Sunday, September 25, 2005


Today I went to see this touching movie about the last days of Sophie Scholl, a member of the Weisse Rose. A number of years ago I had the great privilege of meeting a gentleman (whose name I don't recall), who at the time was a teenager and helped out the Weisse Rose by delivering packages for them around Munich. He was one of the few involved who survived the war and I remember how fascinating and exciting it was to hear about the events, and those incredible people who risked (and gave) their lives for the universal principles they held dear, from someone who knew them and was part of their enterprise. The acclaim which their story has reached is their best vindication.
In Mussolini's Italy (which, fascist and brutal though it was, never reached the heights of folly of the Nazi regime), there was a somewhat similar (but less wrenching) story. When in 1931 all university professors in the country were forced to swear allegiance to Mussolini's regime, 12 heroic individuals (out of 1,250) refused to do so with the legendary phrase "Preferirei di no" - I would prefer not to (swear allegiance), and with that gave up any possibility of working in Italy.
However one of the most incredible stories of heroism during World War II that I have ever heard is that of Giorgio Perlasca. When I was a child I had the incredible honor of meeting him too, before he died in 1992. He was pleasant and lively and I remember being completely mesmerized by his account of the last time he saw Raoul Wallenberg (with whom he collaborated, and of whom I had just read a biography) before Wallenberg was (presumably) abducted by the Soviets and never heard from again. The Banality of Goodness is an excellent book that tells his inspiring story (the original Italian version can be found here).

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