Germany’s Best

70 years ago today, three members of the White Rose resistance group were executed. From June 1942 until February 1943 they produced and distributed six flyers. Sophie and Hans Scholl were arrested, when they were caught in the act at the University of Munich. They were only 21 and 24 years old.

Today, most of us live in peace and enjoy freedom. Every Blogger, Tweeter and Facebook user has their own “printing press” and considers it normal to share their views. I thought it’s worthwhile to commemorating this anniversary. And if you are feeling very happy and want to be sad (for some reason), then watch The Final Days, which was nominated for an Oscar in 2005. The screenplay has used the transcripts from the interrogations, which became available after the GDR collapsed.

In 2003, the public television program “Unsere Besten” (Our Best) polled viewers to select the most important Germans of all time. The Scholl siblings finished fourth place.

Jud Newborn, co-author of “Sophie Scholl and the White Rose”, writes for JTA:

“In May 1942, they dubbed themselves the White Rose and joined with a handful of friends at the University of Munich to produce what became a staccato burst of six impassioned anti-Nazi leaflets. Reproducing thousands in their secret headquarters over a nine-month period — ages before the push-button efficiency of the Internet — they made dangerous train trips to distribute the leaflets throughout Germany. They mailed them to 16 cities — Stuttgart, Vienna, Frankfurt, Berlin and Hamburg among them — in a bid to mislead the Gestapo into thinking theirs was a broad-based movement and not just a handful of students. (…)

“Since the beginning of the war,” they declared in their second leaflet in June 1942, “300,000 Jews have been murdered in the most bestial manner. This is a crime unparalleled in human history — a crime against the dignity of Man. But why do we tell you these things when you already know them? Everyone wants to be exonerated, but you cannot be, because everyone is guilty, guilty, guilty.”

Translation of the first leaflet produced in June 1942.

Nothing is so unworthy of a civilised nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. It is certain that today every honest German is ashamed of his government.

Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes – crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure – reach the light of day? If the German people are already so corrupted and spiritually crushed that they do not raise a hand, frivolously trusting in a questionable faith in lawful order of history; if they surrender man’s highest principle, that which raises him above all other God’s creatures, his free will; if they abandon the will to take decisive action and turn the wheel of history and thus subject it to their own rational decision; if they are so devoid of all individuality, have already gone so far along the road toward turning into a spiritless and cowardly mass – then, yes, they deserve their downfall. Goethe speaks of the Germans as a tragic people, like the Jews and the Greeks, but today it would appear rather that they are a spineless, will-less herd of hangers-on, who now – the marrow sucked out of their bones, robbed of their centre of stability – are waiting to be hounded to their destruction. So it seems – but it is not so. Rather, by means of gradual, treacherous, systematic abuse, the system has put every man into a spiritual prison. Only now, finding himself lying in fetters, has he become aware of his fate. Only a few recognised the threat of ruin, and the reward for their heroic warning was death.

Continue reading at Libcom or read the German original at the Federal Agency for Civic Education.

Jörg Wolf is editor-in-chief of the open think tank atlantic-community.org.  This post is crossposted from his blog Atlantic Review. Follow Joerg on Twitter

Author: JOERG WOLF

Joerg Wolf is founder and editor-in-chief of the Atlantic Review (http://atlanticreview.org), a blog on transatlantic relations sponsored by the German Fulbright Alumni Association. He currently works as editor-in-chief of the Open Think Tank atlantic-community.org in Berlin. Joerg studied political science at the Free University of Berlin and worked as a research associate for the International Risk Policy project at the Free University's Center for Transatlantic Foreign and Security Policy. He has been a Fulbright scholar at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Washington DC and has worked for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Cairo and in Berlin.