Long Live Freedom!

Posted by The Skibbereen Eagle | February 22, 2017 0

 

Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst were guillotined by the Nazis in Munich 74 years ago today for bravely opposing the Fascist Tyranny.

Named after a Spanish novel (Rosa Blanco). The Group coordinated efforts on Campus for Civil Rights and Opposition to Nazi policies. Among their efforts on campus were weekly discussion groups, painting ‘freedom’ on brick walls at the entrance into campus, and distributing leaflets opposing the Reich on moral and political grounds, encouraging students to think for themselves.

white+rose (1)sophiescholl

CAvGalen

Clemens August Graf von Galen

The White Rose group were a small and very unrepresentative group of German students who have assumed enormous symbolic importance in modern Germany, particularly for young people, as examples of “good Germans” who resisted the Nazis at the risk, and the cost, of their lives. Their graves in a Munich cemetery are heaped with flowers. The final White Rose leaflet was smuggled out of Germany and intercepted by Allied forces, with the result that, in the autumn of 1943, millions of copies were dropped over Germany by Allied aircraft. It is believed that the group was formed after August von Galen, the Archbishop of Munster, spoke out in a sermon against the Nazi practice of euthanasia (the killing of those considered by the Nazis as genetically unsuitable).  whiterose

Nazi tyranny and the apathy of German citizens in the face of the regime’s “abominable crimes” outraged idealistic “White Rose” members. Many of them had heard about the mass murder of Polish Jews; as a soldier on the eastern front, Hans Scholl had also seen firsthand the mistreatment of Jewish forced labourers and heard of the deportation of large numbers of Poles to concentration camps.

In their attempt to stop the war effort, they advocated the sabotage of the armaments industry. “We will not be silent,” they wrote to their fellow students. “We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!” Because the students were aware that only military force could end Nazi domination, they limited their aims to achieve “a renewal from within of the severely wounded German spirit.” After the German army’s defeat at Stalingrad in late January 1943, the Scholls distributed pamphlets urging students in Munich to rebel. But in the next month, a university janitor who saw them with the pamphlets betrayed them to the Gestapo (German secret state police).

The White Rose’s publication and distribution of six leaflets calling for passive resistance against Hitler’s regime would eventually lead to the arrest and execution of its six core members. Although their deaths were followed by a deafening silence from the German people and the they called for would never take place, it cannot be said that they gave their lives in vain; the courage of their actions would echo through history as evidence of conscience within silent Nazi Germany.

The first of the six leaflets produced by The White Rose movement opens, “Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be ‘governed’ by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct.” The content of the six short pamphlets abounds with this message, appealing to German citizens’ intellect, intuition, and sense of shame. The message of the six leaflets evokes realizations about the evils of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party, the moral failure of German indifference and inaction, and calls for an intellectual uprising against the Nazi party. The authors rely heavily on the wisdom of great philosophers and thinkers to validate and reinforce their claims.

Memorial to the “White Rose” student resistance group, Ludwig-Maximilian-University, Munich. 

Sophie-Scholl-300x198Well-known in Germany, Sophie Scholl is a figure of remarkable courage and intellect. The events in Munich are portrayed in a powerful movie released in 2005 “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days “ or in German “Die letzten Tage.” Directed by Marc Rothemund and written by Fred Breinersdorfer it was released the same time as “Downfall” and probably didn’t get the exposure it deserved as a result but did receive an Oscar nomination. The film deals with just six days of this young woman’s life—the final six days. Key members of a passive resistance anti-Nazi group known as The White Rose, Sophie (Julia Jentsch) and her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) risk their lives by writing, printing, and distributing pamphlets that condemn National Socialism and a bloody war that Germany could not win.

Hans Scholl (left), Sophie Scholl (center), and Christoph Probst (right), leaders of the White Rose resistance organisation. Munich, Germany, 1942 

On the morning of Feb. 18, 1943, Sophie and Hans walk into a lecture hall at the University of Munich to secretly distribute the group’s sixth pamphlet before the building was flooded with students. This dangerous mission does not end well as Sophie is spotted by a porter who denounces her to the Gestapo. Whiteroseflyer

The film concerns itself with the short but intense period between Sophie’s capture and execution. After she is jailed, Sophie faces off against Gestapo interrogator Robert Mohr (the steely Gerald Alexander Held), a Nazi true believer and atheist committed to breaking Sophie’s spirit in order both to convict her and to search out her collaborators. While one might initially be frustrated at the lack of context for Sophie and her strongly held beliefs, the force of these interrogation scenes erases all misgivings.

“Many people think of our times as being the last before the end of the world. The evidence of horror all around us makes this seem possible. But isn’t that an idea of only minor importance? Doesn’t every human being, no matter which era he lives in, always have to reckon with being accountable to God at any moment? Can I know whether I’ll be alive tomorrow morning? A bomb could destroy all of us tonight. And then my guilt would not be one bit less than if I perished together with the earth and the stars.”

Sophie Scholl

The Scholl siblings were arrested and tried in front of an emergency session of the People’s Court. They were found guilty and executed by guillotine, along with their friend and collaborator Christoph Probst, on 22 February 1943. Hans Scholl’s last words before he was executed were: “Long live freedom!”

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Alexander Schmorell, a member of the White Rose student opposition, upon his graduation from high school. Schmorell was arrested, condemned to death by the People’s Court, and executed on July 13, 1943.

Alexander Schmorell was sentenced to death on 19 April 1943 at the Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court) in the second trial against the White Rose. On July 13, 1943, at the age of 25, Schmorell was put to death by guillotine along with Kurt Huber at the Munich-Stadelheim Prison.

At his trial Huber remained loyal to the eighteenth century German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s ethical teaching, as he concluded his defense with the words of Kant’s disciple Johann Gottlieb Fichte:

And thou shalt act as if
On thee and on thy deed
Depended the fate of all Germany,
And thou alone must answer for it.

The one surviving member of the group Liselotte Furst-Ramdohr who was aged 99 (she died in 2013) has poured cold water on the way their memory is commemorated as “Good Germans” – “At the time, they’d have had us all executed,” she says of the majority of her compatriots.

Robert Scholl’s final words to his condemned son Hans were, “You will go down in history – there is such a thing as justice in spite of all of this.” Despite the conclusion of the People’s Court of Germany, Robert’s assertion accurately captures the sentiment of the greatest thinkers on justice.

The lovingly tended graves of Hans and Sophie Scholl (together on the left) and Christoph Probst (right). The three died together for their resistance to the Nazis, and, fittingly, are buried together in (old) Perlach Cemetery, Munich.

 

Sophia Magdalena Scholl: 9 May 1921 – 22 February 1943
Hans Fritz Scholl: 22 September 1918 – 22 February 1943
Christoph Hermann Probst; 6 November 1918 – 22 February 1943

Saint Alexander Schmorell; 16 September 1917 in Orenburg, Russia; – 13 July 1943 in Munich

Professor Kurt Huber; October 24, 1893 – July 13, 1943

The Skibbereen Eagle

The Skibbereen Eagle

In 1898, to widespread bemusement, a small Provincial Newspaper in an equally small town in the South West corner of Ireland sonorously warned the Czar of Russia that it knew what he was up to and he should be careful how he proceeded for “The Skibbereen Eagle” was wise to his game and in future would be keeping its eye on him! It is doubtful that Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, even noticed the Eagle’s admonitions but as history soon proved he should have paid closer attention to the Eagle’s insightful opinions!

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