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The transcripts

But what about the Gestapo interrogation transcripts? How can you trust anything in them? Are they really reliable?
    
Frequently, the people who belittle the Gestapo interrogation transcripts are the same people who are embarrassed by what's in them. Does that mean that every word in them is gospel-truth? Of course not.
    Here's a basic run-down of the primary transcripts and how I evaluated them for my White Rose histories:

Lilo Berndl nee Ramdohr: Her interrogation was mercifully short and sweet. She was in Gestapo custody for a while, but not interviewed often. Alex Schmorell had kept her out of the main loop, and the Gestapo never asked her about the things she'd actually done, so she was able to tell the truth without incriminating Alex, Falk Harnack, or others (or herself). Her interrogation transcripts track well with her postwar memoirs, always a good sign.

Wilhelm Geyer: The man's age and experience stood him well while dealing with his interrogators. He was able to convincingly deny involvement with the White Rose while at the same time confirm what the Gestapo already knew about him, namely that he was enthusiastically anti-Nazi. He spared no words describing why he hated National Socialism, but ~ due to a Gestapo error in handling evidence against him ~ he could refute their charges of treason.
    Though one wishes Geyer had talked more after the war so we could know what he really did, his transcripts are nevertheless important for their unparalleled insights into Hans and Sophie Scholl's lives.

Willi Graf: Willi Graf's transcripts leave you in awe. Initially, he denied everything. When the Gestapo put him and Alex in the same room, expecting them to point fingers at one another, Willi changed course. From then on, he "told the truth," giving details about the operation. But taking blame for everything, along with the already-executed Hans and Sophie Scholl. He shielded all of his friends in the most astounding manner.
    As with the Scholls' transcripts, the WHAT is almost always accurate, but it's necessary to compare Willi's words to other transcripts (especially Gisela Schertling's) to know WHO did what.
    Willi's interrogations also demolish Gestapo agent Robert Mohr's postwar whitewash, namely his claim that after meeting Sophie, he got out of the Gestapo. Mohr became Willi's interrogator (and Susanne Hirzel's), signing all interrogations with his new title of KriminalOBERsekretaer.
    Click here to orderClick here to read excerpt on Google Books.

Eugen Grimminger: Like Wilhelm Geyer, Grimminger excelled at obfuscating the truth during his interrogations. He was not easily fooled or frightened by Gestapo tactics. Grimminger's transcripts give us a grain of truth in an ocean of deception. We're quite lucky, because after the war ~ without benefit of ever seeing his Gestapo interrogation transcripts ~ Grimminger recorded the process of each and every interview.
    As with Lilo Berndl nee Ramdohr, the fact that his war-time and postwar words mesh so well is substantiation of the veracity of his testimony. He detailed what he was thinking after each question, why he answered the way he did, how the Gestapo agent reacted. Most important of all, he documented the off-the-record interrogations that went on. And on.
    Click here to orderClick here to read excerpts on Google Books.

Falk Harnack: Falk was an actor by training, and that is clear from his transcripts. Like Grimminger, he gave the Gestapo grains of truth mixed with lots of lies. The difference? The Gestapo knew that Harnack was lying because his brother Arvid had been executed in December 1942 for treason. Falk's transcripts make for interesting reading, and provide unusual insight into the February 9 rift. But most of it has to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt, if not bushels thereof.
    Click here to orderClick here to read excerpts on Google Books.

Hans Hirzel: Both Hans Hirzel and his sister Susanne said that he told the truth during his interrogations (except for his February 17 interview ~ before the arrests). In fact, sometimes he went into so much detail that it's clear he wore out his interrogator.
    Hans Hirzel's interrogations are crucial to White Rose research. In his eagerness to tell the truth, he left out few details. His words fill in many, many gaps.

Susanne Hirzel: Hard to tell. She knew very little about White Rose operations. In her postwar memoirs, she said she lied (while her brother told the truth). Therefore her descriptions of the leaflet mailing in Stuttgart that she carried out along with her brother directly contradict her postwar accounts.
    My point of view: The truth is likely somewhere between her postwar 'I fearfully and enthusiastically did my part' and 1943 'I didn't even read the leaflets' statements.
    Where Susanne Hirzel's transcripts are most valuable to us (and least valuable to the Gestapo in 1943)? In her vivid, expansive descriptions of the Scholls, especially Sophie.
    NOTE: Hirzels' transcripts are "gesperrt" ... We are working on the legalities of publishing in English translation.

Kurt Huber: Reading Professor Huber's interrogation transcripts is a depressing matter, especially if one's only contact with this man is through White Rose literature (including the text of the sixth leaflet). Like Gisela Schertling, Kurt Huber resolved to tell the truth, the whole truth. But not for leniency's sake. He knew that his honesty would bring him a death sentence.
    H
is "honesty" is not what you'd expect, however. It quickly becomes clear that Kurt Huber was a diehard National Socialist. It's only White Rose legend that has his wife surreptitiously joining the NSDAP on his behalf. In reality, Kurt Huber was an early fan of the Party, signing its petition against the Dawes Plan in 1923.
    Kurt Huber was an enthusiastic Nazi, but one who disliked Hitler. He believed that Hitler had taken Germany too far left, that the NSDAP needed to return to its more rightwing roots. Huber repeatedly said that he fully subscribed to the Party platform and wished Hitler would go back to it. That platform included the anti-Semitic laws that resulted in the Shoah.
    Yes, Huber believed in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, all that. For Germans. The honesty of his transcripts will drive you nuts.
    Click here to orderClick here to read excerpts on Google Books.

Traute Lafrenz: During our 1996 conversation, she said that she told the truth as much as she possibly could, because that way, it was easier to remember what she had said. She specifically stated that her improbable accounts of reading to a blind artist (among other things) were absolutely true.
    Everything else ~ her political viewpoints, her relationship to Hans and Sophie, why she got the leaflet from Kaethe Schueddekopf in November or December 1942 ~ was a slick mixture of fact and fiction. To sort one from the other, it's necessary to compare Traute's interrogations to other transcripts and to her postwar account, written in 1946. And largely ignored by Inge Scholl.
    As an aside: I sat in the old Berlin archives in 1995 laughing my head off as I read Traute's transcripts. Those archives made you feel like the Stasi was looking over your shoulder. And here I was laughing!
    Because Traute played on Nazi chauvinism and horrid attitudes towards smart women, her "who me" shtick pervasive throughout the interviews. She stayed one step ahead of her interrogator, intuiting his next question and preempting his accusations by laying an impeccable groundwork of alibis. That agent wrote a memo to her files to the effect that LAFRENZ IS A LIAR LIAR LIAR! You go grrrrrrrl...

Franz Josef Mueller: Who knows? His Gestapo interrogation transcripts have mysteriously gone missing from the archives. Watch for an update here soon!

Gisela Schertling: Except for her first interrogation on February 18, 1943, Gisela's words are essentially true. She attempted to gain leniency from her interrogators ~ and in 1943, she was a good Nazi ~ so she spilled her guts.
    Main errors come when she got confused, which happened when her interrogator put her under too much pressure. (Gisela is the source for most of the mix-ups regarding the February 9 meeting.) But overall, she detailed the White Rose operations, providing an almost hour-by-hour description of the two weeks preceding the arrests on February 18.
    Click here to orderClick here to read excerpt on Google Books.

Alexander Schmorell: It is possible from a statement Alex made to Eugen Grimminger that Alex alone was physically tortured during his interrogations. As a half-Russian, he would have been subject to different rules. (Think PATRIOT act and how American prosecutors treat Arab-Americans post-9/11.)
    A
ccording to Alex's parents, he was unaware of the executions of Hans and Sophie when he was arrested. Alex therefore (very ironically) spent the first part of his interrogations trying to cover for the Scholl siblings.
    After the confrontation with Willi Graf when it became evident that the Gestapo knew quite a bit already, and after the Gestapo obviously showed Alex Kurt Huber's bitter denunciations (Huber's testimony by itself was enough to ensure the death penalty), Alex seemed to have given up.
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Hans and Sophie Scholl: As with Traute's transcripts, you have to compare Hans and Sophie's statements to those made by others, specifically to Gisela Schertling's. The siblings took almost everything on themselves, emphasis on "almost."
    Hans inexplicably betrayed Christoph Probst, not just by having Christl's leaflet in his pocket, but by giving the Gestapo Christl's name and address after they had concluded that the leaflet draft was Hans' (HS and CP's handwriting was very similar).
    Sophie gave up Traute Lafrenz, again for no apparent reason. (She was trying to establish that she had seen "others" with the leaflets when they entered the university building, but instead of pinning that accusation on people she recognized and knew to be good Nazis, she twice stated that Traute had the leaflet ~ and that alone was a punishable offense.)
    Both siblings damned Alex Schmorell to death by telling the Gestapo that he was an integral part of the operations, again, after they had already convinced their interrogators they had worked alone. Perhaps they believed Alex had accomplished his plan to leave Munich for Russia that very day. If so, it was a costly lapse of judgment.
    A great deal of their interrogations is true, except for the fact that 'they did everything themselves.' To correctly interpret their words, it's critical to know WHAT was done, and then to piece together from subsequent interrogations of other people WHO did those things. Most of the distortions in White Rose "scholarship" stem from writers who buy the "Scholl-Kreis" or "Scholl-Bund" theory that originated from these transcripts. A pity.
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Katharina Schueddekopf: Much as Traute Lafrenz, Kaethe played on Nazi chauvinism to deflect accusations of treason. Even more pointedly than Traute, she wrote for her Gestapo-ordered C.V. that she was just a woman, so why should she bother her head with politics? She and Traute had clearly discussed strategy before either was arrested, because they answered their interrogators nearly identically. Kaethe slipped up once, inadvertently admitting she had given Traute a copy of a leaflet. Otherwise, excellent cover that requires comparison to Gisela Schertling's story to know what is true and what is false.
    Click here to orderClick here to read excerpt on Google Books.

NOTE: The Excel workbooks I created to help me organize primary source information ~ including but not limited to the Gestapo interrogation transcripts ~ are now available to White Rose scholars. (A coupon for a free copy of these Excel workbooks ships with every order of the academic version of White Rose History Volume II purchased by an individual.)
    The first workbook provides a sortable record of the people who turned in copies of Leaflets 1 - 4. The second is as complete a listing as possible of everyone involved with the White Rose, plus birthdays, birth place, death date, and connection to White Rose. The third consists of several worksheets: Which Gestapo agent interviewed or searched whom, who denounced/betrayed whom and how severe the betrayal was, and prison transfers.
    The Excel workbooks may only be purchased by individuals and require a statement promising that they will be used for personal scholarly research and will not be duplicated or reproduced in any form. To order, click here.

Analysis of transcripts (c) 2005 Ruth Hanna Sachs. All rights reserved. Please contact us for permission to quote.

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