Translation notes

Conventions used in this translation are generally standard, but some are peculiar to my own style developed over decades of turning German financial statements and legal documents into English for CEOs and CFOs. The following should help you understand what is happening on the next couple hundred pages.


In German, writers will s p a c e   o u t   w o r d s    for emphasis. I have chosen to boldface that text. Where words are underlined in the original document, I have underlined them here as well. However, when a Gestapo agent or someone else underlined text by hand, I have boldfaced that in translation. Those parts of the text were generally used to compile the indictments (someone said they used a black grease pencil — it’s a thick stroke). Where the Gestapo agent et al emphasized part of the text using a black line in the margin, I have changed the font to 14 point. Exclamation points were always in the original document and were never added by me.


German makes more frequent use of pronouns and other means of pointing back to a dependent clause that may be two pages removed. Therefore where a word is implicitly implied but not stated in the text, it is set off by [brackets]. Text that is in (parentheses) was in the original document, regardless of whether it was set off by parentheses in the original. Sometimes this was necessary simply to untangle long sentences. But very often, the parentheses are in the original document.


If the original document is well-written, I have broken down long sentences into several shorter sentences. If poorly written, then I have left the disjointed run-on sentences as-is. Scholarly works (essays, philosophical treatises, etc.) are well-known for one-sentence paragraphs that take up an entire page — as are newspapers and encyclopedias. When intellectual wannabes try to emulate that scholarly style, the results are catastrophic. Judge Freisler’s “Reasons” for his verdict on February 22, 1943 provide a perfect example of the writing of an intellectual wannabe.

Essentially, I have tried to emulate the style of the writer to the best of my ability. If a writer filled the pages with clichés, then I attempted to reproduce them with comparable English chestnuts. I worked hard to differentiate between the styles of Hans Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, Kurt Huber, and Christoph Probst in the leaflets they penned(*). The attention to style spilled over to form as well. Some secretaries underlined the colon or indented new paragraphs, while others did not. (*Those are not included in this project – mentioned by way of comparison.)

In emulating the style of a writer, I made sure that if he used one word over and over in the same document that I then translated it the same every time — in that document.

For clarity, I wrote out all dates except where space would not allow me to. In German, dates are written day/month/year, whereas in English it is month/day/year. Some of the White Rose translations I have seen have erred in recording incidental dates because they confused this principle.

I will feel especially successful in this translation if you believe you can “hear” who is speaking by reading the words on the page.

Miscellaneous comments

I did not try to “read” illegible sections, even if I felt quite certain that I knew what it said. For example, if a document indicated that it was written by a certain person, I did not assume that the signature belonged to that person. If the copy of the letterhead information was blurred, I did not assume the information it contained merely because I had seen that letterhead in another document.

The issue of illegibility has two basic sources: First, the microfilm I am working from is a copy of the microfilm at the Bundesarchiv in Berlin. It has evidently deteriorated with time, so that the print on several pages was very faint indeed. I have understood from other scholars that it is possible the original copies off the microfilm may be higher quality (the original White Rose documents have long been inaccessible, and for good reason); and additionally, it may be possible to enhance these microfilmed copies with better equipment than I currently have available. Fortunately, this problem does not affect much of the Graf / Schmorell / Scholl files (perhaps about 10 pages total from Graf). It shows up more in the files of Kurt Huber, Falk Harnack, and Heinz Bollinger.

The second illegibility issue rests squarely on the problems with reading old cursive. That is a skill I have acquired through the years (otherwise, none of the handwritten notes would be included in this translation). But with such small samples of each individual’s handwriting — perhaps 20 or 30 words in a margin here and there — it is nearly impossible to decipher all of it.

Pay close attention to the following — very specifically chosen! — words in the translation:

Aktion is always rendered Operation, as in a military operation. I tried to limit use of the word “operation” to that meaning only.

Accused / Defendant / Suspect. Since lawyers are born pedantic souls, they tend to choose their labels very carefully. Usually before a person is arrested, he or she is a suspect, an Angeschuldigter. Once indicted, they become accused or angeklagt; and finally they are defendants in a trial, or Beschuldigter. [Note: Angeklagter could also mean defendant.] You will see ample evidence of the absolute corruption of the German legal system during the Third Reich. One of the small tell-tale signs can be seen in the disregard for the distinction in a prisoner’s status. I was very careful to always render these three terms as stated above.

Note as well the use of the term Strafsache or “criminal case”. Innocuous word, but it shows up in unexpected places.

In contrast to English, German has extraordinarily specific delineations of the various types of friendship. A man who calls a woman his Freundin means she is his girlfriend; and a woman who calls a man her Freund means he is her boyfriend. Freundin / Freund mean “friend” when applied to the same sex — not in the American sense of friend, but with a deep and lasting connection. Someone who is well-known by a person but not his Freund is a Bekannter or acquaintance. And a Kamerad is a comrade—in times of war, a comrade occupies a place closer to friend (definitely not an acquaintaince) without quite making the grade. If you watch for these distinctions, you will learn a lot about these four young people and their circle of friends and acquaintances.

It was difficult deciding on titles. Most resources I have found merely interpret German Nazi titles without stating a reasonable equivalent… for good reason. To maintain the feel of titular pomposity, I sometimes ‘invented’ titles that approximated the original. I tried to use the same translation of that title throughout the translation.

Regarding DATES: The “published” date is the document date. If the document was time-stamped (especially true of telexes), that actual time becomes part of the “published” date. Any document not time-stamped is given the arbitrary time-stamp of 12:01.

Should it be possible to ascertain specific time reference from the context of the document (e.g., release from prison at 6 p.m.), then that specific time becomes part of the “published” date.

Ruth Hanna Sachs

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