The Pamphlets of the White Rose Society
The White Rose was a close-knit group of friends in Nazi Germany. They anonymously published a series of six pamphlets, distributing them to scholars, medics, and pub owners. They began to do public grafitti critical of Hitler. Several were caught distributing fliers and they were all rounded up and executed.
The First Pamphlet
Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be "governed" without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. It is certain that today every honest German is ashamed of his government. Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes --- crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure --- reach the light of day?
If the German people are already so corrupted and spiritually crushed that they do not raise a hand, frivolously trusting in a questionable faith in lawful order in history; if they surrender man's highest principle, that which raises him above all other God's creatures, his free will; if they abandon the will to take decisive action and turn the wheel of history and thus subject it to their own rational decision; if they are so devoid of all individuality, have already gone so far along the road toward turning into a spiritless and cowardly mass --- then, yes, they deserve their downfall.
Goethe speaks of the Germans as a tragic people, like the Jews and the Greeks, but today it would appear rather that they are a spineless, will-less herd of hangers-on, who now - the marrow sucked out of their bones, robbed of their center of stability --- are waiting to be hounded to their destruction. So it seems --- but it is not so. Rather, by means of a gradual, treacherous, systematic abuse, the system has put every man into a spiritual prison. Only now, finding himself lying in fetters, has he become aware of his fate.
Only a few recognized the threat of ruin, and the reward for their heroic warning was death. We will have more to say about the fate of these persons. If everyone waits until the other man makes a start, the messengers of avenging Nemesis will come steadily closer; then even the last victim will have been cast senselessly into the maw of the insatiable demon.
Therefore every individual, conscious of his responsibility as a member of Christian and Western civilization, must defend himself against the scourges of mankind, against fascism and any similar system of totalitarianism. Offer passive resistance --- resistance --- wherever you may be, forestall the spread of this atheistic war machine before it is too late, before the last cities, like Cologne, have been reduced to rubble, and before the nation's last young man has given his blood on some battlefield for the hubris of a sub-human. Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure.
From Friedrich Schiller's "The Lawgiving of Lycurgus and Solon":Viewed in relation to its purposes, the law code of Lycurgus is a masterpiece of political science and knowledge of human nature. He desired a powerful, unassailable state, firmly established on its own principles. Political effectiveness and permanence were the goal towards which he strove, and he attained this goal to the full extent possible under the circumstances. But if one compares the purpose Lycurgus had in view with the purposes of mankind, then a deep abhorrence takes the place of the approbation which we felt at first glance. Anything may be sacrificed to the good of the state except that end for which the State serves as a means. The state is never an end in itself; it is important only as a condition under which the purpose of mankind can be attained, and this purpose is none other than the development of all of man's powers, his progress and improvement. If a state prevents the development of the capacities which reside in man, if it interferes with the progress of the human spirit, then it is reprehensible and injurious, no matter how excellently devised, how perfect in its own way. Its very permanence in that case amounts more to a reproach than to a basis for fame; it becomes a prolonged evil, and the longer it endures, the more harmful it is...From Goethe's "The Awakening of Epimenides", Act II, Scene 4:
At the price of all moral feeling a political system was set up, and the resources of the state were mobilized to that end. In Sparta there was no conjugal love, no mother love, no filial devotion, no friendship; all men were citizens only, and all virtue was civic virtue.
A law of the state made it the duty of Spartans to be inhumane to their slaves; in these unhappy victims of war humanity itself was insulted and mistreated. In the Spartan code of law the dangerous principle was promulgated that men are to be looked upon as means and not as ends --- and the foundations of natural law and of morality were destroyed by that law...
What an admirable sight is afforded, by contrast, by the rough soldier Gaius Marcius in his camp before Rome, when he renounced vengeance and victory because he could not endure to see a mother's tears!...
The state [of Lycurgus] could endure only under the one condition: that the spirit of the people remained quiescent. Hence it could be maintained only if it failed to achieve the highest, the sole purpose of a state.SPIRITS: Though he who has boldly risen from the abyss Through an iron will and cunning May conquer half the world, Yet to the abyss he must return. Already a terrible fear has seized him; In vain he will resist! And all who still stand with him Must perish in his fallPlease make as many copies of this leaflet as you can and distribute them.
HOPE: Now I find my good men Are gathered in the night, To wait in silence, not to sleep. And the glorious word of liberty They whisper and murmur, Till in unaccustomed strangeness, On the steps of our temple Once again in delight they cry: Freedom! Freedom!
The Second Pamphlet
It is impossible to engage in intellectual discourse with National Socialism because it is not an intellectually defensible program. It is false to speak of a National Socialist philosophy, for if there were such an entity, one would have to try by means of analysis and discussion either to prove its validity or to combat it. In actuality, however, we face a totally different situation.
At its very inception this movement depended on the deception and betrayal of one's fellow man; even at that time it was inwardly corrupt and could support itself only by constant lies. After all, Hitler states in an early edition of "his" book (a book written in the worst German I have ever read, in spite of the fact that it has been elevated to the position of the Bible in this nation of poets and thinkers): "It is unbelievable, to what extent one must betray a people in order to rule it."
If at the start this cancerous growth in the nation was not particularly noticeable, it was only because there were still enough forces at work that operated for the good, so that it was kept under control. As it grew larger, however, and finally in an ultimate spurt of growth attained ruling power, the tumor broke open, as it were, and infected the whole body. The greater part of its former opponents went into hiding. The German intellectuals fled to their cellars, there, like plants struggling in the dark, away from light and sun, gradually to choke to death.
Now the end is at hand. Now it is our task to find one another again, to spread information from person to person, to keep a steady purpose, and to allow ourselves no rest until the last man in persuaded of the urgent need of his struggle against this system. When thus a wave of unrest goes through the land, when "it is in the air", when many join the cause, then in a great final effort this system can be shaken off. After all, and end in terror is preferable to terror without end.
We are not in a position to draw up a final judgment about the meaning of our history. But if this catastrophe can be used to further the public welfare, it will be only by virtue of the fact that we are cleansed by suffering; that we yearn for the light in the midst of deepest night, summon our strength, and finally help in shaking off the yoke which weighs on our world.
We do not want to discuss here the question of the Jews, nor do we want in this leaflet to compose a defense or apology. No, only by way of example do we want to cite the fact that since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way. Here we see the most frightful crime against human dignity, a crime that is unparalleled in the whole of history. For Jews, too, are human beings --- no matter what position we take with respect to the Jewish question --- and a crime of this dimension has been perpetrated against human beings.
Someone may say that the Jews deserved their fate. This assertion would be a monstrous impertinence; but let us assume that someone said this - what position has he then taken toward the fact that the entire Polish aristocratic youth is being annihilated? (May God grant that this program has not fully achieved its aim as yet!) All male offspring of the houses of the nobility between the ages of fifteen and twenty were transported to concentration camps in Germany and sentenced to forced labor, and the girls of this age group were sent to Norway, into the bordellos of the SS!
Why tell you these things, since you are fully aware of them - or if not of these, then of other equally grave crimes committed by this frightful sub-humanity? Because here we touch on a problem which involves us deeply and forces us all to take thought. Why do the German people behave so apathetically in the face of all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race? Hardly anyone thinks about that. It is accepted as fact and put out of mind. The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals; they give them the opportunity to carry on their depredations; and of course they do so. Is this a sign that the Germans are brutalized in their simplest human feelings, that no chord within them cried out at the sight of such deeds, that they have sunk into a fatal consciencelessness from which they will never, never awake?
It seems to be so, and will certainly be so, if the German does not at least start up out of his stupor, if he does not protest wherever and whenever he can against this clique of criminals, if he shows no sympathy for these hundreds of thousands of victims. He must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt. For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do; he tolerates this "government" which has taken upon itself such an infinitely great burden of guilt; indeed, he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!
It is not too late, however, to do away with this most reprehensible of all miscarriages of government, so as to avoid being burdened with even greater guilt. Now, when in recent years our eyes have been opened, when we know exactly who our adversary is, it is high time to root out this brown horde. Up until the outbreak of the war the larger part of the German people were blinded; the Nazis did not show themselves in their true aspect. But now, now that we have recognized them for what they are, it must be the sole and first duty, the holiest duty of every German to destroy these beasts."If the people are barely aware that the government exists, they are happy. When the government is felt to be oppressive, they are broken. " "Good fortune, alas! builds itself upon misery. Good fortune, alas! is the mask of misery. What will come of this? We cannot foresee the end. Order is upset and turns to disorder, good becomes evil. The people are confused. Is it not so, day in, day out, from the beginning? " "The wise man is therefore angular, though he does not injure others: he has sharp corners, though he does not harm; he is upright but not gruff. He is clear-minded, but he does not try to be brilliant." --- Lao TzuPlease make as many copies as possible of this leaflet and distribute them.
"Whoever undertakes to rule the kingdom and to shape it according to his whim --- I foresee that he will fail to reach his goal. That is all. " "The kingdom is a living being. It cannot be constructed, in truth! He who tries to manipulate it will spoil it, he who tries to put it under his power will lose it. " "Therefore: Some creatures go out in front, others follow, some have warm breath, others cold, some are strong, some weak, some attain abundance, other succumb. " "The wise man will accordingly forswear excess, he will avoid arrogance and not overreach." --- Lao Tzu
The Third Pamphlet
Salus publica suprema lex
All ideal forms of government are utopias. A state cannot be constructed on a purely theoretical basis; rather, it must grow and ripen in the way an individual human being matures. But we must not forget that at the starting point of every civilization the state was already there in rudimentary form. The family is as old as man himself, and out of this initial bond man, endowed with reason, created for himself a state founded on justice, whose highest law was the common good. The state should exist as a parallel to the divine order, and the highest of all utopias, the civitas dei, is the model which in the end it should approximate.
Here we will not pass judgment on the many possible forms of the state - democracy, constitutional monarchy, and so on. But one matter needs to be brought out clearly and unambiguously. Every individual human being has a claim to a useful and just state, a state which secures the freedom of the individual as well as the good of the whole. For, according to God's will, man is intended to pursue his natural goal, his earthly happiness, in self-reliance and self-chosen activity, freely and independently within the community of life and work of the nation.
But our present "state" is the dictatorship of evil. "Oh, we've known that for a long time," I hear you object, "and it isn't necessary to bring that to our attention again." But, I ask you, if you know that, why do you not bestir yourselves, why do you allow these men who are in power to rob you step by step, openly and in secret, of one domain of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanized state system presided over by criminals and drunks? Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right --- or rather, your moral duty --- to eliminate this system?
But if a man no longer can summon the strength to demand his right, then it is absolutely certain that he will perish. We would deserve to be dispersed through the earth like dust before the wind if we do not muster our powers at this late hour and finally find the courage which up to now we have lacked. Do not hide your cowardice behind a cloak of expediency, for with every new day that you hesitate, failing to oppose this offspring of Hell, your guilt, as in a parabolic curve, grows higher and higher.
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 this system. It is not possible through solitary withdrawal, in the manner of embittered hermits, to prepare the ground for the overturn of this "government" or bring about the revolution at the earliest possible moment. No, it can be done only by the cooperation of many convinced, energetic people - people who are agreed as to the means they must use to attain their goal.
We have no great number of choices as to these means. The only one available is passive resistance. The meaning and the 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. At all points we must oppose National Socialism, wherever it is open to attack. We must soon bring this monster of a state to an end. A victory of fascist Germany in this war would have immeasurable, frightful consequences. The military victory over Bolshevism dare not become the primary concern of the Germans. The defeat of the Nazis must unconditionally be the first order of business. The greater necessity of this latter requirement will be discussed in one of our forthcoming leaflets.
And now 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. We cannot provide each man with the blueprint for his acts, we can only suggest them in general terms, and he alone will find the way of achieving this end:
Sabotage in armament plants and war industries, sabotage at all gatherings, rallies, public ceremonies, and organizations of the National Socialist Party. Obstruction of the smooth functioning of the war machine (a machine for war that goes on solely to shore up and perpetuate the National Socialist Party and its dictatorship). Sabotage in all the areas of science and scholarship which further the continuation of the war --- whether in universities, technical schools, laboratories, research institutions, or technical bureaus. Sabotage in all cultural institutions which could potentially enhance the "prestige" of the fascists among the people. Sabotage in all branches of the arts which have even the slightest dependence on National Socialism or render it service. Sabotage in all publications, all newspapers, that are in the pay of the "government" and that defend its ideology and aid in disseminating the brown lie.
Do not give a penny to the public drives (even when they are conducted under the pretense of charity). For this is only a disguise. In reality the proceeds aid neither the Red Cross nor the needy. The government does not need this money; it is not financially interested in these money drives. After all, the presses run continuously to manufacture any desired amount of paper currency. But the populace must be kept constantly under tension, the pressure of the bit must not be allowed to slacken! Do not contribute to the collections of metal, textiles and the like. Try to convince all your acquaintances, including those in the lower social classes, of the senselessness of continuing, of the hopelessness of this war; of our spiritual and economic enslavement at the hands of the National Socialists; of the destruction of all moral and religious values; and urge them to passive resistance!
Aristotle: Politics: "... and further, it is part [of the nature of tyranny] to strive to see to it that nothing is kept hidden of that which any subject says or does, but that everywhere he will be spied upon,... and further, to set man against man and friend against friend, and the common people against the privileged and the wealthy. Also it is part of these tyrannical measures, to keep the subjects poor, in order to pay the guards and the soldiers, and so that they will be occupied with earning their livelihood and will have neither leisure nor opportunity to engage in conspiratorial acts... Further, [to levy] such taxes on income as were imposed in Syracuse, for under Dionysius the citizens gladly paid out their whole fortunes in taxes within five years. Also, the tyrant is inclined constantly to foment wars"
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The Fourth Leaflet
There is an ancient maxim that we repeat to our children: "He who won't listen will have to feel." But a wise child will not burn his fingers the second time on a hot stove. In the past weeks Hitler has choked up successes in Africa and in Russia. In consequence, optimism on the one hand and distress and pessimism on the other have grown within the German people with a rapidity quite inconsistent with traditional German apathy. On all sides one hears among Hitler's opponents --- the better segments of the population --- exclamations of despair, words of disappointment and discouragement, often ending with the question: "Will Hitler now, after all...?"
Meanwhile, the German offensive against Egypt has ground to a halt. Rommel has to bide his time in a dangerously exposed position. But the push into the East proceeds. This apparent success has been purchased at the most horrible expense of human life, and so it can no longer be counted an advantage. Therefore we must warn against all optimism.
Neither Hitler nor Goebbels can have counted the dead. In Russia thousands are lost daily. It is the time of the harvest, and the reaper cuts into the ripe grain with wide strokes. Mourning takes up her abode in the country cottages, and there is no one to dry the tears of the mothers. Yet Hitler feeds with lies those people whose most precious belongings he has stolen and whom he has driven to a meaningless death.
Every word that comes from Hitler's mouth is a lie. When he says peace, he means war, and when he blasphemously uses the name of the Almighty, he means the power of evil, the fallen angel, Satan. His mouth is the foul-smelling maw of Hell, and his might is at bottom accursed. True, we must conduct a struggle against the National Socialist terrorist state with rational means; but whoever today still doublts the reality, the existence of demonic powers, has failed by a wide margin to understand the metaphysical background of this war. Behind the concrete, the visible events, behind all objective, logical considerations, we find the irrational element: The struggle against the demon, against the servants of the Antichrist. Everywhere and at all times demons have been lurking in the dark, waiting for the moment when man is weak; when of his own volition he leaves his place in the order of Creation as founded for him by God in freedom; when he yields to the force of evil, separates himself from the powers of a higher order; and after voluntarily taking the first step, he is driven on to the next and the next at a furiously accelerating rate. Everywhere and at all times of greatest trial men have appeared, prophets and saints who cherished their freedom, who preached the One God and who His help brought the people to a reversal of their downward course. Man is free, to be sure, but without the true God he is defenseless against the principle of evil. He is a like rudderless ship, at the mercy of the storm, an infant without his mother, a cloud dissolving into thin air.
I ask you, you as a Christian wrestling for the preservation of your greatest treasure, whether you hesitate, whether you incline toward intrigue, calculation, or procrastination in the hope that someone else will raise his arm in your defense? Has God not given you the strength, the will to fight? We must attack evil where it is strongest, and it is strongest in the power of Hitler.
So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead than the living which are yet alive. Ecclesiastes 4
True anarchy is the generative element of religion. Out of the annihilation of every positive element she lifts her gloriously radiant countenance as the founder of a new world... If Europe were about to awaken again, if a state of states, a teaching of political science were at hand! Should hierarchy then... be the principle of the union of states? Blood will stream over Europe until the nations become aware of the frightful madness which drives them in circles. And then, struck by celestial music and made gentle, the approach their former altars all together, hear about the works of peace, and hold a great celebration of peace with fervent tears before the smoking altars. Only religion can reawaken Europe, establish the rights of the peoples, and install Christianity in new splendor visibly on earth in its office as guarantor of peace. Novalis
We wish expressly to point out that the White Rose is not in the pay of any foreign power. Though we know that National Socialist power must be broken by military means, we are trying to achieve a renewal from within of the severely wounded German spirit. This rebirth must be preceded, however, by the clear recognition of all the guilt with which the German people have burdened themselves, and by an uncompromising battle against Hitler and his all too many minions, party members, Quislings, and the like. With total brutality the chasm that separates the better portion of the nation from everything that is opened wide. For Hitler and his followers there is no punishment on this Earth commensurate with their crimes. But out of love for coming generations we must make an example after the conclusion of the war, so that no one will ever again have the slightest urge to try a similar action. And do not forget the petty scoundrels in this regime; note their names, so that none will go free! They should not find it possible, having had their part in these abominable crimes, at the last minute to rally to another flag and then act as if nothing had happened! To set you at rest, we add that the addresses of the readers of the White Rose are not recorded in writing. They were picked at random from directories.
We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!
The Fifth Leaflet
A Call to All Germans!
The war is approaching its destined end. As in the year 1918, the German government is trying to focus attention exclusively on the growing threat of submarine warfare, while in the East the armies are constantly in retreat and invasion in imminent in the West. Mobiliation in the United States has not yet reached its climax, but already it exceeds anything that the world has ever seen. It has become a mathematical certainty that Hitler is leading the German people into the abyss. Hitler cannot win the war; he can only prolong it. The guilt of Hitler and his minions goes beyond all measure. Retribution comes closer and closer.
But what are the German people doing? They will not see and will not listen. Blindly they follow their seducers into ruin. Victory at any price! is inscribed on their banner. "I will fight to the last man," says Hitler --- but in the meantime the war has already been lost.
Germans! Do you and your children want to suffer the same fate that befell the Jews? Do you want to be judged by the same standards as are your traducers? Are we to be forever a nation which is hated and rejected by all mankind? No. Dissociate yourselves from National Socialist gangsterism. Prove by your deeds that you think otherwise. A new war of liberation is about to begin. The better part of the nation will fight on our side. Cast off the cloak of indifference you have wrapped around you. Make the decision before it is too late. Do not believe the National Socialist propoganda which has driven the fear of Bolshevism into your bones. Do not believe that Germany's welfare is linked to the victory of national Socialism for good or ill. A criminal regime cannot achieve a German victory. Separate yourselves in time from everything connected with National Socialism. In the aftermath a terrible but just judgment will be meted out to those who stayed in hiding, who were cowardly and hesitant.
What can we learn from the outcome of this war-this war that never was a national war?
The imperialist ideology of force, from whatever side it comes, must be shattered for all time. A one sided Prussian militarism must never again be allowed to assume power. Only in large-scale cooperation among the nations of Europe can the ground be prepared for reconstruction. Centralized hegemony, such as the Prussian state has tried to excercise in Germany and in Europe, must be cut down at its inception. The Germany of the future must be a federal state. At this juncture only a sound federal system can inbue a weakened Europe with a new life. The workers must be liberated from their condition of down trodden slavery under National Socialism. The illusory structure of autonomous national industry must disappear. Every nation and each man have a right to the goods of the whole world!
Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the protection of individual citizens from the abritrary will of criminal regimes of violence --- these will be the bases of the New Europe.
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The Sixth Leaflet
Fellow Fighters in the Resistance!
Shaken and broken, our people behold the loss of the men of Stalingrad. Three hundred and thirty thousand German men have been senselessly and irresponsibly driven to death and destruction by the inspired strategy of our World War I Private First Class. Fuhrer, we thank you!
The German people are in ferment. Will we continue to entrust the fate of our armies to a dilettante? Do we want to sacrifice the rest of German youth to the base ambitions of a Party clique? No, never! The day of reckoning has come --- the reckoning of German youth with the most abominable tyrant our people have ever been forced to endure. In the name of German youth we demand restitution by Adolf Hitler's state of our personal freedom, the most precious treasure we have, out of which he has swindled us in the most miserable way.
We grew up in a state in which all free expression of opinion is unscrupulously suppressed. The Hitler Youth, the SA, the SS have tried to drug us, to revolutionize us, to regiment us in the most promising young years of our lives. "Philosophical training" is the name given to the despicable method by which our budding intellectual development is muffled in a fog of empty phrases. A system of selection of leaders at once unimaginably devilish and narrow-minded trains up its future party bigwigs in the "Castles of the Knightly Order" to become Godless, impudent, and conscienceless exploiters and executioners --- blind, stupid hangers-on of the Fuhrer. We "Intellectual Workers" are the ones who should put obstacles in the path of this caste of overlords. Soldiers at the front are regimented like schoolboys by student leaders and trainees for the post of Gauleiter, and the lewd jokes of the Gauleiters insult the honor of the women students. German women students at the university in Munich have given a dignified reply to the besmirching of their honor, and German students have defended the women in the universities and have stood firm.... That is a beginning of the struggle for our free self-determination --- without which intellectual and spiritual values cannot be created. We thank the brave comrades, both men and women, who have set us brilliant examples.
For us there is but one slogan: fight against the party! Get out of the party organization, which are used to keep our mouths sealed and hold us in political bondage! Get out of the lecture rooms of the SS corporals and sergeants and the party bootlickers! We want genuine learning and real freedom of opinion. No threat can terrorize us, not even the shutting down of the institutions of higher learning. This is the struggle of each and every one of us for our future, our freedom, and our honor under a regime conscious of its moral responsibility.
Freedom and honor! For ten long years Hitler and his coadjutor have manhandled, squeezed, twisted, and debased these two splendid German words to the point of nausea, as only dilettantes can, casting the highest values of a nation before swine. They have sufficiently demonstrated in the ten years of destruction of all material and intellectual freedom, of all moral substance among the German people, what they understand by freedom and honor. The frightful bloodbath has opened the eyes of even the stupidest German - it is a slaughter which they arranged in the name of freedom and honor of the German nation" throughout Europe, and which they daily start anew. The name of Germany is dishonored for all time if German youth does not finally rise, take revenge, and atone, smash its tormentors, and set up a new Europe of the spirit. Students! The German people look to us. As in 1813 the people expected us to shake off the Napoleonic yoke, so in 1943 they look to us to break the National Socialist terror through the power of the spirit. Beresina and Stalingrad are burning in the East. The dead of Stalingrad implore us to take action. "Up, up, my people, let smoke and flame be our sign!"
Our people stand ready to rebel against the Nationals Socialist enslavement of Europe in a fervent new breakthrough of freedom and honor.
Memories of the White Rose
George J. Wittenstein, M. D.
Copyright © 1997
Introduction and Background
Fifty-four years ago three German students were arrested. A few days later they were hauled before the Volksgerichtshof ("People's Court"), sentenced to death and executed by beheading the same day. Within a few months many more arrests were made, and, in a second trial, three additional death sentences were handed down. (The "People's Court," I should add, existed outside the German constitution. It was created by the NSDAP, the National Socialist Party, in 1934 for the sole purpose of eliminating Hitler's enemies.)
How can one explain that after ten years of Nazi rule, with its incessant political indoctrination beginning as early as in preschool, and in the midst of a "great patriotic war," these students, who had largely grown up under the influence of this regime, resolved to take a stand against Nazi tyranny? To accomplish this it will be necessary to expand somewhat on the historical background.
It is my firm belief that no one raised in the United States can fully comprehend what it is like to live under an absolute dictatorship. For it is quite different from what we generally associate with this term as it relates, for example, to the typical Latin American situation. Never before has there been such absolute control, except for Soviet Russia, which Hitler actually emulated to a large degree. 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. My own teenage cousin, for instance, threatened to denounce his father; and I was barely able to deter him by pointing out to him that he himself might end up destitute, if his father were arrested and incarcerated.
Organized resistance was practically impossible. One could not speak openly, even with close friends, never knowing whether they might not be Nazi spies or collaborators. So well organized was the control and surveillance by the party, that each city block had a party functionary assigned to spy on his neighbors. This "Blockwart" was ostensibly responsible for the well being of the residents of his city block, but in reality had to monitor, record and report on activities, conversations, and remarks of each person, as well as on their associations. Even the privacy of one's home was not assured: a tea cozy or pillows placed over the telephone were popular precautions against eavesdropping by bugging. Nor did one ever know what mail had been secretly opened.
I remember only too well an incident in a cinema: someone sitting a few rows in front of me was led away by the Gestapo. Apparently he had made a derogatory remark to his companion about Hitler during the preceding news reel. Whoever had overheard him must have, as a patriotic duty, tipped off the secret police.
Sure, there were individuals, and small, local groups who were opposed to the regime. As a matter of fact, we now know that there were over 300 of them; but because of the conditions described above, it was nearly impossible to establish contacts, let alone to maintain communications. Thus the existing groups were small, isolated, and did not know of each other. Any successful resistance could only have come from the Military; they tried, very late, on that fateful July 20, 1944 - and bungled it badly.
With that, I am coming back to the question: how was it possible that a group of university students defied this powerful regime - and, against all odds, called for open resistance?
The answer is twofold:
1. We were students, and students, throughout history, have been idealistic, rebellious, and willing to take chances: rebellious against existing order, against old and empty conventions (the United States and Europe experienced their share of it in the Sixties). Most of our group had been members of the "Bündische Jugend." These were youth organizations (somewhat similar to the Boy Scouts,) which had come into being around 1908 in Europe and were particularly strong in Germany. In essence they grew out of a disillusionment of young people with the old established order, and with schools, which had failed them badly, as well as rebellion against overbearing parents. They were infused with typically German romanticism. Their ideals and stated goals were: personal freedom, self-imposed discipline, and strict adherence to highest moral and ethical principles.
2. These students came from bourgeois families. Their parents were opposed to Hitler, which must have influenced them to a large degree.
3. Most of us were medical students, except for Sophie Scholl, who majored in biology and philosophy. We shared a common interest in and a deep love for the arts, music, literature, and philosophy. Most of us had Jewish friends or classmates, who were evicted or deported or who had suffered in the "Crystal Night" pogrom.
It all began, if you will, in the winter of 1938/39: Those who served their compulsory two year army service and planned to enter medical school were consigned to a "Sanitätskompanie," a training school for medics, for their final six months. This is where I met Alexander Schmorell: he was multi-talented, a gifted sculptor, deeply interested in literature and music; he was born in Russia, to a German father, a physician, and a Russian mother. We soon discovered our similar political leanings, and became close friends. Some of you may have read in one of the books about the White Rose, what Alex Schmorell said to me, pointing to the door of our room in the barracks: "Maybe ten years from now there will be a plaque on this door which will read: 'This is where the revolution began'."
By the following spring (1939) most of us enrolled at the University of Munich. There were two days of required political indoctrination, which no one took seriously. Although fraternities had been dissolved and incorporated into the National Socialist Student Organization, we felt exhilarated by the degree of freedom one enjoyed as a student, compared to what lay behind us: namely six months of "Arbeitsdienst" (a compulsory paramilitary work service in uniform), followed by two years of military service. Yet, most kept their opinions to themselves in view of the palpable sense of oppression, of being watched, and the ever looming threat of concentration camps.
Still, student unrest was smoldering. For example, at the end of the summer semester, the leader of the Nazi student organization (for the state of Bavaria) ordered a convocation, in which he informed us that we were ordered to spend our summer vacation bringing in the harvest, otherwise we would not be permitted to re-enroll for the fall semester. There were demonstrations, students at the chemistry department set off stink bombs, and the Gestapo (secret police) was brought in.
Shortly after World War Two was unleashed by Germany's invasion of Poland (in Sept. 1939) most medical students were drafted, housed in barracks, and required to attend classes in uniform. In the beginning, this was carried out in typically Prussian manner: students were crowded into barracks, up to ten to a room, which made studying extremely difficult; marching to class in columns in the morning, returning the same way in the evenings. Eventually the absurdity and impracticality of this became obvious, and more freedom was permitted; we were allowed to live in private quarters, and to even wear civilian clothes during our senior year. Only Saturday morning roll call and drill remained mandatory. Many of us would not show up, and friends would respond for those missing during roll call, shouting "here" when their names were called.
In this student company I introduced Alex Schmorell and Hans Scholl to each other.
The White Rose
The White Rose is a shining example of resistance to Hitler, but also of the ruthlessness which the Nazis authorities showed when faced with any opposition. In early 1943, the fortunes of war were clearly turning against the Germans. The battle of Stalingrad had been a complete disaster, resulting in the surrender of the Sixth Army on January 31, 1943. Around this time, a small group of students, mostly centered in the University of Munich, began openly to agitate against the Nazi regime. They saw the war as lost, the good things they had thought would result from the Nazis in the 1930s as having been thrown away, and were horrified at the mistreatment of the Jews. The leaders of the student revolt were Hans Scholl (25), a medical student and his sister Sophie (21), a biology student. Hans Scholl had been an enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth in 1933, but he quickly became disillusioned with Nazism as its inhumanity and barbarism became more and more clear with the passage of time.
People who have never lived under a totalitarian government have difficulty understanding how difficult it was - and how dangerous - to organize opposition to the government. The Nazis in particular were organized right down to the street level and people were encouraged to inform on their parents, relatives, and friends to the Gestapo; in short, anyone who manifested disagreement with the Nazis could be in serious trouble. Under the law of the Third Reich, over 5,000 people were executed for such trivial offenses as making jokes about Hitler or listening to radio broadcasts from Britain.
Most of the White Rose members were medical students, except for Sophie Scholl, who majored in biology and philosophy, and many had Jewish friends or classmates, who had been persecuted under the Nazis, Their disillusionment became most pronounced as the brutality of the regime became more apparent and especially when the mass deportations of the Jews began.
The White Rose began distributing anti-government leaflets in mid 1942. The main authors were Hans Scholl, Alex Schmorell, and George
Wittenstein (see below) who wrote four leaflets and distributed about 100 copies of them. Of the 100, 35 fell into the hands of the Gestapo. At about this time, Sophie Scholl joined the group. It is known that Hans Scholl coined the expression "leaflets of the White Rose", but the origin of the expression is unclear. The leaflets protested against the brutality and evil of the government, and against the extermination of the Jews, which was beginning to become known to more and more people at this time.
In summer 1942, many of the male medical students at the University of Munich were obliged to serve a three-month stint on the Russian front. Several of the White Rose members were among them. There they saw with their own eyes the horrors of war, and there they also saw the unbelievable cruelty the Germans displayed to the Jews. They personally witnessed beatings and other mistreatment and heard reliable stories of the persecution of the Jews then in full swing. They returned in November 1942.
In February 1943, the Gauleiter (District Leader) of Bavaria, Paul Giesler, addressed the students at the University of Munich. By then, he was already aware of some of the White Rose activities. He sneeringly said that the female students should be producing children for the Reich rather than wasting time studying and added: "If some of the girls lack sufficient charm to find a mate, I will assign each of them one of my adjutants." Female students who attempted to leave the session were arrested by the Gestapo, which led to a general riot and the eventual freedom of the women.
Several more activist leaflets soon followed, more and more revolutionary in nature, with the last ones calling openly for the overthrow of the government. By a stroke of bad luck, Sophie and Hans Scholl were observed dumping some of these leaflets out of a window at the university, were betrayed to the Gestapo and arrested. More than 80 arrests throughout Germany soon followed.
The Scholls and another collaborator were almost immediately (February 22, 1943) brought before the People's Court (Volksgerichtshof), a creation of the Nazi Party and feared for its denial of justice and cruelty. They were convicted of treason in a trial lasting only about 4 hours and sentenced to death by guillotine. Sophie Scholl had been mistreated so much in her "questioning" by the Gestapo that she arrived in court with a broken leg. But in a display of great courage, she stood up to the President of the Court, Roland Freisler (known for his perversion of justice), saying: "You know as well as we do that the war is lost. Why are you so cowardly that you won't admit it?"
The Scholls were executed the same day. A few days later, several of their colleagues were executed. The White Rose was finished.
Although they actually accomplished little (obviously they had no realistic chance of accomplishing very much from the outset), the White Rose students serve as an example that not all Germans blindly went along with Hitler. Their activities are important to include in any assessment of the reaction of Germans to Hitler, and what is striking is that the persecution of the Jews played a major role in galvanizing them into more open and radical opposition to the Hitler government. In spite of the difficulties they faced, they were imbued with a willingness to risk it all for their country and for the victims of its terrible practices. That they failed was perhaps preordained; that they dared to try is a testament to their humanity.
Where to start your research
* George Wittenstein, a White Rose collaborator who escaped by a stroke of luck, has written a brilliant and poignant four-part essay on the White Rose that can be found starting at: http://www.historyplace.com/pointsofview/white-rose1.htm. His essay was the inspiration for this one.
Inge Scholl, The White Rose (1970)
Richard Hanser, A Noble Treason (1979)
Anton Gill, An Honourable Defeat (1994)
"PROTEST OF YOUTH"
Excerpt from: Gill, Anton. An Honourable Defeat ; NY, Henry Holt & Co., 1994. pp. 183-195
Today, the main square outside the University of Munich is called Geschwister-Scholl-Platz. The name commemorates a small group of students who, operating independently, managed to create one of the few single protests of great significance outside the main body of the Resistance, in the town which had, throughout the mid-thirties, advertised itself on tourist brochures as 'The Birthplace of the Party'.
Hans and Sophie Scholl were the second and fourth of the five children of Robert Scholl, the liberal and independent mayor of the little town of Forchtenberg on the River Kocher to the east of Heilbronn. He was a big, warm-hearted man, rarely without a cigar smoking away below his luxuriant mustache. Hans and Sophie were born in 1918 and 1921, and in those days Forchtenberg's only contact with the outside world was a yellow post-coach that connected it with the nearest railway station. The children loved it, but Robert had ambitions for his town. He managed to get the railway extended to Forchtenberg, and had a community sports center and a warehouse built. These improvements were not without their critics: Robert was far too progressive for some, and in 1930 he was voted out of office. The family moved first to Ludwigsburg and then to Ulm, where they settled. Robert, who had a tendency to live beyond his means, rented a large apartment for his family on the Cathedral Square. He set himself up as a business and tax consultant.
The five children, Inge, Hans, Elisabeth, Sophie and Werner, were free to enjoy, as compensation for the loss of the countryside, the large palace park nearby. Hans, according to his brother-in-law, was more like his father -- impulsive, generous and extrovert. Sophie, no less strong a personality, had her mother's quiet sensitivity. What she shared with Hans was an absolute sense of human rights, something which all the children had inherited from their father, who exerted a strong but benign influence on them. Sophie also developed a mystical feeling for nature. She loved dancing. She was a good pianist and she could have become a professional artist - her drawings for Peter Pan, for example, glow with life; but when she went to university in Munich she opted to read the unusual combination of biology and philosophy.
The happy family life did not end with Hitler's seizure of power. The arrival of National Socialism was the first impact of politics on the children's thought. Hans was fifteen, Sophie, twelve.
Inge Aicher-Scholl was sixteen. She remembers that on 30 January I933 the radio and the newspapers were full of the news, 'Now everything will be better in Germany. Hitler is at the tiller."
We heard a great deal spoken about the Fatherland, of comradeship, the union of the Germanic people and love of the homeland. It impressed us, and we listened eagerly when such things were talked about on the streets or in school--for indeed we loved our homeland... And everywhere we heard that Hitler wanted to help the homeland back to greatness, happiness and security. He would see to it that everyone had a job to go to and enough to eat. He wouldn't rest until every single German enjoyed independence, freedom and happiness...
The children were keen to join the Hitler Youth, and their parents, though they had given them a liberal upbringing, did not forbid it. But never for an instant had Robert been fooled by Hitler, and he said to them, 'Have you considered how he's going to manage it? He's expanding the armaments industry, and building barracks. Do you know where that's all going to end?' The children argued that Hitler had solved the problem of unemployment, and pointed to the new motorways being built throughout the land. Robert wondered aloud if material security would ever make happy a people which had been robbed of its right to free speech.
At first his arguments fell on deaf ears. His children were enthusiastic members of the Hitler Youth and its female branch, the League of German Girls. They became group leaders. Only Sophie was a little less enthusiastic than the others. She was already worried by the fact that her Jewish schoolfriends could not join. She listened more attentively to her father's arguments. He and Hans, on the other hand, were barely on speaking terms some of the time.
But then Hans attended the 1935 Party Rally at Nuremberg. He had been selected to carry the flag of Ulm--Standort at the Rally--a great honour. But he came back a changed man. He did not say much at first, but gradually new ideas emerged. The endless, senseless drilling, the hate-filled aggressive speeches, the stupid conversation, the vulgar jokes--a concentration of all this at Nuremberg had finally focused his mind on what Nazism really meant.
There had been signs of Hans's disaffection before this. He was annoyed when he was told that the Hitler Youth was not interested in his collection of international folksongs--foreign, especially Russian, songs were strictly forbidden. And the special flag of his group was forbidden too--all groups were expected to carry a swastika banner. When finally his twelve-year-old standard bearer was threatened by a senior Hitler Youth official for refusing to give up the group flag, Hans hit the official. That was the end of the Hitler Youth for him. Soon afterwards he heard that a young schoolteacher had been picked up by a gang of SA and spat upon to order; the schoolteacher's crime was failure to join the Party. Gradually, news of the concentration camps seeped through.
Sophie was quick to pick up his mood. The first cracks had appeared in the cement which bound their allegiance to Hitler. Hans began to show more of an interest in another kind of youth group--the dj.1.11,, so-called because it had been founded as Deutsche Jugend on 1 November I 929. The dj.1.11 was now illegal--all youth groups and organisations had been banned under the Nazis or amalgamated with the Hitler Youth--but it still existed underground. Its spirit was the open-minded, liberal, easy-going one of the Weimar Republic at its best. Its members would organise hitch-hiking expeditions as far as Finland and Sweden, or travel south to Calabria and Sicily. It represented cosmopolitanism, not nationalism. Its members did not wear uniforms or salute each other. They read 'illegal' books--works by George Bernard Shaw (who the Nazis thought was a Jew on account of his red hair), Stefan Zweig and Paul Claudel. It was for culture and against militarism, for the individual and not the mob. Sophie might have joined it too, but for the fact that it was open only to boys from age of twelve upwards. Nevertheless, she and her oldest sister Inge caught its mood.
One day in late November 1937 there was a ring at the door of the Scholls' apartment and two men from the Gestapo stood there. The secret police had had the dj.1.11 group under observation for some time and now they were ready to pounce. The men said they were there to search the flat and arrest the children. With great presence of mind, Frau Scholl told them that they could do so by all means, but that, if the gentlemen would excuse her, she had to go to the baker's. The policemen didn't object--women in the Third Reich were consigned to three areas of life: church, kitchen and children. Even female Nazi leaders were never given much status or publicity by the regime.
Frau Scholl left the flat and went up to the attic floor where Hans's and Werner's--the younger brother was also a determined anti-Nazi--bedrooms were to be found. Quickly she packed any potentially incriminating literature into a basket and took it round the corner to trusted friends. The Gestapo search turned nothing up, and the officials took Inge, Sophie and Werner--the three children who were at home at the time--away with them. Sophie was released almost immediately, but Inge and Werner were taken to Stutttgart and detained for a week, interrogated about what they might know of Ernst Niekisch and his Widerstand (Resistance) magazine, and about dj.1.11. They managed to play dumb, and were finally released. Hans, who had been arrested subsequently, was held for five weeks. Luckily for him he had been conscripted by then, and sympathetic commanding officer had him released, telling the Gestapo that as Hans was a soldier, he was in the Army's jurisdiction, not theirs.
The Scholls--who were a well-known family in the smallish of Ulm--failed to stay out of trouble. Werner had taken an early decision to leave the Hitler Youth. It was a gesture of solidarity towards his friend Oti Aicher (who later married Inge Scholl), who had refused to join it and as a result was not allowed to take his final school examinations, thus cutting off any hope of university. Aicher later remembered how Werner had tied a swastika scarf round the eyes of the bust of Justice in front of the Ulm Law Courts.
Werner was a keen photographer, and most of the surviving pictures of Sophie were taken by him. He died on the Russian Front, aged twenty-one. At a meeting of the League of German Girls to discuss suitable material for home reading, Sophie suggested Heinrich Heine, the brilliant nineteenth-century revolutionary German poet who was also a Jew. Replying to appalled objections at her suggestion, she said, 'The person who doesn't know Heine, doesn't know German literature.' Robert Scholl himself was later arrested and imprisoned briefly for anti-Nazi activities.
The children read a great deal: Socrates, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Pascal; Maritain and Bernanos. The influence of these thinkers went deep, strengthening their resolve against the regime. The question was what to do, and how to do it? Meanwhile, for Sophie, school continued. She met Fritz Hartnagel, a career soldier four years her senior, and they went for tours in the country occasionally in his father's car, together with her older sister Elisabeth. For the innocent Sophie friendship with Hartnagel began to tum into something more. But it never quite became love. After the war Hartnagel married Elisabeth. They still live in Stuttgart, where before his retirement he was a judge.
If she was moving away from Nazism through the late thirties, Sophie Scholl turned actively against it as a result of two experiences: Kiistallnacht, which she lived through in Ulm, and the outbreak of war on 1 September I939 -- She extracted a promise from each of her male friends that they would never fire their guns, but she was well aware of how unrealistic such a promise was. She wrote to Hartnagel with uncharacteristic bitterness:
"You'll have your hands full from now on. I just can't accept that now people will be in peril of their lives because of other people. I can't accept it and I find it horrifying. Never tell me that it's for the sake of the Fatherland."
Her subsequent letters express increasing disgust and anger at the war. 'I think I know you and that you're not much in favour of this war,' she wrote to him later. 'So how can you spend your time training people for it?' And in September I940 she wrote a letter of which Beck and Oster would have approved:
"For me the relationship between a soldier and his people is roughly like that of a son who swears to stand by his father and his family through thick and thin. If it turns out that the father harms another family and then gets hurt as a consequence, must the son still stick by him? I can't accept it. Justice is more important than sentimental loyalty."
Hartnagel himself remembers:
"It was striking to see with what incisiveness and logic Sophie saw how things would develop, for she was warm-hearted and full of feeling, not cold and calculating. Here is an example: in winter 1941-42 there was a big propaganda campaign in Germany to get the people to give sweaters and other warm woolen clothing to the Army. German soldiers were at the gates of Leningrad and Moscow in the middle of a winter war for which they weren't prepared ... Sophie said, 'We're not giving anything.' I had just got back from the Russian Front ... I tried to describe to her how conditions were for the men, with no gloves, pullovers or warm socks. She stuck to her viewpoint relentlessly and justified it by saying, 'It doesn't matter if it's German soldiers who are freezing to death or Russians, the case is equally terrible. But we must lose the war. If we contribute warm clothes, we'll be extending it.'"
After matriculation from school in 1940 she took a one-year course in kindergarten supervision, in the hope of avoiding State Work Duty - a kind of civil national service which all would-be students had to fulfill. But not only did the authorities refuse to accept the kindergarten training as a replacement for the State Duty, but with the acceleration of the war in 1941 they added to it State War Work. For another year, therefore, Sophie endured barrack life and manual labour before she could finally start her course at Munich University. She travelled there from Ulm early in May 1942. It was just before her twenty-first birthday--her last.
Hans was at the station to meet her. He was reading medicine at the university - the semesters alternating with service at the Front. Through him she quickly gained an entree to university life. Among the first people she met was Professor Carl Muth, whose library Hans had been cataloguing. Muth was a pillar of the literary Resistance. His Roman Catholic magazine High Land had been banned finally in June 1941, having managed for eight years never once to mention Hitler's name. By now Hans had read the sermons of Bishop Galen. He had not given up his own ideas of making some kind of stand against the regime, and had become markedly politicised. From his writing it is clear that had he lived he would have chosen politics, not medicine, as his career.
He was already at the centre of a group of young medical students -- Willi Graf, Christoph Probst and Alexander Schmorell -- who had decided to launch a leaflet campaign against the war, encouraging passive Resistance to the regime. They were joined by the popular philosophy lecturer Kurt Huber, who had already attracted the suspicion of the Nazis. He was considerably older than the others, but had no wish to lead the group. He guided his younger comrades' thoughts, and edited the last two of the six leaflets they produced. His lectures were always packed, because he managed to introduce veiled criticism of the regime into them.
The group had no wish to throw bombs, or to cause any injury to human life. They wanted to influence people's minds against Nazism and militarism. Already a sympathetic architect had lent them his studio in a rear courtyard for their clandestine activities, and the relatively well-off Sclhmorell had been able to buy a typewriter and a duplicating machine. They called their group the 'White Rose'. Sophie was not brought into it initially, but she had a shrewd idea of what her brother was up to from early on. She would find books in his rooms -- which smelt of jasmine and cigarettes -- with significant passages marked.
The choice of the name 'White Rose' is not easily explained. The rose as a symbol of secrecy might have occurred to them, and 'white' might have reflected the fact that their leaflets were not inspired by any colour of political thought, but by broad humanism. It's also possible that the name was taken from B. Traven's eponymous novel, in which a Mexican farmer fights a tyrannical oil company. Whatever the reason the symbol is still a powerful one in Germany.
The first four leaflets of the White Rose appeared in quick succession in June and July 1942. They were written jointly by Hans Scholl with Alexander Schmorell and Christoph Probst, who was the only married member of the group apart from Huber and who was already, at twenty-three, the father of two children (a third, whom he would never see, was born after his arrest).
The first leaflet begins uncompromisingly: 'Nothing is less worthy of a cultivated people: than to allow itself to be governed by a clique of irresponsible bandits of dark ambition, without"Resistance.' The four issues, each covering two sides of the paper, draw on Goethe, Schiller and Aristotle, among others, to make their point, which is contained effectively in the sentence quoted. They refer to the murder of Jews in Poland, encourage the idea of sabotage in the armaments industry, and criticise the anti-Christian and anti-social nature of the war. 'We are all guilty. We will not be silenced. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!'
Sophie soon joined. Fear for the safety of her family was overridden by her desire to do something to fight Hitler. It was hard for them all: hard to swim against the current, and harder still to wish defeat upon their own country. Worst of all was the isolation in which they worked.
Tirelessly the group distributed the leaflets by the suitcaseload throughout towns in southern Germany, either travelling with them (a very dangerous undertaking) and delivering them by hand at night, or using the mail. They were so successful that the movement spread, notably to Hamburg, where a branch of the White Rose was set up which survived its originator.
The White Rose went into temporary abeyance during the summer of I942 as Hans, Willi and Alexander were ordered to the Russian Front, but they returned to Munich in October. The period had been of special significance to Schmorell. His mother, whom he had lost in infancy, was Russian. Meanwhile Sophie had spent the vacation working in an arms factory, and Robert Scholl had been in a Gestapo prison.
Hans had seen the maltreatment of Jews and Russian prisoners at first hand. One day he gave his tobacco to an old man, and his iron rations to a girl. The girl had thrown the rations back at him, but he had picked them up, plucked a daisy, placed it on the pile of rations, and laid them at her feet. After a moment's hesitation, she had accepted them, and put the flower in her hair.
The group returned from the Front more determined than ever to carry on the work of Resistance, and to make the White Rose into a permanent Resistance cell. Hans and Alexander even managed to arrange a meeting with Falk Harnack, the younger brother of Arvid Harnack of the Red Orchestra, with the intention of making contact with the main Resistance in Berlin, though death was to prevent this ever happening. In the meantime, postage and paper cost money. Fritz Hartnagel gave Sophie 1000 Reichsmark, for what she told him was 'a good purpose'. A generous source of support was the Stuttgart tax consultant Eugen Grimminger, who was married to a Jewess and had looked after Robert Scholl's business while he was in prison. A schoolfriend of Sophie remembers a meeting in Stuttgart in December 1942, when she told her, 'If I had a pistol and I were to meet Hitler here in the street, I'd shoot him down. If men can't manage it, then a woman should.' She replied, 'But then he'd be replaced by Himmler, and after Himmler, another.' Sophie retorted: 'One's got to do something to get rid of the guilt.'
They bought a new, less noisy, duplicating machine. On trains, they took suitcases full of leaflets. If the police searched the train, they would leave the suitcase on the rack and hide in the lavatory, or spend the journey in another compartment. They became used to living on their nerves, but they never considered that they had a choice. Sophie and Hans took adjoining rooms in Franz-Josef-Strasse #13. In January 1943 a new White Rose leaflet appeared, this time written in a more popular style. Several thousand copies were made. Addresses were painstakingly copied out of telephone directories. The conspirators had to ensure that the Gestapo could not trace the source to Munich. Once again by train journeys, the group had to run the police gauntlet and post their leaflets from neighbouring towns.
On 13 January, to mark the 470th anniversary of the university, the Nazi Gauleiter -- District Leader -- of the city, Paul Giesler, gave a speech in the course of which he told the female students that it would be better for them to get on with giving the Fuhrer a child than wasting time on books; he even offered to put his henchmen at their service. Several girls immediately left the hall in protest, only to be arrested at the exit. This led to a demonstration, in the course of which the Nazi Student Leader was dragged from the podium, beaten up, and declared a hostage against the release of the girls. The Nazis telephoned the police, who promptly arrived and broke up the meeting. This was the first student demonstration against the Nazis in Munich, and it stimulated the Gestapo to redouble its efforts to find the originators of the White Rose.
Elisabeth Scholl spent a week at the end of January and the beginning of February with her brother and sister in Munich. She found a Russian blouse in a wardrobe and Sophie told her that Alexander liked to put it on when he went to visit the Russian forced-labourers in their barracks. Christoph Probst dropped in on his way between postings during a period of military duty and, though he only stopped for an hour and a half, Elisabeth was struck by the fact that he changed into civilian clothes. On 3 February news of the defeat at Stalingrad (where Fritz Hartnagel was fighting) came through on the radio. One evening soon after, Alexander and Hans said they were going over to the Women's Hospital. Later on Willi Graf arrived and when Elisabeth told him where his friends were, he laughed and said they would hardly go there without him. All that evening Sophie was nervous, and kept talking about the need to write anti-Nazi graffiti on walls. 'You'd need to use something that was hard to get off,' she said, 'like bitumous paint.'
The following morning Hans, Sophie and Elisabeth went to the university to attend a lecture by Huber on Leibniz. On a wall by the entrance the word 'Freedom' had been written in huge letters. 'What bastard did that?' snarled an older student. A large group of people were watching a handful of Russian women Tabourers trying to clean it off. 'They'll have a hard job,' said Sophie. 'That's bitumous paint.' Another friend, Traute Lafrenz, who was one of the leaders of the Hamburg White Rose, and now works as a doctor in Illinois, was in Munich too that day and saw Hans Scholl. 'I remember he was smiling to himself. Some outraged student or other came up to him and said, "Have you seen what's happened?" "No," said Hans. "What?" But his smile broadened. From that moment on I began to be terribly afraid for him.'
The significance of the defeat at Stalingrad, in whatever light Goebbels presented it, could not be concealed from the German people, and the group around Hans Scholl realised that they should follow up with another leaflet immediately. This, the last from the White Rose, was quickly prepared and addressed to their 'Fellow Students'. It was more strongly and directly expressed than any of its predecessors.
"The day of reckoning is come, the reckoning of German youth with the most appalling tyranny that our people has ever endured. In the name of the entire German people we demand from Adolf Hitler the return of our personal freedom, the most valuable possession of the Germans..."
Hans and Sophie decided to distribute it in the university personally.
On Thursday 18 February 1943 the weather was springlike -- They hurried to the university at 10 a.m. before the first morning lectures were over, carrying copies of the new leaflet in a small suitcase. They hurried to spread them wherever they could -- on windowsills, shelves, the tops of walls -- until their supply was almost exhausted.
They had already left the main building when they decided to go back and get rid of the rest. They ran up the main staircase of the university's central hall and emptied the remaining contents of the case from a parapet into the courtyard. They were just in time. Immediately afterwards the doors of the lecture halls opened and students poured out. But the Scholls had been seen. The university's caretaker, Jakob Schmid, charged towards them as they raced back down the staircase, seized them each by the arm and bellowed, 'You're under arrest!'
Both the young people stayed calm. They remained quiet and dignified as they were taken first to the bursar and then to the rector, SS Oberfuhrer Dr Walter Wrist, lecturer in Aryan language and culture. The doors of the university were sealed and all the students remaining inside had to assemble in the courtyard. Those who had picked up leaflets had to surrender them. The Scholls were taken to Gestapo Headquarters in handcuffs. Secret police went immediately to the rooms at Franz-Josef-Strasse, where they found several hundred new red 8-pfennig stamps. Very soon afterwards, the Gestapo was on the trail of the rest of the group, though the Scholls betrayed no one. Christoph Probst was arrested the following day and the others soon after.
The Scholls had known the risk that they were running. Sophie had even said shortly before: 'So many people have already died for this regime that it's time someone died against it.' There had been plenty of indications that the Gestapo investigation had been getting closer to them every day. They failed to receive a warning at the eleventh hour: the previous day, 17 February, Otl Aicher, who had been wounded on active service, was staying with Carl Muth. He was in Munich with the intention of seeing Hans and Sophie, but before he could make contact he received an urgent coded message from Ulm by telephone, to the effect that Hans should be told personally that the 'book called Totalitanian State and Utopia was out of print'. He had rung Hans and told him that he had important news. They made a date for the following day--18 February -- at 11a.m. But when Aicher reached Franz-Josef-Strasse, it was too late. The Gestapo were already there, and he, too, was arrested--luckily to be released soon afterwards.
Hans and Sophie were not tortured, but they were interrogated intensively for four days in Gestapo Headquarters at Wittelsbach Palace in Munich. Otl Aicher and Traute Lafrenz took the bad news to their parents, who tried to see if anything could be done to secure their release. It was in vain. Throughout their ordeal, the brother and sister, who each shared cells with one other political prisoner of their own sex, remained calm and fatalistic. Neither of them was broken by the experience. The trial was set for 22 February. Roland Freisler, Hitler's hanging judge, flew down from Berlin specially to preside. This was an indication of the importance the Nazi leadership considered the White Rose to have. The war was lost; the Allies were already bombing Munich; but protestors still had to be smashed.
The hearing started at 9 a.m. and lasted until 1 p.m. It was a closed trial, and those without passes, including Hans's and Sophie's parents, were not admitted, though Robert was able to force an entrance briefly. The Scholls were tried together with Christoph Probst. None of them flinched under the sarcastic, hectoring onslaught of the judge. The verdict was a foregone conclusion: death by the guillotine. They were taken from the court to Stadelheim Prison immediately after judgement had been passed.
By a miracle the parents had a last opportunity to see their children. They saw Hans first. Robert embraced him saying, 'You will go down in history. There is another justice than this.' Hans asked them to say farewell to his friends, and only when he mentioned one name very special to him did he weep, bowing his head so that no one should see. Sophie, when her turn came, accepted some little cakes that her brother had refused, saying, 'Lovely. I didn't get anything to eat at lunchtime.' She looked wonderful, fresh and full of life. Her mother said, 'I'll never see you come through the door again.' 'Oh mother,' she answered, 'after all, it's only a few years' more life I'll miss.' She was pleased and proud that they had betrayed no one, that they had taken all the responsibility on themselves. Her main concern was that her mother should be able to withstand the deaths of two children at the same time. But, for herself, she was completely composed.
The parents left and returned to Ulm, thinking that something might still be done to help--at least to get the sentence commuted. But in the Nazi State, punishment normally followed sentence with terrifying speed. By 6 p.m. Sophie and Hans were dead.
The following day, Inge Scholl was able to visit the flat in Franz-Josef-Strasse and there she found Sophie's diary, which had been overlooked by the Gestapo. Inge saw it as a gift from heaven. The family, in accordance with Nazi custom, was placed under arrest for being related to the malefactors. Kurt Huber, Willi Graf and Alexander Schmorell, who were arrested later, were sentenced to death on 19 April.
Hans and Sophie were buried in Perlach Cemetery in south Munich on 24 February. In the town, graffiti appeared on walls: 'Their spirit lives.'