book review - conscience before conformity: Hans and Sophie Scholl and The White Rose resistance in Nazi Germany, by paul shrimptonRead Now
Conscience before Conformity: Hans and Sophie Scholl and The White Rose resistance in Nazi Germany, by Paul Shrimpton (Gracewing).
In the midst of Nazi oppression a few young German students had the freedom of thought and courage to speak the truth. They took the name of The White Rose - and with the limited means available to them, especially through printed leaflets, they opposed Hitler and the Third Reich and called on others to offer peaceful determined resistance to the spread of Nazism. Hans and Sophie Scholl along with Christoph Probst were tried and executed by the Nazis in Munich in1943.
The story of Hans and Sophie Scholl who were the inspiration and leaders of The White Rose movement has been told many times. However, prior to this book by Paul Shrimpton it seems that a critical aspect had been ignored. No-one had spoken about the reality that Christian faith undergirded and fuelled their daring endeavour: the students and most of those who influenced them were Christians and in particular Catholic. Here at last Shrimpton rectifies this omission. We are introduced to their journey: how they discovered and drank deeply from the thought of great Christian writers such as St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, Pascal and St John Henry Newman. These young people changed radically: from being actively involved in the Hitler Youth they stepped out, took up the countercultural dangerous path of resistance to Nazism. Newman and his ‘theology of conscience’ had a remarkable effect on the students and on Sophie in particular. Her conscience was awoken, she regained her freedom and the necessary assurance and courage to resist the draw of evil and live. The White Rose printed leaflets with which they set forth their ideas and denounced Nazism.
We might wonder at the power of words: how reading Newman opened a new path for these young people; how the Nazis searched out and tried to silence the authors of these pamphlets. We can learn from the story of The White Rose, draw inspiration from them in our times when we too must choose between conscience and conformity. Then and now, their words speak out and bring hope. Certainly this book is worth reading.