Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst were guillotined by the Nazis in Munich 74 years ago today for bravely opposing the Fascist Tyranny.
Named after a Spanish novel (Rosa Blanco). The Group coordinated efforts on Campus for Civil Rights and Opposition to Nazi policies. Among their efforts on campus were weekly discussion groups, painting ‘freedom’ on brick walls at the entrance into campus, and distributing leaflets opposing the Reich on moral and political grounds, encouraging students to think for themselves.
The White Rose group were a small and very unrepresentative group of German students who have assumed enormous symbolic importance in modern Germany, particularly for young people, as examples of “good Germans” who resisted the Nazis at the risk, and the cost, of their lives. Their graves in a Munich cemetery are heaped with flowers. The final White Rose leaflet was smuggled out of Germany and intercepted by Allied forces, with the result that, in the autumn of 1943, millions of copies were dropped over Germany by Allied aircraft. It is believed that the group was formed after August von Galen, the Archbishop of Munster, spoke out in a sermon against the Nazi practice of euthanasia (the killing of those considered by the Nazis as genetically unsuitable).
Nazi tyranny and the apathy of German citizens in the face of the regime’s “abominable crimes” outraged idealistic “White Rose” members. Many of them had heard about the mass murder of Polish Jews; as a soldier on the eastern front, Hans Scholl had also seen firsthand the mistreatment of Jewish forced labourers and heard of the deportation of large numbers of Poles to concentration camps.
In their attempt to stop the war effort, they advocated the sabotage of the armaments industry. “We will not be silent,” they wrote to their fellow students. “We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!” Because the students were aware that only military force could end Nazi domination, they limited their aims to achieve “a renewal from within of the severely wounded German spirit.” After the German army’s defeat at Stalingrad in late January 1943, the Scholls distributed pamphlets urging students in Munich to rebel. But in the next month, a university janitor who saw them with the pamphlets betrayed them to the Gestapo (German secret state police).
The White Rose’s publication and distribution of six leaflets calling for passive resistance against Hitler’s regime would eventually lead to the arrest and execution of its six core members. Although their deaths were followed by a deafening silence from the German people and the revolution they called for would never take place, it cannot be said that they gave their lives in vain; the courage of their actions would echo through history as evidence of conscience within silent Nazi Germany.
18 February 1943. The Gestapo arrested Sophie and Hans Scholl, leading figures in the anti Nazi White Rose movement. pic.twitter.com/vsMBkEouVR
— Prof.Frank McDonough (@FXMC1957) February 18, 2017
The first of the six leaflets produced by The White Rose movement opens, “Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be ‘governed’ by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct.” The content of the six short pamphlets abounds with this message, appealing to German citizens’ intellect, intuition, and sense of shame. The message of the six leaflets evokes realizations about the evils of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party, the moral failure of German indifference and inaction, and calls for an intellectual uprising against the Nazi party. The authors rely heavily on the wisdom of great philosophers and thinkers to validate and reinforce their claims.
— Dorian Cope (@OnThisDeity) February 18, 2016
Well-known in Germany, Sophie Scholl is a figure of remarkable courage and intellect. The events in Munich are portrayed in a powerful movie released in 2005 “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days “ or in German “Die letzten Tage.” Directed by Marc Rothemund and written by Fred Breinersdorfer it was released the same time as “Downfall” and probably didn’t get the exposure it deserved as a result but did receive an Oscar nomination. The film deals with just six days of this young woman’s life—the final six days. Key members of a passive resistance anti-Nazi group known as The White Rose, Sophie (Julia Jentsch) and her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) risk their lives by writing, printing, and distributing pamphlets that condemn National Socialism and a bloody war that Germany could not win.
On the morning of Feb. 18, 1943, Sophie and Hans walk into a lecture hall at the University of Munich to secretly distribute the group’s sixth pamphlet before the building was flooded with students. This dangerous mission does not end well as Sophie is spotted by a porter who denounces her to the Gestapo.
The film concerns itself with the short but intense period between Sophie’s capture and execution. After she is jailed, Sophie faces off against Gestapo interrogator Robert Mohr (the steely Gerald Alexander Held), a Nazi true believer and atheist committed to breaking Sophie’s spirit in order both to convict her and to search out her collaborators. While one might initially be frustrated at the lack of context for Sophie and her strongly held beliefs, the force of these interrogation scenes erases all misgivings.
“Many people think of our times as being the last before the end of the world. The evidence of horror all around us makes this seem possible. But isn’t that an idea of only minor importance? Doesn’t every human being, no matter which era he lives in, always have to reckon with being accountable to God at any moment? Can I know whether I’ll be alive tomorrow morning? A bomb could destroy all of us tonight. And then my guilt would not be one bit less than if I perished together with the earth and the stars.”
The Scholl siblings were arrested and tried in front of an emergency session of the People’s Court. They were found guilty and executed by guillotine, along with their friend and collaborator Christoph Probst, on 22 February 1943. Hans Scholl’s last words before he was executed were: “Long live freedom!”
Alexander Schmorell was sentenced to death on 19 April 1943 at the Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court) in the second trial against the White Rose. On July 13, 1943, at the age of 25, Schmorell was put to death by guillotine along with Kurt Huber at the Munich-Stadelheim Prison.
At his trial Huber remained loyal to the eighteenth century German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s ethical teaching, as he concluded his defense with the words of Kant’s disciple Johann Gottlieb Fichte:
And thou shalt act as if
On thee and on thy deed
Depended the fate of all Germany,
And thou alone must answer for it.
The one surviving member of the group Liselotte Furst-Ramdohr who was aged 99 (she died in 2013) has poured cold water on the way their memory is commemorated as “Good Germans” – “At the time, they’d have had us all executed,” she says of the majority of her compatriots.
Robert Scholl’s final words to his condemned son Hans were, “You will go down in history – there is such a thing as justice in spite of all of this.” Despite the conclusion of the People’s Court of Germany, Robert’s assertion accurately captures the sentiment of the greatest thinkers on justice.
Sophia Magdalena Scholl: 9 May 1921 – 22 February 1943
Hans Fritz Scholl: 22 September 1918 – 22 February 1943
Christoph Hermann Probst; 6 November 1918 – 22 February 1943
Saint Alexander Schmorell; 16 September 1917 in Orenburg, Russia; – 13 July 1943 in Munich
Professor Kurt Huber; October 24, 1893 – July 13, 1943
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