Aicher: Innenseiten des Kriegs

Otl Aicher. Innenseiten des Kriegs. Frankfurt: S. Fischer Verlag GmbH, 1985.

Be prepared to hate this important little book. Aicher's unrelenting use of bauhaus, with its artificial affectation of lower case, is enough to drive a sane scholar crazy. You rely on those capital letters to differentiate between nouns and verbs in German. With Aicher, that crutch is gone.

And he goes on and on - and on! - about the philosophical and theological implications of every tiny event. He seems incapable of stating that The Sky Is Blue. That four-word declaration could require four chapters in Aicher's world. And once he starts talking about the philosophical basis for sex - at least he is able to remember what it was like to be young.

But be prepared to laugh and cry and suck in your breath if you can wade past the external annoyances. Aicher tells some of the best tales about the White Rose that have ever been recorded. His memories fill in crucial gaps regarding who took which side in the debates the friends often engaged in.

Best of all, Aicher does not sanitize the story for sensitive readers. What was ugly then stays ugly now. He refuses to whitewash gaping character flaws, even if found in people he held dear. For that alone, this book is worth a serious read.

Update October 1, 2021: Some of the most controversial stories regarding the Scholl family in our White Rose Histories come from Aicher's book. Remember, he married Inge Scholl after the war. Yet he did not hesitate to paint her as the ardent Nazi she was. Who else would have the nerve to relate how Inge Scholl stepped out in front of Adolf Hitler's car during a parade, earning a salute from the Führer himself?

The devoutly Catholic Aicher also demolishes claims that either Hans or Sophie Scholl were thinking about converting to Catholicism. Aicher details debates he had with Sophie regarding differences between Lutheran and Catholic theology, and admits she generally won.

It’s from Otl that we learn the most about Inge Scholl’s life and work as a Ringführerin in Ulm’s BDM/Jungmädel organization. It is Otl who tells us of Sophie Scholl’s suicidal ideations and her deep unhappiness at home – although he stopped short of telling us the cause of her depression and alienation, and merely stated that they talked about it. Otl – not Inge – spoke of Hans Scholl’s shallowness and superficial intellectual wannabe-ness. And of Hans’ infatuation with German military life, even to the end.

Otl also fully discredits Inge’s insistence that Hans and Sophie were driven by religious motivations. He recounted conversations he’d had with Sophie where they decried the apathy if not hostility of organized religion to courage and truth.

This book was recommended to us by Franz Josef Müller, so we expected a sycophantic telling of Scholl family dynamics. It's anything but.

(c) 2003, 2021 by Ruth Hanna Sachs. Please contact Exclamation! Publishers for permission to quote.