Churchill is quoted in a German parliamentary journal as having written of the German resisters to Hitler: “These men fought without help from within or without, driven only by the restlessness of their conscience. As long as they lived they were invisible and unrecognisable to us… but 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]. But 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 of the quotation, in Richard Lamb, Churchill as War Leader (London: Bloomsbury, 1991), 292:
After the war Churchill stated he had been misled by his assistants about the considerable strength and size of the anti-Hitler Resistance… “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 driven forward only by the restlessness of their conscience. As long as they lived they were invisible and unrecognisable to us, because they had to camouflage themselves. But their death made the resistance visible.”
Lamb adds in a footnote to this passage: “Churchill’s remarks about the Resistance have been quoted by several German historians including Pechel in Deutscher Wilderstand.”
Doubt has been expressed over whether Churchill said these exact words, but Churchill himself admitted to the sentiments, in a letter on 19 November 1946 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; but 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 other attribution. Digital searches now enable us to search more thoroughly than ever, yet the only reference to these words, or even to partial phrases, is Richard Lamb’s book— with his cautionary footnote. Suggest you quote Lamb, not the film, and include Lamb’s footnote, which shows that although Churchill may not have said these exact words, he did share the sentiments.