Leaflets of the White Rose
Nothing is more shameful to a civilized nation than to allow itself to be “governed” by an irresponsible clique of sovereigns who have given themselves over to dark urges – and that without resisting. Isn’t it true that every honest German is ashamed of his government these days? Who among us can imagine the degree of shame that will come upon us and upon our children when the veil falls from our faces and the awful crimes that infinitely exceed any human measure are exposed to the light of day? If the German nation is so corrupt and decadent in its innermost being that it is willing to surrender the greatest possession a man can own, a possession that elevates mankind above all other creatures, namely free will – if it is willing to surrender this without so much as raising a hand, rashly trusting a questionable lawful order of history; if it surrenders the freedom of mankind to intrude upon the wheel of history and subjugate it to his own rational decision; if Germans are so devoid of individuality that they have become an unthinking and cowardly mob – then, yes then they deserve their destruction.
Goethe speaks of the Germans as a tragic nation, like the Jews and the Greeks. But these days, Germans appear more like a shallow, irresolute herd of opportunists who have had all the marrow sucked from their bones. Now that they have been robbed of their essence, they are willing to be pursued to their destruction. This is how it appears, but it is not so. Rather, every individual has been jailed in an intellectual prison after having been slowly, deceptively, and systematically raped. Only as he lies there in chains is he aware of his doom. A few recognized the pending perdition [for what it was]. The reward for their heroic exhortations was death. There is more to say about the fate of these people.
If everyone waits till someone else makes a start, the messengers of the avenging Nemesis will draw incessantly closer. And then the last sacrifice will have been thrown senselessly into the jaws of the insatiable demon. Therefore in this last hour every individual must arm himself as best he can, aware of his responsibility as a member of the Christian and western civilization. He must work against the hostage1 of humanity, against fascism and all similar systems of an absolute State. Offer passive resistance – resistance, wherever you may be, prevent the continuation of this atheistic war machine before it is too late, before the last of our cities lie in ruins like Cologne, and before the last of the youth of our people have been bled to death by the hubris of a subhuman. Do not forget that every nation deserves the government that it endures.
From Friedrich Schiller, “The Legislation of Lycurgus and Solon.”
“… When contrasted to its actual purpose, the legislation of Lycurgus is a masterpiece of political science and anthropology. He wanted a powerful, indestructible State that was completely self-reliant. Political strength and permanence were his goals. He achieved this goal as much as was possible, given the circumstances. But if you compare the goals that Lycurgus had for himself with the goals of humanity, hearty disapproval replaces the amazement that had been one’s first impression of [Lycurgus’s accomplishment]. Everything may be sacrificed for the good of the nation, except for those things for which the State itself serves as a means. The State itself is never an end in itself, it is merely important as a condition under by which humanity’s goals may be realized. And humanity’s goals are never anything other than development of all of mankind’s powers, or progress. If the constitution of a nation denies development of all the powers of which mankind is capable; if it prevents the progress of the spirit, then it is reprehensible and injurious, no matter how well-thought-out and complete it may be in its own way. Its very permanence then becomes reproach instead of glory. It is nothing more than a prolonged evil. The longer it exists, the more injurious it becomes.
“…Political profits are then achieved at the expense of all moral emotions and all energies are dedicated to that end. In Sparta, there was no matrimonial love, no maternal love, no filial love, no friendship – there was nothing but citizens. There was no virtue but civic virtue.
“…Legislation turned inhumanity to slaves into a duty. These unfortunate victims of war were cursed and abused by mankind. The legal codes of Sparta preached the dangerous principle that men are to be seen as means and not as ends – and in so doing, the very fundament of natural law and morality was legally torn asunder.
“…In contrast, the rugged warrior Caius Marcius provides a far more pleasing spectacle in his encampment before Rome when he sacrificed vengeance and victory, because he could not bear to see the tears of a mother!
“…Lycurgus’s nation can endure under only one condition, namely that the spirit of the nation comes to a stand-still. In other words, he can only succeed when he misses the highest and only goal of national existence.”
From Goethe’s “The Awakening of Epimenides2,” second act, fourth scene: Spirits …..
That which has arisen bravely from the pit
Can conquer half the globe
With a pitiless destiny,
But return it must to the abyss.
Monstrous fears are threatening now,
In vain will he resist!
And all those who cling to him
Will follow him to ruin.
Now I meet my good men
Who have gathered in the night
To keep silence, not to sleep.
The lovely word of freedom
Is spoken lisping and stammering
Until in unaccustomed newness
We stand upon our temple steps
And cry anew enraptured:
(Loudly and with conviction)
(Echoing from every side and corner)
We ask that you copy this document, making as many carbon copies as possible, and pass it on!
1 Probably meant scourge. Word in original document is Geisel or hostage. But scourge is Geissel.
2 The original rhymes ABABCDCD.
Translation (c) 2002-2003, Ruth Hanna Sachs. Please contact us for permission to quote.