History & PoliticsBetween June 27 and July 12, 1942, four pamphlets were distributed by post under several hundred “carefully chosen” people in Germany. The anonymous pamphlets, in rather high-spirited and highly intellectual prose full of quotes from well-known German poets, called for passive opposition to Adolf Hitler. by Judith Schuyf
- 02 May 2019
| length: 7 min. |
|Long Live Freedom! Hans Scholl, the White Rose, and the Army, part 1|
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length: 7 minuten
The pamphlets spoke of the arbitrariness of the Nazi regime, of the incompatibility of the Nazi state with the rich history of the German people, but also of the murder of more than 300,000 Jews in Poland. The first pamphlet finished with a poem by Goethe and “Freiheit!” (Freedom). The fourth pamphlet ended with the sentence: “Wir schweigen nicht, wir sind Euer böses Gewissen, die Weisse Rose lässt Euch keine Ruhe!” (We will not remain silent, we are your bad conscience, the White Rose will not leave you alone!)
After the German defeat at Stalingrad, where 300,000 soldiers were killed in February 1943, two new pamphlets followed, now from the “Widerstandbewegung in Deutschland” (German resistance). Hitler cannot win the war, only drag it out! And again, the appeal was made for freedom: freedom of speech and conviction, protection of the individual citizen against the arbitrariness of criminal states, these are the foundations of the new Europe.
The sixth pamphlet, now in a circulation of several thousands, was, among other locations, distributed at the University of Munich by dropping off the pamphlets at the top of the staircase. This proved fatal to two of the distributors: the caretaker, who was a member of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party), grabbed them in the collar and warned the Gestapo. They were brother and sister Hans and Sophie Scholl, twenty-four and twenty-one years old. The Scholls were interrogated at a rapid pace, and a few supporters were arrested and sentenced to death in a sham trial that took less than three hours.
That same afternoon, on February 22, 1943, they died on the scaffold. Not much details of the trial were saved for prosperity, but the last hours of Hans, Sophie and their fellow warrior Christian Probst are well documented. Hans’ last words were “Long live freedom!” On April 19, another three members of the group were sentenced to death, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, and professor Kurt Huber. Huber, who was significantly older than the others, who were students, was the author of pamphlets five and six.
In recent decades, there has been much attention given to the White Rose, as one of the few German resistance groups against Hitler. These young members of the resistance - most of them under the age of twenty-five - appealed to the imagination, just as the fact that one of them was an attractive young woman. There were stamps, various books and films, in particular about Sophie, who mainly played a feminine, supporting role.
The memory of the group was mainly kept alive by the remaining members of the Scholl family. The oldest sister, Inge, managed the archive, which, in the case of Hans Scholl alone consisted of 799 boxes (!), containing a lot of (not particularly good) poems, diaries, photos, and his annotated library with notes. According to his sister, Hans had always been talkative. Inge Scholl wrote a novel about the group in 1947 under the title “Die Weiße Rose” (published in an English translation in 1983 by the Wesleyan University Press).
This novel introduced the standard story. Inge did mention that Hans had been in prison for a few weeks in 1937 for membership of a forbidden youth organization, but did not mention that he had been arrested for homosexuality as well. For the general public (including Dutch language Wikipedia), Hans went down in history as a heterosexual. There is now a new, German, book by (vicar) Robert M. Zoske, “Flamme sein.” He makes use of the documentation Inge Scholl did not include in her book, so that apart from the religious and intellectual development of Hans Scholl, the influence Scholl’s detention had on him, has now been placed in a broader perspective.
“Flamme sein” gives a portrait of Hans Scholl as a young man. It is, however, limited as Hans only got to be twenty-four. Normally as an adolescent, you can be a barrel of contradictions, which is unnoticed, as in later life you will get the chance to correct this. But it is precisely through all these diaries and bequeathed papers that Scholl’s doubts and beliefs are magnified. Doubts about who he was, who to join, and certainly not least about his sexual preference. But also, that – initially - he had been a true supporter of the new order of the National Socialists in Germany, but at the same time a member of an independent youth association. He was a gay man who was also very religious, and dreamed of a career in the army as an officer.
In 1933, Hans Scholl became a member of the Hitlerjugend (HJ; Hitler Youth). His sisters and brother had also joined a Nazi youth organization. They certainly did not get that from home. Their father was a convinced anti-Nazi. However, it indicates how the Nazi ideology appealed to young people. Hans quickly moved up in the organisation, and in 1935 became “standard-bearer” over 150 boys.
At the same time, he did something that was strictly forbidden a short time later, in February 1936. He became a member of an independent youth association, dj.1.11, with its own group, the “Trabanten” (which means something like a servant of the community). The name of the youth group the “Trabanten” comes from a very influential series of poems by Stefan George, “The Star of the Covenant,” written as a hymn on German nationalism in the Great War.
These youth unions had emerged in Germany as a reaction to the misery of the First World War and were intended to forge new networks among young people in complete freedom. Dj.1.11. was a special association. They did much more than camping and playing sports outside; they read Rilke, Zweig and also Stefan George; they composed, sang, hitch-hiked, and spent the night in their own special tents, the black and squared “Kothen,” originally from Finland. In 1936, Hans became the leader of a group of ten “Trabanten” who made a trip to Stockholm by train.
At that time, Hans saw little difference between the German-national views of the National Socialists and his youth association.
And perhaps there was not much difference to today’s standards, but the Nazis wanted to control everything. Action and discipline were integral to the Nazi youth associations as it was to the Hitler Youth. Both were a mix of adventure and male bonding. Boys having fun was certainly one of the elements that Hans Scholl found fascinating. We can guess the rest. However, the arrest of Scholl in 1937 was due to an unfortunate set of circumstances. The Gestapo was hunting for people they suspected of “bündnische” (neutral, unattached) sympathies.
As a “bonus” they were told that two of the “Trabanten,” including Hans’s younger brother Werner, had been seduced to engage in homosexual acts by one of the youth leaders, Ernst Reden. The fifteen-year-old Rolf Futterknecht was arrested. He stated that, in 1936 and 1937, he had regularly committed “lewd acts” with Hans Scholl (who was then seventeen). On November 11, 1937, the Gestapo invaded various homes of people suspected of “bündnische” sympathies. Incriminating material - letters and books - was found at the resident of the Scholl family. Some of those letters were part of a correspondence between Hans Scholl and a sixty-five-year-old gay Swedish officer, Max Schürer von Waldheim, whom he had visited during his stay in Stockholm.
Partly as a result of this correspondence, Scholl was not only charged with membership of a forbidden youth organization, but also with violation of the notorious Articles 175 and 175a, which prohibited homosexual contact for adults, and between persons in a relationship of authority. Through the confiscated correspondence, a gay network had become visible through which, in addition to Scholl and Schürer von Waldheim, the leader of the “Reichsjugendführung” travel agency, Georg von Schweinitz, and Scholl’s friend in the youth association, Ernst Reden, were exposed.
Scholl took the blame for his sexual contact with Futterknecht. He admitted that it had been a “Schweinerei” (lecherous affair), but that his motive was “the great love I felt for Futterknecht.” Later, Scholl would never again label someone as his “great love.” He had tried to stop this behavior, but he just couldn’t resist. He wrote to his parents that he had hoped to “wash clean again through tireless work.”
(To be continued)
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