In Memoriam: Lieselotte Fürst-Ramdohr

Lilo Ramdohr

Lieselotte Fürst-Ramdohr, born October 11, 1913 in Aschersleben (Germany), died quietly in her home near Starnberg on May 13/14, 2013. Her grandson Domenic Saller wrote that she was seated at her breakfast table, upright and peaceful.
     While we hold great affection in our heart and work for most of the surviving White Rose family members, Lilo was special. She wasn't just Lilo, she was unsre liebste Lilo, our dearest Lilo. The time we spent with her overflowed with laughter, with her awareness of the richness of each new day. She answered every question we posed directly, with no hesitation. Lilo never tried to figure out what the "right" answer could be, what we may want to hear. She spoke from the heart and introduced us to her friends.
     That very first interview, which took the better part of a day in May 2002, she apologized for her physical frailty. Four years earlier, she explained, she had granted an interview to Bayerischer Rundfunk. As part of that documentary, she had swum across Starnberger See. 'But that was four years ago when I was only 88,' she said. 'I am much older now.'
     By 2002, we'd grown extraordinarily weary of the runaround we received from so many who claimed to have been part of White Rose resistance. Files in archives were blocked, interviews were guarded, and far too often we encountered egregious inconsistencies in stories that cast doubt upon the very character of the words we had heard or read, even (especially) from supposed eyewitnesses. We had learned to treasure the people whose words matched up, no matter when they were spoken or written.
     Lilo held a place on the very short list of those whose "memory" never faltered. Oh, she missed some dates here and there. And she was the first to admit she had not been able to remember e.g. whether the first leaflet was published in March or June of 1942. When we talked about publishing her memoirs in English translation, she expressed her delight at the suggestion that we "fix" the dates.
     Because those memoirs were based on notes she jotted down in 1947 and 1948, when she determined never to forget what her friends had done. She had not kept a diary while she and Alexander Schmorell sketched and painted and drank tea and chatted and strolled and debated and all the other things that good friends do. But she wanted to remember forever what he and his friends had sacrificed, the true patriotism they had displayed as they tried to bring justice to their homeland.
     Through the years as we corresponded, every direct question was met with an equally direct answer. If we asked her for proof (because her words shed a most personal light on White Rose friendships), she would dig through her living room closet till she found a photograph or letter, then copy it and mail it to us. (And Domenic says that he is still finding additional materials that even Lilo had forgotten she had! You'd have had to have seen that living room closet to understand.)
     Joyce developed a very special attachment to Lilo. That first interview, Lilo described how hard her life had been after the war. Her mother and stepfather really didn't want to have much to do with her, because they saw her - still! - as a traitor to Germany. And what the Nazis hadn't stolen, the East German government took. So she was left with little income, raising a family by herself, feeling terribly alone and forsaken. All she would have had to do to regain her family after the war: Tell her mother she had been wrong to oppose Hitler. But she could not do that.
     Joyce asked her, "Have you ever regretted then what you did, wished you could undo it, knowing what you know now about how much it would cost you?"
     And in all the time we talked to Lilo, that is the only moment she ever hesitated with an answer. Her eyes watered, she looked away, then she stared straight in Joyce's eyes. "No. I would do it all over again, even knowing what it would cost me."

© 2013 Denise Heap. All rights reserved. Please contact Exclamation! Publishers for permission to quote.

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Photo of Lieselotte Fürst-Ramdohr © Denise Heap, 2012.
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