In 1942, Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans, along with Christoph Probst, Willi Graf, and Alexander Schmorell, founded The White Rose Movement, an anti-Nazi resistance group that was virulently against the racist, murderous policies of the National Socialists. Hans had been a soldier on the Eastern Front and witnessed firsthand the cruelty that was perpetrated against the Jews of Poland. He turned his outrage into this student organization – one member was a professor of philosophy named Kurt Huber – with groups in Berlin, Freiburg, Hamburg, and even Vienna. The group conducted many clandestine activities against the regime between June 1942 and February 1943.

The Munich University students created and mimeographed hundreds of leaflets which they distributed in various Reich cities in the hopes of influencing the young to destroy the rotten Nazi machine from within. Being that Nazi Germany was a police state in every meaning of the phrase, informants were everywhere. One couldn’t trust even one’s own neighbor whom you may have lived next door to for decades. When it came down to it, people would betray you for the simplest reasons. It was a janitor at the university who betrayed the White Rose students to the Gestapo.

An excerpt from one leaflet declared:

“Many, perhaps most, of the readers of these leaflets do not see clearly how they can practise an effective opposition. They do not see any avenues open to them. We want to try to show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of the system. It can be done only by the cooperation of many convinced, energetic people – people who are agreed as to the means they must use. We have no great number of choices as to the means. The only one available is passive resistance. The meaning and goal of passive resistance is to topple National Socialism, and in this struggle we must not recoil from any course, any action, whatever its nature. A victory of fascist Germany in this war would have immeasurable frightful consequences. We cannot provide each man with the blueprint for his acts, we can only suggest them in general terms. Sabotage in armaments plants and war industries, at all gatherings, rallies and organisations of the National Socialist Party…………….convince all your acquaintances of the hopelessness of this war………………and urge them to passive resistance.”

White Rose member A. Schmorell

One of their last leaflets stated:

“The day of reckoning has come – the reckoning of German youth with the most abominable tyrant our people have ever been forced to endure. We grew up in a state in which all free expression of opinion is ruthlessly suppressed. The Hitler Youth, the SA, the SS have all tried to drug us, to regiment us in the most promising years of our lives. For us there is but one slogan: fight against the party. The name of Germany is dishonoured for all time if German youth does not finally rise, take revenge, smash its tormentors. Students! The German people look to us.”

On 18 February, Sophie and Hans were arrested by the Gestapo and interrogated thoroughly. They readily admitted their ‘treason’ in an effort to keep their interrogators from arresting the others who were involved in the group, but after an intense investigation, the Gestapo discovered and arrested several other members of White Rose.

On 22 February, Sophie, Hans, and Christoph were brought before the People’s Court and found guilty of treason, with their punishment set at death. They were beheaded the same day. According to history, the last words of Hans Scholl are: “Es lebe die Freiheit!” (Let freedom live!) Supposedly, Sophie’s final words were “Your heads will fall as well” but many dispute that she said this and attribute the phrase to her brother. Others say that Sophie’s last sentence was actually ‘God, you are my refuge into eternity.”

More members of the White Rose Movement were tried on 19 April and 13 July, with some being sentenced to execution by beheading, and others being acquitted. One member spent 6 months in prison – which was lucky for him. One member was set to testify against the others but backed away from her betrayal for some reason.

In addition to the leaflets – the last of which was smuggled out of Germany and passed on the Allies, who dropped them from the skies over the fallen Reich – the group also utilized graffiti to pass on their anti Nazi messages to fellow countrymen and women. After the war, Inge Scholl, sister of the late Sophie and Hans, published many books about die Weisse Rose but apparently she did not take part in any of the group’s activities whilst they were active.

Memorial to the White Rose Movement

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