Questions on the Weiss Rose resistance
A German parliamentary journal quotes Churchill on the German resistance to Hitler: “These men and women fought without help from within or without, driven only by the restlessness of their conscience. As long as they lived they were invisible and unrecognizable to us. In their death, the resistance became visible. Their deeds and sacrifices are the foundation of the reconstruction.” (Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, Germans Against Hitler, 3rd ed., Berto-Verlag, Bonn, 1960; Barry Sullivan, Thresholds of Peace, 1979). I cannot find the original document and somewhat doubt its authenticity. Can you shed any light? —N.B., England
I am working on a lesson plan for a university seminar at Munich University and heard in a film that WSC spoke in the Commons in 1946 of the deaths of Hans and Sophie Scholl of the Munich resistance group “Weiss Rose.” Does this remark exist and how can I find it? —A.B., Copenhagen
I found only one source for this quotation, in Richard Lamb, Churchill as War Leader (London: Bloomsbury, 1991), 292:
After the war Churchill stated: “In Germany there lived an opposition which was weakened by their losses and an enervating international policy, but which belongs to the noblest and greatest that the political history of any nation has ever produced. These men fought without help from within or from abroad. [They were] driven forward only by the restlessness of their conscience. As long as they lived they were invisible and unrecognizable to us, because they had to camouflage themselves. But their death made the resistance visible.”
Lamb adds in a footnote: “Churchill’s remarks about the Resistance have been quoted by several German historians including Pechel in Deutscher Wilderstand.”
“I might quite well have used the words…”
I cannot find proof that Churchill said these exact words, but he himself admitted to the sentiments. On 19 November 1946 he wrote to Walter Hammer of Hamburg:
Since the receipt of your letter I have had a search made through my speeches for the passage to which you and Count Hardenburg refer…. So far no record can be found of any such pronouncement by me. But I might quite well have used the words you quote as they represent my feelings on this aspect of German affairs.
Churchill makes no mention of the Scholls or Weiss Rose, nor are these words in any transcripts. I would be very doubtful about quoting such offhand references in a film without better attribution. Digital searches by the Hillsdale College Churchill Project now enable us to search more thoroughly than ever. Yet the only reference to these words, or even to partial phrases, is Lamb, with his cautionary footnote.
It would make sense to quote Lamb, not the film, and include Lamb’s footnote. This suggests that although Churchill may not have said these exact words, he did share the sentiments.