It’s the sort of thing that makes you physically ill. “Have you heard about the group in Germany that calls themselves Neue Weisse Rose [New White Rose]? They use White Rose as their banner for anti-Islam, anti-immigrant, far right-wing politics.”
Claiming to be disciples of Susanne Hirzel, whom they identify as somehow central to White Rose efforts, they manipulate the words of those powerful leaflets into a polemic against “foreigners” living and working in Germany. Their words sound suspiciously familiar – the language of Nazis from the failed Third Reich, seeking to marginalize Jewish citizens and Roma, Sinti, Jehovah’s Witness, homosexuals, and other so-called subhumans. And it’s disguised as Zivilcourage, the courage of one’s convictions.
This hate speech does not confine itself to their immediate cause. In fact, the subtext reveals more about their true intentions than the White Rose camouflage. They redefine the very nature of National Socialism and resistance to suit their agenda.
In the edited histories of the New White Rose, National Socialists were left-wing “communist” types who imposed liberal socialism on Germany. White Rose and other resistance movements were right-wing heroes who attempted to bring Germany back to its conservative roots. In this re-imagined parallel universe of the NWR, everything is turned on its head.
Besides the most obvious issues with this sort of revisionist history, the NWR demonstrates the peril that Micha Probst often highlighted whenever he spoke of his father’s sacrifice. He disliked the politicization of White Rose by any group, even those whose politics reflected his own. Their political beliefs did not represent their common bond. If anything, when the friends known as the White Rose came together, their political (and religious) beliefs formed a basis for vehement debate.
First-hand accounts of the two “parties” in January 1943, the better-known Haecker reading on February 4, 1943, and the critical discussions between February 9 and 11 (where Professor Kurt Huber and Falk Harnack joined the circle) – these all describe friends whose primary common ground consisted not of shared political convictions, but of a deep moral outrage over crimes against humanity committed by their fellow citizens. Some felt strongly that a “socialization” of the political process would benefit postwar Germany. Others looked to monarchism, federalism, even democracy as best means for healing their broken homeland.
This lack of unity regarding how to attack National Socialism at once defined and weakened White Rose resistance. Defined, because the friends remained focused on the injustices perpetrated by their government and fellow citizens, calling on Germans in general and students in particular to rise up against the crimes they knew were being committed. From Alexander Schmorell’s Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!; to Hans Scholl’s call for freedom of speech, freedom of religion; to Kurt Huber’s “Courage, my people!”; to Christoph Probst’s “when you have decided, act!” – these thinking writers pointed family, friends, neighbors, countrymen to righting wrongs. They were not mouthpieces for the USA, or the USSR, or any other political entity. They made that fact as clear as possible in the fourth leaflet.
Among themselves, they did indeed talk about politics and religion. But those discussions sometimes ended badly, with little benefit for their work. Whether Harald Dohrn’s theocratic notions, or Falk Harnack’s embrace of radical left-wing Socialism, or Christoph Probst’s monarchism mixed with a flourish of Eastern mysticism, or Eugen Grimminger’s insistence on non-violence as preached by Buddhism, or Willi Graf’s sense that Germany required an authoritarian hand that ruled compassionately, or Huber’s extreme nationalism combined with admiration for Swiss federalism, their strongly-held convictions generally tore them apart.
Yet, their unwavering sense of right and wrong bound them closer than politics or religion ever could. No matter their other convictions, they knew beyond all doubt that it was wrong to slaughter Jewish Germans or Poles. They knew beyond all doubt that it was wrong to arrest and kill dissidents. They knew beyond all doubt that it was wrong to wage war under false pretexts. They knew beyond all doubt that it was wrong to replace a constitutional state with a dictator who blithely ignored the rule of law. They knew beyond all doubt that it was wrong to marginalize and murder “foreigners” living among them.
It is up to us, living and working in our 21st century, to ensure that this legacy lives on. It is not a legacy of democracy, parliamentarianism, socialism, or federalism, nor of any particular State. It is not a legacy of any church or religious creed. It is, however, a legacy that compels us to protect the defenseless, to ensure that our freedoms are enjoyed by all within our borders, whether those borders are German, European, Russian, American, or any other place we may call home.
The so-called New White Rose does not speak in the name of the courageous people who lived and died on behalf of those high ideals. The New White Rose has simply repackaged old Nazi hate, rebranding it with a popular logo, giving it the appearance of respectability and legitimacy. But underneath, the old Nazi hate rages on.
It is up to us, living and working in the 21st century, to ensure that the good and wholesome words of the White Rose leaflets remain weapons of justice, wielded on behalf of fellow travelers whose freedoms are infringed.