Freitag, 9. Mai 2014

Saint Alexander Schmorell and the White Rose (Weiße Rose)

(3/16 September 1917 - 13 Juli 1943)

Alexander Schmorell was born in Orenberg, Russia on 16 September 1917 (3 September on the old Julian calendar, which was still in use at that time in Russia.) His father, Hugo Schmorell, was ethnically German, although he was also born and raised in Russia. His mother was the daughter of a Russian Orthodox priest, and Alex was baptised into the Orthodox Church as a baby.
When Alex was only a year old, his mother died of typhus. Shortly thereafter, Alex's father married a German woman who had also grown up in Russia. They had two more children, Erich and Natascha.
Although none of the family really wanted to leave Russia, the situation there was getting continually worse, especially for those considered foreigners. Tsar Nicholas II abdicated in the summer of 1917, and the Bolsheviks took control of the country later that year. Russia, which had already suffered terrible losses in WWI, was now plunged into a civil war, as the Bolsheviks tried to extend their power from the cities to the entire country. Finally, in 1921, the Schmorell family moved "back" to Germany. They were lucky, as they were some of the last to escape the Soviet Union before it was totally impossible for anyone else to emigrate.
Making the move with the Schmorell family was also Alex's nanny, a woman by the name of Feodosia Lapschina. To accomplish this, they told the officials that she was the widow of Hugo Schmorell's brother. Even with living in Germany, she never did learn very much German, which contributed to Alex and his siblings growing up extremely bilingual. Ms Lapschina also made sure that Alex remained Orthodox - despite the fact that his father was Protestant and his stepmother and siblings were Roman Catholic.

In 1935, Alex met Christoph Probst, as both of them were students at the Neue Realgymnasium in Munich. This friendship grew, and in 1940, he was best man at Christoph's wedding. In 1942, he became godfather to Christoph's second son, Vincent.
In 1939, Alex began to study medicine, although the study of medicine was more his father's wish than his own. He started out studying in Hamburg, where he met Traute Lafrenz, but by fall of 1940, he was back in Munich, studying at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, and part of a medical student military company of the Nazi army.
Alexander Schmorell was never one who was enthused by the Nazis. For one thing, the attitude that the Germans were those of the "master race" never sat well with him, being as he considered himself to be more Russian in spirit than German, and, of course, according to the Nazis, the Slavs were definitely "inferior". When he was inducted into the military, he refused to take the oath, as he could not swear absolute allegiance to Adolf Hitler. For some reason, his commanding officer let him get away with this, and there were no further repercussions in his military "career". He took part, as a medic, in the "annexation" of Austria, as well as serving some time in Czechoslovakia. However, he told others, that if it ever came down to it, he would never, ever shoot at his Russian brethren. Alex was very much an opponent of the Communists as well. He talked about leaving Germany for Russia, but on the same token, said that he could never shoot at Germans either.
Sometime in the fall of 1940, Alex met Hans and Sophia Scholl through Jürgen Wittenstein, as all three of them were in the same student-military company. They became friends, and Hans started coming to the Schmorells' house for "reading evenings", which Alex would host now and then. It was here that Hans Scholl got to know Christoph Probst and Traute Lafrenz.

Another important friendship that came to be during this time was Alex's friendship with Lilo Ramdohr. Alex would have rather have been an artist of some type, particularly a sculptor, and met Lilo Ramdohr in the fall of 1941 at an evening art class that the both of them were taking. He and Lilo were good enough friends that they told her neighbours that he was a cousin of hers, so that nobody would wonder as to why this man had a key to a married woman's apartment. When Bishop Galen's sermons started to be written down and circulated, condemning the Nazi practise of euthenasia, Lilo knew Alex was getting ideas when he asked her about the possibility of procuring a mimeograph machine.
Between the middle of May and the end of June, 1942, Alex and Hans wrote up and distributed the first four leaflets of the White Rose. In July, they, along with Willi Graf, Jürgen Wittenstein, and Hubert Fürtwangler, get sent to Russia for three months on the eastern front before they can continue their studies at the university. For Alex, this is somewhat of a homecoming, because he finally is able to visit the land with which he feels the most connected. Through Alex, Russia comes alive for the others, though sometime in September, he got quite sick, and so he spent a good deal of the time there fairly incapacitated.
There is some indication that there were already escape plans made by some of the White Rose members, either for when things seemed to get too heady, or perhaps even considering the distribution of the flyers at the university somewhat of a grand finale. In any case, when it became known that Hans and Sophie Scholl had been arrested, Alex and Willi had had some sort of escape plan which began with the two of them meeting at the Starnberg train station. However, Willi never made it, as he was arrested when he tried returning to his apartment on the night of the arrests of the Scholls. With the help of Lilo, and Nikolai Nikolaeff Hamasaspian, a Bulgarian friend of his, they burned his uniform and managed to falsify Hamasaspian's Bulgarian passport. Alex tried to make it to Switzerland, and had made it past some checks, but the trip turned out to be too difficult, and he ended up heading back to Munich.
He sought help from an old friend of his, a young woman by the name of Marie-Luise, but his timing was off. As it happened, he came to her as an air-raid siren was going off, and people from all over were coming in. Alex's picture and description had been all over the place by now, and she felt that she had no choice but to report him, if not to save her own neck, but to save her unborn baby's. Immediately after the air-raid, on 24 February 1943, Alexander Schmorell was arrested.
His trial took place in the second "round" of trials against White Rose members and friends, together with Professor Kurt Huber and Willi Graf, among others. He was sentenced to death, and all appeals were denied. On 13 July 1943, at about five in the afternoon, Alexander Schmorell was beheaded. His lawyer, Siegfried Diesinger, had spent some time with him that day, and Alex wanted him to tell Marie-Luise that she was forgiven of everything. 
His last words in his parting letter with his family were these - "Never forget God!"

In February 2012, the Orthodox Church gave official recognition of Alexander Schmorell as a Saint.

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