Lill: Hochverrat? Die “Weiβe Rose” und ihr Umfeld

Rudolf Lill (Ed.). Hochverrat? Die “Weiβe Rose” und ihr Umfeld. Konstanz: Universitätsverlag Konstanz, 1993.

Rudolf Lill. “Zur Einführung,” pp. 7-12. While this is merely an introductory essay, and as such does not cover much new ground, Lill politely suggested that perhaps it would be a good thing to start looking at others besides Scholl in the White Rose. Before I read the first essay, I was sold. For 1993, this was an unusual position to take.

Dr. Lill was better known as a thorough and conscientious church historian. He worked in Rome from around 1961 through 1974. While there, he joined in a protest of the publication of a review written by Hellmuth Rössler, who had been a Nazi. Lill also was not afraid to take on the occasional Pope if he thought it necessary. The university in Karlsruhe posted a short obituary about Lill upon his death in July 2020. I wish I had known this scholar.

Wolfgang Altgeld. “Über Hans und Sophie Scholl,” pp. 13-41. Like Lill, Altgeld showed no fear of sacred cows. My initial reading of Altgeld's essay was, "Oh no, another mythological rendering of the White Rose story." I was pleasantly surprised and glad to be wrong.

Lill's student in Passau, Altgeld hinted that there was more to White Rose resistance than Inge Scholl's version of events. While he still hewed closely to the Scholl narration (1993 is early in this historiography), Altgeld compared the value of legend to the need for truth.

There is no doubt whatever where he stands in the debate. Altgeld stated unequivocally that the White Rose story has been subjected to the struggle between legend and truth. Brave for 1993!

Anneliese Knoop-Graf. “Hochverräter? Willi Graf und die Ausweitung des Widerstands,” pp. 43-88. The sister of Willi Graf continued her intellectual generosity with this essay. Especially since the book was published in 1993, fifty years after her brother's execution, she could have made her contribution all about him.

She chose not to do so. Instead, Willi Graf's friends in Saarbrücken and Freiburg stand shoulder to shoulder with him. We would not know as much about their work, their lives, their humanity as we do, were it not for her essay.

And not once does she imply that she participated in any way. She tells their story, what she saw and knew of their actions, what she learned after the war. It's personal, but it's not about her.

Hans Hirzel. “Flugblätter der Weiβen Rose in Ulm und Stuttgart,” pp. 89-119. I wish I had thought to contact Dr. Lill in 1995 or 1996 and ask about the cryptic comments accompanying this essay. There is an "editor's note" at the beginning of the article, noting that it took some persuasion for Hirzel to finally allow them to publish this piece. Hirzel claimed to have been concerned about "historical context."

It is a decent article, although again, typical Hirzel. (Too long for the subject matter.) He is not interested in recounting anything pertaining to the work in Munich, Freiburg, Bonn, Vienna, or Saarbrücken. Hirzel's focus is solely the work he and his sister did in Ulm and Stuttgart.

Although it's a well-written article, I strongly recommend using only the Gestapo interrogation transcripts plus trial and verdict, in other words, primary source materials. The words of Susanne Hirzel, Hans Hirzel, Heinz Brenner, and Franz Josef Müller make more sense without the distance of time.

As far as I know, this was Hans Hirzel's last public, pro-White Rose, anti-Nazi publication before running for president of Germany on the far-far-right Republikaner platform in 1994.

Michael Kissener. “Geld aus Stuttgart: Eugen Grimminger und die Weiβe Rose,” pp. 121-134. This essay was a good read. But it has been superseded by Dr. Armin Ziegler's more thorough biography of the White Rose financier, published in 2000.

Even if you are familiar with Ziegler's Grimminger biography, Kissener's is worth reading, especially if you're using this anthology as a pedagogical tool. Dr. Kissener's work would be better-suited for undergraduates or high school students.

On a personal note: Ziegler was a pingelig writer, that is, very detail-oriented. He would sometimes cite Kissener's work, even if he had found the same material elsewhere. In this age where plagiarism is rampant and destructive, I appreciated Ziegler's honest approach.

In our White Rose histories, if I was going to quote Ziegler, but his footnote showed the original source was Kissener, I came back to this essay and cited it directly. That is how scholarship is supposed to work. Sadly, the ethics of scholarship seem to be neglected these days.

End rant.

Gerda Freise. “Der Nobelpreisträger Professor Dr. Heinrich Wieland: Zivilcourage in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus,” pp. 135-157. Sometimes when it's been a while since a book has been taken up for study, one of those little flashes hits. I remembered that I was glad someone had written about Prof. Dr. Heinrich Wieland, that courageous chemistry professor at the university in Munich who exploited a loophole that allowed so-called "half-Jewish" students to study with him.

I had totally forgotten that Prof. Dr. Freise was the same generation as the White Rose friends (she was born in 1919, a year younger than Hans Scholl and Willi Graf). And she studied in Munich, in Wieland's chemistry department. For her, this man was no abstraction. She witnessed the shenanigans he had to pull to illegally keep those "half-Jewish" students of his enrolled.

Hans Leipelt and Valentin Freise were two of those "half-Jewish" students. Both were arrested in 1943 for continuing to duplicate and distribute the White Rose leaflets. Gerda testified at the trial in 1944 on behalf of Leipelt, to no avail. He would be executed in January 1945, while his friend Valentin - Gerda's future husband - survived.

If you intend to research and write about Wieland or Leipelt, this essay is a good starting point. If you're simply interested in the students who continued the White Rose work despite the public trials and executions, her story will move you.

More like this.

Michael Kissener. “Literatur zur Weiβen Rose”1971-1992," pp. 159-179. Kissener's second article in Lill's anthology is essentially a White Rose historiography as of 1992. I agreed with almost all of his short reviews and comments on extant literature.

My primary gripe - especially since it goes against the tenor of the book: Kissener completely ignored the standoff between Scholls and the rest of the White Rose "world." That would have been a useful addition.

As it was, I was happy to have this article. It gave me a checklist of books and publications that had to be part of White Rose History Volumes 1, 2, and 3.

© 2023 Denise Heap. Please contact Exclamation! Publishers for permission to quote.