Sunday, April 24, 2005

The White Rose

And this is why I read blogs so voraciously, and some blogs religiously. Billmon has a post up about The White Rose Society, a group of young people in Nazi Germany committed to non-violent resistance. A few of the quotes gave me shivers.

From a White Rose leaflet:
Therefore every individual, conscious of his responsibility as a member of Christian and Western civilization, must defend himself as best he can at this late hour, he must work against the scourges of mankind, against fascism and any similar system of totalitarianism . . . Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure!
And from the inevitable trial and execution:
"Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare to express themselves as we did."...That afternoon, the prison guards permitted Hans, Sophie, and Christoph to have one last visit together. Sophie was then led to the guillotine. One observer described her as she walked to her death: "Without turning a hair, without flinching." Christoph Probst was next. Hans Scholl was last; just before he was beheaded, Hans cried out: "Long live freedom!"
We don't often think of the Germans who resisted - probably because, unlike other non-violent resistors (Gandhi, MLK) they were ineffective against their oppressors. But as we come up to V-E Day, it's worth remembering. Not all bloggers can hope to be as good as Billmon, but damn if he doesn't set the bar.

You should read his post, and then go read some of the leaflets of the White Rose Society. More from the same leaflet quoted above.
If the German people are already so corrupted and spiritually crushed that they do not raise a hand, frivolously trusting in a questionable faith in lawful order of history; if they surrender man’s highest principle, that which raises him above all other God’s creatures, his free will; if they abandon the will to take decisive action and turn the wheel of history and thus subject it to their own rational decision; if they are so devoid of all individuality, have already gone so far along the road toward turning into a spiritless and cowardly mass - then, yes, they deserve their downfall. Goethe speaks of the Germans as a tragic people, like the Jews and the Greeks, but today it would appear rather that they are a spineless, will-less herd of hangers-on, who now - the marrow sucked out of their bones, robbed of their center of stability - are waiting to be hounded to their destruction. So it seems - but it is not so.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Germans a "tragic people"? Did Goethe really pen that? Uh, sorry, but no. One can legitimately say that about the native Americans in North America, the Aztecs and Incas, the Aussie aborigines that the British slaughtered, the Irish, the Jews of course, and the Africans. The Greeks? Maybe, considering that happened at Constantinople in 1453 (though they still seem to be doing pretty well). But the Germans?

Yes, Germany isn't particularly blessed geographically, vulnerable as it is to land invasion on two sides. And the 30 Years' War and lack of German unification for so many years were pretty miserable. But I'm sorry, sentiments about Germans being a "tragic people" smack me as the same sort of sorry-for-oneself sentiments we hear in quite a few rich, rather well-to-do countries overall. The British always talk about themselves as a "tragic people" due to the Norman Conquest, the suffering of the Blitz, and (lately) the lousy performance of their national soccer team. The Russians do the same thing, though they have a better case for it, considering their recurrent misery through the ages.

The Germans? They have Europe's largest economy and essentially head the EU. They have a 120 million strong Diaspora in the Americas and Australia. They have some of the world's most successful sports teams and a business climate that, even in its current state, is still the envy of much of the world. Tragic people? Come on.