Willi Graf

German military physician and resistance fighter, "White Rose" member

Willi Graf (January 2, 1918-October 12, 1943) was one of the six main members of the White Rose Resistance group, which was a group of university students based in Munich who opposed Hitler. Along with Hans Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, Christoph Probst, Sophie Scholl, and Kurt Huber, Graf helped write six pamphlets criticizing Hitler and Nazi Germany. Graf was also the main recruiter for the white rose group, going out tirelessly to get others to join the resistance.[1][2][3]

Early Life change

Willi Graf was born on January 2, 1918, in Kuchenheim near Euskirchen. In 1922, his family moved to Saarbrucken, where his father ran a wholesale wine business. Graf attended school at the Ludwigsgymnasium. It was not long before he joined, at the age of eleven, the Bund Neudeutschland, a Catholic youth movement for young men in schools of higher learning, which was banned after Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933. In 1934, Graf joined the Grauer Orden ("Grey Order"), another Catholic movement which became known for its anti-Nazi rhetoric. It, too, was banned and for this reason, it formed many splinter youth groups.

Graf showed conviction in his beliefs from a young age. Although compulsory at the time, he refused to associate with the Hitler Youth, even when he was threatened with becoming ineligible to go to University unless he joined the Hitler Youth. While other future members of the White Rose initially embraced the Hitler Youth, Graf never did so. Moreover, in his address book he crossed out the names of friends who had joined the Hitler Youth, refusing to associate with them.[4]

The Capturing of the White Rose change

On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl went to the Munich University to distribute the sixth leaflet to the university students. They were captured by the Gestapo.[5] At around midnight on February 18, the Gestapo captured Willi Graf at the apartment he shared with his sister. At his trial on April 19, 1943, Graf, along with Alexander Schmorell and Kurt Huber, was sentenced to death. Sophie, Hans, and Christopher had already been killed on February 22, 1943.[5] After his trial, Willi was put into Solitary confinement. For about six months, he was kept there and tortured to make him give out the names of other White Rose members.[4] He refused to give out names, even when the Gestapo threatened to capture his family if he didn’t comply. On October 12, 1943, Willi was brought out of his cell and straight to the guillotine. He was the last of the original members to be killed.[1]

In a heartfelt last letter to his family he said:

On this day I'm leaving this life and entering eternity. What hurts me most of all is that I am causing such pain to those of you who go on living. But strength and comfort you'll find with God and that is what I am praying for till the last moment. I know that it will be harder for you than for me. I ask you, Father and Mother, from the bottom of my heart, to forgive me for the anguish and the disappointment I've brought you. I have often regretted what I've done to you, especially here in prison. Forgive me and always pray for me! Hold on to the good memories.... I could never say to you while alive how much I loved you, but now in the last hours I want to tell you, unfortunately only on this dry paper, that I love all of you deeply and that I have respected you. For everything that you gave me and everything you made possible for me with your care and love. Hold each other and stand together with love and trust.... God's blessing on us, in Him we are and we live.... I am, with love always, your Willi.[4]

Cause for Sainthood change

In 1999, Graf and Christoph Probst were included in the martyrology of the German Catholic Church. In 2017, Willi Graf was declared a Servant of God and his cause for beatification was opened up.

References change

  1. 1.0 1.1 Stern, Fritz; Hanser, Richard (1979). "A Noble Treason: The Revolt of the Munich Students against Hitler". Foreign Affairs. 58 (2): 426. doi:10.2307/20040455. ISSN 0015-7120. JSTOR 20040455.
  2. Anneliese., Knoop-Graf (1988). Willi Graf : Briefe und Aufzeichnungen. S. Fischer. ISBN 3-10-027202-1. OCLC 407118610.
  3. Frey, Reed (2019). "Conscience before Conformity: Hans and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Resistance in Nazi Germany by Paul Shrimpton". Newman Studies Journal. 16 (1): 124–125. doi:10.1353/nsj.2019.0012. ISSN 2153-6945. S2CID 201765330.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 dissertant., Richards-Wilson, Stephani, 1963-. Willi Graf of the White Rose : the role of Bildung in his decision to resist National Socialism. OCLC 862422400.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. 5.0 5.1 1917-1998., Scholl, Inge (2011). The White Rose : Munich, 1942-1943. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-7272-1. OCLC 767498250. {{cite book}}: |last= has numeric name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)