Traute Lafrenz, resistance fighter of the White Rose, is dead – politics
In her parents’ house, culture was considered a valuable asset, and Schiller, Goethe, Lessing and Fichte were read with enthusiasm. She called it the “other Germany,” but when in doubt, the most beautiful culture does not protect against barbarism. In 1940, Ralph Giordano had to leave the Hamburg Johanneum, the so-called scholarly school, because he was a Jew. The writer Walter Jens later accused himself of not having stood by his classmate, but it would have “cost too much. If you had been consistent, you would not have seen the end of the war”.
Jens survived, Traute Lafrenz, who was almost the same age, resisted the regime and was very lucky when the war ended in 1945. As a student in Munich, she met Hans and Sophie Scholl, who were willing to resist the regime. The leaflets that they put out and distributed at night were life-threatening contraband that spread quickly and quietly. Copies made it as far as England, and the Royal Air Force dropped them on a defiantly Hitler-loyal Germany.
Traute Lafrenz brought one of these leaflets to her friends in Hamburg, putting herself in danger. After the Gestapo had arrested the Scholl siblings in February 1943, they too were brought before the People’s Court. While her Munich friends were sentenced to death and immediately executed, she was able to cover up her involvement and got away with a year in prison for “complicity”. After her release, she was tried again and went from one prison to another until she was liberated by American troops in Bayreuth on April 15, 1945, two weeks before Hitler committed suicide.
On her hundredth birthday she received the Federal Cross of Merit
Traute Lafrenz was already lucky because she had a reform-loving teacher at the Hamburg Lichtwarkschule who was not willing to collaborate with the regime, who did not leave German education in the bookshelves but turned it against the rulers. While the others became part of the national community through the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls and consequently became supporters of the Third Reich, Lafrenz had learned at school that education could not mean submission to injustice.
For a long time, resistance to the Nazi regime was viewed as treason by the followers and beneficiaries of the Third Reich, who remained in office and in power after the capitulation. The recognition came late. On her hundredth birthday, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier awarded Traute Lafrenz the Cross of Merit, First Class, of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany because she was one of the few “who, faced with the crimes of the National Socialists, had the courage to listen to the voice of their conscience and to revolt against the dictatorship and the genocide of the Jews”.
Traute Lafrenz had already left Germany in 1949 and completed her medical studies in San Francisco. She married a doctor and ran a special education school for decades. Traute Lafrenz died last Monday at the age of 103 in South Carolina, USA. “She was,” as Steinmeier explained at the award ceremony, “a heroine of freedom and humanity.”