Richard Hanser’s biographical book on “the White Rose Society” resistance to Hitler’s National Socialism, A Noble Treason , is a good read about a cause with which it is easy to sympathize. A few university-aged young people including a brother and sister, Hans and Sophie Scholl, deeply disturbed by what they see happening to their German homeland in 1942-43, quietly take on themselves the task of offering resistance to the Nazi state. Their resistance is largely their refusal to allow their hearts and minds to be swept away in the mindlessness sweeping their country. Their actions – a few pamphlets and painted graphic slogans do cause a momentary panic among the Nazis, but they are all soon caught and executed. Those few who made up what they initially called “the White Rose Society” were an unlikely group of young people to rebel, and yet they never wavered in their determination. They went about fulfilling their social obligations demanded of them by the Nazi state, and they successfully pulled of what was perhaps only symbolic resistance to the totalitarianism which was destroying their country and the world.
Among the conspirators was another young man, Alexander Schmorell, a Russian Orthodox, who also was executed for his role in the resistance.
By looking at the lives of a few students who decided to resist the totalitarian state we do learn not only about their life in Nazi Germany but something about the nature of those who abuse power. A few quotes below from the book:
Adolf Hitler: “We must put a stop to the idea that it is part of everybody’s civil rights to say, write, publish, or paint whatever he pleases” (Kindle Loc. 823-24)’
When Adolf Hitler came to power, the minister of culture of Bavaria had assembled all the professors of Munich and set the tone for the higher learning of the future. “From now on,” said Hans Schemm, “it will not be your job to determine whether something is true or not, but only whether it is in the spirit of the National Socialist revolution.” (Kindle Loc. 2240-42)
There was sporadic resistance to the thought control and fear enveloping the minds of the German people like a Tsunami.
Bishop von Galen of Munster “made the breathtaking demand that the high-ranking Nazi officials responsible for the program be charged with murder. “Once it is allowed,” said the bishop, “once it becomes permissible, to put to death ‘unproductive’ human beings, then we are all of us open to being murdered when we, too, are old and feeble and no longer productive. . . . If such things are permitted, then none of us is safe in our lives.” He particularly enraged the Nazi authorities with his warning that if the “unproductive” were to be killed by the state as a matter of policy—“then woe to our brave soldiers who come back home to us from the fronts grievously wounded, as cripples and invalids”. (Kindle Loc. 1742-47)
Heinrich Heine: “Dort, wo man Bucher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen” (Where they burn books they will also, in the end, burn people). (Kindle Loc. 2256-57)
Resistance does not always involve weapons. Mind control can be resisted by humor too.
“What is the difference between Christianity and National Socialism?” “Simple. In Christianity one man died for everybody. In National Socialism everybody dies for one man.” (Kindle Loc. 2425-26)
It was put forth as an ideal by the Ministry of Propaganda that every German should be honest, intelligent, and a National Socialist. The dissident wits pounced on this at once. “It can’t be done”, they said. “If a man is intelligent and a Nazi, he is not honest. If he is honest and a Nazi, he is not intelligent. And if he is intelligent and honest, he is not a Nazi.” (Kindle Loc. 2427-29)
They chose to lay down their lives for their nation by trying to stop murder and stop war without taking up a weapon. They did not allow their hearts and minds to be controlled by National Socialism which felt it should and could control every aspect of life. The members of the White Rose Society were witnesses to a Christian ideal.