White Rose

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This article is about the German resistance movement. For other uses, see White Rose (disambiguation).
Monument to the "Weiße Rose" in front of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

The White Rose (German: die Weiße Rose) was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany led by a group of students and a professor at the University of Munich. The group conducted an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign which called for active opposition against the dictator Adolf Hitler's regime. Their activities started in June 1942 in Munich, and ended with their arrest by the Gestapo in February 1943. They faced trial by the Nazi "People's Court", and were sentenced to death or imprisonment.

The group wrote, printed and initially distributed their pamphlets in the greater Munich region. Later on, secret carriers distributed copies in other cities, mostly in the southern parts of the German Reich. In total, the White Rose authored six leaflets, which were distributed, in total, in about 15,000 copies. They branded the Nazi regime's crimes and oppression, and called for resistance. In their second leaflet, they openly denounced the Third Reich's persecution of the Jews. By the time of their arrest, members of the White Rose were just about to establish contacts with other German resistance groups like the Kreisau Circle or the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack group of the Red Orchestra. In today's Germany, the White Rose is the best-known example for the resistance of German students against the nazi regime. Worldwide, they are regarded as an iconic role model for integrity, courage and readiness to make sacrifices for humanistic and democratic ideals from within a totalitarian dictatorship.

Historical background[edit]

White Rose survivor Jürgen Wittenstein described what it was like to live in Hitler's Germany:

"The government – or rather, the party – controlled everything: the news media, arms, police, the armed forces, the judiciary system, communications, travel, all levels of education from kindergarten to universities, all cultural and religious institutions. Political indoctrination started at a very early age, and continued by means of the Hitler Youth with the ultimate goal of complete mind control. Children were exhorted in school to denounce even their own parents for derogatory remarks about Hitler or Nazi ideology."

— Georg J. Wittenstein M. D., "Memories of the White Rose", 1979[1]

The activities of the White Rose started at a time that was particularly critical for the German regime, as the German population became increasingly aware of the losses and damages of World War II. In Summer 1942, the German Wehrmacht was preparing a new military campaign in the southern part of the East front in order to regain the initiative after their earlier defeat close to Moscow. In February 1943, the advance of the German army had come to a halt at the Eastern front, and faced a major defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad. During this time, the authors of the pamphlets could neither be discovered, nor could the campaign be stopped by the Nazi authorities. When Hans and Sophie Scholl were discovered and arrested merely by chance, the regime reacted brutally. As the "Volksgerichtshof" was not bound to the law, but led by Nazi ideology, its actions were declared unlawful in post-war Germany. Thus, the execution of the White Rose group members, amongst many others, are considered as judicial murder.[2]

Members and supporters[edit]

Students from the University of Munich comprised the core of the White Rose: The siblings Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst, and Kurt Huber, a professor of philosophy and musicology.

They were supported by other persons, including Traute Lafrenz, Katharina Schüddekopf, Lieselotte (Lilo) Berndl, Jürgen Wittenstein, Marie-Luise Jahn, Falk Harnack, Hubert Furtwängler, Wilhelm Geyer, Manfred Eickemeyer, Josef Söhngen, Heinrich Guter, Heinrich Bollinger, Helmut Bauer, Harald Dohrn, Hans Conrad Leipelt, Gisela Schertling, Rudi Alt[3] and Wolfgang Jaeger.[4] Most were in their early twenties. Wilhelm Geyer taught Alexander Schmorell how to make the tin templates used in the graffiti campaign. Eugen Grimminger of Stuttgart funded their operations. Grimminger's secretary Tilly Hahn contributed her own funds to the cause, and acted as go-between for Grimminger and the group in Munich. She frequently carried supplies such as envelopes, paper, and an additional duplicating machine from Stuttgart to Munich. In addition, a group of students in the city of Ulm distributed a number of the group's leaflets. Among this group were Sophie Scholl's childhood friend Susanne Hirzel (de) and her teenage brother Hans Hirzel (de) and Franz Josef Müller (de).[5]

Intellectual background and motivation[edit]

Research into the intellectual background of the members of the White Rose has revealed various factors that may have influenced their thinking and the actions they have taken.

Social background[edit]

The members of the core group all shared an academic background, being students at Munich university. The Scholl siblings, Christoph Probst, Willi Graf and Alexander Schmorell were all raised by liberal, independently thinking and wealthy parents. Some, but not all of them, in their early years had enthusiastically joined the youth organizations of the Nazi party: Hans Scholl had joined the Hitler Youth, Sophie Scholl was a member of the Bund Deutscher Mädel. Membership of both party youth organizations was compulsory for young Germans, although a few—such as Willi Graf, Otl Aicher, and Heinz Brenner—refused to join. Scholl]] reported about the initial enthusiasm of the young people for the Nazi youth organization, to their parents' dismay:[6]

But there was something else that drew us with mysterious power and swept us along: the closed ranks of marching youth with banners waving, eyes fixed straight ahead, keeping time to drumbeat and song. Was not this sense of fellowship overpowering? It is not surprising that all of us, Hans and Sophie and the others, joined the Hitler Youth? We entered into it with body and soul, and we could not understand why our father did not approve, why he was not happy and proud. On the contrary, he was quite displeased with us.

— Inge Scholl, The White Rose

Both the Scholl siblings became disenchanted with the Nazi organization only gradually, when they were subjected to increasing pressure into conformity, and realized that any signs of individualism were sanctioned.

German Youth Movement[edit]

The ideas and thoughts of German Youth Movement, founded in 1896, had a major impact on the German youth at the beginning of the twentieth century. The movement aimed at providing free space to develop some healthy life. A common trait of the various organizations was a romantic longing for a pristine state of things, a return to older cultural traditions, with a strong emphasis on independent, non-conformist thinking. They propagated a return to nature, confraternity and shared adventures. The Deutsche Jungenschaft vom 1.11.1929 (abbreviated as "d.j.1.11.") was part of this youth movement, founded by Eberhard Koebel in 1929. Christoph Probst was a member of the German Youth Movement, Willi Graf was a member of "Neudeutschland", a Catholic youth association, and the "Grauer Orden".[7] The Nazi party's youth organizations took over some of the elements of the youth movement, and engaged their members in activities similar to the adventures of Boy scouts – but at the same time demanded conformity to their ideology. Youth organizations other than those led by the Nazi party were dissolved in 1936, and both Hans Scholl and Willi Graf were arrested because of their membership in forbidden youth organizations in 1937–1938. Hans Scholl had joined the youth organization in 1934, when he and other Ulm Hitler Youth members considered membership in this group and the Hitler Youth to be compatible. Hans Scholl was also accused of transgressing Paragraph 175, the anti-homosexuality law, because of a same-sex teen relationship dating back to 1934-1935, when Hans was only 16 years old. The argument was built partially on the work of Eckard Holler, a sociologist specializing in the German Youth Movement,[8] as well as on the Gestapo interrogation transcripts from the 1937-1938 arrest, and with reference to historian George Mosse's discussion of the homoerotic aspects of the German "bündische Jugend" Youth Movement.[9] As Mosse indicated, idealized romantic attachments among male youths was not uncommon in Germany, especially among members of the "bündische Jugend" associations. It was argued that this experience led both Hans and Sophie to identify with the victims of the Nazi state, providing another explanation for why Hans and Sophie Scholl made the transformation from avid Hitler Youth leaders to passionate opponents of National Socialism.[10]


The group was motivated by ethical and moral considerations. They came from various religious backgrounds. Willi and Katharina were devout Catholics. Alexander Schmorell was Orthodox, the grandson of a priest and eventually glorified as an Orthodox Christian saint. Traute adhered to the concepts of anthroposophy, while Eugen Grimminger considered himself Buddhist. Christoph Probst was baptized a Catholic only shortly before his execution. His father Hermann was nominally a Catholic, but also a private scholar of Eastern thought and wisdom. Hans Scholl met Carl Muth, the founder of the catholic magazine Hochland. In his letters to Muth, he describes his growing attraction towards the Christian faith. In their diaries and letters to friends, both Scholl siblings write about their reading of Christian Scholars like Etienne Gilson, whose work on Medieval philosophy they discussed amongst other philosophical works within the network of friends, on which they relied when they started their resistance activities.

In 1941, Hans Scholl read a copy of a sermon by an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime, Bishop August von Galen, decrying the euthanasia policies expressed in Action T4 (and extended that same year to the Nazi concentration camps by Action 14f13)[11] which the Nazis maintained would protect the German gene pool.[12] Horrified by the Nazi policies, Sophie obtained permission to reprint the sermon and distribute it at the University of Munich as the group's first leaflet prior to their formal organization.[12]

Experience at the World War II Eastern Front[edit]

Hans Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, Christoph Probst, and Willi Graf were medical students. Their studies were regularly interrupted by terms of compulsory service as student soldiers in the Wehrmacht medical corps at the Eastern Front. Their experience during this time had a major impact on their thinking, and had motivated their resistance, as it led to disillusionment with the Nazi regime.[13] Alexander Schmorell, who was born in Orenburg and raised by Russian nurses, spoke perfect Russian, which allowed him to have a direct contact and communication with the local Russian population and their plight. This Russian insight proved invaluable during their time there, and he could convey to his fellow White Rose members what was not understood or even heard by other Germans coming from the Eastern front.

In summer 1942, several members of the White Rose had to serve for three months on the Russian front alongside many other male medical students from the University of Munich. There, they observed the horrors of war, saw beatings and other mistreatment of Jews by the Germans, and heard about the persecution of the Jews from reliable sources.[14] Some witnessed atrocities of the war on the battlefield and against civilian populations in the East. Willi Graf saw the Warsaw and Łódź Ghettos and could not get the images of brutality out of his mind.[citation needed]

By February 1943, the young friends sensed the implications of the reversal of fortune the Wehrmacht suffered at Stalingrad, which eventually led to Germany's defeat. As the brutality of the regime became more and more apparent, when deportations of Jews began, and the remaining few were forced to wear the yellow Star of David, when German atrocities in occupied Poland and Russia became known, and when the copies of Bishop Galen's sermon condemning the killing of inmates in insane asylums were circulated in secret, detachment gave way to the conviction something had to be done. It was not enough to keep to oneself one's beliefs, and ethical standards, but the time had come to act.[1]

The members of the White Rose were fully aware of the risks they incurred by distributing their leaflets:

I knew what I took upon myself and I was prepared to lose my life by so doing.

— From the interrogation of Hans Scholl.

Origin of the name[edit]

Under Gestapo interrogation, Hans Scholl gave several explanations for the origin of the name "The White Rose," and suggested he may have chosen it while he was under the emotional influence of a 19th-century poem with the same name by German poet Clemens Brentano. Earlier, before these Gestapo transcripts surfaced, Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn speculated briefly that the origin might have come from a German novel Die Weiße Rose (The White Rose), published in Berlin in 1929 and written by B. Traven, the German author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Dumbach and Newborn said there was a chance that Hans Scholl and Alex Schmorell had read this. They also wrote that the symbol of the white rose was intended to represent purity and innocence in the face of evil.[15]

In February 2006, however, Dr. Jud Newborn authored an essay entitled, "Solving Mysteries: The Secret of 'The White Rose'," originally intended as an afterword to his co-authored book.[10] In this essay he argues that Hans Scholl's response to the Gestapo was intentionally misleading in order to protect Josef Söhngen, the anti-Nazi bookseller who had provided the White Rose members with a safe meeting place for the exchange of information and to receive occasional financial contributions. Söhngen kept a stash of banned books hidden in his store. Dr. Newborn also looked into the content of B. Traven's The White Rose, arguing that the novel, banned by the Nazis in 1933, provided evidence of origin of the group's name.

Actions: The leaflets and graffiti[edit]

After their experiences at the Eastern Front, having learned about mass murder in Poland and Russia, Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell felt compelled to take action. From end of June until mid of July 1942, they wrote four leaflets, which they sent by mail anonymously to intellectuals living in the greater Munich region. In Winter 1942, Willi Graf and Sophie Scholl joined the group. From 23 July to 30 October 1942, Graf, Scholl and Schmorell served again at the Russian front, and activities ceased until their return. The fifth leaflet, "Aufruf an alle Deutsche!" ("Appeal to all Germans!", in 6000–9000 copies) was distributed between 27 and 29 January 1943 in several south German and some Austrian cities. Sophie Scholl stated in her interrogation after her arrest on 18 February 1943 that from summer 1942 on, the aim of the White Rose was to address a broader range of the population.[16] Thus, the fifth leaflet was written in a less intellectual and more popular style. The students had become convinced during their military service that the war was lost: "Hitler kann den Krieg nicht gewinnen, nur noch verlängern. - Hitler cannot win the war, he can only prolong it." They appealed to renounce "national socialist subhumanism", imperialism and Prussian militarism "for all time". Their vision of future Germany was a federalist state in a unified Europe, after the war had ended.

By the end of January 1943, the Battle of Stalingrad ended with the capitulation and near-total loss of the Wehrmacht's Sixth Army. In Stalingrad, World War II had taken a decisive turn, inspiring resistance movements throughout European countries, then occupied by Germany. It also had a devastating effect on German morale. On 13 January 1943, a student riot broke out at Munich University, after the Nazi Gauleiter of Munich and Upper Bavaria had denounced in a speech male students not serving in the army as skulkers, and had made obscene remarks to female students. These events encouraged the members of the White Rose. When the defeat at Stalingrad was officially announced, they sent out their sixth – and last – leaflet. The tone of this writing, authored by Kurt Huber and revised by Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell, was more patriotic. On 3rd, 8th, and 15 February 1943, Alexander Schmorell, Hans Scholl, and Willi Graf used tin stencils to write paroles like "Down with Hitler" and "Freedom" on the walls of the university and other buildings in Munich.

Between June 1942 and February 1943, the group prepared and distributed six leaflets, in which they called for the active opposition of the German people to Nazi oppression and tyranny.[17] Huber wrote the final leaflet. A draft of a seventh pamphlet, written by Christoph Probst, was found in the possession of Hans Scholl at the time of his arrest by the Gestapo. While Sophie Scholl got rid of incriminating evidence on her person before being taken into custody, Hans did try to destroy the draft of the last leaflet by ripping it into pieces and stuffing into his mouth and sallow it down. However, the Gestapo recovered enough to match with written, signed statements from Probst found later in Hans's apartment.[18]

Quoting extensively from the Bible, Aristotle and Novalis, as well as Goethe and Schiller, the iconic poets of German bourgeoisie, they appealed to what they considered the German intelligentsia, believing that they would be intrinsically opposed to Nazism. These leaflets were left in telephone books in public phone booths, mailed to professors and students, and taken by courier to other universities for distribution.[1] At first, the leaflets were sent out in mailings from cities in Bavaria and Austria, since the members believed that southern Germany would be more receptive to their anti-militarist message.

Alexander Schmorell, who penned the words the White Rose has become most famous for, became an Orthodox saint after his martyrdom. Most of the more practical material—calls to arms and statistics of murder—came from Alex's pen. Hans Scholl wrote in a characteristically high style, exhorting the German people to action on the grounds of philosophy and reason.

By the end of July 1942, some of the male students in the group were deployed to the Eastern Front for military service (acting as medics) during the academic break. In late autumn, the men returned, and the White Rose resumed its resistance activities. In January 1943, using a hand-operated duplicating machine, the group is thought to have produced between 6,000 and 9,000 copies of their fifth leaflet, "Appeal to all Germans!", which was distributed via courier runs to many cities (where they were mailed). Copies appeared in Stuttgart, Cologne, Vienna, Freiburg, Chemnitz, Hamburg, Innsbruck and Berlin. The fifth leaflet was mainly written by Hans Scholl, with some edits by Huber. These leaflets warned that Hitler was leading Germany into the abyss; with the gathering might of the Allies, defeat was now certain. The reader was urged to "Support the resistance movement!" in the struggle for "freedom of speech, freedom of religion and protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of criminal dictator-states". These were the principles that would form "the foundations of a new Europe".

The leaflets caused a sensation, and the Gestapo began an intensive search for the publishers. On the nights of the 3rd, 8th and 15 February 1943, graffiti with the slogans "Freedom" and "Down with Hitler" appeared on the walls of the university and other buildings in Munich. Alexander Schmorell, Hans Scholl and Willi Graf had painted them with tar-based paint. Similar graffiti that appeared in the surrounding area at this time were painted by imitators.

The shattering German defeat at Stalingrad at the beginning of February 1943 provided the occasion for the group's sixth pamphlet, written by Huber. Headed "Fellow students!" (the now-iconic Kommilitoninnen! Kommilitonen!), it announced that the "day of reckoning" had come for "the most contemptible tyrant our people has ever endured." "The dead of Stalingrad adjure us!"

Capture and interrogation[edit]

Atrium of the University
Jakob Schmid in February 1947
White Rose memorial at Room 253 of the Munich Court of Justice, where the first trial was held.

On 18 February 1943, the Scholls brought a suitcase full of leaflets to the university. They hurriedly dropped stacks of copies in the empty corridors for students to find when they left the lecture rooms. Leaving before the class break, the Scholls noticed that some copies remained in the suitcase and decided it would be a pity not to distribute them. They returned to the atrium and climbed the staircase to the top floor, and Sophie flung the last remaining leaflets into the air. This spontaneous action was observed by the university maintenance man, Jakob Schmied.[19] Hans and Sophie Scholl were taken into Gestapo custody, and interrogated by Robert Mohr, who initially thought Sophie was innocent. However, after Hans had confessed, Sophie assumed full responsibility in an attempt to protect other members of the White Rose.

The "White Rose" trials[edit]

The Scholls and Probst were to stand trial before the Volksgerichtshof— the Nazi "People's Court" infamous for its unfair political trials, which more often than not ended with a death sentence — on 22 February 1943. They were found guilty of treason. Roland Freisler, head judge of the court, sentenced them to death. The three were executed the same day by guillotine at Stadelheim Prison. All three were noted for the courage with which they faced their deaths, particularly Sophie, who remained firm despite intense interrogation. She said to Freisler during the trial, "You know as well as we do that the war is lost. Why are you so cowardly that you won't admit it?"[20] Immediately before Hans was executed, he cried out "Es lebe die Freiheit! - Let freedom live!", as the blade fell.

Willi Graf had already been arrested on 18 February 1943; in his interrogations, he successfully covered other members of the group. Alexander Schmorell was recognized, denounced and arrested after his return to Munich following an unsuccessful effort to travel to Switzerland, on 24 February 1943. Kurt Huber was taken into custody on 26 February, and only now the Gestapo learned about his role within the White Rose group. The second White Rose trial took place on 19 April 1943. Only eleven had been indicted before this trial. At the last minute, the prosecutor added Traute Lafrenz (who was considered so dangerous that she was to have had a trial all to herself), Gisela Schertling and Katharina Schüddekopf. Others tried were Hans Hirzel, Susanne Hirzel, Franz Josef Müller, Heinrich Guter, Eugen Grimminger, Heinrich Bollinger, Helmut Bauer and Falk Harnack.[4] None had an attorney. One was assigned after the women appeared in court with their friends. Willi Graf, Kurt Huber, and Alexander Schmorell were sentenced to death. Eleven others were sentenced to prison, and Falk Harnack was acquitted of the accusations. Schmorell and Huber were executed on 13 July 1943, Willi Graf was further interrogated, but managed to cover his friend Willi Bollinger, and finally executed on 12 October 1943. On 29 January 1945, Hans Konrad Leipelt was executed. He had been sent down from Hamburg university in 1940 because of his Jewish descendancy, and had copied and further distributed the White Rose's pamphlets together with his girlfriend Marie-Luise Jahn. They were now entitled "And their spirit lives on".[21]

The third White Rose trial was to have taken place on 20 April 1943, Hitler's birthday, which was a public holiday in Nazi Germany, because Freisler anticipated death sentences for Wilhelm Geyer, Harald Dohrn, Josef Söhngen and Manfred Eickemeyer. He did not want to issue too many death sentences at one single trial, and had scheduled to pronounce his judgment against those four for the next day. However, the evidence against them was lost, and the trial was postponed until 13 July 1943. At that trial, Gisela Schertling—who had betrayed most of the friends, even fringe members like Gerhard Feuerle—changed her mind and recanted her testimony against all of them. Since Freisler did not preside over the third trial, the judge acquitted all but Söhngen (who got only six months in prison) for lack of evidence.

Alexander Schmorell and Kurt Huber were beheaded on 13 July 1943, and Willi Graf on 12 October 1943. Huber's widow was billed 600 Reichsmark (twice her husband's monthly salary) for "costs of the execution."[1] Friends and colleagues of the White Rose, who had helped in the preparation and distribution of leaflets and in collecting money for the widow and young children of Probst, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to ten years.

After her release for the sentence handed down on 19 April, Traute Lafrenz was put into arrest again. She spent the last year of the war in prison. Trials kept being postponed and moved to different locations because of Allied air raids. Her trial was finally set for April 1945, after which she probably would have been executed. Three days before the trial, however, the Allies liberated the town where she was held prisoner, thereby saving her life.

Reactions in Germany and abroad during World War II[edit]

The hopes of the White Rose members that the defeat at Stalingrad would incite the German opposition against the Nazi regime and its war did not come true. In contrary, the Nazi propaganda used the defeat to call on the German people to embrace "Total War". Coincidentally, on 18 February 1943, the same day that saw the arrests of Sophie and Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels delivered his Sportpalast speech, and was enthusiastically applauded by his audience.

Shortly after the arrest of the Scholl siblings and Christoph Probst, newspapers published all-points bulletins in search of Alexander Schmorell. On 22 February 1943, the students of Munich were assembled, and officially protested against the "traitors" who came from within their ranks. Gestapo and Nazi jurisdiction documented in their files their view of the White Rose members as "traitors and defeatists". On 23 February, the official newspaper of the Nazi party, "Völkischer Beobachter" and local newspapers in Munich[22] briefly reported about the capture and execution of some "degenerate rogues".[23] However, the network of friends and supporters proved to be too large, so that the rumors about the White Rose could not be suppressed any more by Nazi German officials. Until the end of World War II, further prosecutions took place, and German newspapers continued to report, mostly in brief notes, that further people had been arrested and punished. On 15 March 1943, a report by the Sicherheitsdienst of the Schutzstaffel stated that rumors about the leaflets spread "considerable unrest" amongst the German population. The report expressed particular concern about the fact that leaflets were not handed in to the Nazi authorities by their finders as promptly as they used to be in the past.[24]

On 18 April 1943, the The New York Times issued an article about "Signs of strain seen in German populace", mentioning the student opposition in Munich.[25] The New York Times published articles on the first White Rose trials on 29 March 1943 and 25 April 1943, entitled "Nazis Execute 3 Munich Students For Writing Anti-Hitler Pamphlets"[26] and "Germans Clinging to Victory Hope in Fear of Reprisals," respectively. Though they did not correctly record all of the information about the resistance, the trials, and the execution, they were the first acknowledgement of the White Rose in the United States.

On 27 June 1943, the German author and Nobel prize winner Thomas Mann, in his monthly anti-Nazi broadcasts by the BBC called "Deutsche Hörer!" ("German Audience!") highly praised the White Rose members' courage. The Soviet Army propaganda issued a leaflet, wrongly attributed by later researchers to the National Committee for a Free Germany, in honour of the White Rose's fight for freedom.[27]

The text of the sixth leaflet of the White Rose was smuggled out of Germany through Scandinavia to the United Kingdom by the German lawyer and member of the Kreisau Circle, Helmuth James Graf von Moltke. In July 1943, copies were dropped over Germany by Allied planes, retitled "The Manifesto of the Students of Munich".[28] Thus, the activities of the White Rose became widely known in World War II Germany, but, like other attempts at resistance, did not provoke any active opposition against the totalitarian regime within the German population.

Research history[edit]

For many years, Hans and Sophies sister Inge Scholls commemorative book "The White Rose",[29] first published in 1952, followed by several editions until 1982, as well as surviving copies of the pamphlets, reports by surviving members and supporters of the White Rose group[30][1] and editions of the letters and diaries of Sophie and Hans Scholl[31] and Willi Graf[32] were the only primary sources available for research.

With the end of communism in the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic in 1989/90, the Gestapo interrogation protocols and other documents from Nazi authorities became publicly available. The interrogation protocols were part of the Volksgerichtshof documents, and were confiscated by the Soviet Red Army, and brought to Moscow. Here, they were kept secret in a special archive. After the foundation of the German Democratic Republic, the major part of the Nazi documents were handed over to the East German government, except the documents concerning Alexander Schmorell, who was born in Russia. The documents were distributed between the Central Archive of the communist Socialist Unity Party of Germany and the archive of the Ministry for State Security. With the German reunification, the documents were transferred to the Federal Archive of Germany in Berlin, and finally published. The documents concerning Alexander Schmorell still remain in the State Military Archive of Russia, but have been fully transcribed and published in a German/Russian edition.[33]


A black granite memorial to the White Rose Movement in the Hofgarten in Munich with the dome of the Bavarian State Chancellery in the background
"Geschwister-Scholl-Platz" - Scholl Siblings Square, outside the University main building, Munich, Germany

With the fall of Nazi Germany, the White Rose came to represent opposition to tyranny in the German psyche and was lauded for acting without interest in personal power or self-aggrandizement. Their story became so well known that the composer Carl Orff claimed (falsely by some accounts)[34] to his Allied interrogators that he was a founding member of the White Rose and was released. He was personally acquainted with Huber, but there is no evidence that Orff was ever involved in the movement.

On 5 February 2012 Alexander Schmorell was canonized as a New Martyr by the Orthodox Church.

The square where the central hall of Munich University is located has been named "Geschwister-Scholl-Platz" after Hans and Sophie Scholl; the square opposite to it is "Professor-Huber-Platz". Two large fountains are in front of the university, one on either side of Ludwigstraße. The fountain in front of the university is dedicated to Hans and Sophie Scholl. The other, across the street, is dedicated to Professor Huber. Many schools, streets, and other places across Germany are named in memory of the members of the White Rose.

One of Germany's leading literary prizes is called the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis (the "Scholl Siblings" prize). Likewise, the asteroid 7571 Weisse Rose is named after the group.

The White Rose has also received artistic treatments, including the acclaimed opera Weiße Rose by Udo Zimmermann, In memoriam: die weisse Rose by Hans Werner Henze and Kommilitonen!, an opera by Peter Maxwell Davies.

In the media[edit]

The following is a non-exhaustive chronological account of some of the more notable treatments of the White Rose in media, book and artistic form.

  • Beginning in the 1970s, three film accounts of the White Rose resistance were produced. The first was a film financed by the Bavarian state government entitled Das Versprechen (The Promise) and released in the 1970s. The film is not well known outside Germany, and to some extent even within the country. It was particularly notable in that unlike most films, it showed the White Rose from its inception and how it progressed. In 1982, Percy Adlon's Fünf letzte Tage (The Last Five Days) presented Lena Stolze as Sophie in her last days from the point of view of her cellmate Else Gebel. In the same year, Stolze repeated the role in Michael Verhoeven's Die Weiße Rose (The White Rose).
  • A book, Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, was published in English in February 2006. An account by Annette Dumbach and Dr. Jud Newborn tells the story behind the film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, focusing on the White Rose movement while setting the group's resistance in the broader context of German culture and politics and other forms of resistance during the Nazi era.
  • Udo Zimmermann composed a chamber opera about the White Rose (Weiße Rose) in 1986. Premiering in Hamburg, it went on to earn acclaim and a series of international performances.
  • In an extended German national TV competition held in the autumn of 2003 to choose "the ten greatest Germans of all time" (ZDF TV), Germans under the age of 40 placed Hans and Sophie Scholl in fourth place, selecting them over Bach, Goethe, Gutenberg, Willy Brandt, Bismarck, and Albert Einstein. Not long before, women readers of the mass-circulation magazine Brigitte had voted Sophie Scholl as "the greatest woman of the twentieth century".
  • In 2003, a group of students at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas established The White Rose Society dedicated to Holocaust remembrance and genocide awareness. Every April, the White Rose Society hands out 10,000 white roses on campus, representing the approximate number of people killed in a single day at Auschwitz. The date corresponds with Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. The group organizes performances of The Rose of Treason, a play about the White Rose, and has rights to show the movie Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage (Sophie Scholl: The Final Days). The White Rose Society is affiliated with Hillel and the Anti-Defamation League.[citation needed]
  • The White Rose has inspired many people around the world, including many anti-war activists in recent years. Scattered throughout 2007–08, 5 hoax pipe bombs were placed at various military recruitment centers with the words "Die Weisse Rose" written upon them.[35]
  • In February 2009, a biography of Sophie Scholl, Sophie Scholl: The Real Story of the Woman Who Defied Hitler, was published in English by the History Press. The book, by the Oxford-educated British historian Frank McDonough.
  • The UK-based genocide prevention student network Aegis Students uses a white rose as their symbol in commemoration of the White Rose movement. There are numerous study guides to the White Rose, notably one available from the University of Minnesota's Holocaust Center.
  • In 2009, Dan Fesperman published a novel entitled The Arms Maker of Berlin in which activities by real and fictional White Rose characters play a significant role in the story.
  • In 2011, a documentary film by André Bossuroy addressing the memory of the victims of Nazism and of Stalinism ICH BIN, with the support from the Fondation Hippocrène and from the EACEA Agency of the European Commission (programme Europe for Citizens – An active European remembrance), RTBF, VRT. Four young Europeans meet with historians and witnesses of our past… They investigate the events of the Second World War in Germany (the student movement of the White Rose in Munich), in France (the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in Paris, the resistance in Vercors) and in Russia (Katyn Forest massacre). They examine the impact of these events; curious as to how the European peoples are creating their identities today.

Primary sources[edit]

The White Rose Leaflets[edit]

Primary Source Materials in English Translation[edit]

  • Alexander Schmorell: Gestapo Interrogation Transcripts. RGWA I361K-I-8808. ISBN 0-9767183-8-3
  • Gestapo Interrogation Transcripts: Graf & Schmorell (NJ 1704). ISBN 0-9710541-3-4
  • Gestapo Interrogation Transcripts: Scholls & Probst (ZC 13267). ISBN 0-9710541-5-0
  • The "Bündische Jugend" Trials (Scholl / Reden): 1937–1938. ISBN 0-9710541-2-6
  • Third White Rose Trial: July 13, 1943 (Eickemeyer, Söhngen, Dohrn, and Geyer). ISBN 0-9710541-8-5
  • Scholl, Hans, and Sophia Scholl. At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl. Ed. Inge Jens. Trans. Maxwell Brownjohn. New York: Harper & Row, 1987. Print.


  • If everyone waits until the other man makes a start, the messengers of avenging Nemesis will come steadily closer. (From Leaflet 1, urging immediate initiative by the reader. Nemesis of course punished those who had fallen to the temptation of hubris.)
  • Why do German people behave so apathetically in the face of all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race? ... The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals....[The German] must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt....For through his apathetic behaviour he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do.... he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated ....But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!... now that we have recognized [the Nazis] for what they are, it must be the sole and first duty, the holiest duty of every German to destroy these beasts. (From Leaflet 2)
  • ...every convinced opponent of National Socialism must ask himself how he can fight against the present "state" in the most effective way, how he can strike it the most telling blows. Through passive resistance, without a doubt. (From Leaflet 3)
  • We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace! (Leaflet 4's concluding phrase, which became the motto of the White Rose resistance.) "We will not be silent" has been put on T-shirts in many languages (among them Arabic, Spanish, French, Hebrew, and Persian) in protest against the U.S. war in Iraq. This shirt, in the English-Arabic version, led, in 2006, to the Iraqi blogger Raed Jarrar's being prevented from boarding a Jet Blue airplane from New York to his home in San Francisco, until he changed his shirt.[36]
  • Last words of Sophie Scholl: …your heads will fall as well. There is, however, some dispute over whether Sophie or Hans actually said this; other sources claim that Sophie's final words were God, you are my refuge into eternity. The film Sophie Scholl, The Last Days shows her last words as being The sun still shines (however, these are probably fictitious).
  • Now my death will be easy and joyful. These were the words of Christoph Probst after a Catholic priest conditionally (sub conditione) baptized him and had heard his first Confession.
  • Hitler and his regime must fall so that Germany may live. This is from an unpublished leaflet written by Christoph Probst.
  • When you have decided, act. Another quote from Christoph Probst's unpublished leaflet.
  • I always made it a point to carry several extra copies of the leaflets with me whenever I was walking through the city – specifically for that purpose. Whenever I saw an opportune moment, I took it. Another Sophie Scholl quote.

Further reading[edit]

  • DeVita, James "The Silenced" HarperCollins, 2006. Young adult novel inspired by Sophie Scholl and The White Rose.
  • DeVita, James "The Rose of Treason", Anchorage Press Plays. Young adult play of the story of The White Rose.
  • Dumbach, Annette & Newborn, Jud. "Sophie Scholl & The White Rose". First published as "Shattering the German Night", 1986; this expanded, updated edition Oneworld Publications, 2006. ISBN 978-1-85168-536-3
  • Hanser, Richard. A Noble Treason: The Revolt of the Munich Students Against Hitler. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1979. Print.
  • McDonough Frank, Sophie Scholl: The Real Story of the Woman Who Defied Hitler, History Press, 2009.
  • Sachs, Ruth Hanna. Two Interviews: Hartnagel and Wittenstein (Annotated). Ed. Denise Heap and Joyce Light. Los Angeles: Exclamation!, 2005.
  • Sachs, Ruth Hanna. White Rose History, Volume I: Coming Together (January 31, 1933 – April 30, 1942). Lehi, Utah: Exclamation! Publishers, 2002.
  • Sachs, Ruth Hanna. White Rose History, Volume II: Journey to Freedom (May 1, 1942 – October 12, 1943). Lehi, Utah: Exclamation! Publishers, 2005.
  • Sachs, Ruth Hanna. White Rose History, Volume III: Fighters to the Very End (October 13, 1943 – May 8, 1945).
  • Sachs, Ruth Hanna. White Rose History: The Ultimate CD-ROM (1933–1945).
  • Scholl, Inge. The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1983.
  • Vinke, Hermann. The Short Life of Sophie Scholl. Trans. Hedwig Pachter. New York: Harper & Row, 1984. Print.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Wittenstein M. D., George J., "Memories of the White Rose", 1979
  2. ^ German Bundestag, 10th Term of Office, 118. plenary session. Bonn, Friday, 25 January 1985. Protocol, p. 8762: "The Volksgerichtshof was an instrument of state-sanctioned terror, which served one single purpose, which was the destruction of political opponents. Behind a juridical facade, state-sanctioned murder was committed." PDF, accessed 3 May 2016
  3. ^ The Newsletter of the Center for White Rose Studies: Roses at Noon. 17 December 2011
  4. ^ a b UC Santa Barbara, University of California. History Department: George Wittenstein page
  5. ^ Wittenstein, George. Memories of the White Rose.
  6. ^ Inge Scholl: The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943. 2nd ed., originally published as "Students Against Tyranny". Transl. from the German Edition by Arthur R. Schulz. ISBN 9-780-8195-6086-5, p. 6
  7. ^ "The White Rose: Revolt and Resistance"
  8. ^ Eckard Holler, "Hans Scholl zwischen Hitlerjugend und dj.1.11--Die Ulmer Trabanten," Puls 22, Verlag der Jugendbewegung, Stuttgart, 1999
  9. ^ Mosse, George, "Nationalism and Sexuality," University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. ISBN 978-0-299-11894-5
  10. ^ a b c Newborn, Jud, "Solving Mysteries: The Secret of 'The White Rose'," 2006 Judnewborn.com PDF (267 KB)
  11. ^ Lifton, Robert Jay, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, p. 135 1986 Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-04905-9
  12. ^ a b The White Rose Shoah Education Project Web
  13. ^ Detlef Bald, Die "Weiße Rose". Von der Front in den Widerstand. – The "White Rose". From the front to resistance. Aufbau Taschenbuch Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 9-783-7466-8116-0, pp. 11-24
  14. ^ "The White Rose", Holocaust History.org. Archived from the original
  15. ^ Dumbach, Annette & Newborn, Jud Sophie Scholl & The White Rose, p. 58 2006 Oneworld Publications. ISBN 978-1-85168-536-3
  16. ^ Interrogation protocols of Sophie Scholl.
  17. ^ Hornberger, Jacob G., "The White Rose: A Lesson in Dissent"
  18. ^ Dumbach & Newborn, (2006)
  19. ^ Schmied, Jakob. Gestapo Interrogation Transcripts: Willi Graf, Alexander Schmorell, Hans Scholl, and Sophie Scholl. ZC13267, Volumes 1 – 16. Schmaus. 18 February 1943. E-Document.
  20. ^ Hanser, A Noble Treason
  21. ^ Ulrich Chaussy, Gerd R. Ueberschär: "Es lebe die Freiheit!" Die Geschichte der Weißen Rose und ihrer Mitglieder in Dokumenten und Berichten – "Let Freedom live! – The history of the White Rose and its members in documents and reports. Munich, Fischer Verlag, 2013, ISBN , p. 99–100, in German
  22. ^ Münchener Neuste Nachrichten, 23 February 1943
  23. ^ Corina Petrescu: Against all odds. Models of subversive spaces in National Socialist Germany. Peter Lang Publishers, Bern 2010, ISBN 9-783-0391-1845-8
  24. ^ Boberach, Heinz (ed.). Meldungen aus dem Reich. Die geheimen Lageberichte des Sicherheitsdiensts der SS 1938–1945 = Reports from the Reich – The secret reports of the SS Sicherheitsdienst 1938–1945 (in German). Herrsching: Pawlak Verlag. p. 4944. 
  25. ^ New York Times: Signs of strain seen in German populace. 18 April 1943, p.13 online, accessed 25 April 2016
  26. ^ George Axelsson (1943-03-29). "Nazis Execute 3 Munich Students For Writing Anti-Hitler Pamphlets". New York Times (New York City). p. 1. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  27. ^ "Senkt die Fahnen über frischen Gräbern deutscher Freiheitskämpfer! - Lower your banners to honor German freedom fighters' graves!". State Library of Berlin Collection of Manuscripts: Einbl. 1939/45, 8725, p. 75
  28. ^ "G.39, Ein deutsches Flugblatt", Aerial Propaganda Leaflet Database, Second World War, Psywar.org. (German), with link to English translation
  29. ^ Inge Scholl: The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943. 2nd ed., originally published as "Students Against Tyranny". Transl. from the German Edition by Arthur R. Schulz. ISBN 9-780-8195-6086-5
  30. ^ Otl Aicher: innenseiten des kriegs – the inside of war. 3rd ed., 1998, Fischer Verlag, Berlin, ISBN 978-3-596-13795-4
  31. ^ Scholl, Hans, and Sophia Scholl. At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl. Ed. Inge Jens. Trans. Maxwell Brownjohn. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.
  32. ^ Anneliese Knoop-Graf, Inge Jens (ed.): Willi Graf – Briefe und Aufzeichnungen. – Letters and [diary] records. Berlin, 1994, Fischer Verlag, ISBN 9-783-5961-2367-4, in German
  33. ^ Igor Chramov (ed.): Alexander Schmorell. Gestapo-Verhörprotokolle Februar-März 1943. – Gestapo interrogation protocols February-March 1943 (RGWA 1361K-1-8808). Dimur-Verlag, Orenburg 2005, ISBN 5-7689-0125-6. See section "Primary Sources" for an English translation
  34. ^ H-Net.org
  35. ^ http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seekinfo/oregon.htm
  36. ^ Iraqi Peace Activist Forced to Change T-Shirt Bearing Arabic Script Before Boarding Plane at JFK