Pamphlets of the White Rose III
‘Salus publica suprema lex.’1
All ideal forms of state are utopias. A state cannot be constructed in purely theoretical terms, but must grow and mature in the same way as every individual person. But we must not forget that an early form of the state was present at the beginning of every culture. The family is as old as humanity itself and from this original unit people, endowed with reason, created a state whose foundation was to be justice and whose supreme law was to be the common good. The state should be analogous to the divine order, and the greatest of all utopias, the Civitas Dei,2 is the ideal that it should ultimately resemble. We do not want to pass judgement here on the various possible forms of state: democracy, constitutional or absolute monarchy, etc. Only one thing must be made unambiguously clear: every single person is entitled to a viable and just government that ensures the freedom3 of the individual as well as the welfare of society as a whole. For each person should, in accordance with God’s will, freely and independently seek to achieve their natural goal, that is their earthly happiness through self-reliance and initiative, while co-existing and co-operating within the state as a community.
But our current ‘state’ is the dictatorship of evil. ‘We know that already,’ I hear you object, ‘and we don’t need you to reproach us for it yet again.’ But, I ask you, if you know that, then why don’t you act? Why do you tolerate these rulers gradually robbing you, in public and in private, of one right after another, until one day nothing, absolutely nothing, remains but the machinery of the state, under the command of criminals and drunkards? Has this violation defeated your spirit to such an extent that you have forgotten that it is not only your right but also your MORAL DUTY to do away with this system? But if a person can no longer summon the strength to demand their rights, they will certainly perish. We deserve to be scattered across the world like dust before the wind if we do not prepare ourselves for action now, at the eleventh hour, and finally muster the courage which we have thus far lacked. Do not conceal your cowardice under the cloak of expediency. For with every day that you continue to hesitate, that you do not resist this spawn of hell, your guilt grows exponentially greater.4
Many, perhaps even the majority, of those reading these leaflets have no idea how they should mount resistance. They cannot see how it is possible. We aim to show them that each and every one of them is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of this system. It will not be possible to lay the foundations for the swift downfall of this ‘government’ or even to bring about its downfall through individualistic opposition like an embittered hermit; it is only through the conviction and energy of people acting together, people who are agreed on the means that can be used to achieve their goal. We do not have a vast range of means at our disposal, we have only one: PASSIVE RESISTANCE.
The meaning and purpose of passive resistance is to bring down National Socialism and, in this struggle, there is no course, no action that we should fear to take, whatever it may be. National Socialism must be attacked at every weak point, at every chink in its armour. This false state5 must be brought to an end as soon as possible — in this war, a victory for fascist Germany would have dreadful, unimaginable consequences. The Germans’ most immediate concern should not be military victory over Bolshevism, but defeating the National Socialists. This must be our most urgent priority. We will illustrate how pressing this is in one of our next leaflets.
And now, every staunch adversary of National Socialism must ask themselves the question: how can they fight back against the current ‘government’ most effectively, how can they inflict the most stinging wounds? The answer is, without a doubt: passive resistance. It is clearly impossible for us to provide every individual with direct instructions, we can only give general suggestions, each person must find their own way to put them into practice.
SABOTAGE of arms factories and other strategic operations, sabotage of all conferences, rallies, festivities, organizations, everything that the National Socialist Party brought into being. Any and all hindrance to the smooth operation of the war machine (a machine that is engineered only for war, a war with the sole purpose of saving and preserving the National Socialist Party and its dictatorship). SABOTAGE of all academic and intellectual groups that actively support the continuation of the War — whether they are universities, colleges, laboratories, research institutes, or technical firms. SABOTAGE of all cultural events that might raise the fascists’ ‘prestige’ with the people.6 SABOTAGE of all branches of the arts that have the slightest connection to National Socialism or stand in its service. SABOTAGE of all publications, all newspapers that are in the pay of the ‘government’, that propagate its ideas and the spread the brown lie.7 Do not give a single penny to street collections (even if they are carried out under the pretence of a charitable cause). This is only a cover.8 In reality, the sum will not benefit the Red Cross, or the needy. The government does not need this money, it is not financially dependent on these collections — their printing presses are running day and night, and can produce all the money they need. But they have to keep the people in a state of tension, held on a tight rein that must never be loosened! Do not donate any scrap metal, any fabric, or anything else! Do your utmost to convince all your acquaintances, from the lower classes too, of the senselessness and futility of continuing this war, of the spiritual and economic enslavement, of the destruction of all moral and religious values, which has been brought about by National Socialism, and to encourage PASSIVE RESISTANCE!
Aristotle’s Politics: ‘… a further essential aspect (of tyranny) is seeking to ensure that nothing any subject says or does remains hidden, but rather to spy and eavesdrop on him at every turn… and moreover to fill the whole world with hatred and to turn friend against friend, the people against the aristocracy, and the wealthy against one another. Thus an aspect of tyrannical discipline is making the subjects poor, so that the guards can be paid and so that they are so concerned about their daily earnings that they have no time or energy to to plot a coup-d’état’… Another aspect of tyranny is the implementation of high income taxes, such as were imposed on Syracuse, for after five years under Dionysius’s rule the citizens had happily given up all their wealth in taxes. And the tyrant also has a constant inclination to provoke war…’
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1 ‘The welfare of the people [is the] supreme law.’ This is a misquotation of Cicero, De Legibus (book 3, part 3, sub. VIII), ‘Salus populi suprema lex esto’.
2 A reference to Saint Augustine of Hippo’s De civitas Dei contra paganos (The City of God against the Pagans, c. 1470).
3 Freiheit’: ‘freedom’. The German word for freedom, which features especially heavily in the sixth leaflet, in the phrase ‘Freiheit und Ehre’ (‘freedom and honour’). The repetition makes this something of a rallying call, as the White Rose call for the freedom of the individual. They imply that the love of freedom is intrinsically German, evoking a German literary and philosophical tradition which includes Goethe and Kant. Goethe’s famous knight-hero in his play Götz von Berlichingen (1773) embodies these values, refusing to bow to an unjust authority and fighting to protect German independence. Götz dies in prison with the last word ‘Freiheit’. Hans Scholl’s last words were ‘Es lebe die Freiheit!’ (‘Long live freedom!’).
4 The German makes direct reference to a parabolic curve (‘gleich einer parabolischen Kurve’) where any point is at an equal distance from a fixed point and a fixed straight line.
5 Here the word ‘Unstaat’ is used. ‘Staat’ broadly corresponds to the English ‘state’ with more emphasis on the mechanism of government (as in the adjectival sense of ‘state’ in ‘state pension’, for example). It can also refer to the nation as a whole. Here it has frequently been translated as ‘state’ or ‘government’, in the latter case often for clarity, and to avoid the ambiguity of the English, where state can also mean ‘condition’. Two ‘untranslatable’ cases in the pamphlets are ‘Unstaat’ in the third pamphlet and ‘Terrorstaat’ in the fourth, which have been rendered as ‘false state’ and ‘terror state’ respectively. ‘Unstaat’ is somewhat stronger than ‘false state’, as the German prefix Un- can also be applied to nouns to denote an antithesis: the noun ‘Unheil’, for example, meaning evil, calamity or affliction, comprises the prefix and the noun ‘Heil’, meaning spiritual or physical wellbeing. As such, ‘Unstaat’ indicates that the Nazi regime is not only ‘false’, but also antithetical to what it should mean to be a state.
6 ‘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.
7 The colour brown had been associated with the Nazis since the 1920s, when Hitler’s Munich-based militia, the ‘Sturmabteilung’ (‘Storm Detachment’), wore brown shirts as their uniform. Even after much of the ‘Sturmabteilung’ was purged by the SS in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in June 1934, the use of the word ‘brown’ as a shorthand for ‘Nazi’ or ‘fascist’ persisted.
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