The White Roses and Other Poems by Senaka Seneviratnen – Published in Australia in 2014

My collection of poetry “White Roses and Other Poems” includes three sections. They are namely In Solitude, White Roses, and Miscellaneous.

In this effort, my main aim is to reflect on the peaceful struggle of the White Rose Student Movement which was a non-violent and intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany. It mainly consisted of the students from the University of Munich and their Philosophy professor Dr. Kurt Huber. The White Rose became known for its unanimous leaflet campaign that called for active civil disobedience against Adolph Hitler’s regime. The leaflet campaign was short lived and lasted from June 1942 to February 1943.

While Dr. Huber provided them with his advice, it is apparent that the siblings Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl provided leadership to the group. Nevertheless, Sophie emerged as the symbolic leader of the movement after the execution of the pair on the 23rd of February 1943. One reason for this is the intelligence and bravery she showed during the investigation process which was conducted by the senior detective officer Robert Moar. Later it was revealed through Robert’s own memoirs that he had agreed to release Sophie from the severe charges so that she would avoid the death penalty; however Sophie had refused his offer because her brother Hans Scholl and their friend Christoph Probst had been already charged with severe offences. Also, during the brief trial she was well-composed and showed integrity in front of the judge Dr. Freisler. Finally on the day of execution, she had behaved in a composed and brave manner. She had met her parents and addressed them with a clear mind a few hours before her execution. Also, she had a meeting with her bother Hans and Christoph in the same afternoon. According to the guards she had walked to the guillotine without any resistance.

The leaflets were written to rouse the people of then Germany against Nazis. They were based on the actual facts and also they contained certain predictions which were based on real facts. For example, they predicted the downfall of the Nazis as early as June 1942 when Germany had the upper hand in the war against Russia. Interestingly, their predictions became true after about a year. The leaflets are largely based on philosophy and history, and therefore they have an academic value as well. They have quoted important historical and philosophical facts in their condemnation of Nazi government. Therefore it may be worthwhile to have a proper analysis of the leaflets and other related literature of White Rose.

Also, the leaflets were based on Judeo Christianity which was followed by the main members of the White Rose movement. In fact Sophie Scholl had high hopes that the Heavenly Father would take all of them to heaven after their execution. Their friend Christoph Probst, who had been an atheist until then became a Catholic a few hours before his execution. The leaflets generally reflected on their Christian influence. A complete paragraph of the 4th leaflet compares Adolph Hitler directly with the Fallen Arch Angel Satan. These facts are quite evident in the available literature about White Rose.

I am also trying to reflect on the personal life of Sophie and Hans because such interactions can help the reader to paint the true aspects of the characters. I thought Sophie’s relationship with her boy friend, Nazi army Captain Fritz Hartnagel, was a questionable one due to two reasons. The firsts is their physical relationship was a quite limited because he had to spend his time at the war front and during this time they communicated through letters. The second is that she belonged to a political family which opposed Nazi philosophy. For example, her father who had been a former mayor was attached to an Anti-Nazi political party. Also he was serving a prison sentence for insulting Hitler towards the end of 1942. On the other hand, Captain Fritz Hartnagel, was an ardent supporter of Nazi regime and knew well Sophie’s opposition to it. My question is how much he knew about the White Rose Movement because it is hard for me to believe in his complete lack of knowledge of White Rose while his girl friend was associated with it for a few years. If he had some knowledge of it, then the question is how much of it had he passed to Nazi SS. It was quite possible that Captain Fritz had been a Nazi spy who was integrated into the Scholl family by the SS. I have written the poems In Isolation, Contradictions in Love and The Two Minds as a reflection on their strained and contradictory relationship.

For example,

in Contradictions in Love

“As Gaul is soaked in tears,

I condemn the concurring hand

of the autocrat, yet he marches

and salutes in the victory parade

through the promenades of Paris. “

In my previous poems, I had referred to the incidents in the second world war. In those poems it is usual for me to refer to Adolph Hitler as the worldly reincarnation of the fallen arch angel. Adolph Hitler famously used paintings to boast about the grandeur of his 3rd empire. The cover page of his famous art catalogue which contained hundreds of European masterpieces was illustrated with 17th century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer’s “The Art of Painting” in which the muse of history Cleo is painted with a trumpet and a book of history and she wears a crown of laurel leafs as a symbol of glory. The reason for the selection is obvious because the history, glory, honour and triumph had a special meaning for the dictator. In contrast, when it is necessary in the poems, I have used the name of the muse “Cleo” to symbolise the historical destruction that was caused by Hitler.


Senaka Seneviratne