Appendix 47b - White Rose

by Michael Greger, MD and United Progressive Alumni

[ Medical School Resources | Appendices | Discussion ]


"Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible." - T.E. Lawrence.

Qui Tacet, Licet (He who remains silent, gives consent)

"Where was the disapproval [of Nazism] by the voice of American Medicine?" A doctor asks of the AMA. "Sadly, nowhere." The Journal of the American Medical Association summoned neither the wisdom nor the courage to even criticize the regime.[532] A typical editorial at the time read, "While recognizing the possible potential value of sterilization, the medical profession can perhaps serve its purpose best by retaining a scientific detachment in assessing the biological and social results of the programs now in force."[533]

Of course American medicine was not alone in its collective silence. The majority of the German medical profession was likewise complicit.[534] The Dachau studies, for example, were presented to professional civilian audiences totaling several hundred physicians from leading authorities to hospital directors and yet there are no recorded protests.

Dr. L. Conti asked a question. One of the highest ranking physicians in the Third Reich, he organized large-scale lethal experiments in several concentration camps and even personally killed the first patients of the "Euthanasia Program." "Would it have changed anything," he asked, "if the physicians' organizations had resisted the pressure of the new administration, and if they had not submitted voluntarily?"[535] The White Rose tried to answer that question.

"Most of us were medical students," writes Jurgen Wittenstein, the only remaining survivor of the White Rose anti-Nazi movement. It all started in the Winter of 1938/39 at the University of Munich, when premed Alexander Schmorell pointed at the door of his dorm room and said, "Maybe ten years from now there will be a plaque on this door which will read: 'This is where the revolution began.'"[536] Four years later, in a letter to his parents before he was executed, Alexander wrote, "I'm going with the awareness that I followed my deepest convictions and the truth."[537]

Guilty

A popular professor is silenced. Galvanized students rally at the professor's apartment for a sympathy demonstration. Wittenstein describes: "Thus it happened, that in the middle of the war, in broad daylight, some eighty odd students... marched along the main boulevard of Munich to the utter amazement of the bystanders. Munich was put under martial law." So then, "we'd go at night painting huge slogans denouncing Hitler on the thoroughfares of the city."

They existed long enough to produce six leaflets (of the White Rose).[538] From one of the six:

Do not hide your cowardice under the cloak of sophistication. Everyone is in a position to contribute to the fall of this system.... Why is apathy the reaction of the German nation? Everybody strives to acquit oneself of complicity, everyone does it and then sleeps with a clear and peaceful mind. But no one can be exonerated, everyone is guilty, guilty, guilty!

At their trial no witnesses were called, since the defendants admitted everything. Activist students at the University of Hamburg were either executed or sent to concen-tration camps. Hans, one of the medical students, was 24 years old when he was executed. His wife reportedly received a bill for "wear of the guillotine." Sophie was 21. Christoph was 22. Alexander was 25. From one of the last letters Hans Schol wrote in prison, "A physician must be a philosopher and a politician at the same time."[539] Just before he was beheaded, he cried out, "Long live freedom!"[540]

 


 

[532] Friedman, T. Letter. Journal of the American Medical Association 277(1997):710-711.

[533] Journal of the American Medical Association 102:1501.

[534] Ernst, A. "Killing in the Name of Healing." American Journal of Medicine 100(1996):579-581.

[535] Hanauske-Abel, HM. The Lancet 2 August 1986:271-273.

[536] http://www.cmanet.org/Public_Interest/News/California_Physician/Archive/, 1996.

[537] Newborn, J. Shattering the German Night New York Little, Brown & Company, 1986.

[538] Wittenstein, GJ. "Memories of the White Rose." Point of View http://www.historyplace.com/pointsofview/white-rose1.htm.

[539] Hanauske-Abel, HM. The Lancet 2 August 1986:271-273.

[540] Hornberger, JG. "The White Rose: A Lesson in Dissent" Freedom Daily 1996(January).

 


 

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