Alton Webteam: June 2017
The White Rose is an emblem well known to everyone born and brought up in Yorkshire, as I was. It dates back to the medieval rivalry between the Houses of York and Lancaster for the throne of England, and was fought in many a bitter battle, now happily relegated to the cricket field! On my visits to Germany in more recent times, however, I came across the White Rose used as an emblem in very different circumstances. I had already read a paper-back about this small group of Christians in Nazi Germany who had voiced their opposition to Hitler and in particular, to the war with Russia, but on a visit to Munich, I had failed to find any memorial to those who were arrested and executed..
Amongst the members of the group were the 25 year old medical student Hans Scholl and his younger sister Sophie who was 22. Being of military age, Hans had been drafted into the army and saw service in occupied Poland and in Russia. What he saw there of the treatment of the civilian population convinced him that the war was unjustified and wrong and must be opposed. He went on leave in the Autumn of 1943, and he and Sophie became involved in the group calling themselves 'The White Rose'. They printed leaflets secretly, putting forward their views, and then distributed them openly on the steps of public buildings, and it is astonishing that they were not arrested immediately for doing so. They argued that in fighting a war with Russia they were risking their lives
in battle, why should they not risk their lives for a far better cause? Inevitably, however, they were arrested, tried and summarily executed.
On a later visit to Germany, however, I was staying with friends in the town of Halle, noted as the birthplace of George F Handel, and strolling in the town centre, l noticed that one of the churches there was hosting a travelling exhibition about the 'White Rose', and in particular, the part played by Hans and Sophie Scholl. There were photographs, newspaper cuttings, and copies of the leaflets they had distributed. They had not, after all, been buried and forgotten, but remembered and honoured. It was all valuable historical material, but as I looked at their fresh young faces, full of
earnestness and hope, I could not hold back the tears nor the insistent question, whether I would have had the courage and the conviction to act as they did.
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