Christian Short Stories
The Clipped Rose
By Web Ruble
Web writes: "Having served in U.S. forces in Europe in the 1950s and subsequently had been a newspaper reporter for 40 years (now retired), I learned that that at least four anti-Nazi underground movements existed in Germany during WWII."
Back in 1943. The news was terrible.
Even though I didn’t like the Wehrmacht, the news from the eastern front disturbed me.
Germany’s (ahem) juggernaut had reached a stumbling, starving halt at Stalingrad several weeks earlier. And then -- Feb. 4, 1943 -- the news reached us that Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Paulus had surrendered Germany’s 6th Army to Soviet forces -- unconditionally.
I was thinking the Soviet army not only had stopped the German advance but had forced surrender of an entire German army. Never had that happened before. Think of it. An entire German army. (91,000 men)
Moreover, I believed no mercy would be shown our young German men and boys in the sub-zero cold of the Steppe. They no doubt would be marched somewhere into that mysterious white void that throughout Russian history had gobbled up so many skins and souls.
My sister, Anne Marie, most certainly would never again see her fiancée, Hans Kergen. He most certainly would die a horrible death either on the march or in the Siberian prison labor camps to which he and cohort German soldiers would be deported.
The Russians, we knew, were not kind. Look how they’d treated their own people. And there were millions of ‘em. They most certainly would follow by reversing the eastern front and rolling toward Germany. And I knew when they got here -- considering how our soldiers behaved in Ukrainia -- Lord help us. Hitler-ordered the somber music that we had been hearing for two days over radio Bayerischer Rundfunk. It wasn’t helping.
Doom. Morale throughout the country was at an all-time low. Time to end this stupid war. What was Hitler thinking of, anyway? There was no way that an army could invade vast Russia -- its endless steppe, frozen tundra and taiga -- and survive. Napoleon found that out. Hitler, who studied and admired Napoleon, should’ve known that not even a Nazi blitzkrieg could do it.
Besides, the whole Nazi thing was evil, we Christians believed, and it was certain to bring disaster to Germany. Better to end things now, we thought, than wait for the grim inevitable. The prospects of the latter were too horrible to contemplate.
I, Franz Krieger, had escaped army life because I had become a mathematics student at Munich University. A self-alleged Christian, I nevertheless passed up secret seminary training in favor of student life. I did this not only to avoid the army, but to avoid a subterranean existence for who knows how long to study the Bible. Being a university student was better, if one thinks of saving his own skin.
As it was, however, I still could’ve been drafted into Nazi forces and sent on some dismal campaign to help save western and Christian culture.
Some culture. Christian? Oh, yeah. The deepest of shames should shower us. God would not be kind.
However, there was a vague hope on my doorstep. I was surrounded by some like-minded students. And we were arranging a protest in a few days at the university. People simply had to listen to us. Our national soul depended on it. Studies had to take a back seat while we wrestled the powers that be. So Lord help us.
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Well, the German failure at Stalingrad was the momentary impetus to kick into high gear a sustained, on-going anti-Nazi effort. Since the previous summer, a handful of us students at Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, had worked to do so. We had been meeting, sharing views, and discussing ways to oppose our country’s further plunge into Nazi-ism. We had collectively authored six propaganda tracts.
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But looking at it from a safe time distance today, I acknowledge that I wasn’t there on fateful Feb. 18, 1943. Rather, I was attending a birthday party for my younger brother Karl in Ulm. Our gang of protestors had started calling themselves the White Rose and had distributed five leaflets since summer, urging Germans passively to resist Hitler and Nazism.
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On this day, I knew the group had decided to distribute a sixth leaflet. That knowledge scared me, because I figured the Gestapo must be about ready to hop on us. And because I had a family commitment, I hadn’t bothered even to learn the detailed plans.
In my heart I believed that our White Rose movement was precariously wavering over destiny’s pit. I didn’t know how dangerously our activity was so dangling, however. I knew that charismatic Christian student Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans and fearless leader Christoph Probst were about to take a big risk. So, I went to Ulm. I loved them but I felt they were a little naïve.
They were. On that day, Feb. 18, 1943, they showered the university’s inner courtyard with anti-Nazi leaflets from an upstairs window. Sophie was seen doing it. Someone called the Gestapo who began searching for her and others.
Sophie, her brother Hans, and Willi Graf, and Christoph had been printing the leaflets on the third floor of a university building. A janitor saw the room and reported it to authorities.
The Gestapo soon fingered Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl, and Christoph Probst. They were arrested Feb. 22, 1943, tried and found guilty of treason. Several hours later the same day at about 5 p.m. their sentence -- execution by decapitation – was carried out at Stadelheim prison in Munich.
Sophie, without blinking commented in court, “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up to a righteous cause?” On her way to the guillotine, she said for all to hear, “Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
Well, few were wakened. Nor did the trio’s death stir action. Rather, it was the sudden, vine-clipping end of the White Rose. Within hours it was dead and buried. Hardly anyone outside the circle knew it ever existed.
I heard about the tragic end via the tavern beerline the next day. I had been cowering in a cellar in Ulm, afraid to identify myself as a student, let alone as one at Munich who was part of the students’ anti-Hitler movement.
Although Sophie’s death-walk comments were smuggled to the United Kingdom later that year by Helmuth James Graf Von Moltke, a leader of another anti-Nazi effort (and the Brits responded by showering Germany with leaflets), it wasn’t until after the war that the true story of the White Rose and three other underground movements were cast publicly.
In 1993, Playwright Lillian Garrett-Groag tagged Feb. 22, 1943, as “possibly the most spectacular moment of resistance that I can think of in the 20th Century.”
It had held no pride for me, however. You see, like Job, I had run and hid. Even though I judged the student action suicidal, for years I couldn’t forgive myself. However, today as I enter my 90s, through prayer I know that I can . . . as God has forgiven me.
Lo, bin ich mit ihnen immer. (Lo, I am with you always.)
(© 2011 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)
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