“Der nationalsozialistiche Terror- und Verfolgungsapparat.” Author unknown.

“Der nationalsozialistiche Terror- und Verfolgungsapparat.” Designed by Sascha Bartesch. Author unknown. Munich: Kulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt München, 1998. Retrieved from http://www.widerstand.musin.de/w4-2.html on 2/21/2012.

First: If anyone knows who wrote this article, please contact us. Their writing is strong, and they do not appear to worry about pushback.

This essay appeared shortly after Hildegard Hamm-Brücher's book was published in 1997, reviewed here. As Hamm-Brücher had also done, the author of this essay addressed issues in postwar Germany. They described the period immediately after V-E Day as one of great hope for those who had been imprisoned in concentration camps, together with those who had been part of the resistance. The oppressed dreamed that the long-awaited regime change would bring about the freedoms that had been stolen for twelve years, and that finally the Germans who had subscribed to Nazi ideology would be removed from power.

Allied, especially American, denazification efforts reinforced their belief that change was coming.

The writer noted that denazification efforts were incapable of overcoming deep-seated antisemitism. People who had joined in resistance to the NSDAP regime continued to be treated as traitors, Communists and Jehovah's Witnesses as criminals. Deserters were still slackers. Sometimes these sentiments were expressed publicly; other times Germans held their tongues but preserved the prejudice.

The Allies tried to compensate for victims of Nazi atrocities by making their needs top priority, for example, converting a community the NSDAP had built for its earliest members in Neuharlaching (a suburb of Munich) into homes for refugees from concentration camps. Jewish and political prisoners also received preferential treatment for groceries, furniture, clothing, and fuel. 

This did not last long, the writer noted. As soon as the Bundesrepublik Deutschland was founded and Germany allowed to govern itself, the German government reversed the policies the Allies had put in place to restore a sense of normalcy to the lives of victims of German atrocities. Once former Party members had successfully received their denazification certification, they rejoined government. An early matter of business: Anyone who had lost their residence to the Allies' provision of housing to concentration camp victims, now evicted the victims and reclaimed their homes.

After 1950, those who had resisted the Nazi regime, together with those who had survived Nazi atrocities, found themselves in a predicament. They were forced to conceal their personal histories as resistance or victim (Opfer) just to survive.

[Note: Reading this essay explained to me why Germans who were in the resistance feel such close kinship with the Jewish community. When we would ask in an interview, say with Fritz and Elisabeth Hartnagel, or with Herta Probst, what they thought of the idea of "good Germans" or "the past is the past," their responses were an even more vehement NO than those heard from Jewish Holocaust survivors.]

The writer names names: Emil Muhler, Franz Fackler, Ludwig Koch, Ludwig Linsert, Joseph Panholzer, Wilhelm Hoegner - starting points for those in and around Munich who never should have held power after the war, and who wormed their way back into office.

This essay addressed a subject that has long driven our Center for White Rose Studies: The people who resisted Hitler, most paying for their courage with their lives, others who survived, and yet dying with no one knowing of their courage, simply because they were afraid to share their stories in postwar Germany.

They mentioned Communists as specific group. The US McCarthy era played out in Germany as well. Our OSS (later CIA) recruited Gestapo agents who were part of the NSDAP's RSHA Amt IV A1 [RSHA = Reich Security Office, Amt IV = Gestapo, A = Enemies, 1 = Communists] to assist in ferreting out suspected Communists. Anyone left-leaning was labeled Communist, regardless of political affiliation. Note that many, if not most, of the primary characters in White Rose resistance were deemed A1 enemies of the Reich.

A federal prosecutor argued in August 1950 that the sentence of a former Communist for contravention of a Nazi-era law could not be commuted, because the German government continued to restrict distribution of "Communist" leaflets in postwar Germany. Fortunately, the judge did not accept the prosecutor's argument. It's still unfathomable that a Nazi-era law would be used as basis for any prosecution five years after the war ended.

Things were so bad for those who had resisted the Nazi regime that (so the writer) one fellow who had been imprisoned for his resistance work headed straight for the bombed-out Wittelsbacher Palais [Gestapo HQ in Munich] after the war to retrieve his files - not so he could prove he had been part of the resistance, rather so no one would know he had been.

The writer pointed to the roles of the Catholic and Lutheran churches in the reinvention of personal histories, clearly angry that both Cardinal Faulhaber and Rupert Mayer had been elevated to near-sainthood postwar, despite their clear pro-Nazi stances during the war. High-ranking clerics then assisted lower-ranking priests who had also contributed to Nazi control, as they fabricated fictions to cover their actions during the Nazi regime.

As Traute Page nee Lafrenz would later say of White Rose efforts, the people who had been resisted, together with the Opfer, were simultaneously unable to come together and present a united front against the Nazis who had regained power in the Bundesrepublik. This lack of unity made them easy pickings for the better-organized government, which worked hard to minimize Allied demands for compensation to those who had survived the concentration camps, or who had worked for e.g. VW as forced laborers, or whose homes and livelihoods had been stolen by the Nazis. Germans, especially ones in power, countered that they too had lost much due to the Allied bombings of their cities, with the unspoken implication, "and no one is compensating us."

This argument - Germans as victims - continues to resurface now 80+ years later. Our archives contain a Goethe Institut speech from the 1980s (!) on precisely this topic.

When the German government finally complied with Allied demands re reparations, they successfully lobbied for exclusion of the following:

Homosexuals; those who had been forcibly sterilized; anyone who had illegally associated with POWs; anyone who had resisted the Nazi regime on humanitarian bases instead of political; deserters (except for Jehovah's Witnesses); foreign forced labor (e.g. non-Jewish Poles and Yugoslavians); and, Roma-Sinti. Finally, anyone who protested against the Bundesrepublik would receive nothing.

As the Allied Powers threw up their hands and essentially abandoned the denazification process, matters worsened for those who had resisted or who had been Opfer. Say a person had been convicted by the denazification courts in 1947 for his outsized role in the NSDAP. If the Allies realized they needed someone with that person's qualifications, they would reverse the conviction and make the new decision retroactive to 1947, as if it had never happened.

This section of the essay explained a great deal to me - especially how people like Wittenstein and Inge Aicher-Scholl and Robert Scholl were able to slip through the cracks and fictionalize their lives prior to 1945. We - the Allies - made it easy for them to do so.

The writer covered a couple of "spectacular" cases in great detail, where justice did prevail, where "just following orders" was not accepted by postwar judges. These "spectacular" cases were juxtaposed to the many, many others where murderers and tormentors escaped unscathed, their crimes hand-waved away by our denazification process.

For White Rose readers, one of the two "spectacular" cases involved Harald Dohrn, Christoph Probst's father-in-law, who was murdered three days before war's end for his participation in Freheitsaktion Bayern. The writer did not mention Dohrn by name. But the murdering officers who hunted down and killed FAB members were indeed convicted of their crimes, despite their "following orders" defense.

I would like to shake this writer's hand for one very well-written sentence. Wie schwierig die Bemühungen um ein Wachhalten der Erinnerung in einer Gesellschaft waren, die den “Heilschlaf des Vergessens” angetreten hatte..., or, How difficult the efforts to keep memory alive in a society that had embarked on "the healing sleep of forgetting"...

The writer drew a distinction between governmental behaviors in former West and East Germany, even though primary focus of essay is on the greater Munich area. They noted that those who had resisted the Nazi regime and who were Communists had been heralded as heroes in the East, even as their memories were forgotten in the West.

By the end of the 1960s (so this writer), the tide finally began to turn. Those who were born after or near the end of the war had grown up. Now university students, they demanded - or at least started to demand - better transparency into the history their parents and grandparents had "written" on German soil.

The essay documented the postwar debate between Christoph Dohrn, brother-in-law of Christoph Probst, and Christian Petry and Vincent Probst, the latter one of Christoph Probst's sons. Dohrn and his friend, the conservative philosopher Bernt von Heiseler, saw White Rose history as one manipulated by Communists. [The reason a historiography is critical. Remember Drobisch.] Heiseler and Dohrn wanted to create a "conservative" version of White Rose history to counteract the "red propaganda" that served Communist ends. Heiseler called it "an amazing accomplishment of red infiltration."

Petry and Probst, on the other hand, saw White Rose resistance as having been condemned to fail due to dilettantism and idealism. They wished for their student revolution of 1968 to preserve the spirit of the White Rose, yet more effectively. As the White Rose students (and older adults) before them, Petry and Probst fought "the powers that be" - the establishment.

The 1968 article Petry and Probst published in Stern is important in White Rose historiography, and at the same time, dense and hard to comprehend. They did and did not wish to be political, and they did and did not see themselves in the image of White Rose resistance.

No matter the inherent contradictions of the Petry-Probst essay, one thing was clear: For them, White Rose represented progressive thought, not the conservatism that Heiseler embodied. Did I forget to mention that Heiseler had been a member of the NSDAP and actively wrote plays, poems, and essays from 1933-1945?

The Heiseler-Dohrn versus Petry-Probst divide clearly illustrated the divide in Germany, even as people finally started to talk about the atrocities of the Third Reich. "Former" Nazi, older, male, versus young students who were curious about what had been hidden.

The article ends rather abruptly, noting simply the advances brought about by Institut für Zeitgeschichte and other research organizations in the 1970s and 1980s.

My small gripes about the article:

  • No attribution to author. This article is too important to be "unknown author." And yes, I emailed Sascha Bartesch in 2012 and received no response. (I will try again after posting this.)
  • No footnotes. Even a bibliography or "for further reading" would have been helpful. Since the Web site was maintained by Kulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt München, the content is credible. Still...
  • This information should be available in book form. I checked online and could not find anything with this title or anything similar published in Munich.

Not a gripe as such, but I wish the author had been aware of Wittenstein's status as NS-Führungsoffizier and the Scholl family's very high-ranking connections to Mussgay, Dietrich, and others. The "spectacular" examples could have been even more powerful.

On the positive side - and as you can tell from the review, it's almost all positive - this essay fills in missing data with a well-written text that is easy to follow. As with Hamm-Brücher's book, the essay is almost conversational German, certainly not the complex, five-page-one-paragraph form of most "scholarly" German documents. Teachers of high school and undergraduate German programs in the US and elsewhere should be able to use this essay for advanced students.

I learned a great deal from this essay. I read it at a time when I was struggling with our White Rose work (2012). It explained much of the pushback we have received through the years as we have taken on sacred cows and unmasked demigods. I understood better the source of the really-stupid arguments from German so-called scholars who would say, "You cannot write ***that*** about the Scholls, because they are national heroes, and you are not supposed to write bad things about national heroes."

This essay explained that mentality to me. Does not make it easier to hear really-stupid arguments from people with "Dr." in their name, but it explains the crazy thinking.

(c) 2023 Denise Heap. Please contact us with questions or for permission to quote.