“We shall not be silent – we are your bad conscience,” its members declared. “The White Rose will not leave you in peace!”
The White Rose, founded by students Hans Scholl, his younger sister Sophie, Christoph Probst, Willi Graf, and Alexander Schmorell at the University of Munich in 1942, was a non-violent resistance movement against the Nazi regime. The group, although small in number, soon spread to Hamburg, Freiburg, Berlin, and Vienna.
The 25-year-old Hans Scholl, a former member of the Hitler Youth, had become disillusioned with Nazism after serving as a medic on the Eastern Front for three months. He witnessed German abuses firsthand and, according to a The White Rose member Jürgen “George” Wittenstein, it was no longer enough “to keep to oneself, one’s beliefs, and ethical standards.”
Influenced by the criticisms leveled out by University of Munich’s philosophy and psychology professor Kurt Huber, The White Rose proved that the pen can in fact, be mightier than the sword.
In acts of defiance, the members painted graffiti on walls around the university with tags like “Freedom!” and “Hitler the Mass Murderer!” writes the Smithsonian. They anonymously distributed pamphlets around Munich and took the leaflets to other cities urging resistance “before the nation’s last young man has given his blood on some battlefield for the hubris of a sub-human.” And reminding Germans to “not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure!”
It was only Hans and 21-year-old Sophie’s sixth such run of distributing pamphlets when they were seen by a university janitor and betrayed.
Arrested by the Gestapo on February 18 alongside their co-conspirator, 24- year-old Christoph Probst, the Scholl siblings and Probst were found guilty of high treason for propagating “defeatist thinking” that “vilified the Führer.”
In what amounted to be a show trial, the three members of The White Rose organization were sentenced by the infamous Nazi judge Roland Freisler on February 22 and guillotined the very same day.
However, the trio’s final message would not be lost in the courtyards of Munich. It was to be heard across the nation. Copies of the sixth and final leaflet that doomed the Scholls and Probst were smuggled out of the country to Allied lines and later dropped by the thousands over Germany by plane.
Translated, it reads:
‘Fight against the Party!’
The day of reckoning has
come, the reckoning of
German youth with the most
repellent tyranny our nation
has ever seen…
For us there is only one
slogan: Fight against the
Party! Get out of the party
hierarchy, which wants to
keep us silent!
The German name will be
dishonoured forever if
German youth does not rise
up, to revenge and atone at
once, to destroy their
tormentors and build up a
new spiritual Europe.
Students! The German nation
looks to us!
The group’s small rebuke in the face of the genocidal Nazi regime displayed more courage of conviction than the preponderance of Germany showed throughout the war.
Fittingly almost, in their final moments the siblings remained resolute to their cause.
“What does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?” Sophie reportedly said before her execution.
Drawing his last breath Hans would proclaim, “Long live freedom.”