The White Rose
Jud Newborn, a scholar, journalist and lecturer began his speech with two German songs that had very similar melodies. One became so popular that it was translated into English in 1961. However, the messages in the two songs were polar opposites.
In its annual “Lessons from Kristallnacht,” on Nov. 10, the Holocaust Center of the United Jewish Federation sponsored a community program. Its main focus was on “Sophie Scholl and The White Rose Society,” a German resistance group led by brother and sister, Hans and Sophie Scholl.
The first song Newborn played was a Nazi storm trooper song, very popular among the World War II Hitler Youth. The second was titled “Die Gedanken Sind Frei,” literally translated to “Our Thoughts Are Free,” a song translated and popularized in American culture by Pete Seeger.
In the opening of Newborn’s speech about the White Rose movement, he used the famous Eli Wiesel quote, “Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims.”
In his speech, he also stated that the two White Rose mysteries have been deciphered and can now be shared with the public.
The first is the question of why Hans and Sophie started the movement.
It is believed that Hans, when he was 16 and a soldier in Hitler’s army, had a homosexual encounter with an older lover.
He was sent to jail for six months. During that time, Hans decided that no matter what one’s beliefs are, no one should be condemned for having free will. The core of the White Rose movement was made up of five students and one professor, all Christian Germans.
The second mystery Newborn spoke about was the origin of the “White Rose” name.
“White Roses are a core of people in their own country who dare to speak up to their own people, about anything they consider to be against human rights,” he said.
The name came from a book called “The White Rose” by the German author B. Tavern, who also wrote the better known book “The Treasures of the Sierra Madre.”
According to Newborn, the White Rose published leaflets. There were six plus a seventh one that was still a draft, all written in the name of purity, condemning the Nazi regime.
“The White Rose leaflets were totally different and unexpected for the Nazis because they were very lofty, had appeal to the intellect, appealing to the educated Germans, and the Nazis never expected any resistance from that quarter,” Newborn said.
The movement, made up in total of about 50 members, was spread all across early 1940s Germany.
“They had people helping them. The White Rose had supporters that knew what they were doing,” he said.
Newborn ended speaking about his personal “White Roses” of our generation, mentioning the Serbian anti-war movement in the early 1990s.
“There were a few Serb students, fighting against fascism; they were like the White Roses, and they tried to wake up their own country when it was not listening,” he said.
Leon Metzler, 81, of Bigelow Heights, is a Holocaust survivor. He remembers every detail of that awful night of Kristallnacht.
“I was 10 years old, and the Nazis came into our house,” he said, “Broke up our furniture with axes, broke all the windows, they sent my father to Dachau [concentration] camp. He died in Dachau.”
After moving to the United States in 1941, Metzler recalls that when he returned to Germany in 1951, things were different.
“I returned as a soldier in June 1951, it was quite an experience, I went back to the town where I was born in,” he said. “I went to the post office, there was a young man there, about my age and I said ‘Look at me, do you recognize me?’”
“He said ‘no,’” Metzler continued. I said ‘If I’d tell you my name you might know who I am.’ So I told him my name. I told him ‘I sat behind you in school,’ he said ‘Really? I remember you.’ I said to him ‘that the time we sat together in school, you were wearing a brown Hitler uniform and called me a dirty Jew. Today, I wear a brown uniform, now what you have to say? The tables have turned!’”
Honey Sapir, 68, of Stanton Heights learned about the White Rose society for the first time.
“I have never heard of them before, and I was amazed that such young people could do so much,” she said.
Sapir also referred to the fact that the number of high school and college audience members was almost nonexistent.
“The young age groups, some of them don’t even know what Kristallnacht is, unfortunately.”
Leah Berman, of Squirrel Hill came with her husband and two children to the Commemoration and learned for the first time about Hans’ and Sophie’s movement.
“I never heard of the White Rose and I didn’t really know too much about German resistance to the Nazis.”
Berman was upset that not enough young listeners came to the event.
“I was looking at the audience and I was very disappointed that there weren’t enough young people.”
Abraham Berman, her husband, said he hopes that the Holocaust will not be forgotten soon.
“The biggest problem facing the world at large, especially the Jews today, is that the further we get from the Holocaust, and the more of the Holocaust survivors are passing away, the more we potentially have a threat of other people denying the Holocaust ever took place.”
Newborn said Pittsburgh is in the front line of cities preserving the memory of the Holocaust and how it is relevant for today.
“I’m so impressed with Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, its activism and the warmth that I’ve been shown,” he said. “Pittsburgh has really been in the forefront of remembering the lessons of the Holocaust, teaching them and bringing them into the current day, carrying these lessons to the future.”