Newsletter: July 3, 2013
Old Hate Re-Packaged
It's the sort of thing that makes you physically ill. "Have you heard about the group in Germany that calls themselves Neue Weisse Rose [New White Rose]? They use White Rose as their banner for anti-Islam, anti-immigrant, far right-wing politics."
Claiming to be disciples of Susanne Hirzel, whom they identify as somehow central to White Rose efforts, they manipulate the words of those powerful leaflets into a polemic against "foreigners" living and working in Germany. Their words sound suspiciously familiar - the language of Nazis from the failed Third Reich, seeking to marginalize Jewish citizens and Roma, Sinti, Jehovah's Witness, homosexuals, and other so-called subhumans. And it's disguised as Zivilcourage, the courage of one's convictions.
This hate speech does not confine itself to their immediate cause. In fact, the subtext reveals more about their true intentions than the White Rose camouflage. They redefine the very nature of National Socialism and resistance to suit their agenda.
In the edited histories of the New White Rose, National Socialists were left-wing "communist" types who imposed liberal socialism on Germany. White Rose and other resistance movements were right-wing heroes who attempted to bring Germany back to its conservative roots. In this re-imagined parallel universe of the NWR, everything is turned on its head.
Besides the most obvious issues with this sort of revisionist history, the NWR demonstrates the peril that Micha Probst often highlighted whenever he spoke of his father's sacrifice. He disliked the politicization of White Rose by any group, even those whose politics reflected his own. Their political beliefs did not represent their common bond. If anything, when the friends known as the White Rose came together, their political (and religious) beliefs formed a basis for vehement debate.
First-hand accounts of the two "parties" in January 1943, the better-known Haecker reading on February 4, 1943, and the critical discussions between February 9 and 11 (where Professor Kurt Huber and Falk Harnack joined the circle) - these all describe friends whose primary common ground consisted not of shared political convictions, but of a deep moral outrage over crimes against humanity committed by their fellow citizens. Some felt strongly that a "socialization" of the political process would benefit postwar Germany. Others looked to monarchism, federalism, even democracy as best means for healing their broken homeland.
This lack of unity regarding how to attack National Socialism at once defined and weakened White Rose resistance. Defined, because the friends remained focused on the injustices perpetrated by their government and fellow citizens, calling on Germans in general and students in particular to rise up against the crimes they knew were being committed. From Alexander Schmorell's Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!; to Hans Scholl's call for freedom of speech, freedom of religion; to Kurt Huber's "Courage, my people!"; to Christoph Probst's "when you have decided, act!" - these thinking writers pointed family, friends, neighbors, countrymen to righting wrongs. They were not mouthpieces for the USA, or the USSR, or any other political entity. They made that fact as clear as possible in the fourth leaflet.
Among themselves, they did indeed talk about politics and religion. But those discussions sometimes ended badly, with little benefit for their work. Whether Harald Dohrn's theocratic notions, or Falk Harnack's embrace of radical left-wing Socialism, or Christoph Probst's monarchism mixed with a flourish of Eastern mysticism, or Eugen Grimminger's insistence on non-violence as preached by Buddhism, or Willi Graf's sense that Germany required an authoritarian hand that ruled compassionately, or Huber's extreme nationalism combined with admiration for Swiss federalism, their strongly-held convictions generally tore them apart.
Yet, their unwavering sense of right and wrong bound them closer than politics or religion ever could. No matter their other convictions, they knew beyond all doubt that it was wrong to slaughter Jewish Germans or Poles. They knew beyond all doubt that it was wrong to arrest and kill dissidents. They knew beyond all doubt that it was wrong to wage war under false pretexts. They knew beyond all doubt that it was wrong to replace a constitutional state with a dictator who blithely ignored the rule of law. They knew beyond all doubt that it was wrong to marginalize and murder "foreigners" living among them.
It is up to us, living and working in our 21st century, to ensure that this legacy lives on. It is not a legacy of democracy, parliamentarianism, socialism, or federalism, nor of any particular State. It is not a legacy of any church or religious creed. It is, however, a legacy that compels us to protect the defenseless, to ensure that our freedoms are enjoyed by all within our borders, whether those borders are German, European, Russian, American, or any other place we may call home.
The so-called New White Rose does not speak in the name of the courageous people who lived and died on behalf of those high ideals. The New White Rose has simply repackaged old Nazi hate, rebranding it with a popular logo, giving it the appearance of respectability and legitimacy. But underneath, the old Nazi hate rages on.
It is up to us, living and working in the 21st century, to ensure that the good and wholesome words of the White Rose leaflets remain weapons of justice, wielded on behalf of fellow travelers whose freedoms are infringed.
- Denise Heap
Update: In 2020, the White Rose name was again abused by "anti-vaxxers" who proclaimed that vaccination and mask mandates infringed on personal liberties. To begin with, we cannot even wrap our collective heads around misuse of the White Rose name and principles in a war against science. After all, the majority of the inner circle of White Rose students studied medicine!
To discuss this specific post on our blog, click here. To ask general questions or to post more global questions on the topic, please go to our comments page on this site. Thanks!
Conference is almost here!
We're coming into the home stretch! Domenic Saller has already arrived in Camarillo, bringing with him scans of treasures he unearthed while undertaking the otherwise-sorrowful project of cleaning out his grandmother's residence. Lilo (Lieselotte Fürst-Ramdohr) had corresponded with so many people; some letters are historical "finds". The letters grant us insight not only into what she did, but the thought processes and humanity of her friends.
Domenic notes that he has gained renewed respect for the central role that Alexander Schmorell filled in White Rose resistance. Alex seems to have been the "tentpole" of sorts from which all other contacts radiated. Through Lilo, he provided the link to the Harnack family. He was Traute Lafrenz's initial contact to the group of friends. His friendship with Christoph Probst was already solid before there ever was a White Rose.
This observation will undoubtedly be welcomed by Dr. Igor Khramov (who is arriving on Sunday!).
The Case of Johann and Anton Schmaus
The following is an excerpt of a longer article about the Köpenick Blood Week. To read the entire article on our blog, click here.
By June 21st, 1933, it is clear that the SA will be searching for Johann and Anton, because of their involvement in the labor union and their intense activity in the SPD. Neither father nor son is at home around 11 a.m., when the SA invades the Schmaus home looking for the two men and searching all of the family’s belongings. Before leaving, they confiscate all of Johann’s precious books, clearing the bookcase of Shakespeare and Marx, books about animals and world history, even stories by Jack London and detective novels. His wife calls him on the phone after the SA leaves, to tell Johann that they have taken all of his books. He stops back at the house to evaluate the situation.
When Anton is on his way back home from his night school classes that evening, he encounters two of his friends and neighbors at the train station. They warn him that the SA has been to his house around midday and has been searching for him and his father. Anton rejects their advice to flee with the comment: “I’m sick of the lack of rights. I don’t want to have to constantly hide.”
It appears that Anton has already firmly made up his mind to resist, but nobody believes him. For days, he had been telling fellow students at his night school, “If you ever read in the newspaper that there are dead SA men in Köpenick, then it was me.” He has even been known to try to provoke Nazis walking along the opposite side of the street, by giving the Hitler salute, then calling out, “This is how deep the snow in Italy is!”
That night after dinner, it is still hot and humid. As the youngest son in a family of five siblings, Anton has his bedroom in the attic, even though the two oldest girls and his only brother have already married and moved away. He opens the narrow attic window as wide as it will go, removes his white shirt and is wearing only a bathing suit as he sits at his desk trying to concentrate on his architectural drawings in spite of the heat, but to no avail. He constantly wonders if the SA could return that night. But after 11 p.m., he is fairly sure that he can finally relax. A few things are not quite clear from the historical record: Whether his father is still downstairs or whether he has gone to the home of another friend and whether Anton is still sitting at his desk or whether he has already gone to bed and begun to sleep.
All we know is that around 11:30 p.m., there is a loud pounding on the front door. Four armed men burst into the narrow hallway. They begin to search the entire first floor again, but Anton’s mother blocks their path. They push her back with a kick and knock her to the ground. Anton hears his mother’s cries for help and reaches for a pistol, which his older brother had given him for self-defense and which he had hidden in his room. Anton arrives at the top of the stairs just in time to see the SA men bounding up toward him on the second floor. He calls to them to leave the house, otherwise he will shoot.
When the men continue advancing, Anton begins to fire. The first two SA men are dead immediately. The third is mortally wounded, but doesn’t die until a few days later. However, the third man blocks the line of fire of the man behind him, giving Anton a chance to jump out of a window and escape. Wearing only his bathing suit, he heads for the woods, where he runs into a neighbor, who tells him that the woods are surrounded and that he can’t help him. But he advises him where to run. However, Anton does not expect to be able to get that far. He wants to turn himself in to the police, because he knows that in Köpenick, the police still have the reputation of standing for law and order.
When word spreads among the SA personnel about the killing of two of their members, treatment of those being interrogated at SA centers becomes increasingly brutal and bloody. Instead of the 100 named on the original list, the SA now drags over 500 opponents of fascism out of their apartments. Those arrested are tortured and drug off. The SA also uses pubs where its members often hang out and there is a steady and ample supply of alcohol, as interrogation centers, in addition to the chief location at the Puchanstraße Prison. So many people are being delivered to the SA, many with the help of the SS and Gestapo units, and they are arriving so rapidly, that there is not even time to take note of all of their identities. It is estimated that about 70 victims disappear altogether, without any proof that they have even been held by the SA.
Prisoners are subjected to a tremendous bloodbath, beaten with chairs, whips and sidearms. Their clothes are pulled off and the SA tramples them with their boots. Oxalic acid is poured into body cavities and tar is spread over the wounds of the prisoners. Blood and pieces of skin and muscle are swept together and carried out in buckets.
News of the atrocities spreads like wildfire. Courageous citizens of Köpenick try to intervene. So many are injured that doctors protest. Dr. Lehmann writes to the President of the Berlin Police Force, noting that the previous night he had treated eleven people, of whom nine had to be admitted to hospitals and one died in the hospital as a consequence of mistreatment. In his letter, he also writes, “the outrage about the actions of the SA is very great, even in ‘national’ (Nazi) circles.” Reverend Ratsch, pastor of the Reformed Church, and his wife, protest in person against the brutal actions of the SA to Karl Mathow, the Nazi mayor of Köpenick, even while they are hiding some of the persecuted opposition in the house of the church about four blocks from Köpenick City Hall.
In the night leading to June 22nd, Anton’s mother, Katharina, is brought to the prison of the district court. She is forced to clean up all traces of the torture from the chapel floor and the stairway. The filled buckets are emptied over her head. She is finally brought to the hospital as a police prisoner with hematomas over her entire musculature, and she stays there for two to three months, during which time no one is allowed to visit her. Even Grete, Anton’s thirteen-year-old sister, is picked up by the SA, but released later that night.
After the shootings, Anton’s father, Johann, is overpowered in the yard of his house, first locked in the cellar, then in the kitchen. They try to force him to curse his son. They put a hat on him, then beat him over the head until his eyes pop out. Later, his jacket is found left behind, covered with blood. The following day, he is discovered hanging in his shed. They claim he has committed suicide out of desperation. A sympathetic police officer, however, tells the family at his funeral, “A dead man cannot hang himself.”
Meanwhile, confident that his will be considered a case of self-defense, Anton makes his way from the woods to a train station, then on to the Köpenick police station, where he gives himself up. SA members turn up at the local police station, demanding that they take Anton into custody immediately. To prevent that, the police send Anton to the police headquarters at Alexanderplatz during the night, accompanied by two police guards. On the way, a mob of, according to some reports, 40, but according to other reports, 80, SA men try to stop his transport vehicle and to wrest Anton from police control, but they are unsuccessful.
At police headquarters, Köpenick Sturmbannführer (SA leader) Herbert Gehrke leads a troop of SA members throughout the building, until they track Anton down. Although Anton is still accompanied by two police guards, Gehrke fires a shot at Anton’s back, smashing his spinal column and damaging his liver.
Paralyzed from the waist down, Anton is brought to the state-run hospital in the Berlin borough of Mitte. His brother, Hans, can be warned in time; he is able to flee to Prague. Anton’s other relatives, his older sisters and their husbands, also have to flee to keep from being captured by the SA.
Each week, Anton is allowed to receive one visitor. He has a girlfriend named Gertrud, to whom he is evidently engaged. When Anton’s mother finally gets out of the hospital, she and Gertrud take turns visiting Anton. They joke with him, “Soon you’ll be able to ice skate again.” But his little sister, Grete, flees to Prague with her sister and brother-in-law and never sees Anton again.
Although he remains paralyzed, Anton is on the road to recovery. The Gestapo is interested in the state of his health and requests the professional opinion of physicians about his life expectancy. In September 1933, they are told, “a few months”.
On January 14, 1934, the SA picks him up from the hospital. The following day, the police summon his relatives to the hospital. Anton cannot speak, he cannot move, he has a wound on his neck and dirt under his fingernails. He can barely whisper, “It doesn’t matter any more.” One day later, on January 16, 1934, Anton dies during the night. The autopsy report has never been located.
- Thomas Speelhoffer
Note: We hope too that this narrative helps you understand why we are moving into the next phase of our work, highlighting the efforts of resistance movements (and individuals) beyond the White Rose. Stories like those of the Schmaus family must not be forgotten.-Ed.
© 2013 Exclamation! Publishers and Center for White Rose Studies. All rights reserved. Please contact Exclamation! Publishers for permission to quote.