The White Rose Society: Conviction to speak when the majority is silent (OPINION)

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and cohost of the Perspectives with Bryan and Kate on Fox News 1450 AM. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

We tend to filter our historical understanding of people and events through the lens of our own time and understanding.  Sometimes we judge people from the past wrongly by assuming they should have known then what we know now.  But occasionally we recognize clearly what others were unable or unwilling to see then.

A good example of this would be the story of the White Rose Society that existed briefly during the early 1940’s. It is among the most inspiring stories of true courage,  yet it’s also one of the least known stories of our time.

Hans and Sophie Scholl were typical teenagers in 1930’s Germany as Hitler came to power.  Like their peers, they enrolled in the Hitler Youth, believing that Hitler was heaven sent for the purpose of restoring Germany to its former greatness.

Many Germans felt the same having suffered through a terrible economic crisis in the days following WWI.  At last a strong leader had emerged who took decisive steps to address not only their economic worries, but also the fear of a possible takeover at the hands of the Communists.

With the terrorist firebombing of the Reichstag in 1933, Hitler played upon those fears and convinced the German legislators to grant him broad powers to provide greater homeland security.  As Hitler continued to consolidate the powers that would eventually give him dictatorial control of Germany, he began to build up his military and eventually began waging aggressive war against other nations that had not attacked or provoked Germany.

Because of the crisis atmosphere, most Germans eagerly supported their government, and few recognized the true nature of their leader.  Among those few who saw through the nationalistic fervor, were Robert and Magdalena Scholl, Hans and Sophie’s parents.

As they taught their children the unwelcome truth –that Hitler was leading them not to glory but to everlasting shame and destruction—Hans and Sophie, along with a handful of other students began to circulate flyers calling for their fellow Germans to stop supporting Hitler and the Nazi war machine.

This, of course, was done at great personal risk because the dreaded Gestapo was now in place and dissent in any form was ruthlessly crushed.  Still, the White Rose Society pleaded with the German people to recognize the evil that was being done in their names and to withdraw their support for Hitler.

Hans and Sophie and their friend Christian Probst were arrested by the Gestapo in early 1943 and whisked away to a special tribunal created especially for traitors and terrorists.

As decorated military officers cowered in silence before the court, a 21 year old girl named Sophie courageously spoke up telling the judge and those assembled that, “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare to express themselves as we did.”

They were not so much tried as simply denounced as traitors by the judge, found guilty and quickly executed.

The story of the White Rose Society did not end there, however, because in the days that followed, the entire world painfully understood the awful truth of what Hitler was and what his actions would cost his nation.

Today, our nation and its leaders struggle with crises and issues that tempt them to fundamentally alter the nature and role of our own government.   The incremental dismantling of essential liberties in the name of state security is leading us down a similar path.

It’s always easier to speak only what is commonly accepted or spoken by the majority.  It’s often risky to think for one’s self and speak unpopular truths.

But that risk should not prevent us from speaking up in defense of freedom and against tyranny in any form.

Those few members of the White Rose, who bravely spoke up when the vast majority of Germans chose to lend silent consent to their leaders’ actions, are today heralded as heroes of the highest order.  They are rightly depicted as the embodiment of courage and the willingness to stand for freedom at any cost.

Let’s ensure that such people exist in our society, should the day ever come that their voices are needed.

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  • Kellie Mzik January 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Some traditions never die. The Washington County School District/Board also prefers to simply execute those who dissent, while protecting the evildoers.

  • Theresa March 31, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    I am just now learning about the White Rose Society. Thank you for the wonderful article.

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