16 July 2014

Remembering Blessed Neomartyr Alexander of Munich

Blessed Neomartyr Alexander (Schmorell) of Munich

One of the recent saints for whom I have the deepest admiration is Alexander ‘Schurik’ Schmorell, a member of the anti-Nazi German student movement Weiße Rose (the White Rose), who met his martyrdom at the hands of the secret police of the wicked, fanatical German dictatorship – but not before writing and publishing a great number of independently printed leaflets critiquing the Nazis and their war against the entirety of the civilised world. The blessed neomartyr, along with his fellow students Willi Graf, Hans and Sophie Scholl, bravely and most praiseworthily stood against the warping terrors of Nazi tyranny, and sought after and insisted upon the truth.

A young man of mixed German and Russian heritage, raised in Russia (but whose family fled to Munich following the October Revolution), Alexander Schmorell was very patriotic, but for obvious reasons he could never stomach an evil phyletist ideology which consigned an entire half of his family and heritage to the status of untermenschen, of subhumans. He spent some time in a German youth group, but when this merged into the Hitlerjügend, he dropped out. When he was conscripted into the Wehrmacht, he refused to take an oath of loyalty to Hitler and asked to be released from the service. This release was denied, but neither did he face any ill consequences for his refusal to take the oath.

During his time in the military, he took part in the Austrian Anschluss and in the occupation of Czechoslovakia, and later as a field medic on the Eastern Front. He declared that he could never bring himself to shoot Russians – though if he were on the Russian side, neither could he bring himself to shoot Germans. During this time, also, however, the Nazis infiltrated and seized control over every part of the government structure of Germany: the press, the police, the army, the judiciary, the education system and all public transport and communication infrastructure. Children were indoctrinated to worship the Führer, and family members were even encouraged to inform on each other if they suspected disloyalty to the Nazi regime.

Following his service in the military the blessed neomartyr joined Hans Scholl, and together they got their hands on a printing machine and began writing and distributing leaflets under the title of die Weiße Rose. On account of the increasing stranglehold of the Nazis over all of German society, writing the leaflets was an incredibly dangerous task; and getting them sent out many times more so. Due to their different educational and religious backgrounds, Hans and Alexander wrote in very different styles. Hans, a High Church Lutheran with definite Catholic sympathies, wrote in a very formal style, making his appeals on a rational and intellectual level against the crimes of the Nazi government. In Alexander’s writing, by contrast, there looms large the Slavic spirit of revolt and alarm, which (as Nietzsche once remarked of Dostoevsky’s work) ‘cries truth from the blood’, as he put forward the only known public outcry against the Holocaust to spring from the pen of a German resister during Nazi rule:
We do not want to discuss here the question of the Jews, nor do we want in this leaflet to compose a defense or apology. No, only by way of example do we want to cite the fact that since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way. Here we see the most frightful crime against human dignity, a crime that is unparalleled in the whole of history. For Jews, too, are human beings - no matter what position we take with respect to the Jewish question - and a crime of this dimension has been perpetrated against human beings.

Why do the German people behave so apathetically in the face of all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race? Hardly anyone thinks about that. It is accepted as fact and put out of mind. The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals; they give them the opportunity to carry on their depredations; and of course they do so. Is this a sign that the Germans are brutalized in their simplest human feelings, that no chord within them cried out at the sight of such deeds, that they have sunk into a fatal consciencelessness from which they will never, never awake?

It seems to be so, and will certainly be so, if the German does not at least start up out of his stupor, if he does not protest wherever and whenever he can against this clique of criminals, if he shows no sympathy for these hundreds of thousands of victims. He must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt. For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do; he tolerates this "government" which has taken upon itself such an infinitely great burden of guilt; indeed, he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!
In all, six leaflets were printed by the White Rose movement and, copies were distributed from Munich all across Germany, through underground means – at first through the post to addresses in southern Germany and Austria, which were thought to be less receptive to Hitler’s militarism. They put out thousands of copies of the fifth leaflet, an Appeal to All Germans, causing the Gestapo to begin hunting down the authors. After the sixth leaflet was printed, Hans and his sister Sophie Scholl were caught distributing copies at the University of Munich and turned over to the Gestapo. After a show trial at the hands of the infamous Ronald Freisler, the Scholls were sentenced to death and (in a mockery of due process) beheaded the very next day. Sophie Scholl then spoke prophetically to the Pilate who tried her: ‘where we stand today, you will soon stand’.

Friends of the Weiße Rose movement tried to move the other members to safety, including Alexander Schmorell, but he was recognised in an air-raid shelter and handed over to the secret police and condemned to death at the third trial of the Weiße Rose members, and went to his martyrdom on 13 July 1943.

One of the most important things taught by the Holy Mother Church is that no worldly idea, no politician and no ideology – whether capitalism or fascism or communism – has the power to save us, however hard they try to convince us otherwise. Only one person, Our Lord the Incarnate Word of God, has the power to save us; and He does not care whether one is Jew or Greek, slave or free, man or woman. It is to this truth that the blessed neomartyr S. Alexander attested through his life and works. Holy Martyr Alexander, who stood steadfast in the truth before the face of terror, please intercede for us.

No comments:

Post a Comment