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Willi Graf of the White Rose: The Role of Bildung in His Decision to Resist National Socialism
(2013)
  • Stephani Richards-Wilson
Abstract
Willi Graf was a twenty-five year old medical student at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich who was executed by the National Socialists (Nazis) on October 12, 1943, for high treason. In the summer of 1942, Graf became a member of the White Rose, a group of students who produced six leaflets and distributed thousands of copies calling for resistance to the Nazi dictatorship. Although the history of the White Rose has been portrayed in numerous books and is well known in Germany, the more charismatic members of the circle have often overshadowed Graf’s story and his contributions to their resistance efforts. Graf, in contrast, was quiet, pensive, and unassuming. He was the only member of the White Rose to oppose Nazi ideology from the start of the regime. He led a full life and spent his limited free time reading, writing, reflecting, and attending cultural events. He read works by authors from different countries, centuries, and literary movements and genres. He studied German, French, Russian, Greek, and Latin. Writers and thinkers shaped his mindset and impacted his self-development or Bildung. The demands of the Third Reich and war infringed upon his convictions, personal relationships, membership in Catholic youth groups, and ability to reach his full potential, prompting him to seek guidance from authors who shared his humanitarian concerns or Christian faith, such as Ernst Wiechert, Reinhold Schneider, Romano Guardini, Josef Pieper, Johannes Maaßen, and Werner Bergengruen. The purpose of my dissertation is to research the development of Graf’s moral courage by examining his self-edification as documented in his diaries and personal correspondence. I examine the influence of these writers and texts, as well as others, and explore the role of Bildung in his decision to actively resist National Socialism. Bildung prompted him to search for existential meaning and others who shared his humanistic ideals, to question authority and to think for himself, to lead a purposeful life, and to find a way to remain true to his beliefs.
Keywords
  • Student Resistance,
  • Nazi Germany,
  • White Rose,
  • Willi Graf
Publication Date
Summer July 26, 2013
Comments
See ProQuest
Citation Information
Stephani Richards-Wilson. "Willi Graf of the White Rose: The Role of Bildung in His Decision to Resist National Socialism" (2013)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/stephani_richards-wilson/15/