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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Susanne Zeller-Hirzel, the enigma

     If you've read my White Rose histories, you know how much I enjoyed and appreciated Susanne Hirzel's memoir, Vom Ja Zum Nein [From Yes to No]. She's honest and up front about so many things. Her words ring true, because she only wrote about what she knew. She never insinuated herself into White Rose activities that were beyond the scope of her limited engagement.
     And if you've read the updates to the academic version of those same histories, you know how problematic things became once her brother Hans Hirzel joined the Republikaner party, a far-right-wing, extremist political party in Germany. He eventually un-joined and returned to the CDU, a normal conservative affiliation.
     As a small example of how difficult the Hirzel issue has been to make sense of: In her memoir, Susanne Hirzel noted the irony of the attribution of omniscience to Hitler, as seen in statements like Fuehrer, wir danken Dir (among others) - combined with comments like If only the Fuehrer knew. She correctly pointed out the logical disconnect and asserted that not only did Hitler know...
     I found her presentation so powerful that I used it, with proper citation, in my White Rose History. And gave her a copy of that history as a thank-you.
     Received a letter back from her, incensed at that and similar cites. She had totally changed her position on the matter, now arguing that Hitler could not have possibly known about the evil perpetrated during the Third Reich, quoting a Holocaust denial source on the topic. Rather disconcerting that this brilliant, funny, gifted woman suddenly could not see her own logical disconnect.
     In the intervening years as her brother Hans moved back a little closer to center (though hardly all the way there), she too seemed to moderate her views. She gave some interviews in which those old personal insights contained in her memoir colored her thinking. Nice to see "reason" apparently at the reins once again, with less of the Sturm und Drang that accompanied her irrational assertions.
     And then, last week, a Google alert for White Rose resistance yielded a disturbing interview she had granted a right-wing American organization. She is now officially affiliated with an anti-Islam, "anti-multi-culturalism" group that sees nothing wrong with the marginalization if not elimination of Islam. Along the same lines as the anti-Semitic, anti-multiculturalism paranoia of the Nazis those many years ago.
     It is a paranoia that cannot distinguish between radical fundamentalists who wage campaigns of terror, and people of a general religious or ethnic background. It is a paranoia that does not recognize the greater danger of home-grown terrorism, whether Baader-Meinhof of the 1970s, or the Timothy McVeighs of the 1990s.
     It is a paranoia that forgets "First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist..." (Niemoeller)

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