What can The White Rose teach us today?
February 22, 2002 11:11 AM   Subscribe

What can The White Rose teach us today? 59 years ago..."February 22, 1943, 9am... three students from the University of Munich are brought to trial for treason. The trial lasts until 1 pm and by 5 o’clock all are dead...Why are their voices silenced? And how many more innocent people will have to die before they are heard?" Their executioners maintained "It was not a time for tackling theoretical problems, but rather for grasping the sword , yet [they] sowed doubt among our youth. [They] nourished doubt instead of dispelling it..."

In memory of Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Willie Graf, Kurt Huber, and untold others whose terrible crime has been to speak truth to power.
posted by fold_and_mutilate (20 comments total)

I hope this isn't going to be some disgusting equivalence of Nazism to current American foreign policy, but this is foldy. So I know I'm wrong.

foldy, is it your contention that because Katya was destroying government property with a good heart, that she was not then guilty of the crime of destroying government property? And her identification aside, is going to jail for two hours of vandalism to the tune of half a million dollars of property really the equivalent of being executed for what, in the United States, would be free speech?
posted by dhartung at 11:32 AM on February 22, 2002

What can The White Rose teach us today?

That it's wrong to imprison or discriminate against people for holding unpopular opinions and voicing. I don't think that there's many sane people who would disagree with that.

As to the Katya Komisaruk case. The sentence strikes me as rather ridiculously severe, so you have a point there.
But she did go beyond free speech to desroying property which is illegal.
Both you and Komisaruk strike me a civil disobedience veterans. Surely you realize that when you break the law to make a point, arrest becomes a possibilty.
The restrictions on her testimony simply seem like they were designed to keep the trial from turning into a soapbox(for talk on admittedly important issue) and sticking to the facts of the case.
Her sentence seems to have been reduced to probation(on appeal I'm assuming) which seems fair.
posted by jonmc at 11:38 AM on February 22, 2002

Any article that makes reference to "America's nuclear Global Positioning System" obviously has a few factual issues to sort out.
posted by jaek at 11:49 AM on February 22, 2002

Henry Ford: "History is bunk."
posted by Postroad at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2002

The Global Positioning System is a nearly perfect example of a technology that can be used for good or bad -- "bad" in this case being the enhancement of U.S. warfighting capabilities. Of course the case can also be made that GPS, by making things like JDAM munitions orders of magnitude more accurate, has reduced the number of civilian casualties and thus is "good" even in a weapons-usage capacity. There is also a case that the United States, by creating a technology that can be used even to make enemy weapons more accurate, has indeed helped to everyone in the world to make weapons "less bad," if they wish to do so.

But a more direct case can be made that GPS has fundamentally altered the way in which we determine our position on the globe. People all over the world, in almost every conceivable profession, take advantage of and benefit from GPS, and bear none of the costs of creating or maintaining it. Activists might as well have destroyed the earliest pocket watches, since they enabled the British Navy to determine their longitude with precision.
posted by coelecanth at 12:57 PM on February 22, 2002

Navstar, against which Ms. Komisaruk was, er, activising, being the satellite system which provides Global Positioning.
posted by coelecanth at 1:11 PM on February 22, 2002

Believe I was housemates briefly with the younger sister or cousin of Sophie Scholl. My nomination for today's White Rose would be Peace Brigades International.

(The fight against the Nazis was a lot more winnable than the fight against the militarization of space, alas. Seems inevitable that "the death stars" will be built one way or another; one can only hope that control of their lasers doesn't pass into irresponsible hands. Given the worldwide enthusiasm for germ warfare, it's no wonder that techies would want the ability to incinerate even larger numbers of living creatures than possible with current methods. Pardon me for skepticism, but until we get to all-optical switching, etc., I suspect knocking out nukes at high altitude will still result in disaster from EMP alone. Wouldn't it be lovely if our brightest minds could dedicate themselves to less morbid pursuits?)
posted by sheauga at 1:32 PM on February 22, 2002

"Once inside, she used a hammer, crowbar and cordless electric drill to damage panels of an IBM mainframe computer and a satellite dish on top of the building. Using a crowbar she removed the computer's chip boards and danced on them. On the walls she spray- painted "Nuremberg," "International Law," and statements for disarmament."

Er, this, then, is what you call "Speaking Truth to Power"? This is what you suggest bears a similarity to the White Rose? This utterly demeans the memory of the White Rose.

1. Graffiti is not "speaking".
2. Mindless little slogans are not "truth".
3. "Power" is not the computer geeks and janitors that had to clean up her little self-important tirade.
4. Comparing a woman who spray paints walls, smashes a half million dollars worth of government property - and winds up spending all of two years in jail before getting paroled ... to a group of people that were executed by a dictator - whew. You have some fucked up value system dude.

"Deprived of a context, her act of disarmament was reduced to the level of mindless vandalism and she was sentenced to five years in prison."

Actually, more like "deprived of the context SHE, in her own little fantasy world, was operating within - with herself as a heroine bravely fighting (or at least spray-painting) for peace and "speaking truth to power". Her act was - IMO quite accurately - seen in the context of a government building ... that someone broke into and completely trashed.
posted by MidasMulligan at 1:37 PM on February 22, 2002

What can The White Rose teach us today?

- No matter how hopeless it seems, your cause might prevail someday. (Let's skip the "martyrdoms" and head straght for the negotiating / arms inspection and verification phase.)
posted by sheauga at 1:46 PM on February 22, 2002

not all cases end like the katya komisaruk case.
'In January 1996 three women disarmed a Hawk fighter with ordinary household hammers. Six months later, a Liverpool jury stunned the legal profession by acquitting them of causing £1.5 million of criminal damage.'
posted by asok at 1:50 PM on February 22, 2002

fold_and_mutilate, what a great link, thank you
posted by Tarrama at 4:32 PM on February 22, 2002

cheers, Foldy, not always a troll:)
posted by dash_slot- at 5:30 PM on February 22, 2002

And similarly to the case that asok mentions, there was the (attempted) sabotage of a Trident nuclear submarine. Of course, things don't necessarily work the same way in the US as in Britain. Here is an (admittedly one-sided) account of the issue - which seems to address part of the argument that MidasMulligan made.

Notice that the cases of acquittal are both essentially instances of jury nullification. Of course, if you don't want that to happen it works very well to withold information from the jury. I suppose the issue becomes: to what extent should it be the judge, not the jury, who decides what information is relevant? If you let judges decide exactly what to tell juries then it's only a short step to tyranny.
posted by Gaz at 6:26 PM on February 22, 2002

Of course graffiti is speech.
posted by sudama at 7:45 PM on February 22, 2002

What sudama said. Speech and sometimes even art.
posted by lia at 9:53 PM on February 22, 2002

Especially if there's a light near the graffiti going on and off.
posted by kindall at 10:32 PM on February 22, 2002

And the graffiti's the same colour as the wall.
posted by Gaz at 10:58 PM on February 22, 2002

Of course graffiti is speech.
So is money, but only one is welcome on the side of my house.
posted by thirteen at 11:17 PM on February 22, 2002

What can The White Rose teach us today?

I'm not sure. In the UK you can now technically be arrested indefinitely without charge for being involved with any terrorist act. Could protesting against a government be considered a terrorist act? Sure, why not?

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act also ensures that you can be arrested for failing to hand over your encryption keys or passwords to a police officer.

So, when President Blair ends up with his one-party state (The Conservatives are so popular lately. Not.) he can pretty much lock up anyone who doesn't like him. Funny, I rememember Hitler having similar powers.
posted by wackybrit at 8:17 AM on February 24, 2002

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