“Our past must serve as a warning for the present and the future”
6 Feb 2023
In his White Rose Memorial Lecture, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier recalled the legacy of all who fought in the resistance against the National Socialists’ reign of terror.
Eighty years ago, on 22 February, Hans and Sophie Scholl, brother and sister, members of the “White Rose” resistance group and students at LMU, were executed in Stadelheim Prison together with their friend Christoph Probst.
The annual ceremony to commemorate the “White Rose” recalls the legacy of all who fought in the resistance against the National Socialists’ reign of terror. This year, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier delivered the Memorial Lecture. In so doing, he took his place alongside his predecessors in office Joachim Gauck (2013), Johannes Rau (2003) and Richard von Weizsäcker (1993), all of whom have shared in the same duty.
In his speech, Steinmeier praised the resistance engaged in by the members of the White Rose: “Sophie and Hans Scholl. Christoph Probst. Kurt Huber. Alexander Schmorell. Willi Graf. Hans Leipelt. All of them paid for their courage with their life.”
The President reminded his listeners of those kindred spirits of the Munich-based group who spread leaflets throughout the country in many and varied ways: “These courageous fellow campaigners are often mentioned almost parenthetically. I am convinced that all of them deserve a greater place in our remembrance. The courage of all of them shone like a beacon in dark days. All of them dreamed of a different, a better Germany.”
Steinmeier emphasized the importance of shared remembrance in light of current societal challenges: “We remember not for the sake of remembering or to set the members of the White Rose on a pedestal. They were heroes, without a doubt. Yet we also look back in the knowledge that responsibility for our past never expires. Our past must serve as a warning for the present and the future.”
The President’s address pointed out that remembering also means looking at the present day: “We live at a time when liberal democracies are more fiercely contested, attacked even, from within and without. That is perhaps the major challenge of our day. And to my mind, precisely this challenge makes the purpose for which the White Rose stood up so urgent, so topical right now: Their fight for freedom and human dignity concerns us today as well. The responsibility of each individual in society: It concerns us today as well.”