The White Rose movement was made up of students, “Hitler’s Youth” who attended Munich University. Members of the White Rose advocated nonviolent resistance as a means of opposing the Nazi regime. Its most famous members were Hans and Sophie Scholl. Members of the White Rose movement clandestinely distributed anti-Nazi and anti-war leaflets and it was while they were in the process of doing this that they were caught. In all, 29 people were accused of being members of the White Rose, 16 were executed, and 13 were given prison sentences ranging from 6 months to 10 years.
“Passive Resistance to National Socialism” (leaflet)
“Many, perhaps most, of the readers of these leaflets do not see clearly how they can practice 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.”
Another read, “To the fellow fighters in the resistance”, which was written in February 1943, after the German defeat at Stalingrad.
“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 dishonored for all time if German youth does not finally rise, take revenge, smash its tormentors. Students! The German people look to us.”
Hans and Sophie Scholl were arrested by the Gestapo while distributing leaflets at Munich University. Jakob Schmid, a caretaker had contacted the Gestapo saying that the two were throwing leaflets around the university’s atrium. Hans and Sophie admitted their guilt hoping that the Gestapo would stop interrogating them for other member’s names, but the Gestapo did not believe them and eventually gained the names of other members and arrested them too.
The People’s Court established show trials on April 24th 1934 to try people that were accused of political acts deemed offensive to the Nazi state. Sophie, Hans and Christoph Probst were taken to the People’s Court on February 22, 1943. All three were found guilty and sentenced to death by beheading. The executions took place the same day. Other members trials took place on April 19th and July 13th 1943.
More research on the subject reveals who the 29 people that were accused of being members of the White Rose were, why 16 people were executed, and why 13 people were given prison sentences. One thing that stands out is that is on July 13th, 1943, Roland Freisler did not preside over the trials and one of the main witnesses, Gisela Schertling withdrew evidence that she had given during her interrogation. Except for Josef Soehngen, who was given 6 months in prison, the other members were acquitted that day. It is going to take some time to go through all of their lives to find out what happened, but let’s start with the most famous and I will update as I find out more:
Hans Fritz Scholl was found guilty of high treason for distributing anti-Nazi material and executed by the Nazi regime in 1943 during World War II. Hans yelled “Es leibe die Freiheit!” (Let there be freedom!), as the blade came down. Scholl was raised Lutheran. Against the declared will of his father, he became an enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth on April 15, 1933 and initially held leadership positions in the Deutsches Jungvolk, but quickly became disillusioned with the group when he realised its true principles. In 1935, he was one of three standard-bearers from Ulm who took part in the NSDAP’s “Reich Party Rally for Freedom” from September 10 to 16 in Nuremberg. During this time, his attitude towards the Nazi regime gradually began to change. One reason was that the fanaticism promoted in the Hitler Youth and the unconditional subordination to the power structures ruling there became more and more repugnant.
A priest gave Hans, Sophie, and Christoph their last rites in their cells. Christoph, who was not part of any denomination, asked to be baptized into the Catholic Church. Hans and Sophie each also asked individually to be allowed into the Catholic Church, but their Lutheran priest advised against it, on the basis that it would upset their mother, who was a devout Lutheran.
Sophie and Hans parents, Robert and Magdalena Scholl were allowed to see them at the prison before the execution. Hans reportedly said to them, “I have no hatred. I have put everything behind me”. His father replied, “You will go down in history. There is such a thing as justice”.
Sophie smiled pleased to see her parents. Sophie’s mother grasped her hands and said, “You know, Sophie-Jesus.” Sophie replied, “Yes, but you too,” and then, with her head held high went to her death silently.
Sophie Scholl, like her brother, was brought up in the Lutheran church. She entered junior or grade school at the age of seven, learned easily, and had a carefree childhood. At the age of twelve, she chose to join the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls), as did most of her classmates. Her initial enthusiasm gradually gave way to criticism.
She was aware of the dissenting political views of her father, friends, and some teachers. Her own brother Hans, who once eagerly participated in the Hitler Youth program, became entirely disillusioned with the Nazi Party. After her brothers and friends were arrested in 1937 for participating in the German Youth Movement political attitude became an essential criterion in her choice of friends. She developed a growing interest in philosophy and theology.
In the spring of 1940, she graduated from secondary school, where the subject of her essay was “The Hand that Moved the Cradle, Moved the World”. Sophie then became a kindergarten teacher at the Fröbel Institute in Ulm. In the spring of 1941 she began a six-month stint in the auxiliary war service as a nursery teacher in Blumberg. The military-like regimen of the Labor Service caused her to rethink her understanding of the political situation and to begin practising passive resistance. In 1942, she enrolled at the University of Munich as a student of biology and philosophy. Her brother Hans, who was studying medicine at the same institution, introduced her to his friends. Scholl met artists, writers, and philosophers, particularly Carl Muth and Theodor Haecker, who were important contacts for her. The question they pondered the most was how the individual must act under a dictatorship.
During the summer vacation in 1942, Scholl had to do war service in a metallurgical plant in Ulm. At the same time, her father was serving time in prison for having made a critical remark to an employee about Adolf Hitler. Between 1940 and 1941, Sophie’s brother, Hans Scholl, a former member of the Hitler Youth, began questioning the principles and policies of the Nazi regime. As a student at the University of Munich, Hans Scholl met two Roman Catholic men of letters who redirected his life, inspiring him to turn from studying medicine and pursue religion, philosophy, and the arts. Gathering around him like-minded friends, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, and Jurgen Wittenstein, they eventually adopted a strategy of passive resistance towards the Nazis by writing and publishing leaflets that called for the toppling of National Socialism, calling themselves the White Rose.
Sophie Scholl learned of the White Rose pamphlet when she found one at her university. Realizing her brother helped write the pamphlet, Scholl herself began to work on the White Rose. In the summer of 1942, four leaflets were written and distributed throughout the school and central Germany. Based on letters between Scholl and her boyfriend, Fritz Hartnagel (reported and analyzed by Gunter Biemer and Jakob Knab in the journal Newman Studien), she had given two volumes of Cardinal Newman’s sermons to Hartnagel when he was deployed to the eastern front in May 1942. This discovery by Jakob Knab shows the importance of religion in Scholl’s life and was highlighted in an article in the Catholic Herald in the UK.
Sophie’s correspondence with Hartnagel deeply discussed the “theology of conscience” developed in Newman’s writings. This is seen as her primary defense in her transcribed interrogations leading to her “trial” and execution. Those transcripts became the basis for a film treatment, Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (2005).
In late 1942 Sophie learned about the White Rose after she found potentially dissident books in Hans’ room. Her brother had initially been keen to keep her unaware of the group’s activities, but once she discovered them, she joined her brother and proved valuable to the group because, as a woman, her chances of being randomly stopped by the SS were much smaller. Calling themselves the White Rose, they instructed Germans to passively resist the Nazi government.
The pamphlet used both Biblical and philosophical support for an intellectual argument of resistance. Sophie was arrested for distributing the sixth leaflet at the University of Munich on February 18, 1943. After noticing that there were some leaflets left-over in the suitcase she decided to fling the leaflets from the top floor down into the atrium. A maintenance man, Jakob Schmid reported her. Hans and Sophie Scholl were taken into the custody by the Gestapo. They had a draft of the seventh pamphlet, written by Christoph Probst at the time of her arrest and while Sophie Scholl disposed of incriminating evidence before being taken into custody, Hans was trying to destroy the draft of the last leaflet by tearing it apart and trying to swallow it. Sophie tried to assum full responsibility in an attempt to protect other members of the White Rose, but the Gestapo had recovered enough of the leaflets to be able to match the handwriting with other writings from Probst, which they had found when they searched Hans’ apartment. In the People’s Court before Judge Roland Freisler on 22 February 1943, Scholl was recorded as saying these words:
“Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.” No testimony was allowed for the defendants; this was their only defense. On 22 February 1943, Scholl, her brother, Hans, Christoph Probst, were found guilty of treason and condemned to death. They were all beheaded by guillotine by executioner Johann Reichhart in Munich’s Stadelheim Prison. Else Gebel shared Sophie Scholl’s cell and recorded her last words before being taken away to be executed. Sophie’s last known words were:
“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause…. It is such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go. But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days, how many young, promising lives. What does my death matter if by our acts thousands are warned and alerted. Among the student body there will certainly be a revolt.”
After their deaths, a copy of the sixth leaflet was smuggled out of Germany through Scandinavia to the UK by German jurist Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, where it was used by the Allied Forces. In mid-1943, they dropped millions of propaganda copies of the tract over Germany, now retitled The Manifesto of the Students of Munich.
The Geschwister-Scholl-Institut (“Scholl Siblings Institute”) for Political Science at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) is named in honour of Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans. The institute is home to the university’s political science and communication departments, and is housed in the former Radio Free Europe building close to the city’s Englischer Garten. Many local schools as well as countless streets and squares in Germany, and also Austria, have been named after Scholl and her brother.
In 2003, Germans were invited by television broadcaster ZDF to participate in Unsere Besten (Our Best), a nationwide competition to choose the top ten most important Germans of all time. Voters under the age of 40 helped Scholl and her brother Hans to finish in fourth place, above Bach, Goethe, Gutenberg, Bismarck, Willy Brandt, and Albert Einstein. If the votes of young viewers alone had been counted, Sophie and Hans Scholl would have been ranked first. Several years earlier, readers of Brigitte, a German magazine for women, voted Scholl “the greatest woman of the twentieth century”. In April 2021, the German Ministry of Finance issued a commemorative sterling silver €20 coin celebrating the 100th anniversary of Scholl’s birth.
Christoph who is credited with remarking, “I didn’t know dying could be so easy,” did not get to see his parents before he was killed.
Christoph Ananda Probst was a German student of medicine and member of the White Rose. Probst was born in Murnau am Staffelsee. His father, Hermann Probst, was a private scholar and Sanskrit researcher, who fostered contacts with artists who were deemed by the Nazis to be “decadent”. After marrying Christoph’s mother, Karin Katharina Kleeblatt, he married a Jewish woman, Elise Jaffée. Christoph’s sister, Angelika, remembers that her brother was strongly critical of Nazi ideas that violated human dignity.
Probst attended boarding school at Marquartstein and Landheim Schondorf, served in the military, and began his medical studies. At the age of 21, he married Herta Dohrn, with whom he had three children: Michael, Vincent and Katja. Christoph Probst came rather late into the White Rose as he did not belong to the same student corps as Hans Scholl, Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf, and stayed for the most part in the background, as he had to think of his family. He did however belong, along with the Scholl siblings, Graf and Schmorell to the tightest circle, into which university professor Kurt Huber also came.
The members of White Rose put together, printed and distributed, at the risk of their lives, six leaflets in all. Probst wrote some of the text for the White Rose’s leaflet which Hans Scholl was carrying with him when he was arrested. On February 22, 1943, Christoph Probst and the Scholls were tried and sentenced together at the Volksgerichtshof by judge Roland Freisler, who was known for often determining sentences even before the trial, and all three were sentenced to death by guillotine. Their sentences were carried out on the very same day at Stadelheim Prison, Munich. Before his execution he requested to be and was baptized by a Roman Catholic priest. He had asked for clemency during interrogation. He also requested a trial for the sake of his wife and three children, who were aged three years, two years and four weeks old. His wife, Herta Probst, was sick with childbed fever at the time. Their grave may be found in the graveyard bordering the execution place, “Am Perlacher Forst”. On November 3, 1999, Christoph Probst was included in the martyrology of the Catholic church. In 2019, barracks of the Joint Medical Service of the Bundeswehr, north of Munich were named after him.
Christoph was last to be executed. He wasn’t able to see any of his family before he died. After the trial of Hans, Sophie, and Christoph, three more trials of the White Rose members took place. In the end, 29 people were accused of being members of the White Rose. 16 were executed, and 13 were given prison sentences ranging from 6 months to 10 years.
Alexander Schmorell was found guilty of high treason for distributing anti-Nazi material and executed by the Nazi regime in 1943 during World War II.
Saint Alexander Schmorell, ‘Schurik’, a nickname he would be called by his closest friends, was a Russian-German student at Munich University who, with five others, formed a resistance group known as White Rose. He was active against the Nazi German regime from June 1942 to February 1943. In 2012, he was glorified as a saint and passion bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and is venerated by Orthodox Christians throughout the world. Schmorell’s father was Hugo Schmorell, a German-born physician who was raised in the Russian Empire. Schmorell’s mother was Natalia Vedenskaya, a Russian and the daughter of a Russian Orthodox priest. Schmorell was baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church. His mother died of typhus during the Russian Civil War when he was two years old. In 1920, his widowed father married a German woman, Elisabeth Hoffman. They left Russia and moved to Munich, Weimar Germany in 1921 when Schmorell was four years old. His Russian nanny, Feodosiya Lapschina, took his mother’s place and came along with them to care for Alexander. He was an Eastern Orthodox Christian who considered himself both German and Russian.
As declared in the Gestapo’s interrogations, he was a convinced Tsarist and then an archenemy of the Bolsheviks. He was called into the Reich Labour Service and then into the Wehrmacht, the German Army. In 1938, he took part in the Anschluss and eventually in the invasion of Czechoslovakia. After his military service, Alexander Schmorell began studies in medicine in 1939 in Hamburg. In the autumn of 1940, he returned to Munich where he met Hans Scholl, and Willi Graf.
Hans Scholl and Schmorell assembled the White Rose’s first four anti-Nazi leaflets. In the second leaflet, Schmorell wrote a passage containing an outcry against the Holocaust. In December 1942, Schmorell, along with Hans Scholl, sought contact with Professor Kurt Huber. Together in 1943 they wrote the fifth leaflet, “Aufruf an alle Deutschen!” (‘Appeal to all Germans!’), which Schmorell then distributed in Austrian cities. Along with Hans Scholl and Willi Graf, he also painted words such as “Nieder mit Hitler” (‘Down with Hitler’) and “Freiheit” (‘Freedom’) on house walls in Munich. It is sometimes suggested that he and Sophie Scholl (Hans’ sister) had a romance, although Sophie was previously engaged to Fritz Hartnagel. However, little evidence of this exists outside Lillian Groag’s play The White Rose.
After the arrests of Christoph Probst and Hans and Sophie Scholl, Schmorell attempted to escape to Switzerland. Fierce weather forced him to come back to Munich where he was recognized during an air raid alarm. He was captured by the Gestapo on February 24. On April 19. 1943, Alexander Schmorell was put on trial, along with 13 other members of the White Rose group. Schmorell, Willi Graf, and Kurt Huber were sentenced to death. Unlike the first trial, where the death sentences had been carried out the same day as the verdict, Alexander’s execution was delayed as his family petitioned for clemency. After about two months of deliberation, a letter came to the prison that said: “I reject all petitions for mercy.” It was signed “Adolf Hitler”.
On July 13, 1943, Adolf Hitler came to watch Alexander and Kurt Huber be executed. Originally, they were to be hanged so that the officials could learn how long it took a person to die from hanging. The NAZI’s wanted to find innovative ways of prolonging suffering. It was decided though that they would be beheaded. Alexander walked to his death with his head held high, saying to his lawyer, “I’m convinced that my life has to end now, early as it may seem, for I have fufilled my life’s mission. I wouldn’t know what else I have to do on this earth”. After a few minutes, a dull thud was heard. On February 5, 2012, Schmorell was glorified as a saint and passion bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in Munich, Germany.
Detained fellow campaigners
Helmut Bauer, Heinz Bollinger, Willi Bollinger, Mirjam David, Harald Dohrn, Lieselotte Dreyfeldt, Manfred Eickemeyer, Wolfgang Erlenbach, Valentin Freise, Wilhelm Geyer, Eugen Grimminger, Heinrich Guter, Nikolaj Hamazaspian, Theodor Haecker, Falk Harnack, Hans Hirzel, Susanne Hirzel, Ernst Holzer, Marie-Luise Jahn, Traute Lafrenz, Hans Leipelt, Franz J. Müller, Lieselotte Ramdohr, Gisela Schertling, Katharina Schüddekopf, Hedwig Schulz, Josef Söhngen, Franz Treppesch (The White Rose Resistance Group | Weiße Rose Stiftung e.V. http://www.weisse-rose-stiftung.de/white-rose-resistance-group/)
Those detained in Hamburg are not listed here.
Prosecuted family members
Anna und Gerhard Graf, Anneliese Graf, Jenny Grimminger, Clara Huber, Paula Huber, Katharina Leipelt, Maria Leipelt, Angelika Knoop (née Probst), Elisabeth Schmorell, Erich Schmorell, Hugo Schmorell, Natalie Schmorell, Elisabeth Scholl, Inge Scholl, Magdalena Scholl, Robert Scholl (The White Rose Resistance Group | Weiße Rose Stiftung e.V. http://www.weisse-rose-stiftung.de/white-rose-resistance-group/)
“Alexander Schmorell”, German Resistance Memorial, https://www.gdw-berlin.de/en/recess/biographies/index_of_persons/biographie/view-bio/alexander-schmorell/?no_cache=1
Scholl, Inge (1983). The White Rose : Munich, 1942-1943. Dorothee Sölle (1st Wesleyan pbk. ed.). Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-585-37100-8. OCLC 48139347.
C N Trueman, The White Rose Movement, historylearningsite.co.uk. The History Learning Site, Copyright © 2000 – 2022. https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/nazi-germany/the-white-rose-movement/
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