In Memoriam: Michael Probst

Michael Probst: June 7, 1940 – April 2, 2010

     Rarely has the beloved son or daughter of a White Rose protagonist touched lives and protected the verity of history as did Michael Probst. Not yet three years old when Freisler pronounced his father guilty, “Micha” is best known to us as the little boy riding atop his daddy’s shoulders. A daddy laughing, smiling, a daddy at home in his native Bavaria. A daddy, who – for the moment at least – focused on Herta and his babies, leaving thoughts of resistance for another day.
     Michael Probst admitted that he spent the better part of his youth, perhaps even his young adulthood, attempting to get out from under that famous father’s shadow. Christoph Probst’s untimely death made him larger than life. Known for his backbone and integrity, Christoph Probst the hero dwarfed Christoph Probst, the flawed human being. For Michael and his brother Vincent, that birthright inspired both awe and frustration.
     Once Michael the son came to terms with the legacy of father as hero and human, he advocated audaciously for a true, accurate telling of the work done by Christl, Willi, Hans, Traute, Sophie, and the rest. He was the first to admit that occasionally, this cost him more than should have been demanded for the act of remembering. When The Powers That Be seek a sanitized study, those who paint portraits complete with zits and dirty fingernails rarely find their work hanging in the gallery.
     Luckily for those of us who care about fact, who prefer our heroes real, Michael Probst remained undeterred.
     I well remember sitting with him and his mother on the patio of their home near Ammersee, our Kaffeeklatsch covering topics serious and not-so-much. What had begun as interview morphed into pleasant conversation – a conversation that taught me more about Christoph Probst the person than any well-recited list of questions could have done.
     Gingerly – knowing the potential peril in a particularly problematic topic when broached with other, more official representatives of White Rose folklore – I asked Michael and Herta about the love letters that flowed between Alexander Schmorell and Angelika Probst, Christl’s sister. Christl’s very married sister, Angelika Knoop nee Probst.
     These letters have been held hostage by persons who once were commissioned to publish an edited (but never censored) collection of the letters. The Schmorell and Probst families want this book released. Maybe one day it will be. But it’s been back burnered for at least twenty years, likely because it does not present a public face the official representatives care for. [Update: The book has since been released.]
     That sunny afternoon in Bavaria, Michael Probst did not bother to mince words. All of us, Probst, Schmorell, Scholl, Graf, he said, all of us chose to talk out loud about our families. We consciously put them in the spotlight. Now we may not pick and choose what people know and write about them.
     How I wish his attitude were contagious!
     Michael Probst personally ensured that White Rose scholarship – the real thing, not the superficial historical fiction version – was given a chance to grow and thrive. Even as his health failed and life began to slip away, he exerted the extra effort necessary to participate in board meetings, lectures, concerts, and other commemorations that celebrated a flawed group of friends who sacrificed everything to stand up for justice, freedom, and an end to crimes against humanity.
     Dr. Michael Probst, born June 7, 1940 in Sonthofen, died April 2, 2010 in Herrsching. Funeral service with Holy Communion held at Andechs Monastery Church, buried in Hechendorf.
     Your memory is truly for a blessing.

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