White Rose

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Monument to the "Weiße Rose" in front of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

The White Rose (German: die Weiße Rose) was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany led by a group of students and a professor at the University of Munich. The group conducted an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign which called for active opposition against the Nazi regime. Their activities started in Munich on June 27th, 1942, and ended with the arrest of the core group by the Gestapo on February 18th, 1943.[1] They, as well as other members and supporters of the group who carried on distributing the pamphlets, faced show trials by the Nazi People's Court (Volksgerichtshof), and many were sentenced to death or imprisonment.

The group wrote, printed and initially distributed their pamphlets in the greater Munich region. Later on, secret carriers brought copies to other cities, mostly in the southern parts of Germany. In total, the White Rose authored six leaflets, which were multiplied and spread, in a total of about 15,000 copies. They branded the Nazi regime's crimes and oppression, and called for resistance. In their second leaflet, they openly denounced the persecution and mass murder of the Jews. By the time of their arrest, members of the White Rose were just about to establish contacts with other German resistance groups like the Kreisau Circle or the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack group of the Red Orchestra. Today, the White Rose is well-known within Germany and worldwide.

Members and supporters

Students from the University of Munich comprised the core of the White Rose: the siblings Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst, and Kurt Huber, a professor of philosophy and musicology.

They were supported by other persons, including Traute Lafrenz, Katharina Schüddekopf, Lieselotte (Lilo) Berndl, Jürgen Wittenstein, Marie-Luise Jahn, Falk Harnack, Hubert Furtwängler, Wilhelm Geyer, Manfred Eickemeyer, Josef Söhngen, Heinrich Guter, Heinrich Bollinger, Helmut Bauer, Harald Dohrn, Hans Conrad Leipelt, Gisela Schertling, Rudi Alt[2] and Wolfgang Jaeger.[3] Most were in their early twenties. Wilhelm Geyer taught Alexander Schmorell how to make the tin templates used in the graffiti campaign. Eugen Grimminger of Stuttgart funded their operations. Grimminger's secretary Tilly Hahn contributed her own funds to the cause, and acted as go-between for Grimminger and the group in Munich. She frequently carried supplies such as envelopes, paper, and an additional duplicating machine from Stuttgart to Munich. In addition, a group of students in the city of Ulm distributed a number of the group's leaflets. Among this group were Sophie Scholl's childhood friend Susanne Hirzel and her teenage brother Hans Hirzel (de) and Franz J. Müller (de).[4]

Historical and intellectual background

Germany in 1942/1943

White Rose survivor Jürgen Wittenstein described what it was like for ordinary Germans to live in Nazi Germany:

"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."

— George J. Wittenstein, M. D.,"Memories of the White Rose", 1979[5]

The activities of the White Rose started by the end of 1942. This was a time which was particularly critical for the Nazi regime: After initial victories in World War II, the German population became increasingly aware of the losses and damages of the war. In Summer 1942, the German Wehrmacht was preparing a new military campaign in the southern part of the East front in order to regain the initiative after their earlier defeat close to Moscow. In February 1943, the advance of the German army had come to a halt at the Eastern front, and faced a major defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad. During this time, the authors of the pamphlets could neither be discovered, nor could the campaign be stopped by the Nazi authorities. When Hans and Sophie Scholl were discovered and arrested whilst distributing leaflets at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich,[1] the regime reacted brutally. As the "Volksgerichtshof" was not bound to the law, but led by Nazi ideology, its actions were declared unlawful in post-war Germany. Thus, the execution of the White Rose group members, amongst many others, is considered as judicial murder.[6]

Social background

The members of the core group all shared an academic background, being students at Munich university. The Scholl siblings, Christoph Probst, Willi Graf and Alexander Schmorell were all raised by liberal, independently thinking and wealthy parents. Alexander Schmorell was born in Russia, and his first language was Russian. After he and Hans Scholl had become friends at the university, Alexander invited Hans to his parents' home, where Hans also met Christoph Probst at the beginning of 1941. Alexander Schmorell and Christoph Probst had already been friends since their school days. As Christoph's father had been divorced, and had married again to a Jewish wife, the effects of the Nazi Nuremberg Laws, and Nazi racial ideology had impacts on both Christoph's and Alexander's lives from early on.[7]

The German Youth Movement and the Hitler Youth

The ideas and thoughts of German Youth Movement, founded in 1896, had a major impact on the German youth at the beginning of the twentieth century. The movement aimed at providing free space to develop some healthy life. A common trait of the various organizations was a romantic longing for a pristine state of things, a return to older cultural traditions, with a strong emphasis on independent, non-conformist thinking. They propagated a return to nature, confraternity and shared adventures. The Deutsche Jungenschaft vom 1.11.1929 (abbreviated as "d.j.1.11.") was part of this youth movement, founded by Eberhard Koebel in 1929. Christoph Probst was a member of the German Youth Movement, Willi Graf was a member of "Neudeutschland" ("New Germany"), and the "Grauer Orden" ("Grey Convent"), illegal Catholic youth organizations.[8]

The Nazi party's youth organization took over some of the elements of the Youth Movement, and engaged their members in activities similar to the adventures of Boy scouts, but also subjected them to ideological indoctrination. Some, but not all, of the White Rose members had enthusiastically joined the youth organizations of the Nazi party: Hans Scholl had joined the Hitler Youth, Sophie Scholl was a member of the Bund Deutscher Mädel. Membership of both party youth organizations was compulsory for young Germans, although a few—such as Willi Graf, Otl Aicher, and Heinz Brenner—refused to join. Sophie and Hans' sister Inge Scholl reported about the initial enthusiasm of the young people for the Nazi youth organization, to their parents' dismay:[7]

'But there was something else that drew us with mysterious power and swept us along: the closed ranks of marching youth with banners waving, eyes fixed straight ahead, keeping time to drumbeat and song. Was not this sense of fellowship overpowering? It is not surprising that all of us, Hans and Sophie and the others, joined the Hitler Youth? We entered into it with body and soul, and we could not understand why our father did not approve, why he was not happy and proud. On the contrary, he was quite displeased with us.

— Inge Scholl, The White Rose

Youth organizations other than those led by the Nazi party were dissolved and officially forbidden in 1936. Both Hans Scholl and Willi Graf were arrested in 1937–1938 because of their membership in forbidden Youth Movement organizations. Hans Scholl had joined the Deutsche Jungenschaft 1. 11. in 1934, when he and other Ulm Hitler Youth members considered membership in this group and the Hitler Youth to be compatible. Hans Scholl was also accused of transgressing the German anti-homosexuality law, because of a same-sex teen relationship dating back to 1934–1935, when Hans was only 16 years old. The argument was built partially on the work of Eckard Holler, a sociologist specializing in the German Youth Movement,[9] as well as on the Gestapo interrogation transcripts from the 1937–1938 arrest, and with reference to historian George Mosse's discussion of the homoerotic aspects of the German "bündische Jugend" Youth Movement.[10] As Mosse indicated, idealized romantic attachments among male youths was not uncommon in Germany, especially among members of the "Bündische Jugend" associations. It was argued that the experience of being persecuted may have led both Hans and Sophie to identify with the victims of the Nazi state, providing another explanation for why Hans and Sophie Scholl made their way from ardent "Hitler Youth" leaders to passionate opponents of the Nazi regime.[11]


The White Rose group was motivated by ethical and moral considerations. They came from various religious backgrounds. Willi Graf and Katharina Schüddekopf were devout Catholics. Alexander Schmorell was an Orthodox Christian. Traute Lafrenz adhered to the concepts of anthroposophy, while Eugen Grimminger considered himself a Buddhist. Christoph Probst was baptized a Catholic only shortly before his execution. His father Hermann was nominally a Catholic, but also a private scholar of Eastern thought and wisdom. In their diaries and letters to friends, both Scholl siblings wrote about their reading of Christian Scholars, including Augustine of Hippo,[12] Etienne Gilson, whose work on Medieval philosophy they discussed amongst other philosophical works within their network of friends.[7]

Mentors and role models

In 1941, Hans Scholl read a copy of a sermon by an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime, Bishop August von Galen, decrying the euthanasia policies expressed in Action T4 (and extended that same year to the Nazi concentration camps by Action 14f13)[13] which the Nazis maintained would protect the German gene pool.[14] Horrified by the Nazi policies, Sophie obtained permission to reprint the sermon and distribute it at the University of Munich as the group's first leaflet prior to their formal organization.[14]

In 1940, Otl Aicher had met Carl Muth, the founder of the Catholic magazine Hochland. Otl in turn introduced Hans Scholl to Muth in 1941.[15] In his letters to Muth, Hans wrote about his growing attraction towards the Catholic Christian faith.[16] Both Hans and Sophie Scholl were influenced by Carl Muth whom they describe as deeply religious, and opposed to Nazism. He drew the Scholl siblings' attention to the persecution of the Jews, which he considered as sinful and anti-Christian.[17]

Both Sophie Scholl and Willi Graf attended some of Kurt Huber's lectures at the University of Munich. Kurt Huber was known amongst his students for the political innuendos which he used to include in his university lectures, by which he criticized Nazi ideology by talking about classical philosophers like Leibniz. He met Hans Scholl for the first time in June 1942, was admitted to the activities of the White Rose on 17 December 1942,[18] and became their mentor and the main author of the sixth pamphlet.

Experience at the World War II Eastern Front

Hans Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, Christoph Probst, and Willi Graf were medical students. Their studies were regularly interrupted by terms of compulsory service as student soldiers in the Wehrmacht medical corps at the Eastern Front. Their experience during this time had a major impact on their thinking, and had motivated their resistance, as it led to disillusionment with the Nazi regime.[19] Alexander Schmorell, who was born in Orenburg and raised by Russian nurses, spoke perfect Russian, which allowed him to have a direct contact and communication with the local Russian population and their plight. This Russian insight proved invaluable during their time there, and he could convey to his fellow White Rose members what was not understood or even heard by other Germans coming from the Eastern front.[7]

In summer 1942, several members of the White Rose had to serve for three months on the Russian front alongside many other male medical students from the University of Munich. There, they observed the horrors of war, saw beatings and other mistreatment of Jews by the Germans, and heard about the persecution of the Jews from reliable sources.[20] Some witnessed atrocities of the war on the battlefield and against civilian populations in the East. In a letter to his sister Anneliese, Willi Graf wrote: "I wish I had been spared the view of all this which I had to witness."[21] Gradually, detachment gave way to the conviction that something had to be done. It was not enough to keep to oneself one's beliefs, and ethical standards, but the time had come to act.[5]

The members of the White Rose were fully aware of the risks they incurred by their acts of resistance:

I knew what I took upon myself and I was prepared to lose my life by so doing.

— From the interrogation of Hans Scholl.

Origin of the name

Under Gestapo interrogation, Hans Scholl gave several explanations for the origin of the name "The White Rose," and suggested he may have chosen it while he was under the emotional influence of a 19th-century poem with the same name by German poet Clemens Brentano. It was also speculated that the name might have been taken from a German novel Die Weiße Rose (The White Rose), published in Berlin in 1929 and written by B. Traven, the German author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Hans Scholl and Alex Schmorell had read this novel. They also wrote that the symbol of the white rose was intended to represent purity and innocence in the face of evil.[22]

It has been argued that Hans Scholl's response to the Gestapo was intentionally misleading in order to protect Josef Söhngen, the anti-Nazi bookseller who had provided the White Rose members with a safe meeting place for the exchange of information and to receive occasional financial contributions. Söhngen kept a stash of banned books hidden in his store, and had also hidden the pamphlets when they had been printed.[11]

Actions: The leaflets and graffiti

After their experiences at the Eastern Front, having learned about mass murder in Poland and Russia, Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell felt compelled to take action. From end of June until mid of July 1942, they wrote the first four leaflets. Quoting extensively from the Bible, Aristotle and Novalis, as well as Goethe and Schiller, the iconic poets of German bourgeoisie, they appealed to what they considered the German intelligentsia, believing that these people would be easily convinced by the same arguments that also motivated the authors themselves. These leaflets were left in telephone books in public phone booths, mailed to professors and students, and taken by courier to other universities for distribution.[5] From 23 July to 30 October 1942, Graf, Scholl and Schmorell served again at the Russian front, and activities ceased until their return. In autumn 1942, Sophie Scholl discovered that her brother Hans was one of the authors of the pamphlets, and joined the group. Shortly after, Willi Graf, and by the end of December 1942, Kurt Huber became members of the White Rose.[7]

In January 1943, the fifth leaflet, "Aufruf an alle Deutsche!" ("Appeal to all Germans!") was produced in 6,000–9,000 copies, using a hand-operated duplicating machine. It was carried to other German Cities between 27 and 29 January 1943 by the members and supporters of the group to many cities, and then mailed from there. Copies appeared in Saarbrücken, Stuttgart, Cologne, Vienna, Freiburg, Chemnitz, Hamburg, Innsbruck and Berlin. Sophie Scholl stated during her Gestapo interrogation that from summer 1942 on, the aim of the White Rose was to address a broader range of the population. Consequently, in the fifth leaflet, the name of the group was changed from White Rose to "German Resistance Movement", and also the style of writing became more polemic and less intellectual.[23] The students had become convinced during their military service that the war was lost: "Hitler kann den Krieg nicht gewinnen, nur noch verlängern. - Hitler cannot win the war, he can only prolong it." They appealed to renounce "national socialist subhumanism", imperialism and Prussian militarism "for all time". The reader was urged to "Support the resistance movement!" in the struggle for "freedom of speech, freedom of religion and protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of criminal dictator-states". These were the principles that would form "the foundations of a new Europe".

By the end of January 1943, the Battle of Stalingrad ended with the capitulation and near-total loss of the Wehrmacht's Sixth Army. In Stalingrad, World War II had taken a decisive turn, inspiring resistance movements throughout European countries, then occupied by Germany. It also had a devastating effect on German morale. On 13 January 1943, a student riot broke out at Munich University, after the Nazi Gauleiter of Munich and Upper Bavaria had denounced in a speech male students not serving in the army as skulkers, and had made obscene remarks to female students. These events encouraged the members of the White Rose. When the defeat at Stalingrad was officially announced, they sent out their sixth – and last – leaflet. The tone of this writing, authored by Kurt Huber and revised by Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell, was more patriotic. Headed "Fellow students!" (the now-iconic Kommilitoninnen! Kommilitonen!), it announced that the "day of reckoning" had come for "the most contemptible tyrant our people has ever endured." "The dead of Stalingrad adjure us!"[24]

On 3rd, 8th, and 15 February 1943, Alexander Schmorell, Hans Scholl, and Willi Graf used tin stencils to write paroles like "Down with Hitler" and "Freedom" on the walls of the university and other buildings in Munich.[7]

Capture, Gestapo interrogation and trial

Atrium of the Munich University main building, where Hans and Sophie Scholl were arrested on 18 February 1943
File:Jakob Schmid Februar 1947.jpg
Jakob Schmid in February 1947
File:Justizpalast, Weisse Rose.jpg
White Rose memorial at Room 253 of the Munich Court of Justice, where the first trial was held

On 18 February 1943, the Scholls brought a suitcase full of leaflets to the university main building. They hurriedly dropped stacks of copies in the empty corridors for students to find when they left the lecture rooms. Leaving before the lectures had ended, the Scholls noticed that there were some left-over copies in the suitcase and decided to distribute them. Sophie flung the last remaining leaflets from the top floor down into the atrium. This spontaneous action was observed by the university maintenance man, Jakob Schmied.[25] Hans and Sophie Scholl were taken into Gestapo custody. A draft of a seventh pamphlet, written by Christoph Probst, was found in the possession of Hans Scholl at the time of his arrest by the Gestapo. While Sophie Scholl got rid of incriminating evidence before being taken into custody, Hans did try to destroy the draft of the last leaflet by tearing it apart and trying to swallow it down. However, the Gestapo recovered enough to match the handwriting with other writings from Probst, which they found when they searched Hans's apartment.[26] The main Gestapo interrogator was Robert Mohr, who initially thought Sophie was innocent. However, after Hans had confessed, Sophie assumed full responsibility in an attempt to protect other members of the White Rose.

The Scholls and Probst were to stand trial before the Volksgerichtshof— the Nazi "People's Court" infamous for its unfair political trials, which more often than not ended with a death sentence — on 22 February 1943. They were found guilty of treason. Roland Freisler, head judge of the court, sentenced them to death. The three were executed the same day by guillotine at Stadelheim Prison. All three were noted for the courage with which they faced their deaths, particularly Sophie, who remained firm despite intense interrogation, and intimidations by Freisler during the trial. She replied: "You know as well as we do that the war is lost. Why are you so cowardly that you won't admit it?"[27] Immediately before Hans was executed, he cried out "Es lebe die Freiheit! - Long live freedom!", as the blade fell.[7]

Willi Graf had already been arrested on 18 February 1943; in his interrogations, which continued until his execution in October 1943, he successfully covered other members of the group. Alexander Schmorell was recognized, denounced and arrested on 24 February 1943, after his return to Munich following an unsuccessful effort to travel to Switzerland. Kurt Huber was taken into custody on 26 February, and only now the Gestapo learned about his role within the White Rose group.[7]

The second White Rose trial took place on 19 April 1943. On trial were Hans Hirzel, Susanne Hirzel, Franz Josef Müller, Heinrich Guter, Eugen Grimminger, Heinrich Bollinger, Helmut Bauer and Falk Harnack. At the last minute, the prosecutor added Traute Lafrenz, Gisela Schertling and Katharina Schüddekopf.[3] Willi Graf, Kurt Huber, and Alexander Schmorell were sentenced to death. Eleven others were sentenced to prison, and Falk Harnack was acquitted of the accusations. Schmorell and Huber were executed on 13 July 1943, Willi Graf was further interrogated, but managed to cover his friend Willi Bollinger, and finally executed on 12 October 1943. On 29 January 1945, Hans Konrad Leipelt was executed. He had been sent down from Hamburg university in 1940 because of his Jewish descendancy, and had copied and further distributed the White Rose's pamphlets together with his girlfriend Marie-Luise Jahn. They were now entitled "And their spirit lives on".[28]

The third White Rose trial was scheduled for 20 April 1943, Hitler's birthday, which was a public holiday in Nazi Germany. Judge Freisler had intended to issue death sentences against Wilhelm Geyer, Harald Dohrn, Josef Söhngen and Manfred Eickemeyer. As he did not want to issue too many death sentences at one single trial, he wanted therefore to postpone his judgment against those four to the next day. However, the evidence against them was lost, and the trial finally took place on 13 July 1943. At that trial, Gisela Schertling—who had betrayed most of the friends, even fringe members like Gerhard Feuerle—changed her mind and recanted her testimony against all of them. Since Freisler did not preside over the third trial, the judge acquitted for lack of evidence all but Söhngen, who was sentenced to a six months' term in prison. After her acquittal on 19 April, Traute Lafrenz was put into arrest again. She spent the last year of the war in prison. Trials kept being postponed and moved to different locations because of Allied air raids. Her trial was finally set for April 1945, after which she probably would have been executed. Three days before the trial, however, the Allies liberated the town where she was held prisoner, thereby saving her life.

Reactions in Germany and abroad during World War II

The hopes of the White Rose members that the defeat at Stalingrad would incite the German opposition against the Nazi regime and its war did not come true. On the contrary, the Nazi propaganda used the defeat to call on the German people to embrace "Total War". Coincidentally, on 18 February 1943, the same day that saw the arrests of Sophie and Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels delivered his Sportpalast speech, and was enthusiastically applauded by his audience.

Shortly after the arrest of the Scholl siblings and Christoph Probst, newspapers published all-points bulletins in search of Alexander Schmorell. On 22 February 1943, the students of Munich were assembled, and officially protested against the "traitors" who came from within their ranks. Gestapo and Nazi jurisdiction documented in their files their view of the White Rose members as "traitors and defeatists". On 23 February, the official newspaper of the Nazi party, "Völkischer Beobachter" and local newspapers in Munich[29] briefly reported about the capture and execution of some "degenerate rogues".[30] However, the network of friends and supporters proved to be too large, so that the rumors about the White Rose could not be suppressed any more by Nazi German officials. Until the end of World War II, further prosecutions took place, and German newspapers continued to report, mostly in brief notes, that further people had been arrested and punished. On 15 March 1943, a report by the Sicherheitsdienst of the Schutzstaffel stated that rumors about the leaflets spread "considerable unrest" amongst the German population. The report expressed particular concern about the fact that leaflets were not handed in to the Nazi authorities by their finders as promptly as they used to be in the past.[31]

On 18 April 1943, the New York Times mentioned the student opposition in Munich.[32] The paper also published articles on the first White Rose trials on 29 March 1943 and 25 April 1943.[33] Though they did not correctly record all of the information about the resistance, the trials, and the execution, they were the first acknowledgement of the White Rose in the United States.

On 27 June 1943, the German author and Nobel prize winner Thomas Mann, in his monthly anti-Nazi broadcasts by the BBC called "Deutsche Hörer!" ("German Audience!") highly praised the White Rose members' courage. The Soviet Army propaganda issued a leaflet, wrongly attributed by later researchers to the National Committee for a Free Germany, in honour of the White Rose's fight for freedom.[34]

The text of the sixth leaflet of the White Rose was smuggled out of Germany through Scandinavia to the United Kingdom by the German lawyer and member of the Kreisau Circle, Helmuth James Graf von Moltke. In July 1943, copies were dropped over Germany by Allied planes, retitled "The Manifesto of the Students of Munich".[35] Thus, the activities of the White Rose became widely known in World War II Germany, but, like other attempts at resistance, did not provoke any active opposition against the totalitarian regime within the German population.

Research history

For many years, Hans and Sophie's sister Inge Scholl's commemorative book "The White Rose",[36] first published in 1952, followed by several editions until 1982, as well as surviving copies of the pamphlets, reports by surviving members and supporters of the White Rose group[5][37] and editions of the letters and diaries of Sophie and Hans Scholl[38] and Willi Graf[39] were the only primary sources available for research.

With the end of communism in the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic in 1989/90, the Gestapo interrogation protocols and other documents from Nazi authorities became publicly available. The interrogation protocols were part of the Volksgerichtshof documents, and were confiscated by the Soviet Red Army, and brought to Moscow. Here, they were kept secret in a special archive. After the foundation of the German Democratic Republic, the major part of the Nazi documents were handed over to the East German government, except the documents concerning Alexander Schmorell, who was born in Russia. The documents were distributed between the Central Archive of the communist Socialist Unity Party of Germany and the archive of the Ministry for State Security. With the German reunification, the documents were transferred to the Federal Archive of Germany in Berlin, and finally published. The documents concerning Alexander Schmorell still remain in the State Military Archive of Russia, but have been fully transcribed and published in a German/Russian edition.[40]


A black granite memorial to the White Rose Movement in the Hofgarten in Munich with the dome of the Bavarian State Chancellery in the background
File:Geschwister-Scholl-Platz - Scholl Siblings Plaza - Outside Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat - Munich - Germany.jpg
"Geschwister-Scholl-Platz" - Scholl Siblings Square, outside the University main building, Munich, Germany

With the fall of Nazi Germany, the White Rose came to represent opposition to tyranny in the German psyche and was lauded for acting without interest in personal power or self-aggrandizement. Their story became so well known that the composer Carl Orff claimed (falsely by some accounts)[41][42][43] to his Allied interrogators that he was a founding member of the White Rose and was released. He was personally acquainted with Huber, but there is no evidence that Orff was ever involved in the movement.

On 5 February 2012 Alexander Schmorell was canonized as a New Martyr by the Orthodox Church.

The square where the central hall of Munich University is located has been named "Geschwister-Scholl-Platz" after Hans and Sophie Scholl; the square opposite to it is "Professor-Huber-Platz". Two large fountains are in front of the university, one on either side of Ludwigstraße. The fountain in front of the university is dedicated to Hans and Sophie Scholl. The other, across the street, is dedicated to Professor Huber. Many schools, streets, and other places across Germany are named in memory of the members of the White Rose.

One of Germany's leading literary prizes is called the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis (the "Scholl Siblings" prize). Likewise, the asteroid 7571 Weisse Rose is named after the group.

The White Rose has also received artistic treatments, including the acclaimed opera Weiße Rose by Udo Zimmermann, In memoriam: die weisse Rose by Hans Werner Henze and Kommilitonen!, an opera by Peter Maxwell Davies.

In the media

The following is a non-exhaustive chronological account of some of the more notable treatments of the White Rose in media, book and artistic form.

  • Beginning in the 1970s, three film accounts of the White Rose resistance were produced. The first was a film financed by the Bavarian state government entitled Das Versprechen (The Promise) and released in the 1970s. The film is not well known outside Germany, and to some extent even within the country. It was particularly notable in that unlike most films, it showed the White Rose from its inception and how it progressed. In 1982, Percy Adlon's Fünf letzte Tage (The Last Five Days) presented Lena Stolze as Sophie in her last days from the point of view of her cellmate Else Gebel. In the same year, Stolze repeated the role in Michael Verhoeven's Die Weiße Rose (The White Rose).
  • A book, Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, was published in English in February 2006. An account by Annette Dumbach and Dr. Jud Newborn tells the story behind the film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, focusing on the White Rose movement while setting the group's resistance in the broader context of German culture and politics and other forms of resistance during the Nazi era.
  • Udo Zimmermann composed a chamber opera about the White Rose (Weiße Rose) in 1986. Premiering in Hamburg, it went on to earn acclaim and a series of international performances.
  • Lillian Garrett-Groag's play, The White Rose, premiered at the Old Globe Theatre in 1991. Several plays have also been written by teachers in the USA for performance by students.
  • In Fatherland, an alternate history novel by Robert Harris, there is passing reference to the White Rose still remaining active in supposedly Nazi-ruled Germany in 1964.
  • In an extended German national TV competition held in the autumn of 2003 to choose "the ten greatest Germans of all time" (ZDF TV), Germans under the age of 40 placed Hans and Sophie Scholl in fourth place, selecting them over Bach, Goethe, Gutenberg, Willy Brandt, Bismarck, and Albert Einstein. Not long before, women readers of the mass-circulation magazine Brigitte had voted Sophie Scholl as "the greatest woman of the twentieth century".
  • In 2003, a group of students at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas established The White Rose Society dedicated to Holocaust remembrance and genocide awareness. Every April, the White Rose Society hands out 10,000 white roses on campus, representing the approximate number of people killed in a single day at Auschwitz. The date corresponds with Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. The group organizes performances of The Rose of Treason, a play about the White Rose, and has rights to show the movie Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage (Sophie Scholl: The Final Days). The White Rose Society is affiliated with Hillel and the Anti-Defamation League.[citation needed]
  • In February 2005, a movie about Sophie Scholl's last days, Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage (Sophie Scholl: The Final Days), featuring actress Julia Jentsch as Sophie, was released. Drawing on interviews with survivors and transcripts that had remained hidden in East German archives until 1990, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in January 2006. An American film project about the White Rose continues to be under development[citation needed] by co-author Jud Newborn of the 2006 book Sophie Scholl and the White Rose.[11]
  • The White Rose has inspired many people around the world, including many anti-war activists in recent years. Scattered throughout 2007–08, 5 hoax pipe bombs were placed at various military recruitment centers with the words "Die Weisse Rose" written upon them.[44][45]
  • In February 2009, a biography of Sophie Scholl, Sophie Scholl: The Real Story of the Woman Who Defied Hitler, was published in English by the History Press. The book, by the Oxford-educated British historian Frank McDonough.
  • The UK-based genocide prevention student network Aegis Students uses a white rose as their symbol in commemoration of the White Rose movement. There are numerous study guides to the White Rose, notably one available from the University of Minnesota's Holocaust Center.
  • In 2009, Dan Fesperman published a novel entitled The Arms Maker of Berlin in which activities by real and fictional White Rose characters play a significant role in the story.
  • In 2011, a documentary film by André Bossuroy addressing the memory of the victims of Nazism and of Stalinism ICH BIN, with the support from the Fondation Hippocrène and from the EACEA Agency of the European Commission (programme Europe for Citizens – An active European remembrance), RTBF, VRT. Four young Europeans meet with historians and witnesses of our past ... They investigate the events of the Second World War in Germany (the student movement of the White Rose in Munich), in France (the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in Paris, the resistance in Vercors) and in Russia (Katyn Forest massacre). They examine the impact of these events; curious as to how the European peoples are creating their identities today.

Primary sources

The White Rose Leaflets

Primary Source Materials in English Translation


  • If everyone waits until the other man makes a start, the messengers of avenging Nemesis will come steadily closer. (From Leaflet 1, urging immediate initiative by the reader. Nemesis of course punished those who had fallen to the temptation of hubris.)
  • Why do German people behave so apathetically in the face of all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race? ... The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals ... [The German] must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt ... For through his apathetic behaviour he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do ... he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated ... But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty! ... now that we have recognized [the Nazis] for what they are, it must be the sole and first duty, the holiest duty of every German to destroy these beasts. (From Leaflet 2)
  •  ...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. (From Leaflet 3)
  • We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace! (Leaflet 4's concluding phrase, which became the motto of the White Rose resistance.) "We will not be silent" has been put on T-shirts in many languages (among them Arabic, Spanish, French, Hebrew, and Persian) in protest against the U.S. war in Iraq. This shirt, in the English-Arabic version, led, in 2006, to the Iraqi blogger Raed Jarrar's being prevented from boarding a Jet Blue airplane from New York to his home in San Francisco, until he changed his shirt.[46]
  • Last words of Sophie Scholl: ... your heads will fall as well. There is, however, some dispute over whether Sophie or Hans actually said this; other sources claim that Sophie's final words were God, you are my refuge into eternity. The film Sophie Scholl, The Last Days shows her last words as being The sun still shines (however, these are probably fictitious).
  • Now my death will be easy and joyful. These were the words of Christoph Probst after a Catholic priest conditionally (sub conditione) baptized him and had heard his first Confession.
  • Hitler and his regime must fall so that Germany may live. This is from an unpublished leaflet written by Christoph Probst.
  • When you have decided, act. Another quote from Christoph Probst's unpublished leaflet.
  • I always made it a point to carry several extra copies of the leaflets with me whenever I was walking through the city – specifically for that purpose. Whenever I saw an opportune moment, I took it. Another Sophie Scholl quote.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "1942/43: The White Rose Resistance Group".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. The Newsletter of the Center for White Rose Studies: Roses at Noon. 17 December 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 Marcuse, Harold. "George Wittenstein biography and links".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Wittenstein, George (Jurgen), M.D., "Memories of the White Rose" (Part 4, Trial and Aftermath)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Wittenstein, George J., M.D., "Memories of the White Rose" (Part 1, Introduction and Background), 1979
  6. German Bundestag, 10th Term of Office, 118. plenary session. Bonn, Friday, 25 January 1985. Protocol, p. 8762: "The Volksgerichtshof was an instrument of state-sanctioned terror, which served one single purpose, which was the destruction of political opponents. Behind a juridical facade, state-sanctioned murder was committed." PDF, accessed 3 May 2016
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 Inge Scholl: The White Rose: Munich, 1942–1943. 2nd ed., originally published as "Students Against Tyranny". Transl. from the German Edition by Arthur R. Schulz. ISBN 978-0-8195-6086-5, p. 6
  8. "The White Rose Revolt & Resistance www.HolocaustResearchProject.org".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Eckard Holler, "Hans Scholl zwischen Hitlerjugend und dj.1.11 – Die Ulmer Trabanten," Puls 22, Verlag der Jugendbewegung (de), Stuttgart, 1999
  10. Mosse, George, "Nationalism and Sexuality," University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. ISBN 978-0-299-11894-5
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Jud Newborn, "Solving Mysteries: The Secret of 'The White Rose'," 2006 "Judnewborn.com" (PDF).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (267 KB)
  12. Scholl, Hans, and Sophia Scholl. At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl. Ed. Inge Jens. Trans. Maxwell Brownjohn. New York: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 103
  13. Lifton, Robert Jay, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, p. 135 1986 Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-04905-9
  14. 14.0 14.1 The White Rose Shoah Education Project Web
  15. Inge Scholl: The White Rose: Munich, 1942–1943. 2nd ed., originally published as "Students Against Tyranny". Transl. from the German Edition by Arthur R. Schulz. ISBN 978-0-8195-6086-5, p. 30
  16. Scholl, Hans, and Sophia Scholl. At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl. Ed. Inge Jens. Trans. Maxwell Brownjohn. New York: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 88
  17. Scholl, Hans, and Sophia Scholl. At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl. Ed. Inge Jens. Trans. Maxwell Brownjohn. New York: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 87
  18. Anneliese Knoop-Graf, Inge Jens (ed.): Willi Graf – Briefe und Aufzeichnungen. – Letters and [diary] records. Berlin, 1994, Fischer Verlag, ISBN 978-3-596-12367-4, p. 88, in German
  19. Detlef Bald, Die "Weiße Rose". Von der Front in den Widerstand. – The "White Rose". From the front to resistance. Aufbau Taschenbuch Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 978-3-7466-8116-0, pp. 11–24
  20. "The White Rose", Holocaust History.org. Archived from the original
  21. Anneliese Knoop-Graf, Inge Jens (ed.): Willi Graf – Briefe und Aufzeichnungen. – Letters and [diary] records. Berlin, 1994, Fischer Verlag, ISBN 978-3-596-12367-4, p. 147, in German
  22. Dumbach, Annette & Newborn, Jud Sophie Scholl & The White Rose, p. 58 2006 Oneworld Publications. ISBN 978-1-85168-536-3
  23. "Interrogation protocols of Sophie Scholl.".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "The White Rose - A Lesson in Dissent".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Schmied, Jakob. Gestapo Interrogation Transcripts: Willi Graf, Alexander Schmorell, Hans Scholl, and Sophie Scholl. ZC13267, Volumes 1 – 16. Schmaus. 18 February 1943. E-Document.
  26. Dumbach & Newborn, (2006)
  27. Hanser, A Noble Treason
  28. Ulrich Chaussy, Gerd R. Ueberschär: "Es lebe die Freiheit!" Die Geschichte der Weißen Rose und ihrer Mitglieder in Dokumenten und Berichten – "Let Freedom live! – The history of the White Rose and its members in documents and reports. Munich, Fischer Verlag, 2013, ISBN p. 99–100, in German
  29. Münchener Neuste Nachrichten, 23 February 1943
  30. Corina Petrescu: Against all odds. Models of subversive spaces in National Socialist Germany. Peter Lang Publishers, Bern 2010, ISBN 978-3-03911-845-8
  31. Boberach, Heinz (ed.). Meldungen aus dem Reich. Die geheimen Lageberichte des Sicherheitsdiensts der SS 1938–1945 = Reports from the Reich – The secret reports of the SS Sicherheitsdienst 1938–1945 (in German). Herrsching: Pawlak Verlag. p. 4944.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. New York Times: Signs of strain seen in German populace. 18 April 1943, p.13 online, accessed 25 April 2016
  33. George Axelsson (1943-03-29). "Nazis Execute 3 Munich Students For Writing Anti-Hitler Pamphlets". New York Times. New York City. p. 1. Retrieved 2013-09-08. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. "Senkt die Fahnen über frischen Gräbern deutscher Freiheitskämpfer! - Lower your banners to honor German freedom fighters' graves!". State Library of Berlin Collection of Manuscripts: Einbl. 1939/45, 8725, p. 75
  35. "G.39, Ein deutsches Flugblatt", Aerial Propaganda Leaflet Database, Second World War, Psywar.org. (German), with link to English translation
  36. Inge Scholl: The White Rose: Munich, 1942–1943. 2nd ed., originally published as "Students Against Tyranny". Transl. from the German Edition by Arthur R. Schulz. ISBN 978-0-8195-6086-5
  37. Otl Aicher: innenseiten des kriegs – the inside of war. 3rd ed., 1998, Fischer Verlag, Berlin, ISBN 978-3-596-13795-4
  38. Scholl, Hans, and Sophia Scholl. At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl. Ed. Inge Jens. Trans. Maxwell Brownjohn. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.
  39. Anneliese Knoop-Graf, Inge Jens (ed.): Willi Graf – Briefe und Aufzeichnungen. – Letters and [diary] records. Berlin, 1994, Fischer Verlag, ISBN 978-3-596-12367-4, in German
  40. Igor Chramov (ed.): Alexander Schmorell. Gestapo-Verhörprotokolle Februar-März 1943. – Gestapo interrogation protocols February–March 1943 (RGWA 1361K-1-8808). Dimur-Verlag, Orenburg 2005, ISBN 5-7689-0125-6. See section "Primary Sources" for an English translation
  41. Stephen Thursby re Karen Painter's 'symphonic aspirations: German music and politics 1900–1945' (ISBN 978-0-674-02661-2) at h-net.org
  42. "H-German - H-Net".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  43. Kettle, Martin (1 January 2009). "Secret of the White Rose" – via The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  44. "FBI Seeking Information - Oregon Hoax Pipe Bombs".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  45. 'Hoax devices_2-27-08' article at salem-news.com
  46. Iraqi Peace Activist Forced to Change T-shirt Bearing Arabic Script Before Boarding Plane at JFK

Further reading

  • DeVita, James "The Silenced" HarperCollins, 2006. Young adult novel inspired by Sophie Scholl and The White Rose. ISBN 978-0-06-078462-1
  • DeVita, James "The Rose of Treason", Anchorage Press Plays. Young adult play of the story of The White Rose. ISBN 978-0-87602-409-6
  • Dumbach, Annette & Newborn, Jud. "Sophie Scholl & The White Rose". First published as "Shattering the German Night", 1986; this expanded, updated edition Oneworld Publications, 2006. ISBN 978-1-85168-536-3
  • Hanser, Richard. A Noble Treason: The Revolt of the Munich Students Against Hitler. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1979. Print. ISBN 978-0-399-12041-1
  • McDonough Frank, Sophie Scholl: The Real Story of the Woman Who Defied Hitler, History Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7524-5511-2
  • Sachs, Ruth Hanna. Two Interviews: Hartnagel and Wittenstein (Annotated). Ed. Denise Heap and Joyce Light. Los Angeles: Exclamation!, 2005. ISBN 978-0-9767183-3-8
  • Sachs, Ruth Hanna. White Rose History, Volume I: Coming Together (January 31, 1933 – April 30, 1942). Lehi, Utah: Exclamation! Publishers, 2002. ISBN 978-0-9710541-9-6
  • Sachs, Ruth Hanna. White Rose History, Volume II: Journey to Freedom (May 1, 1942 – October 12, 1943). Lehi, Utah: Exclamation! Publishers, 2005. ISBN 978-0-9767183-0-7
  • Sachs, Ruth Hanna. White Rose History, Volume III: Fighters to the Very End (October 13, 1943 – May 8, 1945). ISBN
  • Sachs, Ruth Hanna. White Rose History: The Ultimate CD-ROM (1933–1945).
  • Scholl, Inge. The White Rose: Munich, 1942–1943. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1983. ISBN 978-0-8195-6086-5
  • Vinke, Hermann. The Short Life of Sophie Scholl. Trans. Hedwig Pachter. New York: Harper & Row, 1984. Print. ISBN 978-0-06-026302-7

External links