FoC 089: Willi Graf: Heroic Catholic Resistance in Nazi Germany with Dr. Stephani Richards-Wilson


When we heard rumors that a cause for Willi Graf’s canonization might be opened, we knew we wanted to know more about this young Catholic student who participated in resistance against Nazism in Germany as part of The White Rose and met his death as a martyr. Then we found Dr. Stephani Richards-Wilson who has been studying his life for over a decade! We’re thrilled she was willing to join us for this episode on the inspiring figures who heroically shared the truth about the Third Reich, risking their lives to do so.

Dr. Richards-Wilson is the Director of Graduate Business Programs at Alverno College. She wrote a dissertation on Willi Graf and is currently working on the first biography of Graf to be released in the English language.

In this episode Dr. Richards-Wilson shares the story of Willi Graf and The White Rose, the group of five students and one professor who resisted the Nazis. It is an incredible story! We also discuss the preparation for the cause for Graf’s canonization and how getting to know the saints and details about their lives and personalities helps us see them as human beings who struggle just as we do in their journey toward holiness. We touch on the timeliness of Graf’s story considering the recent resurgence of Nazi ideology, anti-semitism, and racism in our world. And we talk about the importance of sharing the stories of the inspiring and heroic figures when it’s easy to obsess over the perpetrators of horrific crimes. We think you’ll be fascinated by the story of Willi Graf and The White Rose, so grab a cup of tea and settle in!

Further reading on Willi Graf:

Faith Under Fire: Willi Graf and the White Rose, an article by Dr. Richards-Wilson

In this episode we talked about:

The Man in the High Castle

To connect with Dr. Richards-Wilson:

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4 thoughts on “FoC 089: Willi Graf: Heroic Catholic Resistance in Nazi Germany with Dr. Stephani Richards-Wilson”

  1. This was so fascinating! I would like to mention that many of the Vatican’s documents from the WWII era are still sealed, which encourages speculation and denial.

    I suspect that some of these sealed documents perhaps point to areas where the Catholic Church could have done more to resist totalitarianism. While that would be hard and heartbreaking to learn, I think it’s the best way forward for healing and truth. Particularly with the recent rise of anti-Semitism and far-right nationalist rhetoric around the world, this is an opportune time to open documents, if only to provide a caution for our current times.

    1. Actually some of the documents have been unsealed and show much more support to the resistance of the Nazi regime from the Vatican and especially Pope Pius XII. Like all other institutions in Germany at the time, the majority either supported the regime or lived in terror to go against it as Dr. Richards-Wilson talks about in the episode. I found the book Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler by Mark Riebling to be very informative about how Catholics were willing to risk everything to fight Hitler and how careful the Vatican was to preserve life while doing all it could behind the scenes to get Hitler out of power. The book itself is written by a man who’s not Catholic and presents a very objective view of what was going on at the time and it’s a good read.

  2. I learned about the White Rose a few years ago in a history class and I was so excited to hear you talk about it on your podcast. I’m happy to hear that the cause for Willi Graf’s canonization has been opened. I also wanted to mention that there was only one woman in the group, Sophie Scholl. When she discovered what her brother was doing with the group she insisted on being part of it and was very valuable as she was less likely to be searched. I think she is an amazing example of strength in fighting against evil. Like Graf she was heavily influenced by what she read including Cardinal John Henry Newman’s sermons. She maintained courage and confidence in their cause leading up to her execution and her last words were “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?” Love her!

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