Schüler: Im Geiste der Gemordeten

Barbara Schüler. "Im Geiste der Gemordeten...": Die 'Weisse Rose' und ihre Wirkung in der Nachkriegszeit. Paderborn, Germany: Ferdinand Schoeningh, 2000.

    Schüler's book - long by German standards (548 pages) - has a decidedly schizophrenic feel to it. When she writes about the White Rose resistance movement, she is 'all Scholl all the time.' It may be sold as a history of the White Rose, but even the publisher is honest enough to admit on the dust cover that Schüler has written an 'intellectual biography of the Scholl siblings.' And the Scholl siblings are not the same as the White Rose by anyone's standards.
    Despite Schüler's unparalleled access to Inge Aicher-Scholl shortly before Mrs. Aicher-Scholl's death, Schüler contributes no new knowledge to White Rose scholarship. Unsurprising, since Inge was (intentionally) kept out of the loop by her revolutionary siblings and personally had nothing to add. Surprising, since Inge apparently did not grant even Schüler unfettered admittance to the very-closed Scholl archives.
    The most unforgivable flaw in the first 234 pages of Schüler's book - the part that allegedly deals with the White Rose resistance movement - is her characterization of the White Rose in general and Hans and Sophie Scholl in particular as a Roman Catholic organization. Schüler spends most of the second part of this section developing the thesis that Hans and Sophie were on the verge of conversion to Catholicism, including a section entitled They Died As Catholics.
    The overwhelming problem with Schüler's thesis lies in the fact that it is contradicted by all primary sources. Her sole witnesses to this? Inge Scholl (who did indeed convert to Catholicism), supposedly Otl Aicher (yet we know he waged many a fruitless battle trying to convince Sophie to convert - we know this from Otl's memoirs!, reviewed here), and the Catholic prison chaplain, who never met either of the Scholl siblings.
    Instead, primary sources reveal that although Hans and Sophie enjoyed tangling with the theology of their Bavarian, Catholic friends, they generally assumed the role of devil's advocate. People who were actually there said that during the discussions in the studio in January and February 1943, Hans especially argued the Lutheran point of view, often rather vehemently.
    More telling yet: When the Gestapo asked Wilhelm Geyer - who identified himself as a good but not fanatical Catholic - if either of the Scholl siblings had considered conversion to Catholicism, he said both were a very long way off from thinking about such things. However, he added (and Schüler ignores this), Inge Scholl was a likely candidate.
    Schüler's determination to transform the White Rose into a Catholic organization does a great injustice to the many rebels who were not Catholic, yet who were part of White Rose resistance. And her insistence on acting as Inge Scholl's mouthpiece through the first 234 pages does an additional injustice to Catholic (and other) mentors who were not named Carl Muth or Theodor Haecker, the only two mentors of her siblings that she knew personally... by virtue of her friendship with Otl Aicher, not through her siblings! Because Johannes Maassen and Pater Weiss, to name but two, should be included in the White Rose pantheon of mentors. Yet they do not appear on Inge Scholl's - or Barbara Schüler's - radar, except as footnotes, peripherally.
    Schüler's book takes an astonishing turn when she addresses Inge Scholl post-war. Every now and again, the rose-colored glasses slip away and she allows us to see the un-whitewashed Inge, the Inge who covered up her flagrantly Nazi past and held out her greedy little hands for American Marshall Fund/McCloy money.
    We 'meet' the journalist Marcia Kahn, and "Geschwister Scholl Hochschule" co-worker Max Bill, among many others who initially embraced Inge Scholl and Otl Aicher, and quickly became disillusioned as they understood the avarice that was evident wherever "Scholl" was invoked. Kahn best summarized what most former Scholl devotees eventually came to realize:
    "I cannot feel that I ever know the whole truth of what is going on," Kahn wrote Inge in 1951. "I cannot ever feel that I am working with you, instead of for you. I cannot feel that the original aims of the school are being carried through." (page 456)
    Schüler herself wrote a damning paragraph that she then tried to ameliorate, that she sought to explain away. But her words are like fingernails on a blackboard, at least if one values "ethics" in any form.
    To finally answer the question about "the spirit of those murdered": The Scholl name played a role in the Volkshochschule merely in the sense that it opened doors that would have otherwise been closed, and that at the first try. There was no talk of turning the murdered siblings into part of the curriculum; moreover, identity of thought and action consisted of common impressions.1
    Hans and Sophie Scholl were not expressly included in the college catalog of the Winter of 1945/46. They rarely appeared during the first two years the college existed. However, their presence was felt throughout. The same applied to 'Studio Null'. There were a few references to them in the texts and discussions, but nothing more.
    But that changed dramatically when those in Ulm [Inge Scholl and Otl Aicher] comprehended the vast public interest in the events in Munich of 1942 - 1943. Now the spirit of the Scholl siblings was discovered, along with the potential that accompanied the fact of becoming - as [Carl] Zuckmayer put it - 'trustee and characterized as the intellectual, political heiress' of the legacy.
    Or in the words of Otl Aicher: "It's been good for us and quite lucky that Hans and Sophie Scholl died."
 (page 427)
    Though Schüler said that many people told her about Otl Aicher's callous statement, she nevertheless excuses him and Inge of their transparent hypocrisy by claiming that after all, they did (in her opinion) act "im Geiste der Gemordeten" - in the spirit of those murdered.
    Her conclusion, indeed the book as a whole, is a bit hard to swallow. Especially when one considers Sophie Scholl's attitude that anyone who had been a member of the Nazi party - regardless of their actions - should at minimum be sentenced to hard labor for as many years as they had been a Party member. And Hans Scholl's belief that even the little enablers and collaborators should be severely punished.
    Those were sentiments not shared by Inge Scholl, who would have been affected by her siblings' harsh judgment. That Schüler ignores such a significant point? Says it all.
1The second part of this sentence does not make sense in the original German and was rendered as accurately as possible. The entire sentence read: "Die gemordeten Geschwister zum Programm zu machen, war kein Thema, zudem durch die gemeinsamen Praegungen eine Identitaet in Denken und Tun bestand." Zudem? Gemeinsame Praegungen?

(c) 2005 Ruth Hanna Sachs. All rights reserved. Please contact Exclamation! Publishers for permission to quote.