It can be hard to critique a creative rendition of historic events since every faithful representation will hit the same key points. It’s not a spoiler to know that the members of Die Weisse Rose (the White Rose) were caught and executed as traitors. What makes Freiheit! stand out is the narrative’s focus on the resistors’ Catholic faith as a basis for their opposition to Naziism. It is important to note that while the majority of modern Germany followed Martin Luther’s teachings and is predominantly Lutheran, Bavaria (Munich is the capital of the German state.) - which has a slightly different culture than the rest of Germany and is physically much closer to Italy/the Vatican - remained Catholic; however, given the Nazi focus on the party and mysticism over traditional religions, any individual of strong faith would struggle under the party’s teachings. My favorite portion of the entire volume was the English translations of the original pamphlets. I had never read them before, and they reveal an intriguing transition from critiquing the anti-faith message of Naziism and its restrictions on the German people to openly condemning the deaths of German soldiers on the various fronts. Notably, none of the publications addressed the round up and mass slaughter of Jews and other “non-desirables” per the regime. Whether the group felt addressing the Nazi party was most important or didn’t place concern on the plight of the German Jews is unclear. They may simply have realized they could garner more support by glossing over the Jewish question, because some individuals disagreed with Hitler’s regime overall but were prejudiced against the Jewish people (a long-standing practice, especially in Europe).
I struggled a little with the art style in Freiheit! since each panel reminded me of fading, old, black-and-white photos where the features are blurring, and the details have begun to wash away; however, I think this is Ciponte’s point: the members of the White Rose became memorable because of what they attempted to accomplish, not because of who they were individually. In some ways, each of us could step into their roles if we have faith and strength of conviction. In addition, I began to see how the colors and lighting in the earlier pages reflected the happier events and positivity. The last chapter is almost purely in black, white, and sepia as it races toward the inevitable conclusion, so the final page before the pamphlet reprints jumps out with its blue tone and brightness, giving truth to Sophie’s final words: “How important is my death if through us thousands of people awaken and get involved?”
The words “I liked it” feel too weak to describe my reaction to the graphic novel interpretation of this meaningful historic event. The White Rose stood up for their beliefs in a time where freedom of thought was discouraged and gave everything to open others’ minds and hearts. I hope that young people will pick this graphic novel up and learn about the power of resistance and how it can be used in the name of the greater good.
Creative Team: Andrea Grosso Ciponte
Publisher: Plough Publishing House
Click here to purchase.