History & PoliticsOn February 22, 1943, the twenty-four-year-old Hans Scholl, his twenty-one-year-old sister Sophie, and their twenty-three-year-old fellow fighter Christoph Probst were executed by means of guillotine as members of the White Rose resistance group by the Nazi regime. by Judith Schuyf
- 05 June 2019
| length: 9 min. |
|Long Live Freedom! Hans Scholl, the White Rose, and the Army, part 2|
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length: 9 minuten
Hans Scholl had already been subjected to the German justice system at the end of 1937, when, among other things, he was interrogated for violation of the infamous Articles 175 and 175a, which prohibited homosexual contact. Scholl took the blame for the sexual contacts he had as a seventeen-year-old with the fifteen-year-old Rolf Futterknecht. He also admitted that it had been a “Schweinerei” (smutty business), but was motivated by “the great love I felt for Futterknecht.”
The official reports of the interrogations have been preserved. In these reports, we can read that the interrogation did not go much differently than at the regular police in those years - the text does not show what we imagine are Gestapo methods. The questions, answers and descriptions look familiar to us. “One night during Easter camp, when we were turned face to face, Scholl started playing with my genitals after he had pulled down my sweatpants. "
"That night, it went a bit further, because he also rolled down his sweatpants and pressed his bare part between my bare thighs. Both our members got erect. After a while, I felt a wetness between my legs, and I assume that Scholl had ejaculated at the time. With me, only my member was stiff; I had no ejaculation...”
Futterknecht stated that he himself was not homosexual - a statement the Gestapo doubted, incidentally, because both had camped out and travelled together for a few years.
Hans Scholl was taken into custody on December 15, 1937. Visits from and correspondence with his parents followed, who supported him because of their faith. Hans’s father and his direct military superior intervened successfully on his behalf. The problem, according to the latter, was that there had been a certain relationship of authority between Hans (as the flag bearer of the troop) and the young Rolf. If that had not been the case, the whole thing would have been swept under the carpet. But with this argument, they were clearly on the right track. On December 30, 1937, he was released from custody and returned to the barracks where he served as a soldier.
He had to wait until June 1938 for his case to be brought before the “Sondergericht,” which were courts outside the normal course of justice, the purpose of which was to find out people who thought and felt differently as “Volksschädlinge” (dangerous to the people). Scholl, however, made a good impression, and did not appear to be at all dangerous to the state. This fornication did not have to be severely punished, the age difference was small, and Futterknecht made the impression that he was not inexperienced or dismissive of such things.
At the time of the event (prior to a stricter Article 175), this behavior was not even punishable. In short, Scholl’s actions were “a youthful foolishness of an otherwise neat and also sexually normal person, who had overcome this kind of foolishness.” He needed “no more than a month in prison” and was therefore pardoned, since penalties of less than a month did not need to be enforced. So, he returned to the cavalry barracks. He then studied medicine, but remained in service, as the army needed people with medical knowledge. In Munich, he alternately lived in the barracks and in rooms, and occasionally had to work as a medical orderly.
Hans Scholl was not severely punished in the end, but it did have grave consequences. Scholl was deeply ashamed. It is clear that the incident created considerable confusion. His personal life is not going well after that. I get the impression that he stubbornly tried to discover his heterosexual side. The fact that he mainly tried this through friendships with fourteen and fifteen-year-old girls with whom he emphatically had no sex, makes these attempts all the more difficult. Even when he switches to a slightly older age, it just does not work: the ladies find him boring, and not really interested in them. He wants friendship, but not that man-and-woman “thing.”
Only shortly before his death was he in a brief relationship with a woman his age, but it is not clear whether this relationship was sexual as well. He tells his parents that he intends to “keep on the straight and narrow,” but it is not clear whether he did so under the influence of Christianity or to keep the “the sin that dare not speak its name” at bay. No matter how he tried with girls, his deepest friendships remained with men: in 1939-1940 with Hellmut Hartert, and from 1941 onwards with Alexander Schmorell. With Hartert, he maintained a “particularly close friendship” based on mutual attraction. They went on holiday together and also cohabitated for a while, until Hans fell violently in love with the fifteen-year-old daughter of a friend of Helmut. According to people around him, Helmut was “immensely disappointed” and it resulted in the two growing apart.
The events surrounding the arrest and trial, estranged Scholl from National Socialism. He also had changed his mind: his individualism, nature mysticism and increased Christian piety were far removed from the collective and “Blood and Soil” thoughts of the Nazis. What certainly also played a major role in this process was that the student battalion of the University was sent to the Eastern front in Russia in the summer of 1942. Now Hans Scholl saw with his own eyes how reprehensible the actions of the Nazi army were.
Scholl read a lot of authors from various schools of thought, who together influenced his thinking. The last one was Thomas Mann, who sent radio messages to Germany from the United States. Mann and Scholl shared a common vision of a new Germany in a free Europe that would be part of a peaceful world. In the end, the White Rose had little impact. It was too small-scale and elitist. It did want to get rid of Hitler, but did not distance itself from the conservatism from which he had surfaced.
Cross-Dressing in the Wehrmacht
The attitude of the Nazis towards sexuality - and by extension also homosexuality - was very ambiguous. Much was overlooked in the army. The homosexual behavior of Hans Scholl was dismissed as a childhood sin. A recently published photo book “Soldier Studies: Cross-Dressing in der Wehrmacht” (Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2018) shows that there were possibilities for travesty in the army. Not that it is news.
The older generation among us can still remember soldier Klinger from the television series “M*A*S*H” (who supposedly dressed up to be sent back to the USA as quickly as possible) or that other army comedy from the 1970s and 1980s “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” about a British theater group that has to cheer up the troops in India during the Second World War. In this series, there is a cross-dressing role for corporal “Gloria” Beaumont, who loves to play Ginger Rogers.
Author Martin Dammann collected authentic photos from the Second World War in which soldiers dressed as women are depicted. Dammann states that throughout the centuries, soldiers liked to imagine what they were missing. Although overt homosexuality was forbidden, it seeped out of all the pores of the army, this ultimate male bonding. To a certain extent it was even accepted, provided it was limited to specific frames:
* slapstick scenes with young recruits;
* formal theater performances for army units;
* improvised performances at the front for a small group of comrades. In the spring of 1940, German troops were stationed in a number of small villages on the French-German border awaiting the attack on France. In the abandoned houses, the soldiers could use the household goods and garments that were left behind by the tenants to play out some sort of home situation, including apparently heterosexual relationships. Theater of course is a wonderful excuse to act gay.
* Finally, the theater performances that were performed in the prisoner of war camps after the war. The men were locked up in the camps without women for a long time.
Unfortunately, Dammann does not provide much context. I think there is more going on with these photos and what they represent: homoeroticism and mutual attraction were just as common in the German army as in other armies. Sometimes real desire was a factor in this. Many photos were taken in a clearly theatrical setting. In other photos, however, the people involved are not dressed up at all, but are seen cuddling.
In Nazi Germany, there was an ambiguous line between victimhood and complicity. The majority of homosexuals, like all other Germans, were among the willing subjects and beneficiaries of the Nazi state. Seventy percent of the men who were convicted under paragraphs 175 and 175a served their sentence and were then taken back by the army, just as Hans Scholl was.
Was there an intrinsic relationship between male organizations, homoeroticism, homosexuality and Nazism? Many have wondered and tried to answer that question.
George Mosse and later Thomas Kühne, among others, are some of them. Mosse saw an erotic tension between the gay-erotic ties in the “Männerbund” (as a group of men organized in an organic hierarchy that springs from the male competitive instinct) and the execration of the homosexual, whose being different was needed to confirm Nazi masculinity. According to Kühne, the masculinity of the Wehrmacht did not exclude femininity: at the same time, the Wehrmacht found “tough” masculinity valuable, but also “soft” female tenderness towards its own comrades. That bond was maternal rather than erotic.
From the first statement on homosexuality by the Nazis in 1928, it was clear that they were afraid of emotions. Emotions were seen as feminine. Femininity was weakness, and what the German people needed was masculine power. The Nazi organizations, including youth organizations, were therefore not based on friendship, because that only resulted in emotions, but on companionship and brotherhood. The Nazi regime tried to promote camaraderie as its main virtue, both in the army and in daily life, but it was difficult to prevent men from forming close bonds, with emotions sometimes rising close to the surface. Here too, the regime was ambiguous: the Nazis promoted ties with one’s own sex as more important than relationships with women, but at the same time had to ensure that they did not get out of hand and remained under control.
This was the reason for the strict ban on homosexual relationships in the SS. From the end of 1941, it came with the death penalty. We will never know how often that death penalty was carried out, because the relevant papers were lost in the chaos at the end of the war. Most likely very few times. In a few cases it is documented that men were given the choice between being sentenced to death or being sent to the front. Others defended themselves, sometimes with success, by saying that they had been in the field without women for too long. However, you were never certain of your destiny, and that is also what proved fatal to Hans Scholl.
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