Alexander Schmorell

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Alexander Schmorell was a medical student in Munich during World War II, and one of

the founding members of the anti-Nazi group The White Rose. Along with the other

members of the White Rose, he tried to rally popular support amongst Germans to try

to resist Hitler and the Nazi regime. He was arrested in February 1943, and was

executed on 13 July 1943 at Stadelheim Prison in Munich.

Contents

Life

Alexander Schmorell was born in Orenburg, Russia, on 16 September 1917 (3

September old-style) and was baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church. His father,

Hugo Schmorell, a doctor, was German, although he had been born in Russia, and had

lived there most of his life, except for a time when he studied medicine in Germany.

His mother, Nataliya Vvedenskaya, was Russian, and was the daughter of a Russian

Orthodox priest. When Alexander was two years old, his mother died of typhus. His

father remarried in 1920. The woman whom he married, Elisabeth Hoffman, was also

German, but, like Hugo Schmorell, she had also grown up in Russia.

Hugo Schmorell and his family left Russia in 1921 in order to flee the Bolsheviks. With

them came Feodosiya Lapschina, Alexander's nanny, under the pretense that she was

the widow of Hugo Schmorell's brother. (For this reason, she was buried with the

name Franziska Schmorell.) The family settled in Munich, and soon afterward two

children, Erich and Natascha, were borne of this union.

Although the family was now in Germany, the language of the house remained

Russian. In fact, even with the many years she stayed in Germany, Feodosiya

Lapschina never learned very much German. Elisabeth Schmorell was Roman

Catholic, as were Alexander's siblings, but in large part due to Feodosiya Lapschina's

influence, Alexander remained Orthodox, and his stepmother made it possible for him

to attend Orthodox religion classes in Munich.


In the Nazi mindset, the Slavs belonged to the great horde of "untermenschen", that is,

people who supposedly were barely human. This was a mindset that Alexander could

never accept. At one point, he had been part of the Scharnhorst Youth, but once they

became part of the Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugend), he eventually stopped attending.

When he was to be sworn in to military service, he nearly had a breakdown, and told

his commanding officer that he could not do it; he could not swear absolute loyalty to

Adolf Hitler. He asked to be released from military duty. He was not released, yet,

amazingly, there were also no repercussions for his refusal to take the oath. Before

getting involved with the White Rose, he served in Czechoslovakia and in France.

He began his university study in Hamburg in 1939, but by the fall of 1940 he was

studying closer to home at Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität in Munich. It is around this

time that he met Hans Scholl, who would, with him become the founders of the White

Rose.

The White Rose

By 1942, Nazi control of Germany was nearly total. World War II was raging around

Germany on all sides. German forces had taken over most of Europe, and German

troops were far into Russia and as far as the north of Africa. By this time Hitler's plans

for the "cleansing" of Europe were well underway, and Nazi death camps were up and

running. It was no secret that any perceived enemy of Hitler's was also liable to be

arrested and sent to one of these prisons. Not only that, but the practice of "

Sippenhaft" was also widespread, that is, the family and friends of anyone suspected

of opposing Hitler would also be arrested.

The White Rose was one of the few instances in the history of Germany during the

Third Reich where people took the chance to speak out against what Hitler was doing.

In the summer of 1942, Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell, got ahold of a

duplicating machine, and composed four leaflets under the name "The White Rose"

which called on Germany's people to rise up and resist Hitler. The distribution of these

four leaflets was fairly limited and was centered around Munich.  This was not the first 

time that leaflets had been distributed in Germany, for example, some of the homilies

of Bishop Clements von Galen which had denounced Hitler's euthanasia program had

been written down, typed out, and sent around Germany anonymously. However, the

leaflets of the White Rose went further, calling for Germans to realise what was

happening, and to resist by any means possible. Contained in the second leaflet, in a

passage written by Alexander Schmorell, is the only known public outcry by any

German resistance group against the Holocaust.

During the summer of 1942, Hans Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, and Willi Graf were

sent to Russia as medics. For Alexander, it was a homecoming of sorts - this was the

first time in his life that he could remember experiencing Russia for himself. He told

others that there was no way that he could shoot at a Russian, though he said he

couldn't kill Germans either. In Russia, he provided a link for his friends to the Russian

people. He sought contact with regular people, doctors, and Orthodox priests; he,

Hans, and Willi attended Orthodox liturgies (wearing Nazi uniforms, no less!)

When they returned to Munich in October of 1942, the activities of the White Rose

were redoubled. This time, more people were directly involved, including Sophie

Scholl (Hans' sister), Professor Kurt Huber, and Traute Lafrenz. Through Alexander's

friend, Lilo Ramdohr, contact was established with Falk Harnack, younger brother of

Arvid Harnack, who had been arrested in connection with the Red Orchestra (and who

was also connected with the Bonhoeffers).

In January of 1943, the publication of the fifth leaflet was ready. This time, the

members of the White Rose risked their lives to distribute the thousands of leaflets all

over greater Germany. Alexander's journey brought him to Linz, Vienna, and Salzburg.

The End of the White Rose

After the fall of Stalingrad, a sixth leaflet was produced. On 18 February 1943, Hans

and Sophie Scholl were caught distributing this leaflet at the University in Munich. They

were arrested, and the search was on for Alexander Schmorell. With the help of Lilo

Ramdohr and Nikolai Hamazaspian, he tried escaping to Switzerland with a forged

passport, but the way was too difficult, and he turned back to Munich. On 24 February

1943, he was arrested when a friend of his recognised him in a air-raid shelter. He

was sentenced to death on 19 April 1943, and was executed by guillotine on 13 July

1943.

Religion in the White Rose

Although the White Rose was not an religious group, per se, it is undeniable that the

faith in God that these young people had was one of the primary reasons that they

acted with the bravery they did. Alexander Schmorell was the only one of the group

who was Orthodox, but the faith they all showed to do what they did is exemplary.

Although Alexander's connection to Orthodoxy has, in various books, been played off

as merely a way for him to stay more connected with his Russian heritage, or a

fascination with ritual rather than with real faith. However, he attended Orthodox

services regularly, and as his friend Lilo Ramdohr said he was somebody who always

had a Bible with him, and demonstrated a lifelong love of Orthodoxy. In his letters to

his family from prison, he writes about the deepening of his faith; that although he is

condemned to die, he is at peace, knowing he served the truth. In his last letter,

written just before his execution, he wrote his family, "Never forget God!!"

Alexander Schmorell was buried behind Stadelheim Prison, in the cemetary at

Perlacher Forst. After World War II, the American forces came in and built a base

behind Perlacher Forst. When the Americans left in the mid-1990's, they had to sell

off the buildings and property. One of the buildings left behind was a church.

Coincidentally, at this time, the ROCOR in Munich was searching for a church

building. They were able to purchase the American church, and in this way, Alexander

Schmorell's home parish is now across the street from where his earthly remains are

buried. He is pictured on the iconostasis there, and will become a saint along with the

New Martyrs of Russia.


External Links

  • [1] Alexander Schmorell
  • [2] Alexander Schmorell -

Letters from Prison

  • [3]The White Rose
  • [4]The White Rose


Further Reading

  • Fürst-Ramdohr, Lilo, "Freundschaften in der 'Weißen Rose'", Verlag

Geschichtswerkstatt Neuhausen 1995 ISBN: 3931231003

  • Bald, Detlaf, "Die Weiße Rose: Von der Front in den Widerstand", Aufbau-Verlag

2003 ISBN: 3351025467

  • Breinersdorfer, Fred, "Sophie Scholl - Die Letzten Tage", Fischer Tb. Vlg. 2005

ISBN: 3596166098

  • Dumbach, Annette, and Jud Newborn, "Shattering the German Night", Little, Brown, &

Co. 1986 ISBN: 0316604135

  • Hanser, Richard, "A Noble Treason: The Revolt of the Munich Students Against Hitler"

Putnam Pub Group 1979 ASIN: 0399120416

  • Kulturinitiative e.V. Freiburg (Hrg), "Die Weiße Rose: Gesichter einer Freundschaft"

2004

  • Храмов, Игор, Ру
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