A Noble Treason

“….only religion can reawaken Europe and restore Christianity to its earthly mission as patron and founder of world peace.”
Novalis

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(a white rose in the garden /Julie Cook / 2013)

Merriam Webster defines treason as:
the betrayal of a trust : treachery
the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or
the sovereign’s family.

Noble is defined as:
possessing, characterized by, or arising from
superiority of mind or character of ideals or morals.

Putting the two together produces something akin to an oxymoron.
Killing, betrayal, overthrowing, injuring all coupled with high character and
superior morals.
Certainly sounds like a conflict to me–
a clashing of two vastly different thoughts of mind and/or philosophies….
and yet, each were inextricably linked and exemplified during a terribly
grave time of madness.

Yes, I’ve posted images of white roses before,…not this particular image however.
And yes, I’ve written a specific post on the White Rose revolt and Sophie Scholl…
even briefly addressing it in an additional post…and yet, here I am again.
A flummoxing situation has arisen as I find myself in a quandary.

I just finished the book today…
A Nobel Treason–The Story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt Against Hitler.

I know what you’re thinking, “Julie, how long have you been reading that book…
it’s been since May hasn’t it?”
Yes, it has been a very long read.
Not because it is a voluminous tome, not because my life is so consumed that
I can’t find the time…
simply put it has not been an easy read.
The story has been such that I have had to put the book down,
sometimes for weeks on end.

I’m not here to give a book review as that is not my purpose for this post.
My intent is, however, to continue the story of these young people,
to continue placing them, their lives,
their act of passive resistance in the forefront of our minds,
lest we forget.
Hence my quandary…
I can’t keep quiet and not share….
for the final word of the book was to “remember me”….
and remember we shall.

I know what you’re thinking, that all of this is of the past,
why do we have to revisit something so terrible?
Can’t we just let it go?
As none of us really like thinking about any of this.
A casual response might be that “I don’t know these kids, never heard of them…
who cares….?”

I have said this time and time again—
if we forget the past, if we let it go as it were,
we are bound to fall into some bad old ways.
And whereas it won’t be exactly like it was—we won’t, I don’t think,
allow for another Hitler, another Holocaust,
but there are places on this globe that may beg to differ.
There are other names for such…ethnic cleansing or genocide,
ask Bosnia-Herzegovina, ask the Kurds in Iraq,
ask the Rwandans, those in Darfour…the list goes on.

It all still continues…it’s just that it happens under different names and in
different places.
Time and distance does not make it right, does not make it go away…
But this country of mine seems more concerned and consumed with the latest Hollywood starlet’s demise, Queen O and her handbag flack in Zurich as well as
stories about some idiot politician and his bad boy behavior.
Sometimes I sadly wonder where the moral hutzpah of this nation has gone.

Sophie, her brother Hans and their friend Christoph Probst were college kids who
could no longer tolerate the cultural and dehumanizing demise of their once
culturally and academically rich historic nation.

Theirs was a literary sort of resistance as they produced leaflets for distribution denouncing The Third Reich.
No violence,
no overt opposition as they had each served their time in the Hitler Youth Program.

It was just to be the power of the written word coupled by the desire that the
World know that there were those who still remained in Germany who still
possessed a moral consciousness as well as a civility that had otherwise vanished
in the wake of Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich and National Socialism.

Before it was all over, 6 of their group, all of them young college kids plus a noted professor, would be lead to a guillotine—
14 others sent to various prisons and concentration camps.
The spinoff branches, which had taken hold throughout Germany,
were also then rounded up and either executed or imprisoned.
The Gestapo was working over time to silence a mere handful of dissident youth.
Why and how could a group of young people living in the small town of Ulm cause
such alarm and fear within the upper ranks of the Gestapo and Nazi Party by their
quiet distribution of mere pamphlets…
such that the dreaded and powerful Heinrich Himmler himself took personal
command of the situation and of the ultimate sentencing.

When arrested they all took full responsibility for their actions never
capitulating never recanting.
There was a calmness in the face of certain death.

A single word comes to mind….
Brave.

Could I walk calmly to have my head chopped off?
Could I bear all responsibility, trying to deflect potential harm from my
friends and family?
Could I remain brave or would I be of the status quo afraid of the reprisals?
Could I still hold to my convictions while facing the possibility of
tortures, when those I trusted turned on me, pretended not to know me?
Could I remain brave seeing the tears and sorrow in the face of my parents
as they said good-bye one final time……

I have never been able to wrap my brain around Hitler, the Nazis,
or of the German people who fell under the spell…
how could a once proud country of northern Europeans,
whose nation, though its millennium of rich history,
which had given so much to the world in the way of literature, art and music,
be capable or such barbarism?
How could they have allowed it to grow into such a monstrous level of hate and death
while doing little or nothing to stop it….
going as far as even agreeing with it?

I find it nearly impossible understanding the unthinkable death camps and of
the horrific things a few humans would inflict on other humans,
using those deemed “less than” as lab rats for all sort of heinous acts…
As there were the ovens and the chambers…

But of course that was then and this is now….
why do I torture my mind by pondering such…

Because none of those 6 million plus individuals died in vain,
And just because it is a staggering number that is so overwhelming…
almost impossible to comprehend,
Nor should we forget the millions left dead on the various battlefields
before the war was all said and done.

We remember the women paraded to the “showers” who were stripped naked while
walking past sneering and heckling guards…

These were wives, mothers, sister, daughters….

There were the children torn from the arms of parents.

How do we now comprehend humans being so unfeeling and disconnected
from other humans?

And yet, it continues today…simply in a different guise and in different
part of the world.

But the question should be asked, are there groups of young dissidents
today such as Sophie, Hans and Christoph and if so, where then?
I don’t know.

At first these were Germans against Germans.
It seemingly starts insidiously then grows to an almost triumphant crescendo,
when the world first takes notice, with Kristallnacht,
the night of the shattering glass.
Germans killing fellow Germans because of their religion…
destroying lives, businesses, and unbeknownst, destroying themselves.

I thankfully will never know what it was like to live in a Germany destroyed by
a previous world war.
I have not lived through a great depression nor of a war fought on my own soil.
I do not personally know what those sorts of things do to people.

One of the most poignant parts of the book retells the story of the hurried up
monkey trial for Sophie, Hans and Christoph–
from the time of their arrest to the trial and of the ultimate beheading,
it was less than a week—
unheard of today as these sorts of things could take months to sort out.

Their parents had learned on a friday of their children’s arrest.
On Monday they took the train to Munich thinking they would be there for the trial.
But the trial was already in progress by the time the parents arrived.
The Scholl’s pushed their way through the crowded courtroom to where their children were sitting before the most notorious judge of the Third Reich,
Roland Freisler.
Freisler had been immediatley dispatched from Berlin to pass sentence on three of Germany’s brightest youth.

When Mrs. Scholl first sees her children in a defendant’s box and hears their words,
it is all she can bear.
She faints and is taken from the courtroom.
She attempts to re-enter,
explaining to the guard that she is the mother of the defendants—
the response from the guard was cold, not one of empathy…
“You should have done a better job raising them”

Aggghhhh the irony!!!

The fact here is that she had done a marvelous job raising her children as she and her husband instilled in their children the deepest sense of responsibility and moral conviction that would transcend time …

No, I don’t think I will ever understand this particular time of our human history. Countless historians, military experts, philosophers, analysts, etc…
greater minds than my own,
have written about, researched and written some more regarding the how and
why of it all—-yet still leaving the world no less wiser.
Was it the perfect storm of events which created such a black and horrendous
scar on our existence?

The White Rose organization wanted the World to know that there were still
decent people remaining in Germany,
defiant and not willing to bend to the will of a madman.
The young Anne Frank, hiding hundreds of miles away in Amsterdam
remarked that she still believed that people were still inherently good.
The christian Corrie ten Boom worked along side her father to aid countless
Jews trying to escape the death grip of the Nazis only to face prison herself.
Father Hugh O’Flaherty worked tirelessly in Rome, within the Vatican
and under the vise of Nazi occupation and Mussolini’s fascist regime,
working tirelessly to smuggle thousands of men, woman and children out of the
county.

I suppose the small ray of hope is that there are men and woman who remain the
still small voices in the desert of the madness of humanity..
their voices continuing to fight and cry out when all else seems lost.

There always will remain a moral compass to guide others.
There will always be risk as there are those who will work equally as hard to
silence the voice of justice and righteousness.

I can hope that when I am faced with the choice of action, of speaking out
verses remaining silent…
I will chose to act and to speak–
to speak loudly with brave conviction–
may it be so that we all choose the courageous path of the often lonely and
dangerous road of justice and moral obligation.

4 comments on “A Noble Treason

  1. Alexander Schmorell is now venerated by many Russian Orthodox as a martyr-saint. It seems the young man was quite devout. I remember learning about the White Rose when I was a German student in college. Good post.

  2. Val says:

    Historians and their like, all the analysts who look at genocides and holocausts from an historical perspective, an analyrical perspective, really have no answers (and never will…this from an historian!). Hatred has been a serious pet for study in various forms for the last twenty years between me and my sister. What I have found — without exception — is that real answers are found when you start breaking down th sociology and psychology of it all. It’s fascinating.

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