on March 11, 2006
This is a very moving and detailed account of the White Rose resistance movement of 1940s Germany. It is an amazing story, and really renews your faith in humanity. These students, with everything to live for, risked it all to warn their fellow countrymen about the persecution of the Jews, and to try to encourage them to rise up against Hitler and his oppressive regime.
I have also read Inge Scholl's slim book on the same subject, which is good, but this is by far the better read, and a much more substantial account. It includes over 20 photographs as well as new and more readable translations of all 7 of the leaflets that the White Rose sent all over Germany to try to rouse the German people to sabotage the war effort and fight for freedom. The last leaflet was never published, but the text turned up in the Gestapo archives in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and this is the only book to include it so far, I think.
I recommend it to all students and people interested in the triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity. A very good read.
on March 10, 2006
I missed the German film on Sophie Scholl that was nominated for an Oscar last week, but came across this book and decided to read it instead. It covers the whole story from the beginnings of the White Rose resistance movement that began at Munich University in 1942, and takes you right up to their capture by the Gestapo, interrogation, trial and execution, which are covered in the film
The film focuses on the last few days, so if you've seen the film, read this for all the background on the different members, who they were, why they came together to take on the Nazi regime, and how they went about trying to stir up the German people to oppose Hitler. At the time they were accused of being traitors, but with the benefit of hindsight they were clearly high principled and commmitted human beings who put the greater good above personal safety and their own lives.
This book is a very good read, combining the historical detail to help you understand the situation the students found themselves in with a fast-paced story that sweeps you along. You definitely feel for the characters as they plan and carry out their activities, and stand up to very tough interrogation. I partiuclarly liked reading the actual leaflets they wrote and tried to circulate round Germany and Austria.
A very moving and inspiring story, and one that renews your faith in humanity.
on March 25, 2006
SOPHIE SCHOLL & THE WHITE ROSE is, essentially, about the finest aspects of human nature. The White Rose members' integrity and their compassion for their fellow Germans and, more surprisingly, for the Jewish population who had endured years of prejudice and oppression followed by vicious persecution is very impressive.
To mount a secret campaign against the Third Reich, a totalitarian regime of insidious oppression and unbelievable brutality against both the German people and its conquered populations, takes amazing courage.
But to face up to that regime on an intensely personal level, without hesitation or - apparently - regret, fully aware of the consequences, is simply awesome. And it awes me that most of the White Rose members were students like myself! This is a very memorable book with a powerful message.
on July 2, 2006
It is quite impossible to do an adequate job of reviewing this book.
Knowing that these young German students really lived, daring to risk their young lives and, indeed, losing them, for their distribution of their printed words challenging German people to act against Hitler, is unbelievably humbling and cause for great hope for mankind. Passive resistence worked. Life triumphed over death. Good was stronger than evil.
The authors, Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn, became accomplished talents with the publication of this book alone.
Their ability to combine the biographies of Sophie, her brother and their compatriots in the making and distrubtion of the White Rose and the requisite history and analysis of the political climate in Germany during The Holcaust is masterful.
The book reads like a suspense thriller one could read in a few hours. However, their thoughtful, detailed insights into the minds and hearts of the protagonists, compel the reader to read and then reread many passages before being emotionally able to read on. This is a must read for young and old students of the human condition, a truly unforgettable book.
on January 18, 2012
The book ought to be labeled "Hans Scholl" and The White Rose". The author makes it abundantly clear that it was Hans, not Sophie, who was the driving force behind the activities of The White Rose.In reading this book one will get the sense that it was Hans, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst, and Alexander Schmorell who did the heavy lifting. Sophie is a peripheral character in the telling of the story of this remarkable group of young Germans.
A second flaw is the poor editing of the book itself. The very first sentence of the book misspells "setting" as "seting". They cannot spell "Dostoevsky" correctly either, giving us "Dostoevski". It even is spelled thusly in the index! They also mislabel Sophie's birthday in the photographic section, giving her the same birthday as Hans. She was in fact, three years his junior. People may chalk these up as quibbling concerns, but one wonders how such a short book(238 pages) can suffer from such glaring editorial errors. It makes one wonder what else is wrong with the book.
The writing is clear and concise. The authors do not burden the reader with the use of academic vernacular. It is a book that can easily be assigned for high school students and expect to be understood.
I hesitated to give this book such a middling rating because it is an important story that needs to be told. But the incongruency between the title and what is actually written in the book and the numerous editorial gaffes hindered my enjoyment of this book. It is not a bad book, but it also is not a great one either.
on October 27, 2009
I have read a number of books on the White Rose. So far, this is the second best one I've come across.* This book is *far* more detailed than the classic "The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943" written by Inge Scholl (surviving sister of Hans and Sophie). The Inge Scholl book was mostly written for a younger crowd, and it does not have an in-depth review other personal, social, and historical factors that were taking place during the time period. Inge has also had a very protectionist role of the public image that has been portrayed of Hans and Sophie. Upon reading her own work one would think that members of the White Rose virtual angels; they were not. Inge never mentions Hans' drug use, his struggles with his sexual orientation, or other personal demons that members of the Rose wrestled with. Likewise, Sophie Scholl & The White Rose also furthers the "myth" that the Rose members where angelic. However, Sophie Scholl does explore a bit more of the complex lives these people lived. However, it also a shame that the "angelic myth" continues. Seeing the Rose members as real people, with real issues, makes them all the more impressive, and the all the more human. It shows that real people, with real problems (just like you and I) are still able to rise above both their own issues, and the fear of certain death, to do something unfathomable to most people.
While the title of "Sophie Scholl & the White Rose" makes one think the book would mostly be about Sophie, it is not. This a good thing. Another "myth" of the White Rose is that it was a "Scholl" organization. "Sophie Scholl & the White Rose" does a good deal to show that many, many other people were involved with the movement. However, it still, in my opinion, places too much focus on Hans and Sophie. For the real, nitty gritty detail of the true White Rose story, there is only one source, which is *the* best work on the White Rose I have come across. That work is The White Rose History (Vol. I, II, III) by Ruth Sachs. Volume I alone is over 600 pages.
All this said, I am by no means trying to diminish what Hans, Sophie, Christoph, Willi, Alex, and all the others did by saying they were not angelic. If anything, I am trying to elevate them further by pointing out they were real people, and their real stories should told with historical accuracy. To date, most books on the White Rose have failed do that. Sophie Scholl & the White Rose also fails on that account, but it is still a great read. I read it cover to cover in under 24 hours. It reads like a suspense novel, and is very, very hard to put down. Even being long familiar with the Rose movement, this book still brought me to edge of tears. What these people did was truly amazing, and I hope everyone would take upon themselves to know their story. Sophie Scholl & the White Rose is great place to start.
*Note, I have not yet read "Sophie Scholl: The Real Story Behind German's Resistance Heroine" by Frank McDonough (2009). From what I know of Mr. McDonough research, I assume his book will be a bit quite good. Mr. McDonough was the one who unearthed nazi records of Hans Scholl's arrest and interrogation for transgression of Paragraph 175 (the nazi era law against homosexual conduct).
[I am not affiliated with any of the other authors/publishers mentioned in this review. I am just a White Rose history buff trying to help others who may be interested in the topic]
on April 23, 2011
I teach German and I incorporate the story of the White Rose into my curriculum. I have read Inge Scholl's book, the McDonough book, and seen both films (The White Rose, 1982) and Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. This is, in my opinion, the best of the books and complements the films by adding a lot of new information that I didn't know before. I especially liked the attention paid to the other members of the group after Hans and Sophie were caught. Everything I have read and seen puts all the emphasis on Hans and Sophie, with Sophie receiving the most attention due to the fact that she was the youngest member and the only woman. The other's contributions and fates tend to be more glossed over. This book is the only source I have found that goes into detail about the others, which I enjoyed and found very helpful and which, quite frankly is owed to them. I highly recommend this book.
on April 7, 2010
On a warm Munich evening in May of 1942, four young army medics and a university coed gathered in a small apartment to celebrate the arrival of Sophie Scholl as a new student at the University of Munich. The picture was a convivial one - Sophie, her brother Hans, Hans' girlfriend Traute Lafrenz, and Hans' friends Christoph Probst, Alex Schorell, and casual acquaintance, Willi Graf drank wine, at cake, read poetry aloud and quietly made sarcastic remarks about the Nazi regime. To the naked eye, one might eye the scene as nothing more than an innocent gathering of good friends. However, later that evening, the conversation would take on a far more serious tone. And when the party ended, these were no longer jovial, naïve bystanders to the Nazi terror. Rather, they had become the White Rose, who, along with the assistance of a middle-aged professor, would attempt one of the few non-violent uprisings against the Third Reich. And yet, little more than a year later, five of the six partygoers would have their lives ended by the unrelenting blade of the guillotine. However, as is revealed in Anne Dumach and Jud Newborn's Sophie Scholl and The White Rose, these young people did not die in vain.
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose does not merely provide a narrative of a few young adults' struggle with totalitarianism. Rather, the authors delve into the gestalt of the passive resistance movement. Specifically, the Catholic Church's efforts to counter Nazi beliefs are sighted as an influence on the White Rose. In chapter eight, the authors write, "Hitler signed a concordat with the Vatican on July 20, 1933, about half a year after taking power...The agreement, a marriage of
convenience on both sides...forbade any activities that intruded on the functioning of the state." (p.62) In essence, this meant that the Catholic Church ceased to exist as a benign opponent of political extremism. After the initially successful assault on Eastern Europe, the Nazis betrayed the Church by abandoning the terms of the concordat, which led to the arrest and, in some cases, deportation to concentration camps of outspoken priests. The authors explain that the church reacted with the creation in 1935 of the Bekennende Kirch, which translates into English as the "Professing church". However, even this effort was stifled by the Nazis. The Bishop of Münster, Clemens August Galen, reacted by preaching that the real enemy was the one at home (the Gestapo). However, in his sermons, many of which were printed and distributed throughout Germany, he stated that violent action was not an option in dealing with this enemy. One of the recipients of the written sermons was none other than one of the tow de facto leaders of the White Rose, Hans Scholl. Hans reacted by reading the sermon repeatedly and by stating to his family "Finally someone has the courage to speak, and all you need is a duplicating machine." (p.68)
The book also contends with the White Rose's passive resistance. In June of 1942, the first four of six separate publications were distributed via letter (with no return address, of course) to several thousand recipients throughout the Munich area. Leaflet one states bluntly that "every people gets the government it deserves!"(p. 187) This apparently was meant to get the German public to rise up from their apathy, but to do so passively - "Adopt passive resistance - resistance - wherever you are...block this war machine before it is too late..." (Ibid)
In leaflet three, the group quantifies the ways their fellow citizens can spread passive resistance. "And now every resolute opponent of National Socialism must ask himself ...how he can inflict the most damaging blows. Through passive resistance, without a doubt." (p.194) Yet the groups plans were not inert passivism, rather, they encouraged the public to sabotage armament industries, assemblies, rallies. They also promoted the non-violent undoing of cultural institutions, pro-Nazi publications, and public fund-raising drives and any institution related to the scientific and intellectual teachings of war.
However, not all the White Rose felt passive resistance might prevail of the Nazi war machine. This was the seventh, "honorary" member of the group, Philosophy Professor Kurt Huber. According to the authors, Huber possessed a dry wit, and during a lecture on Spinoza uttered, "Careful, he's a Jew! Don't let yourselves be contaminated." (pgs. 86-87) Huber's home became a refuge for the White Rose. However, his inability to denounce his militant Prussian upbringing and his belief in the necessity for a Wehrmacht after the overthrow of the Nazis made him an outsider to the group, albeit one they could trust. Regardless of his political philosophy, Huber too would be executed for what the discursive hanging judge Roland Freisler described as "high treason".
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose approaches the topic of resistance from several different angles. It should not be read as a chronological narrative. Although the story progresses sequentially, the authors frequently use the flashback technique to tell their story. In addition, what begins as a simple point about a character digresses into a larger theme. While this makes the book a bit difficult to follow at times, overall the non-linear approach provides a fresh approach and brightens the descriptions of both time and place for the reader.
Much has been written about the terrors of the Third Reich. Students of history have often asked: "Why didn't the Germans rise up and defeat Nazism?" Through the authors' broad-minded approach, the reader obtains a rare glimpse as to how a few brave men and women actually attempted to answer the question through passive resistance.
on April 8, 2007
If you have a restless conscience then you will better understand the members of the White Rose. Like most kids in Germany in the 30's Hans and Sophie Scholl joined the Nazi youth movement and bought into National Socialism. However through their father who opposed National Socialism and a God instilled restless conscience they soon saw National Socialism for the evil it was and is. The author does a good job of making you feel the tension and stress as the story unfolds. Their dileama was how do you mount a meaningful opposition to a totalitarian state from within. Who can you trust? Gestapo everywhere and all opposition to the State outlawed.By 1940 most of the 500 or so pastors who would not bow down to Hitler were in jail or executed. By the time the White Rose decided to take action in 1942 most Germans were scarred to death of the police state they had allowed to enslave them. But there was sporadic uprising against Hitler. One interesting story in the book was when the gov't banned all the crucifixes from the public schools in Bavaria in 1941. The parents signed protest letters and petitions and even threw the mandatory picture of Hitler out of classroom windows. The protest was so strong that Hitler backed down. Its scary to think that our gov't has taken Christianity out of the classroom but Hitler couldn't. As you read the book you feel that they felt they were going to get caught but their restless conscience would not let them turn from the course of action that would lead to their deaths. As we see our own freedoms of privacy (Patriot Act), speech (Hate Crime Bills) and other constitutional rights being taken from us by an ever growing central gov't we can learn a lot from this book. At her trial Sophie Scholl said "Somebody had to make a start". They certainly did and their pamphlets and death had a lasting effect on the German people. Hans Scholl's last words were "Long live Freedom". The essence of freedom is the limitation of gov't and requires eternal vigilance. The German people allowed Hitler to much power and he enslaved them. We still have the time and ability to limit the power of our gov't but it will take a lot of work and most importantly a restless conscience. 5 stars for this book.
on May 26, 2014
"Brave and G-d fearing Resisted evil", aren't those words you would want spoken of you when you pass on from this life to eternity? I found them in a Youtube video I love by Moshe G. That in sum tells what this clandestine German youth group did; their actions set the nazi leadership on edge, hallelujah.
So prophetic these words of Sophie Scholl's older brother spoken on the day of his trial February 22, 1943 which would be realized at Nuremberg a few years later. The honorable President of the Nazi court could not help but squeal and shriek and scream at such testimony coming from the mouths of Hans and his friends of the White Rose group who managed to get 6 of 7 tracts printed and distributed among the population. These tracts' effects were hard to measure but those few Germans who received them recalled how like a lightning bolt's strike, their hands trembled with shock and relief that someone was doing something and were able to speak their minds.
Hans and Alex Schmorell whose Russian mother died in his infancy and the other members of the White Rose Group were sent to the Russian front and served as medics behind the lines. Oh my goodness I thought, the worst place in the world to be. Alex being fluent in Russian befriended the peasantry and the white rose group spent their days singing and dancing in peasant huts before the fighting subsided and their medical ministrations began. So they made the most of a terribly bad situation. Alex witnessed at trial that, "I could not shoot a Russian, having romanticized about his Russian mother and told Russian folk tales by his Russian nannies, this particular testimony enraged the President of the Court. Alex like Dietrich Bonhoeffer had an opportunity to escape and almost made it without detection to Switzerland but returned to Munich when he learned of Hans and Sophie's arrest. He was an integral member of the group.
Hans and Sophie Scholl somehow managed to organize and evade detection by the nazis for many years. Their group of people was composed of students and one professor of the University of Munich; they were students of medicine and philosophy all in their early twenties when they were executed, except for Professor Huber. They used their pooled allowances from family members to purchase a rudimentary printing press which they hid and once their tracts were printed each member of the group would take a suitcase full of letters and take the train to various locations within Germany and so went the circulation. They all vowed to each other, if one was caught that they would not let go the names of the other members of the group.
It was Professor Huber and Willi Graf's 6th and last distributed letter which was released from the cargo holds of the British RAF by the thousands flying over war torn Germany in the last years of the war. "Our people are deeply shaken by the fall of our men at Stalingrad. Three hundred and thirty thousand German men were senselessly and irresponsibly driven to their deaths by the brilliant strategy of our World War I Corporal. Fuhrer, we thank you!" The German commander Von Paulus surrendered to Stalin and left a quarter of a million Germans, the population of an entire small American city today, stranded at Stalingrad in the winter of 1943 left to be imprisoned and executed in a fiercely cold Russian winter. Many Germans were upset with their leadership following this debacle, even as early as 1943, but few were able to speak out so effectively and it became even more difficult as time went on. "There is only one slogan for us: fight against the Party! Get out of all Party organizations, which are used to keep our mouths shut and hold us in political bondage! Get out of the lecture halls run by SS corporals and Party sychophants!...Freedom and honor! For ten long years Hitler and his comrades have squeezed, debased and twisted those beautiful German words...casting the highest values of a nation before swine." It was this letter, strewn from the balconies of the University of Munich by Hans and Sophie Scholl that got them arrested in February 1943.
Before the war began, The Scholl's own father had been briefly imprisoned and released for speaking out against the nazis but managed to secretly have radio broadcasts of the BBC played in their house, Like so many other German youth, Hans initially joined the Hitler Youth group long before the war and enjoyed the cameraderie, singing and hiking in the German woodlands, but later became disenchanted and silently, carefully teased himself out of the network. Their father was a local dignitary of some sort and so had some connections.
This story is important in many respects in that it chronicles the difficulties ordinary Germans had to face in a true police state. It became dangerous to noise one's views in public and even in private, semi-closed circles; everyone was being monitored under nazi rule. As time went on, and nothing was done to thwart nazi injustice, it became even harder and harder for resistance groups to thrive and exist. These individuals, like the Bonhoeffers and Scholls were quickly silenced by being imprisoned, subjected to sham trials and executed.
I have purchased another book by the Scholl's older sister Inge and will read it, but was put off by the introduction which slammed President Reagan's policies toward Russia in the 80's. I see everything right with a peace through strength policy and so set that one aside, bad tasted in my mouth and read this one first. This book contains all seven published tracts and notes of their trials and a radio broadcast transcript in the appendices.
I close with the opening statement of Thomas Mann's radio broadcast of June 27, 1943 with which I opened this review:
"The idea that it is impossible to distinguish between the German Volk and Nazism-that to be German and National Socialist are one and the same thing-is heard at times in the Allied countries, and put forward with some passion. But this idea is untenable...too many facts testify to the contrary...Good, splendid young people! You shall not have died in vain; you shall not be forgotten."
"Despite everything, your spirit lives on!"-Hans Liepelt, chemistry student and distributor of the White Rose leaflets who, also was executed.