Monday 28 January 2013

A Noble Treason - White Rose

It's documentary night in our house, i.e. my good wife has control of the remote and isn't letting go.  First we had a documentary on the evil of Weightwatchers programmes, then we had an exposé of private companies providing activation support in the UK for the long-term unemployed.  Now it's on viruses, how they live, spread, effect us, get inside our bodies.

So I've made the tea and taken refuge in the computer.

I've just finished "A Noble Treason" by Richard Hansen, the story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose resistance movement in Nazi Germany.   From the Amazon description:

Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans were handsome, bright university students in 1942 Germany. As members of the Hitler Youth, they had once been enthusiastic supporters of the German renewal promised by National Socialism. But as their realization of Nazi barbarism grew, so did their moral outrage.

Hans and Sophie formed a small group of like-minded friends, which initially included two medical students, a student of philosophy, and a fifty-year-old professor. They self-identified as Christians from various traditions--Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodo--and they called themselves the White Rose. In a darkened studio lent them by an artist, they printed eloquent anti-Nazi leaflets, which they ingeniously spread throughout Germany.

A Noble Treason tells the true story of this underground group at the University of Munich that instigated, organized, and carried out the first overt resistance to Hitler's regime. What gives A Noble Treason its unforgettable and inspiring quality is the personality, character, and courage of the White Rose members, as they resisted the pull of wartime patriotism and overcame their fear of the terrible price they would pay for their dissidence.

The story of the White Rose is one of faith-inspired idealism in deadly conflict with ideological tyranny. Its theme is the ultimate victory of that idealism despite its bloody--and seemingly final--destruction by the state.

Christoph Probst was received into the Church shortly before he died, making his first Holy Communion just hours before his execution.  He wrote to his sister:

I go to my death free of all hate.... Never forget that life is nothing if it is not a continual growing into love and a preparation for eternity.

Some follow up googling on Johann Reichhart, the executioner, revealed he carried out more than 3,000 executions.  After the war he continued as executioner for the Allies.  A strange amoral job.  Like other well known executioners he prided himself on doing a quick and clean job, that this was humane.  He always dressed impeccably, including wearing a top hat.  An innovation he introduced which you can see in the video, was to do away with the former practice of strapping the victim to a board which would be then lifted into place.  In his executions the victim lay down, held in place by two assistants and was executed very quickly.  This very bizarre website offers museum quality guillotine models, and a detailed history of guillotines.  There are some photos of severed heads but there is a warning before you see them.

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