Revolt of the White Rose

Let me put this as provocatively as I could: I believe some of us wish we had been living under Hitler. I do not signify the neo-Nazis, odious however they are. I mean the aspiring freedom fighters, who appear to find a new Third Reich lurking around each corner. “The #CPAC2021 stage is not one. It’s a Nazi emblem ” There followed pictures of this stage during this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, juxtaposed against the Odal Rune–a late classic epigraphic character embraced by some SS components as a sign of this”pristine” German bloodline.
Whites’s accusation was ridiculous, but it transported weight all over the net. Had we a nationwide memory lasting longer than fifteen minutes at a stretch, but we would realize that not only Donald Trump, but George W. Bush, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan had the H-word lobbed at them. But Zoomers will remember the early bygone days of this past month, when prior Star Wars heroine Gina Carano was axed by Disney with the temerity to place the shoe on the other foot.
Carano published and then deleted a ridiculous comparison between cancel civilization and the Nazi regime. Unlike her counterparts that are liberal, she was met with indignant censure as opposed to solemn nods of assent. But besides the dual standard, the most remarkable quality of the Carano incident was the sheer amount of ethnic obsession with Hitler it symbolized. Apparently both straight – and – left-wingers now hit reflexively for the Holocaust because of go-to touchstone for societal and political discontents of every type. What is happening here?
Certainly the answer is some mixture of historic illiteracy with the British ethnic observer Douglas Murray, following the philosopher Kenneth Minogue, diagnosed as”St. George in retirement syndrome” St. George’s whole identity is wrapped up by slaying the dragon. He moves about inventing ever-more unlikely villains to destroy, until he is located one day thrashing vainly at thin air–anything as opposed to give up his individuality for a monster-slayer.
People–particularly young men and women, particularly young men–have come to understand through hardship. We crave actual adventure with real stakes, a proving ground where we could refine ourselves in rebellion against an evil energy. Looking about our comparatively comfy landscape and finding no such wicked ability to withstand, we invent one by analogy to the past.
But the one bad of yesteryear we all know anything about is the Holocaust, and the only thing we all understand about it’s that it was bad. So every new bad issue would be the growth of the Nazis, and also our team–the good guys–are always the freedom fighters (it never occurs to us we’ve been one of the Quislings). The result is exactly what the political philosopher Leo Strauss called reductio ad Hitlerum.
Because of this the novel itself is thankfully free of self-serious references to our times. The narrative proceeds with a spare and haunting market: blacks Hans and Sophie Scholl combine forces with fellow college students in Hamburg, Freiburg, Berlin, and Vienna to sabotage Hitler’s hierarchical regime from within. They read banned publications, collect below the moonlit trees of Munich’s English Garden– and–most famously–disperse six leaflets urging fellow dissenters to”dissociate yourselves from National Socialist gangsters.”
Nevertheless, it’s a testament to our own flippancy about the Holocaust that few Americans actually know the story of the or any other resistance movement.
Even the White Rose leaflets express his terror at his countrymen’s ignorance and complacency:”In the aftermath a dreadful but only judgment will be meted out to people who remained in hiding, who had been cowardly and hesitant.” The sixth pamphlet, distributed following Germany’s resounding defeat at Stalingrad in 1943, got the group detected by a janitor, who turned over to police. The two Scholl siblings along with their four major co-conspirators–Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Kurt Huber, and Willi Graf–have been gruesomely implemented by the nation.
Hans and Sophie Scholl with Christoph Probst, right, in Munich in 1942
It’s one of the true stories that reads like a myth–a expansive and poignant story of defiance in the face of dire persecution. Ciponte tells it nicely. In its final, he reveals how”the British dropped five thousand flyers quoting in the sixth White Rose booklet on cities around Germany” in exactly the same month since the majority of these White Rose leaders had been implemented. Their dream of a Germany and Europe morally strong enough to stand up to Hitler’s oppressive regime wasn’t in vain–they never lived to see its fruition.
Throughout, Ciponte’s design is striking and original. He paints in a type of stippled watercolor which makes a grainy result, such as a faded photograph. “Just look at that memorial,” says Christoph since the five rebels wander to the woods. “Enormous and golden within an egg yolk” Nevertheless, it’s not: it is light and dappled against the blue-grey clouds. We are looking back here throughout the haze of legend at these days of valiant childhood. Ciponte catches their exuberance as well as their own bravery, the inexplicable passion of their late-night reading group where they see”that Jew, Heine”–defending the greats of German Romanticism from annihilation at the hands of monstrous ideologues.
Anyone unfamiliar with the history behind Freiheit! Will require some help from external sources: this can be Ciponte’s sole important shortcoming from a technical standpoint. His design is really terse and spare that it may get disorienting–following a brief introduction in medias res, he drops back at the start and follows Sophie throughout her induction to the bunch. From there we are off to the races, both obscure Italian poetry and all. This slender volume is probably not clear enough for the uninitiated to follow with no help from a primer.
However, Ciponte does include, in an appendix, the complete text of six White Rose leaflets. This is a wonderful historic source in its own right. They are amazing documents, mixing high paganism with impassioned Christian theology in the authentic Romantic style. His mouth is the most bizarre maw of hell, along with his could be at base accursed.” Goethe and Lao-Tzu, Novalis and Ecclesiastes are gathered to a Kantian plea for justice, no matter the price tag.
Within the picture book itself, we are spared any heavy-handed injunctions to really visit and do likewise. However, Cipontehis publisher, clearly needs us to draw out their own parallel lines between then and today. “The challenges they face may vary, but the need for people to stand against bad, regardless of what the price, will stay.” As a means to sell novels this may be powerful; because a characterization of Freiheit! Itself, it does Ciponte a disservice.
About halfway through the novel there is a two-page spread dedicated to some truly slimy address by Paul Giesler, the party leader of this Westphalia-South region who’d eventually catch the White Rose leaders. “I can understand if some women think they have to study because they’re not pretty enough to locate an admirer,” smirks Giesler. “However, I can guarantee you, ladies. I can gladly assign you one of my aides. And I can guarantee you a pleasant experience”
We fondly imagine we’ve moved beyond history, to some glorious progressive potential against whose backdrop Hitler and also Donald Trump represent only momentary and disgusting aberrations.It’s a disgusting speech. However, are we supposed to see in Giesler a precursor of Candace Owens, famous enforcer of”the tyranny of their gender binary”? The blurb invites those sorts of comparisons, along with the book appears to have been received this manner in some groups:”Stories such as this… give new generations of activists personalities to emulate,” wrote Joshua Winchester in his critique.
Can they, however? If anything, the effect of Freiheit! Itself will be to demonstrate just how utterly unlike Nazi Germany the present situation of America’s youth is. No one is going to catch you and kill you in case you try to shout down Heather Mac Donald. Just the opposite: you’ll likely get an award. Even cancel civilization, although it’s a travesty and could presage far worse abuses of power farther down the road, barely equates in its present shape to the guillotine that Hans and Sophie faced.
Ciponte is a loyal and complex enough storyteller to produce this apparent, whether or not he intends to: because it is historically accurate, Freiheit! Shows us what actual resistance fighting resembles. Hint: it’s not safe spaces and diversity sections.
Around the world there truly are, right now, people risking their lives to struggle for liberty. You will find Hong Kongers secured within an interminable legal torment, separated from their families and slandered by the CCP after rebelling in summertime 2019. There are Christians in Nigeria who will be killed should they claim Christ. You will find Uyghur Muslims whose continuing genocide registers as more than a PR annoyance for its Disney executives who fired Gina Carano. It should go without saying that to compare the plight of American university students with any of these living nightmares, or with the fate suffered by the White Rose, is a clownish affront to the memory of all of them.
But perhaps less naturally: if these many oppressed individuals are united in their yearning to succeed, they are still each of these different and distinctive. The specifics of suffering are irreducible; it reveals naïveté of the first water to lump all pain in a box called”very bad things.” We do so in America because we have been so blessedly protected in the”very bad things” that history has to offer you.
This has allowed us to make a childish fantasy narrative in which time passing means moral progress: if it is later, it is better. We fondly imagine we’ve moved past historyinto a glorious progressive potential against whose backdrop Hitler and also Donald Trump represent only momentary and disgusting aberrations.
But tragically, the Nazi regime wasn’t an aberration at the grand scheme of individual life. Evil and oppression are all constants of these species that are broken. This is one reason why we often screen out Stalin and Mao as well as Mussolini once we assess the 20th century: we cannot bear to contemplate that Hitler’s violent despotism wasn’t an exception to the human rule. The tyrants of the 1900s were of these heirs to a line that goes back through Maximilien Robespierre and also King Henry VIII, all the way to Caligula and Nebuchadnezzar.
We are not prepared, in our optimism, to acknowledge how great we have it. We cannot bear to understand what real suffering and actual oppression seem like, how common they are, just how rare and fragile is our American freedom. Freiheit! Can do a excellent service to its readers, but only if they learn from it that true evil is not to be bandied around as a rhetorical weapon to score cheap political issues. The proper response to the long and hideously diverse history of human pain is humility. The appropriate way to honor the White Rose will be to stand in awe of the courage–not claim it glibly as one’s personal.