White Rose Memorial Lecture: Steinmeier: Must defend German democracy
White Rose Memorial Lecture
Steinmeier: Must make German democracy defensive
The Federal President honors the resistance of the White Rose against the Nazi regime. And he makes it clear: there is no right to resistance in our democracy, as there is against the dictatorship.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called for the German democracy against new external threats and increasing attacks from within. In view of the war in Ukraine, this includes “a well-equipped Bundeswehr that is ready to defend itself,” he said in a lecture at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich.
What is also needed are “committed citizens who are morally clear and firm in their political judgement, who work for our country, for democracy”.
White Rose Memorial Lecture
Steinmeier In his White Rose Memorial Lecture, he paid tribute to this group’s resistance to the National Socialist regime. “Peace, freedom, the dignity of every human being and the responsibility of every individual – these values guided the White Rose. Today they are the foundation of our liberal democracy.”
The predominantly student group around Hans and Sophie Scholl had published leaflets calling for resistance against the Nazi dictatorship and for the end of the Second World War. At the beginning of 1943 they were surprised and arrested while distributing leaflets at the university. On February 22, the Nazis executed the two siblings and their friend Christoph Probst.
80 years ago, the White Rose resisted a regime of terror that used every imaginable level of brutality against its opponents, said Steinmeier. From their point of view, this criminal regime had no right to be obeyed. “It had to be fought.”
This attitude united the men and women of the German resistance, no matter how different their motives may have been, said Steinmeier. They all struggled with the legitimacy of their actions. “In the end, they all came to the conclusion that those who did not act, who remained silent, tolerated violence as a principle, injustice as normality, the genocide perpetrated by Germany. Those who did not act and remained silent were necessarily guilty of complicity.” Therefore, resistance is not only allowed, but required. “The dictatorship had to be overthrown.”
Steinmeier: Freedoms today a constitutional reality
Against this historical background, it is annoying when the term “resistance” is casually used today in political debates. “Nothing justifies equating protest in a democracy with resistance against a dictatorship,” Steinmeier warned. Today, the Basic Law guarantees the dignity of every individual as well as freedom of opinion, assembly and the press. These freedoms are constitutional reality. The Constitutional Court ensures that these freedoms are maintained.
“In our democracy, objection is not only expressly possible. It is necessary,” emphasized Steinmeier. Criticism, demonstrations, even protests were part of the essence of democracy. “Even and especially by minorities; also with means that the majority criticizes, that disturb them, with which they may also annoy.” In our democracy, however, there is only a right to resistance if it is to be abolished.
With the White Rose Memorial Lecture, Steinmeier continued the tradition of some of his predecessors. The speech was given by Joachim Gauck in 2013, by Johannes Rau in 2003 and by Richard von Weizsäcker in 1993.