The Last of Us… (Traute Lafrenz Page)

For those who know a bit about the history of the White Rose, there are six names that are inextricably connected with the group. Hans Scholl. Sophie Scholl. Alexander Schmorell. Willi Graf. Christoph Probst. Professor Kurt Huber. All were tried and convicted of high treason in 1943 and executed that same year. Despite being from Hamburg, in the far north of Germany, Traute Lafrenz knew all of them well, first meeting Alexander Schmorell in 1939, and then the rest of them when she transferred her studies as a medical student from Hamburg to Munich.

Traute Lafrenz as a young woman (photo from Twitter)

What most people don’t know is that there were other people with connections with the White Rose who also died for their resistance. The name Hans Leipelt is sometimes included with the other six; he was also executed in Munich, primarily for trying to raise funds to help support Professor Huber’s widow. Generally, it’s considered that Hans Leipelt had no direct contact to the Scholls or the rest of the Munich group, but he probably did know Traute Lafrenz; if nothing else, they definitely had friends in common, such as a young woman named Margarethe Rothe.

Traute Lafrenz and Hans Leipelt served as the main connections between the White Rose in Munich and what would be known as the Hamburg branch of the White Rose. They both brought White Rose leaflets up to Hamburg and helped their friends produce and distribute leaflets there. Heinz Kucharski, a friend from school who had known Traute since she was 13, was generally considered the “head” of the Hamburg group, and in the fall of 1943, was arrested at the same time as Margarethe Rothe. During interrogation, he confessed to everything, trying to save his own skin. He named names, he blamed other people – including his mother – for his actions, and he gave the Gestapo sixty pages of “dirt” on Traute. (Ironically, I believe he’s the only one of the Hamburg group that ended up being sentenced to death, though he survived, but I digress…)

Despite Traute’s deep involvement in the White Rose, her friendships with those who had been executed , and her connections to their families (when Sophie and Hans’ father had been imprisoned, she had gone to Ulm to help keep his business running, for example), the members of the Munich group had done pretty well to protect her. She had been sentenced to “only” a year in prison, primarily for knowing what her friends were doing and not reporting it. After Kucharski’s confession, though, she was very much in danger of a death sentence. In the spring of 1944, two weeks after being released from serving her year-long sentence, she was re-arrested and spent the rest of the war in various Nazi prisons without her case going to trial. That she survived this was, in itself, no small feat. Her dear friend Margarethe Rothe, though also not sentenced to death (for lack of a trial), did not survive the harsh conditions of her incarceration and died in April of 1945.

Among others in Hamburg who died because of the White Rose were Katharina Leipelt (Hans’ Leipelt’s mother), Reinhold Meyer, Margarete Mrosek, Dr. Kurt Ledien, and Friedrich Geussenhainer. Traute knew most, if not all, of them as well.

Yet she was the one who survived, who made it out alive, and lived a good, long life afterward. This is how she decided to honor those that she knew who didn’t make it, to not curl up and die herself or allow herself continually live in the past. After the war, she emigrated to the United States, graduated from medical school, got married, had children, worked as a doctor, worked as a teacher to underprivileged and special needs children in Chicago, and retired to South Carolina.

It was in South Carolina where she died a week ago, two months shy of her 104th birthday. (Coincidentally enough, it was the day before she died when I posted about getting the book about her.) There is definitely a certain sadness to it, the end of an era.

Traute Lafrenz Page more recently (photo from Twitter)

Technically, there are a couple of people with ties to the White Rose who are still living. Among family, it seems as though Dieter Sasse, half-brother to Christoph, may still be living. From what I can tell, Vincent Probst, Christoph’s second son and whose godfather was Alexander Schmorell, is also still living. However, he was born in late 1941 and was not even two before both were executed. I see no indication that Professor Huber’s son Wolfgang has died. If I remember correctly, he was four when his father was executed. However, as his name is so common, it’s not particularly easy verify that. I also do not see anything to indicate that Hertha Schmorell, Erich Schmorell’s wife has died. (Erich was Alex’s younger half-brother.) One could argue that she’s not actually related, but she and Erich were already dating by 1942, and there even exist photos that both she and Alex are in.

Among the people who were arrested or indicted with White Rose activities, I believe there were close to 70. When I had my website, one of my original goals was to write at least a little about each person. Of all those, three of the youngest may still be living – Ilse Ledien (daughter of Kurt, mentioned above, who died in custody), Gerd Spitzbart, and Riko Graepel. It’s somewhat amusing; Ilse Ledien was so young that on the German side of things, she’s usually referred to as “the schoolgirl, Ilse Ledien”. Her greatest crime, in the eyes of the Nazis, at least, was that she was close friends with Maria Leipelt, Hans Leipelt’s little sister. I don’t discount her “role” at all, and her father died for scarcely more than that, but she was also hardly one of the central figures to the White Rose.

Twenty years ago, in 2003, when I made it over to Munich to take part in the “big” White Rose commemorations – the sixtieth anniversary of the executions of Christoph Probst, Hans Scholl, and Sophie Scholl, I was actually surprised to recognize people who had known these historical figures. I remember seeing Franz Josef Müller, who founded the Weiße Rose Stiftung. More than that though,was actually seeing Herta Siebler-Probst there and realizing, for the first time, that even though she was very much an old woman, that the history that was being commemorated was still so near that she had been married to one of the people executed that day in 1943 (and had three children with him).

The main indoor memorial at LudwigMaximilians-Universität in Munich

The difference, I suppose, is that when I started getting very interested in the White Rose in 2002 or so, one still heard news from people who had some connection: Jürgen Wittenstein, Elisabeth Hartnagel-Scholl, Annaliese Knoop-Graf, Hans and Susanne Hirzel, or Lilo Fürst-Ramdohr, for example. Apart from seeing various people from afar in 2003, I had the extreme privilege of attending a fairly small event which Erich Schmorell and Natalia Schmorell Lange were at and hearing Erich Schmorell speak. And, of course, there was actually getting to meet Nikolay Hamazaspian in 2007 on the trip to Orenburg. When commemorations came up or White Rose related things came up, the input of these people certainly was always relevant and important. With the death of Traute Lafrenz Page, they are all gone. The “last one of us”…

May their memory be eternal!

dore canto 31 white rose

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4 thoughts on “The Last of Us… (Traute Lafrenz Page)

    1. It’s really interesting. In the obituary for Traute, they reference her belief in anthroposophy, which I had never heard of before. I know a person really can’t form an informed opinion of a religion or philosophy from a Wikipedia article, but it’s definitely different. I think that the people in Munich were generally much more driven by faith as a factor in their actions, whereas those in Hamburg tended to be more political or philosophical. Also, Hamburg is a much, much different city than Munich; in some sense, maybe like the difference between, say, New York and Dallas, with New York being more like Hamburg (bigger, much more of an international influence) and Munich (a large, insular city in a place that kind of has a distinct local culture).

      From a couple of interviews I’ve seen, I know she grew up with some understanding of a more traditional Christian belief; I do wonder, though, if the anthroposophy was a layer on top of that rather than being a “religion” in itself. I don’t know that she could have been such good friends with the group in Munich if she didn’t have some sort of a more Christian basis to work from.

      Anthroposophy is linked pretty tightly with Waldorf schools. I know that most of the Waldorf schools seem to be quite good. However, in talking with a friend up in Idaho when we lived there, this friend’s opinion was that even though the local Waldorf school was quite good (and much better than what the public school offered) she’d steer clear of it, because in her opinion, they take kids who are Christian and kind of get them to start believing in their own belief system. From what I understand, the school the Traute worked at in Chicago did a lot to use Waldorf methods with underprivileged and handicapped kids.


      1. Waldorf schools have an enduring presence in Northern California, and I recently was involved with one which was being converted to a more thoroughly Christian model, after its sole teacher was baptized Orthodox.

        Liked by 1 person

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