive to be a worthy person.” On the surface, his teaching seems like an easy, feel-good, proverb that, in practice, should not be difficult to accomplish. But, look deeper and you will recognize that what Hillel is demanding of us is extremely difficult.
    Think about it this way: when there are relatively few personal dangers, prosperous times, you are surrounded by decent people living decent lives, and the values and morals of the society around you do not conflict greatly with your own, it is not hard to be a good person. If however, the world has been turned upside down, everyone around you is following corrupt or evil leaders and societal values and morals are misguided, do you think you could stand against the tide?
    The lives of our prophets are wonderful examples of grappling with this question. The general “prophet story” is that the society/people of Israel have abandoned God's Torah and have fallen into the abyss of lawlessness, injustice, and moral depravity. The prophet must stand up against the king, the priests and the general populace and declare that they have strayed and must return to God or face punishment and, ultimately, destruction.
    No wonder most prophets didn't want to accept the job for which God had picked them ! They knew what an incredibly difficult and dangerous a job it was. You will notice too, in the TaNaKh, that there were many more false prophets than true prophets.
    Hillel's teaching, when applied, demands each of us act like the prophets. It requires that we constantly gauge the values and actions of those around us, or in the larger society, to ascertain whether they are in in concert with what is ethically and morally correct. Further, once we determine that, we must act in a manner that is consonant with our values.
    So, what can we rely on to determine what is right? And, is that judgment a completely individual one?
    In some ways, the prophets had it easier than we do because God spoke directly to them and pointed out what was right and wrong. We may not have the same type of Divine revelation that the prophets had, but we do have the gift of God's revelation by way of the Torah and the rest of the TaNaKh. Each generation continues the dialogue with God, taking the core values represented in these sacred texts and applying them to the ethical dilemmas and challenges which face them.
    It is Torah that can assist each of us in gauging what is required of us and whether we are acting in accordance with God's and the Jewish people's shared values.
    Therefore it is incumbent upon each one of us to study Torah (in its broadest sense) and to live it! I believe only then would we be on the way to fulfilling Hillel's directive and Moses's hope that “all of the Lord's people would be prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29). We should always remember that Torah is our moral compass, the prophets our models of action, and God our strength and certainty.
    Chag Sameach!

Reprinted by permission of Rabbi Michael Singer, Malverne Jewish Center, Malverne, New York.

News from Germany
    Friends at (the largest Jewish Web site in Europe) published two intriguing articles in the last few months.
    The first by Max Brym reports on a Deutsche Welle radio program entitled Die Rettung der Juden in Albanien (The Rescue of Jews in Albania). That program focused on underground efforts to save Jewish lives in Albania. Not one Jewish Albanian (including non-Albanian Jews who fled to that country) was killed by the Nazis or Italian Fascists from 1939 - 1945.
    While Brym faults DW for failing to include more information about the army of partisans led by Communists Enver Hoxha and Mahmet Shehu - because the Jewish population was safest where those partisans were most active - he applauds DW's exploration of the topic of religious pluralism as it affected the Holocaust.
    The Albanian code of honor was defined by the proverb that stated that a person's house belonged to God and guest. The historian Michael Schmidt-Necke explained that in a country where two-thirds of the population was Muslim (split among two unique Islamic faith communities), with the Christian minority equally divided among Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox Church, tolerance was a necessity. Brym added that Albanians considered religion a private matter.
    At a time when Holocaust studies seem to concentrate solely on who did not do something, it is bracing to read of an entire nation that flaunted the commands of its occupiers and did what was right. Brym's essay makes me wish that we could once again know the reality of a nation standing as the shining light, as defender of God and guest. That Albania was a Muslim state makes the loss of its "friendship" all the more poignant.
    To read Max Brym's article entitled "Selbst das Wort Antisemitismus ist unbekannt" [Even the Word Antisemitism is Unknown], click here.

    The August 2004 announcement of this year's contest sponsored by Stiftung ZURUECKGEBEN [Foundation Give It Back] sparked my curiosity. noted that the foundation "wishes to encourage non-Jewish Germans to personalize the advantages they and their families gained from the deprivation of rights, dispossession, expulsion, and murders of citizens of Jewish ancestry and Jewish faith. Not a few profited from the 'aryanization' of Jewish property or gained advantages from the decrees preventing professionals from doing business. This passed down advantages to the descendants [of those from the Nazi era] that were common and unheralded in the National Socialist state."
    To read the entire announcement, click here.
    That piece intrigued me. I then Googled for this Stiftung and found that it was born when one of its founders inherited paintings that her father had purchased between 1933 and 1943. When she was unable to trace the paintings back to their original owners, she and three friends established an endowment that returns the proceeds of individual, illicitly-gained inheritance to the collective descendants of those from whom it was taken.
    These women challenge contemporary Germans to examine their homes, their birthrights, their assets to see what was stolen from Jewish neighbors and give it back. "Are not we continuing to perpetrate the injustice that is inherent to such a legacy when we accept it without questions and establish ourselves therein as if it truly belongs to us?"
    To learn more about this foundation, click here.

The Aftermath
    We talk a great deal about what became of the friends and family members of those arrested and executed for their "White Rose" resistance. But rarely do we have access to the thoughts of people who agreed with our favorite students, copied and distributed the leaflets, yet did not know them personally or well.
    Luckily one such report did survive, that of Lisa Grote who also lived in Munich-Schwabing. She and her friends received the White Rose leaflets and disbursed several dozen of each. They also sent packages of food to the Warsaw Ghetto, never realizing it was being intercepted.
    She described their reactions to the arrests on February 18, 1943:
    "Now for the things that torment me the most! From the moment they were arrested, we lost all our courage. We were paralyzed by fear. After everything went up in smoke, we met a few more times. Foreign [Dutch and French] faces were among our circle. Clear, perceptive eyes, but now these eyes were full of fear. And my eyes reflected the greatest fear of all.
    "Everybdy expressed a great deal of interest, but with one single question: Is it effective? Will a revolution come out of it?
    "When everyone understood the No, they went their own ways into the night. We therefore met for the last time on March 16, [1943,] agreed (as far as I was concerned) in this matter. I will never forget how people left [that meeting] all stooped over.
    "That night, I felt our words to the marrow of my bones. The anesthesia of fear wore off a little, and I 'understood'.
    "... Why did no one run through the streets screaming in those days? And I ask, why did not we do so?"

Excerpts from Current Research

    SPIEGEL: Mrs. Hartnagel, your siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl are honored as few Germans of the twentieth century have been honored. But you have distanced yourself from the cult around your family. Why?
    Hartnagel: I always found it a little exaggerated and also a little unfair. It's not right to give such prominence only to Hans and Sophie. After all, Professor Huber, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst, and other students participated too.
    SPIEGEL: But weren't Hans and Sophie the spokesmen?
    Hartnagel: I was not a member of the White Rose, but I did see the circle of friends in action on more than one occasion. They were all equals. No one had the final word.
    From Klaus Wiegrefe, Zeitgeschichte: 'Immer einen Schritt weiter'. Spiegel, 07/2003.

    In an attempt to gain clemency for his own resistance activities, Heinz Kucharsky betrayed the circle in Hamburg. He accused Traute Lafrenz of the following seven "crimes" when she was rearrested in Munich in March 1944, which of course the Gestapo used to reindict her.
    1) The leaflets she had distributed.
    2) The approximately twenty times she and Kucharsky had listened to foreign radio broadcasts together (Moscow, England Beromuenster, Red-Spain).
    3) In January 1937, her distribution of Thomas Mann's Responsa to the Dekanat in Bonn when his honorary doctorate was rescinded.
    4) Banned books that she had owned, borrowed, or read.
    5) Help and friendship she had proffered to a Jewish family known to both her and Kucharsky.
    6) Her particularly radical attitude, particular prominence in political discussions, particular aptitude for bringing Leseabende around to political topics.
    7) Her particularly independent lifestyle, especially refusal to recognize family ties.
    Traute escaped death only because the Americans liberated Bayreuth (and its prison) two days before she was to be sentenced to death.

    Report of a student ("Eduard H.") about his last visit with Professor Kurt Huber, probably in July 1942:
    I can still recall a conversation I had one night in Graefelfing with my revered teacher, Professor Kurt Huber. I had stopped [in Munich] on my way back to the front and had visited him again. He told me about the attempts to sterilize Polish Jews and female Polish students. Terrible things.
    But I told him of things even more awful. The shooting of Jews in the Crimea, which I had personally experienced. When he heard this, he shouted so loudly (and it was 3 o'clock in the morning) that his wife came out of their bedroom and - alarmed - asked him to be quiet because of the neighbors.
    I had wanted to leave at midnight. But he made me stay till 3:45 a.m., the latest I could possibly leave [and still catch my train].
    "I envy you, that you are going to the front. At least there you can place yourself in the line of fire and die."
    "But isn't that suicide?" I asked.
    "No, when the strain [Spannungen] is unbearable, that is the only way. Because that death makes sense."
    To which I said, "I don't know. Suicide is never good."
    And he: "There are situations in which that which is legal - including that which is morally legal - is transcended."
    And those were the last words I ever heard him say.

In Closing
    Thank you, muchas gracias, dankeschoen, toda raba, to all of you who sent emails and cards during and after my surgery in March! Your words of concern meant a great deal.
    I am dong much better now - I have more energy than I've known in at least twenty years. While it took about six months to reach the point that I could pursue White Rose work full steam ahead, I have indeed returned to that endeavor. We just released the 2003 update, and Volume II of the White Rose History is still on track for publication in February 2005.
    Please stay in touch. Our work takes on added value and meaning when it is shared.

All the best,

Ruth Hanna Sachs




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