The Second Pamphlet
Pamphlets of the White Rose II
National Socialism cannot be confronted intellectually because it is not intellectual. It is wrong to speak of a National Socialist world view, because if such a thing existed, it would need to be proven or challenged by intellectual means — yet in reality we are presented with a completely different picture: even in its earliest embryonic form, this movement was dependent on deceiving the German people; even then, it was rotten to the very core and could only save itself through ceaseless deception. Even Hitler himself writes in an early edition of ‘his’ book (a book which, despite having been written in the most appalling German that I have ever read, has been elevated to biblical status by this nation of poets and philosophers): ‘You would not believe the extent to which you must deceive a people in order to govern it.’ If at first this cancerous tumour on the German people had not yet made itself all too conspicuous, this was only because there were still forces for good working effectively enough to hold it back. Yet as it became bigger and bigger and finally came to power with one last base act of corruption, the tumour, so to speak, ruptured, contaminating the whole body. The majority of its earlier opponents then went into hiding and the German intelligentsia sought refuge in a coal cellar only to gradually suffocate there, like nightshade hidden away from daylight and the sun. Now, we are approaching the end. Now, everything depends on finding one another again, on one person enlightening the next, always reflecting and never resting until every last person is convinced of the dire necessity of fighting against this system. If such a wave of uproar travels through the country, if there is ‘something in the air’, if many people get involved, then this system can be shaken off with one final tremendous effort. An end with terror is still better than terror without end.
It is not our place to give a final judgement on the meaning of our history. But if this catastrophe is to heal us, it will be solely by means of being purified by suffering, of yearning for the light in the very deepest darkness, by stirring ourselves, and finally, by playing our part in casting off the yoke which weighs down the world.
We do not want to write about the Jewish question in this pamphlet, nor to compose a plea of defence — no, we want only to briefly point out by way of example the fact that, since the conquest of Poland, three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in that country in the most bestial manner. Here, we see the most horrific crime against human dignity, a crime unparalleled in all of human history. For Jews are human beings too — whichever stance one might take on the Jewish question — and it is against human beings that this has been committed. Some might say that the Jews deserved such a fate; this would be a claim of colossal arrogance — but, assuming that someone did say this, what stance would they then take towards the fact that the entire youth of Poland’s aristocracy has been annihilated (God grant that this is not yet the case!)? How, you ask, has such a thing occurred? All the male offspring of aristocratic families between the ages of 15 and 20 were carted off to Germany for forced labour in the concentration camps, and all the girls of the same age to Norway into the brothels of the SS! Why are we telling you all this, given that you already know about it, or if not about this, then about other, equally serious crimes of this appalling sub-humanity? Because it touches on an issue that deeply concerns us all and MUST give us pause for thought. Why do the German people1 behave so apathetically in the face of all these most atrocious, most inhumane crimes? Barely anyone gives it a thought. The fact is accepted as such and filed away. And again, the German peoplereturn to their dull, stupid sleep and give these fascist criminals the courage and the opportunity to go on rampaging —, and that is precisely what they do. Should this be taken as a sign that the Germans’ most primitive, human emotions have been rendered so brutal that no voice within them cries out piercingly in the face of such deeds, that they have sunk into a deadly sleep, from which there is no awakening, not ever? This is how it seems, and it certainly is, if Germany does not start up from this apathy, if she does not protest against this clique of criminals wherever she can, if she does not feel a collective suffering with these hundreds of thousands of victims. And she must not only feel collective suffering, no, much more: COLLECTIVE GUILT.2 Since, through her apathetic behaviour, she gives these dark leadersthe opportunity to act this way in the first place, she suffers this ‘government’, which has burdened itself with such endlessguilt; yet it is her own fault that it was able to emerge in the first place! Everyone wants to exonerate themselves from such a collective guilt, everyone does so and returns to sleeping soundly with the calmest, clearest conscience. But no one can exonerate themselves, everyone is GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY! Yet it is not too late to rid the world of this most heinous monstrosity of a government, so we do not further yoke ourselves to guilt. Now, since our eyes have been fully opened over the last few years, since we know whom we’re dealing with, it is high time to exterminate this brown-shirt horde. Until the outbreak of the war, the vast majority of the German peoplewere blinded, the National Socialistsdid not show their true face, but now, since they have been seen for what they are, the highest and only duty, the most sacred duty even of every German must be to destroy these beasts.
‘If a regime is unobtrusive, its people are happy. If a regime is oppressive, the people are broken. Misery, alas, is what happiness is built upon. Happiness, alas, only veils misery. Where does all this lead? The end is nowhere in sight. Order lapses into disorder, good lapses into evil. The people fall into disarray. Has this not long been the case, day in, day out? Therefore, the wise man is angular, but does not scrape; he has edges, but does not hurt anyone; he stands strong, but without being harsh. He is bright, but he does not wish to gleam.’ Laozi.
‘He who sets out to rule over the empire3 and to shape it as he pleases; I do not see him achieving his aim; that is all.’
‘The empire is a living organism; in truth, it cannot be constructed!’ He who seeks to construct it, corrupts it, he who seeks to grasp it, loses it.’
Therefore: ‘Some beings go on ahead, others follow them, some have warm breath, others cold, some are strong, others weak, some reach fulfilment, others are overcome.’
‘The wise man therefore refrains from exaggeration, from extremes, and from excess.’ Laozi.
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1 ‘Volk’: a term meaning ‘nation’ or ‘people’ originally used by the nationalist völkisch movement, which had its roots in the late nineteenth century and resurfaced after the First World War in opposition to liberal democracy under the Weimar Republic. The movement’s racist and anti-semitic attitudes and its ideal of the creation of a nation state based on a supposed common German ethnicity strongly influenced National Socialist racial ideology. The National Socialists used ‘Das deutsche Volk’ as an umbrella term for everybody whom they considered to be ‘ethnically German’, including those who lived outside of Germany.
2 ‘Mitschuld’: ‘collective responsibility’. The term ‘Mitschuld’ is a compound of the words ‘Schuld’, meaning ‘guilt’ or ‘fault’, and the prefix ‘Mit-’ (‘with’). Thus, it expresses an individual’s share in someone else’s guilt. The notion of ‘Mitschuld’ had great importance in the post-war discussion of Germans’ responsibility, as it is used to express the idea that the individuals within a society, which allows deeds like the Nazi atrocities to happen, share the blame for these actions. In the second pamphlet, the White Rose claim that all Germans who do not protest against the Nazi regime must feel this kind of collective guilt.
3 It is worth noting here that the German translation of Laozi’s aphorism which the White Rose have used includes the word ‘Reich’ which we have translated as ‘empire’. This Laozi quotation therefore acquires greater significance, since it implies a connection with the National Socialist regime, which was officially known as the ‘Drittes Reich’ (‘Third Reich’). This title designates Hitler’s dictatorship as the third German empire after the Holy Roman Empire (800-1806) and the German Empire (1871-1918).
This translation was originally published in Alexandra Lloyd (ed.), The White Rose: Reading, Writing, Resistance (Oxford: Taylor Institution Library, 2019). Copyright © Taylor Institution Library 2019.
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