By Cecilia Marchant
“Even if you cannot understand why I’m being held in this cell, then stay calm, stay calm and don’t worry.”
Christoph Probst’s poignant letter to his wife is a stark reminder of the suffering inflicted upon those who dared to criticise Hitler’s Third Reich. Probst was a member of Die Weiße Rose resistance movement, whose subversive pamphlets attacked the regime, not with violence but with words alone. Along with the other members of the group, he was arrested by the Gestapo, before being executed in 1943.
Marc Rothemund’s powerful 2005 film, Sophie Scholl- Die letzten Tage, has kept the courageous efforts of Die Weiße Rose alive in the German memory. In England it’s a different story; I’m ashamed to say that just a few months ago I hadn’t even heard of the group.
The White Rose Project, founded by Alexandra Lloyd at the University of Oxford, seeks to change all that. A committed team of students has worked hard to translate the letters and diary entries written by Die Weiße Rose. Translating the group’s voices into English for the first time, the project brings the human cost of Probst and his comrades to life.
Student Benjy Fortna was profoundly moved by the whole experience of translating the letters and diaries. He was especially struck by gaining “a sense of the White Rose members as individuals and as young people”. He continued, “the process of translating these texts into English for the first time allowed us to hear these students’ voices in a fresh and immediately accessible way.”
It was a privilege to see The White Rose Project’s work being performed last month in the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford. Accompanied by the choir SANSARA’s haunting tones, we were able to witness the heart-wrenching power of the group’s very own words.
In these perilous times, as the Holocaust slips beyond living memory and the clamour of the alt-right attempts to distort the past, these humane voices soar above untruths and remind us that humanity can transcend hatred.
"I see you before me, I feel your love in me and my love in you and I’m so happy, because I know that this love is indestructible."
Translated by Luke Cooper, Jonah Cowen, and Thomas Lyne, student members of the White Rose Project.
Read more about The White Rose project here: https://whiteroseproject.org/
SANSARA and student members of the White Rose Project. © Stuart Bebb.