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Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Paperback – April 12, 2007
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"Superbly written... Essential for public and academic history collections" -- Library Journal (starred review)
"The animated narrative reads like a suspense novel.” -- The New York Times
“This is a story that commands our attention." -- Newsweek International
"Heart-wrenching and inspiring." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"Inspiring...and could not be more timely. This is a book worth reading anytime, anywhere." -- Studs Terkel (Pulitzer Prize Winner)
"Could change your life forever." -- Dayton Daily News
"Unusually powerful and compelling.... Among the indispensable literature of modern political culture.” -- Das Parlament (Official Publication, German Bundestag)
"The book, chapter by chapter, builds an incontestable argument for the power and possibilities of action over passive acceptance and apathy." -- UK Jewish Chronicle
From the Publisher
Full story of the Oscar nominated (2006) and award-winning German film Sophie Scholl: Die letzen Tage (2005) and the forthcoming major US motion picture, The White Rose (2006) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.