German Resistance: “Driven only by the restlessness of their conscience.”

German Resistance: “Driven only by the restlessness of their conscience.”

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.

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