Traute Lafrenz, last surviving member of the anti-Nazi resistance movement known as the White Rose, has died. She was a university student in Munich in 1941 when she met Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst and got involved in the group. Her involvement became known to the Nazi authorities following the arrest of Hans and Sophie Scholl, and she was also arrested. Unlike Probst and the Scholls, who were executed, she was sentenced to one year in prison…but following her release, she was rearrested, and was liberated by the Allies only three days before her scheduled trial, which would likely have led to her own execution. After the war, she emigrated to the US, became a physician, got married, and had four children. She retired to Yonges Island in South Carolina.
More about Lafrenz, and the story of the White Rose group.
My post about Alexander Schmorell, another member of the group.
There is a wonderful German movie from 1982 about the group, titled simply The White Rose. It portrays them not as plaster saints, but rather as real, if highly exceptional, people–sometimes, as high-spirited kids. In German with English subtitles, the film doesn’t seem to have ever made it to DVD, in the US at least, but VHS versions are often available on Ebay. Highly, highly recommended.
22 thoughts on “Traute Lafrenz, Last of the White Rose”
The seven leaflets produced and circulated by the White Rose can be found here:
Second the movie recco. I saw it with English subtitles, not very well done IIRC, but other than that a good production.
What courage that must have taken to defy the Nazis – and distribute leaflets. I am surprised she didn’t receive an initial death sentence – the “judge” was the notorious Roland Feisler. IIRC Sophi was beheaded a day/2 after her “trial”.
I hope over the next DEI decade, I can live up to her example. And have her luck. Canadians can probably begin resistance now.
The White Rose is usually described as a ‘nonviolent’ resistance group, as if it were pacifist and Gandhi-like in its orientation, but I believe this was entirely for practical and timing reasons. Sophie Scholl wrote in 1940 that the French Army should have fought ‘to the last round’, which doesn’t sound very pacifist, and the group made some attempts to recruit chemistry students in order to acquire explosives.
As someone said, this is what real Nazis do.
Traute actually met Alexander Schmorell first, back in 1939 when they both had to fulfill national service. After that, they were both students at the university in Hamburg, though he only stayed there for one semester.
Sophie Scholl boldly stated that if she were to see Hitler someplace, (and she had the means to do it), she’d kill him. Oddly enough, Alexander Schmorell and Lilo Fuerst-Ramdohr were in a restaurant once when Hitler and his people came in… They did their best to finish up and get out of there as quickly as possible!
I started a post about Traute yesterday I haven’t finished… I probably spent too much time chasing little details and stuff… I still need to rewrite a bit, so it will probably be up tomorrow.
If you’re interested in life and death in Nazi Germany, you can’t do better than read Victor Klemperer’s two-volume journal “I Will Bear Witness.”
People wonder how the Nazis achieved such complete control over their society. I hqve found Erik Larson to be an excellent author on historical facts, and his book In The Garden of the Beasts (I suppose referencing Berlin’s Tiergarten), he writes of an American professor, picked by Roosevelt to be ambassador to Germany in 1933 (imagine, no state dept people wanted the job) – and how the Nazis, though intimidation, beatings and torture (there were over 100 “centers” in Berlin, and sometimes death, achieved control.
Just to fail to give the “Hitlergruss” (Nazi Salute) when Hitler cam by would earn you one of those beatings/torture.
Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” and “Berlin Diary” remain relevant.
Especially insightful, IMO: the memoir of Sebastian Haffner, who came of age in Germany between the wars:
The Nazis chose an especially bloody form of execution in the guillotine. As many as 16,000 victims. Yet they, unlike the French, that used it until 1955, carried on in cellars rather than in public. One wonders why they went to the trouble of building and hauling them around but choose to forgo the spectacle. The Soviets also conducted the bulk of their killing in private. Until fairly recently, China conducted public executions, complete with portable operating rooms to harvest organs. They seem to have streamlined the operation recently by harvesting the organs in private, the bullet behind the ear not really being necessary.
The Nazis were less bashful in their occupied Eastern territories.
Note that the guillotine had been used for decades by both Prussia and Weimar. An especially good account of the Soviet Katyn massacre is depicted in Timothy Snyder’s “Bloodlands” where thousands of Poles were killed over several weeks in assembly line fashion by a single executioner using a small caliber pistol. Snyder also depicts the Nazi massacres that MCS mentioned
I suppose the points I was working toward above were; that in the 20th century, or before that, for that matter, there doesn’t seem to be any mass slaughter/genocide that failed from a lack of willing executioners, and that the Nazis may have been the first to adopt an openly experimental approach to the problems associated with mass killings. The death camps were simply their solution to mitigating the environmental consequences of disposing of tens of thousands of bodies.
Something else that bears remembering is that the Nazis started out eliminating the useless mouths.
True on disposal of bodies. The other reason for the death camps, besides crowd control, was that the members of the Einsatzgruppen death squads were having mental breakdowns from the mass shootings showing that even sadists have limits
Or not. Stalin’s chef executioner Blokhin who personally shot tens of thousands, on some nights shooting 1 every 2 minutes for hours on end
Blokhin ended up eating his gun.
I got my post up (finally)
Good post, Katja.
Thank you very much! :)
After Professor Kurt Huber’s execution – Traute Lafrenz stood trial with him, and he was executed at the same time as Alexander Schmorell – his widow received a bill from the government for “wear and tear” to the guillotine from her husband’s execution.
The Germans are a special type of “efficient”.
To second Katja (3.13 at 6:19pm):
“…even at this safe distance from Hitler’s menace, Remarque was not spared the beheading of his sister, fashion designer Elfriede Scholz, in a Berlin prison. The Nazis’ perverted insult to her grisly demise was a bill for ninety marks sent by the executioner to Remarque, the brother whose pacifism had precipitated their unstinting spite.”
I met references to this inhuman practice in Heinrich Bolle novels – and in memoirs of inmates in Soviet Gulag.
In some places–Iran comes to mind–survivors of the executed are presented with bills for the bullets used. (That used to be said, anyway.)