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The White Rose Resistance: The Anti-Nazi Freedom Fighters Within The Nazi Party

World War II | February 18, 2020

The White Rose Resistance movement was only active from 1942–1943, but in that time, the group of young Germans fought back against the Nazis with their words. Refusing to be silent, they spread their convictions through secret meetings and more than 15,000 pamphlets, leaving a lasting mark on German society.

The White Rose Resistance was made up of young Germans

Source: DenkStätte Weiße Rose

During World War II, the Nazi party did everything they could to essentially enlist the entire country of Germany into their fight. Those who were too old or feeble to join the military were told to keep their ears to the ground for dissent, and young people were enlisted in the Hitler Youth. The core members of the White Rose (Hans Scholl and his sister, Sophie, and their friends Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, and Willi Graf) were members of Hitler Youth and the Union of German Girls, both organizations that spread Nazi ideologies to young people. As these young people came to understand what the Nazis were actually doing, however, they grew disillusioned and sought a way to counteract all the evil that the group was doing.

No one knows where the name "White Rose" came from

Source: Pinterest

As cool as the name White Rose Resistance is, there's no definitive answer to the question of where it came from. It's likely that Hans Scholl was inspired by the poem of the same name by German poet Clemens Brentano. He may have also taken the name from Cuban poet Jose Marti, who wrote the line "Cultivo una rosa blanca" ("I grow a white rose"), or the German novel Die Weiße Rose (The White Rose). After his arrest, Scholl told his Nazi interrogators that the name was chosen at random, but historians believe that Scholl was trying to obscure its literary significance to lead them away from Josef Söhngen, an anti-Nazi bookseller who gave White Rose members their meeting place.

Fighting in World War II made Scholl decide to act

Source: Berlin Spectator

As a medical student, Scholl was sent to the Eastern Front to work as a medic for three months. While taking care of the troops, he saw the way that Jewish laborers were treated by the German military. When he returned home, he discussed his experiences with the group, shocking them all. White Rose member Jürgen "George" Wittenstein later explained that upon hearing Scholl's words, their detachment from the war fell away. "[It was not right] to keep to oneself, one's beliefs, and ethical standards," Wittenstein wrote. "The time had come to act."

The group printed literature to expose the horrors of the Nazis

Source: Holocaust Research Project

In the summer of 1942, after getting ahold of a manual printing press, the White Rose Resistance began distributing pamphlets detailing the horrors of the Nazi regime. One pamphlets reads:

Nothing is less worthy of a civilized nation than to allow itself to be "governed" without resistance by an irresponsible clique of ruler driven by dark desires ... Goethe speaks of the Germans as a tragic people, equal to those of the Jews and the Greeks, but today it looks more as if they were a shallow, weak-willed herd of tacit supporters, whose mark has been sucked out of their innermost selves and who now, robbed of their core, are willing to be hounded to their downfall.

The White Rose Resistance scattered a flurry of pamphlets all around the Munich area. They were sent to random addresses found in the phone book, left in phone booths, and used to paper entire towns. All in all, they published six different pamphlets and printed more than 15,000 copies of the series. Aside from printing pamphlets, the group graffitied the phrase "Down with Hitler" across the walls of Munich.

The group was caught at the University of Munich

Source: Pinterest

On February 18, 1943, the White Rose Resistance came to an end when Hans and Sophie Scholl were caught in the brazen act of tossing leaflets over the banister of a staircase at the University of Munich to float over the students below. This final pamphlet read in part:

The day of reckoning has come, the reckoning of our German youth with the most abominable tyranny our people has ever endured. In the name of the entire German people, we demand of Adolf Hitler's state the return of personal freedom, the most precious treasure of the Germans which he cunningly has cheated us out of.

The White Rose Resistance was put on trial

Source: Pinterest

Four days after their arrest, the Scholls and their cohort, Christoph Probst, were put on trial in the "People's Tribunal," a kangaroo court presided over by Roland Freisler in Munich. Freisler was famous for hanging the defendants in his court without any real trial, and sure enough, the Scholls and Probst were convicted of high treason. Freisler dismissed Hans Scholl's passionate denunciations as "deluded," and the group's verdict claimed that they "propagated defeatist thinking and vilified the Führer." On the afternoon of their trial, the Scholls and Probst were brought to the guillotine to be executed. Before they were decapitated, Hans shouted "Long live freedom!"

The White Rose Resistance lived on after its leaders were executed

Source: Holocaust Research Project

Following the trumped-up trial of the Scholls and Probst, the Gestapo rounded up more members of the group for execution. The few survivors from the White Rose Resistance scattered and lived in hiding throughout the rest of World War II, but even though many of them didn’t survive to see their efforts pay off, the White Rose Resistance played an important part in bringing down the Nazi regime. A copy of their sixth pamphlet was discovered by the Allied forces, who printed millions of copies and dropped them all over Germany in the fall of 1943.

In the wake of the fall of the White Rose Resistance, the University of Munich named a number of structures after White Rose members in recognition of the university's role in their demonstrations, including the one that finally brought the Scholls' activities (and their lives) to an end. A fountain in front of the school and its central plaza is named after the Scholls, and the commons across from it is named after White Rose member and University of Munich professor Kurt Huber. A leading literary prize in Germany is named the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis, also known as the Scholl Siblings Prize.

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Tags: Nazis | protest | world war II

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.