Suggested Answers to Discussion Questions for
Learning Guide to THE WHITE ROSE
1. Standard Questions Suitable for Any Film
2. Both Napoleon and Hitler lost vast armies attempting to conquer Russia. Neither was able to recover and both were eventually overthrown in large part because of their losses in Russia. Can you describe why Russia is so difficult to conquer? Suggested Response: (1) Russia is very big and the winters are incredibly cold; colder than anything experienced in Germany or France. (2) The Russians in both instances followed a scorched earth policy: cities and villages were burned; factories were moved or destroyed; and stocks of food and grain were moved or burned. There was not enough food to sustain the invading troops. When Napoleon reached Moscow, the capital of Russia, he found that the Russians had burned the city to the ground. (3) The Russians are valiant and determined fighters, especially when defending their homeland.
3. Should Hans have permitted his sister Sophie to become involved in The White Rose? Both he and Sophie knew the risks. Should they have thought of the grief their parents would have felt if they were both caught? Shouldn't Sophie have been kept insulated from activity in The White Rose so that their parents would have lost only one child and not two if the resistance group was discovered? Suggested Response: There is no one right answer to the question. A good exchange would be as follows: At some point personal considerations no longer prevail. When the state becomes bent on murder and human rights violations, for example, it is the responsibility of every citizen to resist. How could Hans have denied Sophie the right to participate in a fight necessary to be an ethical human being? The counterargument is that the chances that The White Rose would mount a meaningful resistance were very small given the forces arrayed against them. Sophie's life was sacrificed for nothing. The rebuttal is that one can say that about the beginning of every revolutionary movement, including the American Revolution and the French Revolution, the two revolutions that brought democracy to the world. If no one takes the first, very dangerous and most likely futile steps, nothing will ever change. In addition, Sophie's life wasn't sacrificed for nothing. By working with The White Rose, she redeemed her soul under any definition of that concept. Finally, Sophie and Hans have left us with a story of courage and commitment that serves as a model for us and for generations to come.
4. What did the characters in the film mean when they referred to the fact that the paint that they used to write "Down with Hitler" on public buildings was "pre-war" paint and therefore difficult to scrub off the walls? Suggested Response: For both the Allied and the Axis powers, WW II was a total war in which all of the resources of society were diverted into the war effort. Thus, the chemicals used to make paint adhere strongly to walls were needed by the armed forces and were not available for civilian use. The paint sold to civilians during the war lacked these materials and could be easily removed. We don't know specifically about paint but there were similar shortages in the U.S. and Britain.
5. What does the Second Leaflet tell us about the claims of individual Germans after the war that they had not known about the concentration camps and the attempt to exterminate the Jews, political opponents of the Nazis, the Roma and others? Suggested Response: It is clear that the claim that many or most Germans didn't know what was going on in the camps was untrue. We don't know how The White Rose obtained the information reported in this leaflet. The Scholls listened illegally to news reports from the British Broadcasting Corporation. Perhaps they learned of the atrocities from the BBC, but the Scholls had no special access to information. The facts known to them about the concentration camps were available to others as well.
Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:
1. If you had lived in Germany during the Second World War would you have had an obligation to resist the Nazis? Would you have complied with it like Oskar Schindler and the Scholl's or would you have kept quiet? Suggested Response: Every person living in Germany during the time when the German government sought to imprison and kill people for their ethnicity or political beliefs, religious beliefs or mental illness or retardation had an obligation to resist. One cannot stand by and watch his fellow human beings be imprisoned or killed by his own society and keep still.
2. What is the obligation of a citizen in a country which is prosecuting a war that he or she feels to be bad policy? For example, there were many Americans who opposed our entry into World War I. But once war had been declared, they supported the war effort because they felt that it was the right of the majority to decide to go to war and that once the decision was made, as members of society, they were bound to support the war effort. [If students are interested in the question, read to them the description of the position of William Jennings Bryan on WW I in the Learning Guide to "Inherit The Wind".] What about the millions of Americans who protested against the Vietnam War while it was going on? Was that position justified? Suggested Response: There is a difference between participating in the political process before and during a war, which a citizen has the obligation to do, and interfering with troop movements, preventing enlistments, refusing to pay taxes or other activities designed to actually impede the war effort. William Jennings Bryan opposed U.S. entry into WW I, but when the war came, he volunteered for the army. When he was refused enlistment because he was old and sick he made speeches encouraging the many people who idolized him to buy war bonds. He could, consistent with his duties as a citizen, have continued to oppose the war after it had been declared, so long as he did nothing to impede prosecution of the war and fulfilled his obligations as a citizen. However, proponents of wars, including presidents of the United States, have made the assertion that political opposition to their particular war undermined the morale of the troops and hurt the war effort. This is clearly a specious argument because it means that a political decision, the decision to go to war, will trump civil and political liberties. (If this is true, what are we fighting for anyway?) In fact, political opposition to a war which a citizen believes is bad policy is patriotic. Usually it makes that person very unpopular. Sometimes it's best to pull out of a war (Vietnam is the best example), and if the voices of citizens and politicians advocating that position are silenced, the political process will be harmed. The situation gets still more complicated when opponents of a war come to believe that the war itself is immoral and that they have an ethical obligation to try to interfere with the war effort or to refrain from cooperating in the war effort. When this happens the individual must evaluate the conflict in values: patriotism and civic responsibilities vs. allegiance to ethical and political values.
3. Please see the Quick Discussion Question.
Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)
1. What does this film tell us about the limits of patriotism? Suggested Response: It tells us that ethics and morality are the limits of patriotism. This is very complicated and each situation must be evaluated on its own merits. People are asked to violate their ethics in war by killing or maiming people, something that in a non-war situation would be unethical. Clearly, German patriotism in WW II did not require Germans to support a government which killed 12 million people in concentration camps. The U.S. placed citizens and resident aliens of Japanese descent into concentration camps but didn't kill them. It is now recognized that this was a violation of their civil and human rights. Did this justify Americans in resisting the war effort during WW II? Few people would say that it did. There is no one right answer to this question in the abstract but it is great for debate.
Last updated May 22, 2008.
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