Exactly 67 years ago today three young Germans went to their deaths following a perfunctory Nazi show trial prosecuted by the notorious Roland Freisler. The three were members of the White Rose, a war-time anti-Nazi resistance group little known outside Germany, even today. In the months and years following those first executions other members of the group, most of them young, idealistic and patriotic, also lost their lives to the vengeful Nazi state.
This article first appeared here two years ago, but is republished to commemorate the deaths of those brave young people and to bring their sacrifice to the attention of British anti-fascists. It hardly does the members of the White Rose justice, but we hope it will serve to ignite an interest in their activities and their lives, and cause their memory to be kept by all who value freedom and democracy.
The six leaflets which cost the White Rose so dear are reproduced in full in this article. The translations are not ours, nor is the source text for the leaflets, and any errors have been preserved.
* * *
The resistance movement – if such it can be called – in Nazi Germany remains something of a mystery to all but the most informed. We are all familiar with the so nearly successful attempt by Claus von Stauffenberg to assassinate Adolf Hitler in July 1944, and of its bloody aftermath. That plot ultimately had a pre-war genesis, among the very General Staff officers upon which Hitler relied to plan and effect his conquests. But that nucleus of German General Staff officers and their mostly conservative allies were motivated not so much by anti-Nazism (though many despised the creed) as a desire not to allow Hitler to plunge Germany into military adventures that might ultimately lead to the destruction of the Reich.
Time and again before the war concerned German officers passed information to Britain and France, urging the governments of those countries to stand up to Hitler’s territorial demands, and time and again their concerns and their plans (to stage a coup against Hitler) were never addressed, if they were ever taken seriously at all.
So it was that this strand of German opposition turned in on itself, seemingly to disappear until the spectacular disaster of July 20th, 1944. But there were many plots on the part of the military opposition, which, as the war progressed, came to realise that staging a coup against Hitler was out of the question, and that only his death would create the conditions in which the Nazi Party could be deprived of power and the war brought to an end. Each of these plots fell victim to chance.
Opposition to the regime was always fragmented in Nazi Germany. Outside of the military and the aristocracy, most of the existing groups had their antecedants in pre-1933 political parties and religious groups, and operated largely in isolation.
Apart from later attempts by the military opposition to kill their own chief, the only other known determined attempt to bring about the death of Hitler was that of Georg Elser. Elser, a carpenter, was a devout Lutheran with tenuous connections to the German Communist Party, who appears to have acted entirely of his own volition when he set a bomb to explode during a Hitler speech in Munich’s Bürgerbräukeller. In the event, Hitler gave a shorter than expected speech and left the Bürgerbräukeller several minutes before Elser’s bomb detonated. Eight Nazis were killed, and Elser was soon under arrest. Curiously he remained alive until just before the end of the war, when the regime, in the madness of its death throes, took care of much unfinished business. Elser was executed at Dachau on April 9th, 1945.
The more famous opponents of the regime we are largely familiar with – pastors Dietrich Bonhoeffer (hanged on April 9th, 1945) and Martin Niemöller (author of “First They Came…”), the Catholic Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen, and other brave men and women who stood against the all-powerful state.
Less well known are the young members of a group centred around the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich.
What this group attempted seems to us born of a breathtaking naivety, given the time and the place of its occurence – and also astonishingly brave. Incomprehensibly brave.
Among their number were students Hans Scholl (25), Christoph Probst (23), Willi Graf (25), and Alexander Schmorell (25). All four had seen military service in the Soviet Union, where they had witnessed atrocities and the casual ill-treatment of captured enemy soldiers and civilians. Their experiences left them resolutely anti-Nazi and determined to bring the regime down. Also part of the group were Professor Kurt Huber (49), Hans Leipelt (24) and Hans Scholl’s sister, Sophie (22).
The White Rose was actually founded in June 1942, and distributed a series of six leaflets, mostly in Munich but also in other German and Austrian cities. Intended for clandestine and hand-to-hand distribution, The White Rose hoped that recipients would copy and further re-distribute its message.
Copies of each White Rose leaflet still exist. These unique historical documents make for fascinating reading, and before continuing we reproduce the text of each of them below.
* * *Leaflet 1
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 of 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 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 as best he can at this late hour, he must work 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 Freidrich 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 start, firmly established on its own principles. Political effectiveness and permanence were the goal toward which he strove, and he attained this goal to the full extent possible under 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 man’s power, 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 be comes a prolonged evil, and the longer it endures, the more harmful it is.
…..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 foundation 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.”
From Goethe’s The Awakening of Epimenides, Act II, Scene 4.
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 mustreturn.
Already a terrible fear has seized him;
In vain he will resist!
And all who still stand with him
Must perish in his fall.
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:
(from all sides and ends Echo!)
Please make as many copies of this leaflet as you can and distribute them.
It is impossible to engage in intellectual discourse with 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 is 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, an 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 deserve 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 yet 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 all 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 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 cries 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 last start up out of his stupor, if he does not protest wherever and whenever he can against this clique of criminal, 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 was 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 clearminded, but he does not try to be brilliant. Lao-Tzu
. . . . . 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, others succumb.
The wise man will accordingly forswear excess, he will avoid arrogance and not overreach. Lao-Tzu
. . . . .
Please make as many copies as possible of this leaflet and distribute them.
“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 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 is 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 institutes, 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 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 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 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 forment wars.”
Please duplicate and distribute!!!
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
Novalis: 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. 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!
Please reproduce and distribute these!
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 are your seducers? 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.
Support the resistance, distribute the leaflets!
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 National Socialist enslavement of Europe in a fervent new breakthrough of freedom and honor.
* * *Sophie Scholl only became aware of brother Hans’s White Rose activities after the group had been founded, and insisted on joining. She quickly became an invaluable member, though she appears to have had little to do with the writing of the leaflets.
Christoph Probst joined The White Rose late on, and was responsible for the design (but not the text) of the sixth and final leaflet. Christoph was half-Jewish (as was Hans Leipelt), and understandably critical of the Nazis. Due to his (in Nazi eyes) suspect status, and the fact that he was a married man with very young children, Christoph attempted to stay in the background.
Willi Graf came of a Catholic family and had already been in trouble with the Nazi authorities for his activities with the banned Catholic group, the Grauer Orden (the Grey Order), while Alexander Schmorell was half-Russian and held to his mother’s Russian Orthodox faith.
The White Rose’s first four leaflets were written by Schmorell and Hans Scholl, and the last by Kurt Huber. This final leaflet was taken by Hans Leipelt and Marie-Luise Jahn, who intended to make copies for distribution in Hamburg.
The Scholl siblings had – rather incredibly – taken part in a Munich student demonstration against the Nazi regime (the only known occurence of its kind), and on February 18th, 1943, recklessly flung copies of the final leaflet from an upper storey of the university’s main block. Their arrests, along with that of Christoph Probst, quickly followed.
The Nazi authorities could not send the three young people to their deaths quickly enough. Following torture at the hands of the Gestapo, they found themselves on trial on February 21st – just three days after their arrest.
The prosecutor was the notorious Roland Freisler, but neither Freisler nor the certainty of their own deaths broke the dignity or the convictions of the defendants, which won them much respect. “Somebody, after all, had to make a start,” said Sophie Scholl to the court. “What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just do not dare express themselves as we did.”
The next day, February 23rd, the three were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. A few hours later, at Munich’s Stadelheim prison, they were beheaded. Those present recorded the courage with which they went to their deaths, Sophie’s last words as she approached the guillotine being “Die Sonne scheint noch” (”The sun still shines”).
Willi Graf, along with sister Anneliese (who survived the war), had also been arrested on the 18th, but he did not stand trial until April 19th, when he was sentenced to death.
February 24th (the day following the execution of Probst and the Scholl siblings) saw the arrest of Alexander Schmorell, who had attempted to escape, and on February 27th Professor Huber was taken by the Gestapo. Both came before the Nazi People’s Court and Freisler, and were sentenced to death on April 19th. They were beheaded at Stadelheim on July 13th.
Willi Graf, after enduring months of torture, was finally beheaded at Stadelheim on October 12th. He gave nothing away to the Gestapo.
That was not the end of the White Rose affair. Hans Leipelt and Marie-Luise Jahn were arrested after being denounced for collecting funds for the executed Kurt Huber’s widow. On October 13th they came before the People’s Court at Donauwörth, Leipelt receiving a death sentence, Jahn twelve years at labour. Hans Leipelt was beheaded at Stadelheim on January 29th, 1945.
* * *
At the behest of Alexander Schmorell’s father, an uncle and Nazi Party member petitioned Heinrich Himmler for the young man’s life. Himmler’s lack of human compassion is clear in his reply, reproduced here:
Esteemed Party Member Hoffmann!
I have received the petition for clemency you sent on 17.3.1943, and which was signed by both your brothers concerning the student Alexander Schmorell.
I find it a very decent thing that you, as long-time members of the Party, wish to intercede on behalf of your sister and your brother-in-law. For that reason, I am terribly sorry to have to tell you that I cannot support any such pardon. I would gladly let you have a look into the investigation files, so that you could also see that the reprehensible deeds of Alexander Schmorell, which assuredly can be traced back, in large part, to the Russian part of his blood, have earned him a fitting punishment.
At a time when thousands of worthy German people are putting their lives on the line for the Fatherland, it would be irresponsible not to carry out the the fullness of the death penalty. It is possible for there to be a singular unworthy person in any family – however, it is then necessary that this person be eliminated from the family and greater community.
(Note that this letter is dated several days before Schmorrel’s trial.)
* * *
The White Rose is not forgotten in Germany. There are several monuments to the members of the group, and many German towns and cities have streets, plazas and even schools named for them. Memorial services and other commemoration ceremonies will be taking place throughout the country today – and we join them in spirit.
Our article has given only a bare outline of the story of the White Rose, but greater detail can be found using these links:
The White Rose – author unknown
The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943 – an account by Hans and Sophie Scholl’s younger sister and White Rose member Inge Scholl (more here on Inge)
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose – biography by Jud Newborn and Annette Dumbach