The icon of St Alexander of Munich shows him holding a white rose. Last February the Orthodox Church beatified Alexander Schmorell, a witness to and martyr of the faith. He belonged to the group of young Germans of the White Rose, who played the lead in a religious and civil epic 70 years ago, in the 250 days from June 1942 to January 1943. The Protestants, Hans and Sophie Scholl, the Catholics, Christopher Probst, Willi Graf and Kurt Huber, the Orthodox, Schmorell, and Hans Leipelt, whose mother was Jewish, all died under the banner of faith and freedom.
They had been meeting for some time in the circle of Hans Hubert, a
50-year-old musicologist and lecturer in philosophy, and were in touch with
unpopular intellectuals persecuted by the regime who included Theodor Haecker,
a philosopher, Manfred Eickmeyer, an architect, Carl Muth, editor of Hochland,
Alfred von Martin, a sociologist, and Otto Aicher of the Quikborn Movement
founded by Romano Guardini.
Their opposition rejected the Nazi violence and was fostered by reading, by friendly relations, by a lived-out sense of religion, by comparison and by dialogue. They had access to authors who in those years were unapproachable and forbidden: Soeren Kirkegaard, Guardini, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jacques Maritain, Georges Bernanos and Reinhold Schneider. Towards the end of June 1942, their resistence materialized with the distribution of a first leaflet, followed shortly afterwards by another three, in which they contested the absolute existential falsehood of Nazism. Typed by Hans Scholl and Schmorell and having been copied, the texts were sent to addresses chosen in the telephone books of Bavaria and Austria. In these texts the brutality of the Nazis was condemned and freedom exalted, together with an invitation to dispose of the clique of shameful leaders. On 18 February, Hans and Sophie were arrested at the University while they were in the middle of distributing leaflets and Christoph Probst was with them. On being questioned, they assumed full responsibility without implicating their friends. At an express trial they were condemned to death by beheading and their sentence was executed on 22 February. The first to die was Sophie, who did so with a courage that deserves the respect of her prison guards. In her last letter and testament she wrote: “What does my death matter if through our action thousands of people are shaken up and awoken?”. “We have been granted”, she added, “to be the ones that lead the way, but for this reason we must die first.