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Sunday, September 6, 2009

The "Love-Hate" part of our work

     Today I stumbled across a Web site with attached forum that initially made me angry. I know the person behind it. Met her at the Orenburg conference in September 2007.
     She's insecure, the kind of insecure that feels the need to elbow her way into the middle of every picture. The kind of insecure that babbles incessantly, so that people tend to run the other direction when they see her coming. The kind of insecure that isn't above rearranging the name tags on the tables so she can sit on the dais.
     We were stuck on a train with her for twenty-two hours. Oy. No fun. All of the above, plus she wouldn't stop trying to prove her superiority. Finally had to ignore her, which was hard. She was in our "reserved" compartment, after all. Have I already said "Oy"?
     The almost-week we were in Orenburg, she wouldn't talk to me. Oh, she talked a lot around me, in front of me, and I feel quite sure she talked about me behind my back. But she wouldn't talk to me. It was a strange sensation. Especially since besides me and Joyce, she was the only other American present. Heck, she was the only other native-English-speaker present.
     So here I am today, Googling for a specific bit of information about Dr. Erich Schmorell, when I stumbled across her blog and accompanying "White Rose" forum. She spends about half of her forum posts taking pot shots at me - not at the accuracy of our work (she plagiarizes liberally from my books in her blog, without attribution), but at me. And these pot shots were being taken long before the Orenburg conference.
     It would be bizarre except for one thing. I understand why. And it's part of my love-hate relationship with this work.
     She's one of these super-religious types who could drive Mother Teresa batty with her religiosity. It's not spirituality. It's not pure religion and undefiled, much less the justice-mercy-humility trinity most often associated with the kind of piety one is obliged to respect.
     No, hers is the religiosity that shows up for church thirty minutes early so she doesn't miss out on a thing. The religiosity that can quote reams of scripture without understanding a word of it. The religiosity that loves, simply loves prayer meeting aka the grapevine. Every religion has more than one of these people.
     Unfortunately, White Rose research tends to attract a disproportionate share of these Church Ladies (who are never to be confused with Mother Teresa, nor can they be). While Dana Carvey's character is spot-on and not-to-be-missed, Church Lady isn't funny when encountered among sentient beings. And Church Lady really, but really, has no place in scholarship.
     In White Rose scholarship especially, Church Lady distorts the facts, mashing and squishing them until they match her preconceived point of view. In this case, Church Lady is an apologist for the Russian Orthodox faith, so naturally, her preconceived point of view includes an Alexander Schmorell who walks around Munich with a Bible in one hand. May make Church Lady feel better about the supposed religion of her favorite character. But wishing doesn't make it so.
     She's not the first person - nor will she be the last - to be annoyed because I write about the White Rose as they really were. Warts and all. Lack of religion and all. There's one Catholic fellow in Germany who regularly posts public poison pen letters about me. Like Church Lady, he doesn't fault my scholarship (and like Church Lady, he liberally lifts my work without attribution). He just wants to close his eyes and make everyone who participated in the White Rose a good Catholic, or at least on the road to conversion. If wishes and buts were candies and nuts, oh, what a merry Christmas he would have.
     I have to wonder - seriously! - why it is so important to Church Lady and her cohorts that these people wear haloes and attend church every Sunday. Or whenever the doors are open. Why is it so hard to accept Sophie, Alex, Lilo, Willi, Kaethe, Traute, Hans, Hubert, Gerhard, Christl, and the rest of these wonderful friends AS THEY WERE?!
     Most of them were indeed "spiritual" as Webster defines spiritual: Of or relating to sacred matters; concerned with religious values. Not religious: Relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity; of, relating to, or devoted to religious beliefs or observances.
     Sure, they read Augustine and Newman. But they also read Claudel, Lamennais, Bernanos, Jaspers, Guardini, Maassen, Pascal, Kierkegaard. And James Joyce, Rainer Maria Rilke, Heinrich Heine, Thomas Mann. The Scholls sat at the feet of Richard Scheringer, the local (and infamous) Communist. They read books by a Lutheran mystic and a Lutheran Norwegian writer. We know Sophie read "bodice rippers" (lurid romance novels). Traute read the works of Rudolf Steiner, while Eugen Grimminger read Buddhist books (and wrote a romance novel).
     It wasn't just Augustine and Newman who influenced "their" way of thinking - not even if you narrow it down to Hans and Sophie Scholl, plus Otl Aicher. All of the above, plus the many other authors on their reading lists, including anti-Semitic, National Socialist works, influenced them, molded them, shaped them.
     The White Rose in particular, and "conscience" in general, are not the property of any one religion or religious movement. To try to force it to be so? Demeans their memory and is quite frankly wrong. It may make Church Lady and the guy in Germany feel better about their chosen religions, but it's not what White Rose scholarship needs.
     And don't let anyone try to tell you otherwise.

3 comments:

  1. I'm not trying to say you are wrong, but where did you get the information that Sophie read romance novels?

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    1. Audrey, in Fritz Hartnagel's 8/25/1940 letter to Sophie Scholl, he writes, “I can well understand that you are tempted every now and again to read a romance novel. I don’t think that is all that bad. Perhaps it is good to read something like that occasionally, so you cherish the other all the more. I hardly believe that you would always succumb to that temptation. You would surely have time to write me every once in a while. (That is how egotistical I am!) But you are now learning for yourself just how much a letter can mean when one has no one dear close by.”

      There were other occasions when she alluded to much lighter reading fare, including romance novels. But this comment - as she and Fritz had drifted far, far apart (he had just had an affair with a Yugoslavian woman in Amsterdam) - was terribly ironic for its placement in her timeline.

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  2. Oh, how sad. Did she know about the affair? Where did you read the letters from Fritz to Sophie? I have been reading the book, At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl, and I was a little sad that they didn't include Fritz's letters to Sophie as well. I too, am very interested in The White Rose, and I would like to know more about Sophie as a person. Thank you for the information.

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