The White Rose

As my students and I have talked about the Holocaust during our month here in Germany, we've spent a lot of time talking about resistance.

Beyond Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it's been a thrill getting to introduce my students to the White Rose.

The White Rose are featured predominately in my book Reviving Old Scratch, leading off "Satan Interrupted," my chapter about resistance.

The White Rose were a WW2 resistance group. The core of the White Rose were Munich college students, most of them devout Christians. Noteworthy among them were a brother and sister, Hans and Sophie Scholl.

From the Wikipedia introduction of the White Rose:
The White Rose was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany, consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor. The group became known for an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign, lasting from June 1942 until February 1943, that called for active opposition to dictator Adolf Hitler's regime.

The six most recognized members of the German resistance group were arrested by the Gestapo, tried for treason and beheaded in 1943. The text of their sixth leaflet was smuggled by Helmuth James Graf von Moltke out of Germany through Scandinavia to the United Kingdom, and in July, 1943, copies of it were dropped over Germany by Allied planes, retitled "The Manifesto of the Students of Munich."

Another member, Hans Conrad Leipelt, who helped distribute Leaflet 6 in Hamburg, was executed on January 29, 1945, for his participation.

Today, the members of the White Rose are honoured in Germany amongst its greatest heroes, since they opposed the Third Reich in the face of almost certain death.
My first chance to talk about the White Rose with my students was in Berlin at the Topography of Terror, where a special exhibit featured the White Rose.

I took the students off to a shady spot, told them about the White Rose and then read to them from their famous Leaflet No. 4:
Every word that proceeds from Hitler’s mouth is a lie. When he says peace, he means war. And when he names the name of the Almighty in a most blasphemous manner, he means the almighty evil one, that fallen angel, Satan. His mouth is the stinking maw of hell and his might is fundamentally reprobate. To be sure, one must wage the battle against National Socialism using rational means. But whoever still does not believe in the actual existence of demonic powers has not comprehended by far the metaphysical background of this war. Behind the tangible, behind that which can be perceived by the senses, behind all factual, logical considerations stands The Irrational, that is the battle against the demon, against the messengers of the Anti-Christ. Everywhere and at all times, the demons have waited in darkness for the hour in which mankind is weak; in which he voluntarily abandons the position in the world order that is based on freedom and comes from God; in which he yields to the force of the Evil One, disengaging himself from the powers of a higher order. Once he has taken the first step of his own free will, he is driven to take the second and then the third and even more with furiously increasing speed. Everywhere and at every time of greatest danger, people have risen up – prophets, saints – who are aware of their freedom, who have pointed to the One God and with His aid have exhorted the people to turn in repentance. Mankind is surely free, but he is defenseless against the Evil One without the true God. He is a like rudderless ship, at the mercy of the storm, an infant without his mother, a cloud dissolving into thin air.

I ask you, you as a Christian wrestling for the preservation of your greatest treasure, whether you hesitate, whether you incline toward intrigue, calculation, or procrastination in the hope that someone else will raise his arm in your defense? Has God not given you the strength, the will to fight? We must attack evil where it is strongest, and it is strongest in the power of Hitler...

We will not keep silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!
On February 8, 1943, Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans were spotted by a janitor distributing Leaflet No. 6 on the University of Munich campus. Brother and sister, along with their friend and fellow White Rose member Christoph Probst, were arrested. Within a day the three were tried and sentenced to death by beheading.

Standing before the Nazi court, Sophie Scholl said, "Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare express themselves as we did."

In her cell, a few hours before her beheading, on the back of her criminal indictment for distributing leaflets Sophie Scholl wrote the word "Freiheit."


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