Note regarding comments

I love comments. I enjoy debate. I welcome both praise and thoughtful criticism. However, I've had to change comments-permissions to require self-identification. No more anonymous messages, please!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In Defense of the White Rose

     It's February 22, sixty-nine years after Christoph Probst, Hans Scholl, and Sophie Scholl were convicted of treason in Germany's Volksgericht and promptly beheaded. While much about that day has been fairy-taled beyond recognition, one element of the legend has basis in fact.
     Namely, as Hans Scholl was being led to his death, he shouted Long live freedom!
     Now, he did not shout it loudly enough for the whole prison to hear. And he did not shout it after sharing a cigarette with Christl and Sophie. And he did not shout it after shedding a tear for an unnamed 'girlfriend' of any sort.
     But his final words - appropriately enough - reminded the executioner, prison chaplain, and witnesses to his death that the friends of the White Rose were giving their lives for the notion that "freedom of the individual" was worth fighting for. Three leaflets had specifically mentioned their obsession with this personal freedom that had been taken from them by Hitler and his regime.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

So Madeleine, was it a revolution?

     This time every year, I tend to get swamped with requests for information about White Rose resistance from high school students who are just beginning their National History Day projects. No matter the annual theme, White Rose usually shows up as a favorite topic. It truly is that good a story.
     Too often those requests for information have come in the form of, Hey, I am doing a National History Day project, so tell me everything you know about the White Rose. It can be a little frustrating when students expect to gain knowledge without expending any effort.
     This year, the inquiries have been refreshingly different. Out of six initial emails, three teams have stayed with it, asking intelligent questions that prove they've already done a fair amount of homework and are prepared to do more.
     My first phone interview was with a young woman named Madeleine Poisson. Part interview, part conversation, the exchange encouraged me on several levels. First, Madeleine wasn't looking for easy answers. She was ready to think about complex questions beyond the basic plot-line of White Rose actions. She's thinking about motivation and relevance of specific incidents (trying not to give away her project, since it is a competition).
     Madeleine asked, and followed up on, the notion of White Rose as revolution. This year's National History Day theme is Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History, so it's a fair question, indeed, a question one would expect in the context of NHD. But she pursued it. Madeleine, this is the longer answer I promised during the interview.