This year, instead of translating between German and English, the White Rose Translation Project explored ‘creative translation’, adapting the White Rose resistance pamphlets into new works, including poetry, prose, drama, and artwork. The Oxford students’ translations are imaginative responses to, and interpretations of, real events and people as encountered in interviews and primary sources. They explore the courage and conviction of students who, eighty years ago in Germany, stood up to fascism and used the written word to resist. The translations were developed through a series of workshops and seminars from January to March 2022, including an introduction to comics and graphic novels by student and comics creator Amey Zhang. We’re sharing some of the students’ work here on our blog. The first piece is by Lydia Ludlow.
My piece represents the famous scene in which the pamphlets were thrown off the balcony in the atrium of Munich University. It is a heart-stopping moment, which epitomises the bravery – and perhaps the naïveté – of the White Rose members. I wanted to focus on the moment just after the pamphlets had begun to fall, but before they landed and were discovered, which would lead to the group’s downfall. There is such hope and potential in this moment: I wanted to freeze the last moment before the fate of the group became inevitable. I think a lot of the power of this moment comes from the words in the pamphlet: words full of radical possibility, but also words that were enough to condemn their authors to death.
I found the direct appeal this pamphlet makes to its authors’ fellow students particularly moving. The emphasis on ‘Freiheit’ and ‘Ehre’ and the strength of their language of condemnation is striking. Therefore, I wanted in the piece to pay attention to the words of the pamphlet, rather than the personalities of the group. The only people in the scene hide in the shadows: you can just make out a couple of figures on the balcony on the right, and in the bottom right-hand corner you can see the janitor lurking, foreshadowing the inevitable discovery of the pamphlets. I chose not to include captions, so all the words present in my comic are taken directly from the sixth pamphlet, and I have left them in German. I hope this gives the pamphlet a chance to speak for itself. However, in the final frame I have highlighted some of the words and phrases that I found most striking, so there is certainly an element of interpretation and mediation to the presentation of the words.
I was inspired to try and produce a comic strip after the workshop with Amey Zhang. The style of drawing is also inspired by the graphic novels of Brian Selznick, which I love. His novels always have a strong sense of place, often feeling cinematic. He also often uses changes of scale in a similar way to how I have, in order to ‘zoom in’ on a subject.
Images © 2022 Lydia Ludlow. All rights reserved.