WHITE ROSE SIBLINGS PUT TO DEATH

Munich, Germany · February 22, 1943

On this date in 1943 siblings Sophie (age 21) and Hans Scholl (24) and their friend Christoph Probst (24), mem­bers of the under­ground White Rose (Weisse Rose) resis­tance circle, were charged with sedition for writing, printing, and dis­tri­bu­ting anti-Nazi leaflets and “tried” by “Hitler’s Hanging Judge,” the noto­rious Nazi jurist Roland Freis­ler. (A year earlier Freis­ler, along with the male­volent likes of Rein­hard Hey­drich and Adolf Eich­mann, had attended the Wann­see Con­fer­ence on scoping and im­ple­menting the “Final Solu­tion” to the Jewish pro­blem.) The White Rose was a non­violent/­intel­lec­tual resis­tance group of uni­ver­sity stu­dents and pro­fessors en­gaged in an anony­mous leaf­let cam­paign, lasting from mid-1942 until Febru­ary 1943, that called for active opposition to Hitler’s totalitarian regime.

The Scholls had orig­i­nally been enthu­siastic sup­porters of the Ger­man renewal pro­mised by National Socialism, and they en­rolled in the Hitler Youth organi­za­tion. But as their reali­za­tion of Nazi atro­ci­ties directed against Jews on the East­ern Front grew, so did their moral out­rage. Betrayed by a custo­dian in the act of dis­tri­bu­ting their flyers, the Scholls were found guilty in Freis­ler’s People’s Court (Volks­gericht­hof) and beheaded on the same day at Munich’s Stadel­heim Prison. After their deaths, their sixth and last leaflet was smuggled to the Allies, who retitled it “The Mani­festo of the Students of Munich” and air-dropped millions of copies over Germany.

Mem­bers of the White Rose, espe­cially the Scholls, became heroes in post­war Germany. One of Ger­many’s leading lite­rary prizes is called the Scholl Sib­lings Prize (Geschwister-Scholl-Preis). Many local streets and squares in Ger­many have been named after the brother and sister. Ge­schwis­ter-Scholl-Schule is the most com­mon school name in Ger­many. In 2003 Ger­mans were invited by a tele­vision broad­caster to choose the top ten most important Ger­mans of all time. Voters under the age of 40 helped Hans and Sophie Scholl finish in fourth place, above Bach, Goethe, Guten­berg, Bis­marck, and Ein­stein. If the votes of young viewers alone had been counted, the Scholls would have ranked first. Several years earlier, readers of a Ger­man women’s maga­zine voted Sophie Scholl “the greatest woman of the twentieth century.”




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German White Rose Resistance Movement, 1942–1943

Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst, 1942 Memorial to Scholls on university campus

Left: From left, Hans Scholl (1918–1943), Sophie Scholl (1921–1943), and Chris­toph Probst (1918–1943), Munich, 1942. Roland Freisler tried the trio in his so-called People’s Court, which the Nazis set up outside constitutional authority. This court handled cases of political acts against the Hitler regime by con­ducting a series of show trials. Among the most noto­rious of the show trials was the trial of the July 20, 1944, bomb plotters who attempted to assassinate Hitler in his forward headquarters in Rastenburg, East Prussia. On Febru­ary 3, 1945, Freisler was killed in an American bombing raid on Berlin. The wife of German Gen. Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Opera­tions Staff of the Armed Forces High Com­mand, worked in the hospi­tal that received Freisler’s crushed body. A worker com­mented, “It is God’s verdict.” Luise Jodl recalled their silent agree­ment: “Not one person said a word in reply.”

Right: The plaza in front of the main building of Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich is named Geschwister-Scholl-Platz. Facsimiles of the last White Rose flyer are set in the ground.

Sophie Scholl on West German postage stamp, 1964 Scholls on East German postage stamp, 1961

Left: Sophie Scholl on a 1964 West German postage stamp.

Right: Hans and Sophie Scholl on a 1961 East German postage stamp. Reputedly, the last words of Hans Scholl were “Long live freedom!” (“Es lebe die Frei­heit”). Several ver­sions of Sophie Scholl’s last words include “. . . your heads will fall as well” and “God, you are my refuge into eternity.”

Scenes from 2005 German Film Sophie Scholl–Die letzten Tage (Sophie Scholl: The Final Days), a 2005 Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Film