…More reflections on the White Rose exhibit at the Schurz Library
Hans and Sophie Scholl, students in Munich, led the White Rose group and were executed for their resistance against Nazi Germany
“Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized 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?” – 1st Leaflet.
Phrases such as “unworthy of a civilized nation” and “every honest German is ashamed of his government” are powerful statements that would count as treason if the authors were ever revealed. The White Rose members knew full well that death was a possible result of their actions. They do not try to excuse the brutal oppression under the Nazi regime and argue that when 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” Germans collectively will have to answer for the Nazi crimes. They are encouraging people to rise up and fight the oppression and brutality of the “irresponsible clique.” The White Rose members are not blaming the Germans specifically for the crimes, but argue that the German people as a whole are culpable for not resisting the Nazis when presented with tyranny. Today we should do the same and stand up against all forms of tyranny when it is brought to the “light of day.”
“At its very inception this movement depended on the deception and betrayal of one’s fellow man; even at that time it was inwardly corrupt and could support itself only by constant lies. After all, Hitler states in an early edition of “his” book…’It is unbelievable, to what extent one must betray a people in order to rule it’…As it grew larger, however, and finally in an ultimate spurt of growth attained ruling power, the tumor broke open, as it were, and infected the whole body. The greater part of its former opponents went into hiding. The German intellectuals fled to their cellars, there, like plants struggling in the dark, away from light and sun, gradually to choke to death.” – 2nd Leaflet.
The metaphors they utilize invokes strong feeling about intellectuals who continually hide from their obligations and eventually die: “fled to their cellars, there, like plants struggling in the dark, away from light and sun, gradually to choke to death.” The White Rose members also point out that the deception of the Nazis should have been known because Hitler said that he must betray the German people to rule over them. Hitler wrote this several years before the Nazis came to power, yet the people still voted for the Nazis and gave them more and more authority.
“Why do German people behave so apathetically in the face of all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race? … The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals… [The German] must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt….For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do…he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated…But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty! …now that we have recognized [the Nazis] for what they are, it must be the sole and first duty, the holiest duty of every German to destroy these beasts.” – 2nd Leaflet.
White Rose writers are essentially arguing that the German people should have known what the Nazis were going to do and that they should not have been surprised when the Nazis actually did betray the German people to make their vision for Germany a reality. The phrases “inwardly corrupt” and “support itself only by constant lies” leave little to the imagination. They are blaming Germana as a whole for not standing up against Hitler and the Nazis when they could have. Although they are not saying the Germans themselves are guilty of the crimes, they are responsible for allowing the Nazis to have power and allowing them to have their way with not only the German people, but the whole of Europe.
“We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience.
The White Rose will not leave you in peace!” – 4th Leaflet.