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Thursday, June 25, 2009

History: January through December 2008

May 21, 2008
Getting out our quarterly newsletter is always a bear of a project. The old maxim "Spend money to save time, spend time to save money" definitely applies to our operations at present. What takes half a day for better-funded organizations requires a good week for us, a week that ends with aching hands and backs, and plenty of paper cuts.

Not complaining, not really. It's just that "the newsletter" is so fresh on my mind, since it finally was marked off my to-do list yesterday.

I was surprised at how polarizing this particular issue of our newsletter turned out to be. (
Check it out for yourself.) I did not see anything extraordinary about it, anything that would be deemed too radical. But evidently, the themes of informed dissent and civil disobedience do not sit well in red states.

The thing that really leaves me dumbfounded, however: Schools that are all ga-ga over the White Rose, sponsor White Rose events, name buildings or conferences for the White Rose (or usually only Hans and Sophie Scholl - these schools rarely delve any deeper into the story than that), and in general profess to admire what these students did in 1943. And yet some of these same schools, colleges, universities, shrink back at the notions of civil disobedience and informed dissent!

What can they possibly be thinking? How could the revolution perpetrated by the White Rose, or for that matter, the American Revolution of 1776, be any more just or justifiable than standing up and shouting a very loud NO when our government infringes on the rights of our citizens in 2008? There's such a huge logical disconnect in these schools - and a particular one in Pennsylvania comes to mind immediately - and they themselves are blind to it.

It is important to conscientiously consider what we believe and why, and to make rational, coherent decisions based on those beliefs.

In other words, you can't deify the White Rose on the one hand, and villify Cindy Sheehan on the other. What we believe demands consistency.

May 8, 2008
It snowed here in Utah on May 1. Not a light dusting, but real snow. On May 1! Which reminded me that in Munich, during that fateful year (1942) when White Rose work got underway, it snowed in Munich on May 1.

But . . . it is once and for all spring in Utah! And things look brighter, more hopeful. We live far above the valley floor, so it's taken longer. Down in Salt Lake City, trees have leafed out, the forsythia have nearly lost their yellow glow, and lawns have greened to perfection. While up here on Traverse Mountain, our apple trees at long last hint at green to come, and white blossoms promise to explode in a day or two.

Spring has made us wait for its delights. At times, the waiting seemed interminable, as if winter had become a permanent fixture, and we would never be rid of the cold.

The long days working on the 2007 update, with chill seeping in through storm windows, took a lot out of me. For one thing, except for the "Christl and Alex" part of the update, the subject matter was darker than usual. There's a reason people have blocked archives and censored documents. They've had things to hide, things that directly affect the White Rose story, things that help us understand background and motivation.

With that lethal combination of dark story and dark winter days (in April!), it was harder than most people realize to force myself to keep working on the update. Several times I simply had to walk away for 48 hours, catch my breath, and concentrate on something else. And this was only the update for Volume One! I'm only now beginning to work on the Volume Two update. At least, at least, it's sunny outdoors.

As difficult as that writing exercise was, I feel it makes an unbelievably important contribution to White Rose scholarship. Our new knowledge raises more questions, but those questions are healthy and useful. If nothing else, the update forces us to acknowledge how absolutely central and critical Christoph Probst and Alexander Schmorell were to White Rose resistance.

That will become even clearer in the Volume Two update. I hope with all my heart that people finally start listening to truth, that instead of relegating the most thoughtful and clear-thinking people (like Christl and Alex) to the sidelines, they will begin to assume their rightful place center stage.

These musings have been fermenting since writing the post below (April 10). In the interim, I have met some extraordinary people right here in Utah. German-Jewish Holocaust survivors who managed to escape in 1937 / 1938 with their lives and little else, people who lost parents and other family members who could not emigrate. They have touched me with their warmth and affection, with their willingness to talk about their lives in 1930s Germany, and with their willingness to hear me babble on about the White Rose.

These dear people remind me why we do what we do. Our "histories" strive to put German resistance in the context of that era's current events. What these noble people undertook did not take place in a vacuum. They witnessed the humiliation of Jewish neighbors, they lived next door to Jewish families, they heard the announcement of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 firsthand. And for some of these students and the adults who learned from them, those events provided the catalyst for their protests.

We've got to see the faces of the greater community ~ not merely the familiar photographs of these White Rose students, but the society they lived in. Those other faces are important too, if we will understand what drove them to sacrifice their lives for freedom and justice.

Back to work! With the music of children playing, riding bicycles, walking home from school in the background. It is SPRING in Utah!

April 10, 2008
(Originally posted on Facebook as note entitled "Beautiful Deceptions")

I am finally closing in on the last of our 2007 White Rose update. It was a project I had looked forward to, because the update would allow our readers to know more about Christoph Probst, one of the noblest of all those associated with White Rose resistance.

Even the parts about the enigmatic Hirzel family were highly anticipated before I began writing. If nothing else, the Hirzels provide an amazing snapshot of a conflicted family, one that had a conscience, one that loved Germany, one that wanted to do something morally just, but in the end, a family that wrongly thought everything should be left up to God. As if God had parted the Red Sea, defeated Haman, and every single other “miracle” without human involvement.

But as I have plowed through the new Scholl material - some of it given to me through a “back door” (materials Inge Scholl had and would not share), some of it included in the fairly recent Thomas Hartnagel book - I have been sickened anew by the “beautiful deceptions” that Inge Scholl and her family have perpetrated on the world. With help from people like Marc Rothemund, Fred Breinersdorfer, Michael Verhoeven, and others like them.

There are three main complaints against the Scholls.

First, it was one of the most self-centered families connected in any way with the White Rose. Especially Hans, Inge, and the father Robert, but even Sophie, seemed to think the world revolved around them, that they deserved only the best and the brightest. In their mind, it was not a matter of “wanting” pretty baubles. They thought they “needed” them. Even as Sophie treated Fritz Hartnagel like dirt, she continued to write him and ask him to buy her wool or candy or coffee. No wonder Inge Scholl had censored these letters. Surprising that the Scholl nephew would publish them.

Second, where the Hirzels were merely wishy-washy, thinking if they prayed hard enough, Hitler would be run out of town, Robert Scholl was comfortable on both sides of the fence. If he was talking to a Communist, he was for a planned economy. If he was around people like Otl Aicher who nursed strong democratic thoughts, he talked freedom and “down with Hitler.” If he was around his Nazi friends, then Sieg Heil, full steam ahead. It is most telling that his closest friend - and this is according to Inge Scholl herself - was Friedrich Mussgay, head of the Stuttgart Gestapo and an original member and leader of the SS-Einsatzgruppen. You can even view Mussgay's “Nazi” business card online. Google is a wonderful tool. (Inge happily did not anticipate it!)

This same attitude is mirrored most strongly in Hans and Inge Scholl. Inge, of course, never renounced the Nazi racial ideology and anti-Semitism she taught as Ringfuehrerin in Ulm. She merely pretended it had never happened. But Hans too seemed comfortable around Nazi friends and his White Rose pals. It makes no sense.

The third and most damning thing, the thing that is making me want to either quit White Rose work completely, or at the very least take a bath in clorox, is the way the Scholls have covered their anti-Semitism to this very day. Thomas Hartnagel published all but 80 of the Sophie/Fritz letters. The gaps in those eighty primarily come from two critical dates:

*Kristallnacht, when the Scholls were the only “Aryans” in a Jewish apartment building previously owned by Jakob Guggenheim. There's a two-month gap in ALL Scholl correspondence from November 9 through the end of December. Only one or two sentences from extant letters appear in footnotes - so we know the letters exist, and we can assume they don't have anything positive to say about Jewish neighbors, else Inge would have been all over them like white on rice.

*Their move from that “Jewish” apartment building to the great apartment on Muensterplatz that had previously been inhabited by a Jewish family, run out of Ulm after Kristallnacht. Again, we know letters exist because of footnotes, but they are not published. Since the Scholls moved from a small apartment to a very, very large one, it is safe to assume that there's a lot about that transaction we are not supposed to know.

What makes this feeling of “dirtiness” so hard to bear is that I feel so helpless in getting out the REAL White Rose story. People who toe the Scholl line get all the money from the German government - and believe me, we are not talking pennies from heaven, we are talking millions of dollars. So they are being rewarded for perpetuating a lie, and with all that money they can afford to keep spreading the lie as if it were gospel.

Meanwhile, we struggle along, trying to get people to listen. But no one wants to believe that the sugary-sweet story is anything but the truth.

I do not know what to do.


  1. Where did you get this information from? What else is there to know about Sophie? I just recently read At the Heart of the White Rose myself, and felt that she asked for a lot and talked about herself (which she admitted). Not that I can talk, I have been known to do things like that myself. I don't like things to be sugar-coated either...just where are the sources? Thanks.

  2. Audrey, could I recommend you read our White Rose Histories? The easiest way to order is on CD-ROM. This e-Book version includes a great deal of primary source material.

    You should be aware that At the Heart of the White Rose came from greatly censored documents. Dr. Inge Jens (editor) told me in person that Inge Scholl had allowed her access only to transcribed (typed) versions of the letters and diary entries, not to the original versions. Additionally, Inge Scholl had redacted them to suit her story line.

    Dr. Jens told me, and later told another researcher, that she believed At the Heart of the White Rose represented perhaps 10% of Hans and Sophie Scholl documents, and that when the remainder would be published, it will probably stun the world.

    Sadly, those documents probably won't see the light of day for another 25 years. Occasionally the IfZ and Scholl family allow a trickle of new documents. But they certainly have not opened up the entire archive. The listing alone is over 800 pages long.

  3. What kind of person was Sophie? I will definitely see if I can read your histories.