Yesterday I spent an enjoyable evening with The Keys, the Guild of Catholic Writers which meets at the Jesuit Church of Farm Street in Mayfair. There is Mass, then dinner, then the meeting; this seems to me a good way of arranging things. Last night, Paul Shrimpton gave an excellent talk on how the writings of Blessed John Henry Newman influenced Sophie Scholl and the White Rose movement in Nazi Germany. It was moving for me to hear Paul speak, since our paths last crossed in about 1979 when we were both undergraduates at Oxford.
I wrote about Sophie Scholl ten years ago in the post White Rose – White Flower, highlighting John Smeaton’s appeal for us to see the movement as a parallel to the pro-life movement today. Then in 2012 I found out about a Moving film of Sophie Scholl. (You can find the full version of the film free on YouTube at this link.) The inspiring courage of these young people is especially important for us today. They faced an authoritarian attack on free speech, a vile political movement which promoted euthanasia, and then a programme of extermination, and the menacing restriction of opinion in universities. With youthful optimism and commitment to truth, they risked everything except their own integrity. They urged passive resistance to the Nazi government on the basis of philosophical and biblical arguments. They actually distributed just six leaflets before being caught, tried, convicted of treason, and guillotined.
Paul Shrimpton wrote an article last year for the Catholic Herald about How Newman inspired the German resistance. He also published a book: “Conscience before Conformity: Hans and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose resistance in Nazi Germany” (The book is only available in paperback. As so often these days, I am baffled by the fact that a publisher can purport to offer a service to a writer and then send his book to market without doing an afternoon’s work of converting it to an ebook and making it available in that format – thus losing him a significant percentage of sales.)