Sophie Scholl: one of Germany’s most famous anti-Nazi heroes, executed by guillotine

Colin Fraser
 
 
SHARE:

Across Germany and especially in Munich, the city where they were most active, people remember and honor, by  naming streets, monuments, even a top literary prize after the Scholl siblings and their bold protest group White Rose. To many Germans and to many other people around the world now, they are a symbol of bravery and moral conviction in the face of  immensely powerful oppressors like the Nazi government of Germany.

They wouldn’t be complicit, they couldn’t be silent. They called out evil, brutality, and the blind, deluded fascism of the Third Reich right up until the moment the guillotine finally ended their cries for reason, peace, and freedom.

Secretly, a handful of students and one professor from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and a few other supporters wrote seven leaflets (five distributed by the group, one after their capture, and one unpublished) stating the horrors of the Nazi Government and demanding that the German people recognize and to stop the Nazi terror. The group used bold language to denounce the government as seen below,

“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” (Source: wikipedia.org).

This is a quote from the second leaflet written, printed, and distributed by the White Rose. It shows the intensity with which they opposed the Nazi regime and their demand that Germans see beyond the  propaganda and see the truth.

STAMPAn East German stamp from 1961 honoring Hans and Sophie Scholl

The members of this group were Hans and Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst (the first members to be put on trial and executed), Kurt Huber, Hans Conrad Leipelt and Alex Schmorell, (who were also executed), Rudi Alt, Helmut Bauer, Lieselotte Berndl, Heinrich Bollinger, Harald Dohrn, Manfred Eickemeyer, Hubert Furtwängler, Wilhelm Geyer, Willi Graf, Heinrich Guter, Falk Harnack, Marie-Luise Jahn, Wolfgang Jaeger, Traute Lafrenz, Gisela Schertling, Katharina Schüddekopf, Josef Söhngen, and Jürgen Wittenstein.

They were Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Buddhist, some inspired by anthroposophy, Eastern philosophies or by the terror of time spent fighting at Stalingrad. Alexander Schmorell, who wrote much of the group’s material, was even canonized as a New Martyr by the Orthodox Church, his holy image depicting a cross and a white rose in his hand.

Alexanderschmorell-martyr

Alexander Schmorell depicted as a Martyr

The first leaflet the group published was the text of a sermon by the Bishop August von Galen which Hans Scholl had read in 1941 and which Sophie Scholl had acquired permission to use. The Bishop wrote scathingly of the Nazis, especially for their practices of euthanasia for the sake of eugenics and the belief that they were improving the German race. White Rose published their first piece in the summer of 1942. Over the next year, they published four more leaflets, leaving them in public phone booths, mailing them to academic colleagues and sending them to other universities across the country.

Several group members served on the Eastern front. Graf had seen the Jewish Ghettos set up by the Nazis in Poland. Schmorell, who spoke fluent Russian, was able to hear stories from Russians and other Slavs of war crimes and the inhumane violence of the German Army and Waffen SS. All these experiences added to the moral conviction of the Group and explains the fiery rhetoric of their leaflets.

Continued on Page 2