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Tuesday, 31 August 2010
White Rose


We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!

~ the concluding words of the fourth pamplet of the White Rose, a non-violent 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 campaign, lasting from June 1942 until February 1943, that called for active opposition to the Nazi regime. The core members of the group were arrested by the Gestapo and were executed by the guilletine in 1943.  The group may have named themselves after a poem by José Martí:

I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his hand frankly.

And for the cruel person who tears out
the heart with which I live,
I cultivate neither nettles nor thorns:
I cultivate a white rose.

José Martí is said to have sent this poem to a friend who betrayed him to the police.  I remember seeing the film die Weiße Rose over 20 years ago and it having a profound effect on me. Apparently it also had an effect on Marc Rothemund, the director of the recent film Sophie Scholl - the last days. In an interview on Movienet he is quoted as saying:

When I was growing up in Munich, I remember seeing director Michael Verhoeven’s 1982 film The White Rose in school. The movie tells the story of the anti-Nazi group of the same name, and devotes only a few minutes at the end to the arrest, interrogation and execution of White Rose members Sophie and Hans Scholl.

This sparked my interest on the final days of Sophie Scholl and I found out much from researching and reading newspapers from the period. This 21-year-old woman spent four days in Gestapo headquarters and I learned that there were supposed to be actual transcripts—unpublished documents—of her time there.

Sophie Scholl spent three days in a room being interrogated by a tough 44-year-old Gestapo interrogation officer. Sophie and her brother were so mentally strong that after five hours of intensive interrogations they made the Nazis believe that they were innocent. Unfortunately, Hans Scholl forgot a handwritten note in his pocket that incriminated himself, Sophie and their friend Christoph Probst.

We were extremely gratified to find that not only was it still possible to shoot on original locations such as the University, the Palace of Justice and the Scholl’s original house, but we also found Sophie Scholl’s sister, who told us many intimate details of their family.

Even more amazing was that we found the son of the Gestapo interrogation officer. He was very generous in helping us to get at the character of his father. We also located the sister of executed White Rose member Willi Graf, who was interrogated by the same officer in the same room and on the same chair as Sophie Scholl. Many other White Rose members, all of them in their eighties, helped us tremendously.

Many aspects of Sophie’s story obsessed me. There was the psychological make-up of the Nazi who believed in Hitler but had not murdered anyone personally. There were the executioners—Sophie Scholl’s executioner was an eighth-generation German hangman. He killed 3,000 people, but was quoted as saying that he had never seen people going to their death as free and upright as Sophie Scholl and the other members of the White Rose had done. Then there was the life-affirming, positive-minded Sophie Scholl, an extremely courageous young woman who had to come to terms with her death in a very short time.

I took this photograph of the fountain at Geschwister Scholl Platz (The Scholl Sibling Square), a central plaza at the University of Munich, Germany, which has been named after Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans.

Further reading:

Posted by bigblue on 31/08/2010 at 08:00 AM
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