Sophie Scholl and the White Rose | The National WWII Museum | New Orleans (2022)

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Sophie Scholl and the White Rose movement, while less known to Americans, is a powerful example of youthful resistance to the Nazi Regime.

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Within the United States, Sophie Magdalena Scholl is not the best-known resistance fighter, but her story is a powerful one. She was a key member of the Weiße Rose (White Rose)—a resistance group run by students at the University of Munich who distributed leaflets and used graffiti to decry Nazi crimes and the political system, while calling for resistance to the Nazi state and the war. On February 22, 1943, she was beheaded for treason at just 21 years old.

Sophie was born in May 1921, the fourth of six children to an upper-middle class family in the south of Germany. Robert, her father, was mayor of Forchtenberg, an idyllic town in the northeast of the modern state of Baden-Württemberg. When Sophie was 10, the family moved to Ulm, a mid-size southern town dating back to the Middle Ages, where her father worked as state auditor and tax consultant.

After the Nazis came to power in January 1933, Sophie, along with most of her siblings, was an excited and happy follower of the National Socialist cult of youth. The teenager believed in the ideals propagated at the time. Similar to many of their contemporaries, Sophie was particularly intrigued by the focus on nature and communal experiences. She joined the BDM, the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls) and quickly rose in their ranks. The parents, especially her father, did not like their children’s’ involvement in the Nazi youth groups and made no secret about it. A critic of the party from the beginning, who had raised their children firmly grounded in the Christian tradition, Robert Scholl viewed the developments in Germany and their children’s interest in Nazism with growing fear and horror. Lively discussions were a daily occurrence at the dinner table, teaching the children the value of open and honest conversation—a rarity at the time.

Sophie’s siblings, especially her oldest brother Hans, later to become a founding member of the Weiße Rose, also were members of non-Nazi groups of young people. These associations shared and propagated a love for nature, outdoor adventures, as well as the music, art and literature of German Romanticism. Originally seen as compatible with Nazi ideology by many, these alternative groups were slowly dissolved and finally banned by 1936. Hans remained active in one such group, however, and was arrested in 1937 along with several of the Scholl siblings. This arrest left a mark on Sophie’s conscience and began the process that eventually turned her from happy supporter of the Nazi system to active resistance fighter.

On September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland and two days later, France and Britain declared war on Germany. The older Scholl brothers were sent off to fight on the front. Sophie’s life in Ulm changed as well. She graduated high school in the spring of 1940 and started an apprenticeship to become a kindergarten teacher. She eventually wanted to study biology and philosophy. In order to be admitted, students had to spend a period of time working for the state in the Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD; National Labor Service). Sophie’s hopes that becoming a teacher would allow her to substitute for the RAD were quashed and she instead had to enter the service in the spring of 1941. She hated it. The military-like regimen and mind-numbing routine caused her to find solace in her own spirituality, guided by readings of theologian Augustine of Hippo. She wrote down her thoughts, noting that her “soul was hungry"—she longed for an autonomous life, an end to the war, and for happiness with her boyfriend Fritz Hartnagel, who was now fighting on the Eastern front. Her doubts about the regime grew.

When she finally moved to Munich to study biology and philosophy in May 1942, her brother Hans, a medical student at the same university, and some of his friends had already begun to actively question the system. Serving on the Eastern Front, they learned about the crimes committed in Poland and Russia first hand and saw the misery with their own eyes. They knew they couldn’t remain quiet. Starting in June 1942, they began printing and distributing leaflets in and around Munich, calling their fellow students and the German public to action. Other members of their circle joined in the endeavor, writing four pamphlets until the fall of the same year. As a student, Sophie had seen the flyers and applauded their content as well as their authors’ courage to speak truth to power. When she found out about her brother’s involvement, she demanded to join the group. She did not want to stay passive anymore.

The White Rose was a small endeavor with large consequences. At its core were siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, their fellow students Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst, and a professor of philosophy and musicology at the University of Munich, Kurt Huber. Together they published and distributed six pamphlets, first typed on a typewriter, then multiplied via mimeograph. At first, they only distributed them via mail, sending them to professors, booksellers, authors, friends and others—going through phone books for addresses and hand-writing each envelope. In the end, they distributed thousands, reaching households all over Germany. Acquiring such large amounts of paper, envelopes, and stamps at a time of strict rationing without raising suspicion was problematic, but the students managed by engaging a wide-ranging network of supporters in cities and towns as far north as Hamburg, and as far south as Vienna. These networks were also activated to distribute the pamphlets, attempting to trick the Gestapo into believing the White Rose had locations all across the country.

In reading the group’s leaflets today, one cannot help but think of how chillingly accurate they were in their accusations and calls to action, and the powerful insights they provide about Nazi Germany: The third pamphlet reads:

“Our current ‘state’ is the dictatorship of evil. We know that already, I hear you object, and we don’t need you to reproach us for it yet again. But, I ask you, if you know that, then why don’t you act? Why do you tolerate these rulers gradually robbing you, in public and in private, of one right after another, until one day nothing, absolutely nothing, remains but the machinery of the state, under the command of criminals and drunkards?”

White Rose Pamphlet

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In their attempt to gain traction for the resistance and to stop the war effort, they gave clear advice and advocated sabotage of Hitler’s war machine. Their fifth pamphlet stated: “And now every convinced opponent of National Socialism must ask himself how he can fight against the present ‘state’ in the most effective way….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….Try to convince all your acquaintances…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!”

In January 1943, the group felt empowered and hopeful. Their activism seemed to be working, rattling the authoritiesand sparking discussions amongst their peers. Their group was well-organized and they were about to set up even more connections to other underground resistance groups. Observing the political situation in Germany in January of 1943, Sophie and the White Rose members believed a change in the country was imminent. The German army’s disastrous defeat at Stalingrad was a turning point on the Eastern Front, and voices of dissent grew louder at the University of Munich after students were publicly called out as leeches and war resisters. This encouraged them to work more boldly, distributing the flyers directly in person and writing slogans like “Down with Hitler” and “Freedom” on the walls around Munich. Their sixth—and last—pamphlet reads: “Even the most dull-witted German has had his eyes opened by the terrible bloodbath, which, in the name of the freedom and honour of the German nation, they have unleashed upon Europe, and unleash anew each day. The German name will remain forever tarnished unless finally the German youth stands up, pursues both revenge and atonement, smites our tormentors, and founds a new intellectual Europe. Students! The German people look to us! The responsibility is ours: just as the power of the spirit broke the Napoleonic terror in 1813, so too will it break the terror of the National Socialists in 1943.”

Hans and Sophie distributed them at their university on February 18, for their fellow students to find walking between classes. At some point, in what we can assume was an attempt to make even more people see the flyers, Sophie pushed a stack off a railing unto the central hall. What is now an iconic scene in every movie and documentary about the group, was the moment that changed everything. The pamphlet drop was seen by a janitor, a staunch supporter of the Nazis, who had Hans and Sophie immediately arrested by the Gestapo. The draft for the seventh pamphlet was still in Hans’ bag, which led to Christoph Probst’s arrest the same day.

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The three endured a mock trial after long and arduous interrogations. They took all blame for the White Rose’s actions. This attempt to save their friends from persecution failed in the end, and Willi Graf, Alexander Schmorell, and Kurt Huber were arrested later in February and put to death shortly after.

After a half-day trial led by the infamous Roland Freisler, president of the People’s Court, Hans, Sophie, and Christoph were sentenced to death for treason. Despite this horrific prospect, Sophie did not waver. Freisler asked heras the closing questionwhether she hadn’t “indeed come to the conclusion that [her] conduct and the actions along with [her] brother and other persons in the present phase of the war should be seen as a crime against the community?” Sophie answered:

“I am, now as before, of the opinion that I did the best that I could do for my nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences that result from my conduct.”

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Sophie Scholl

Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl, and Christoph Probst were executed by guillotine on February 22, 1943.

While their deaths were only barely mentioned in German newspapers, they received attention abroad. In April, TheNew York Timeswrote about student opposition in Munich. In June 1943, Thomas Mann, in a BBC broadcast aimed at Germans, spoke of the White Rose’s actions. The text of the sixth leaflet was smuggled into the United Kingdom where they were reprinted and dropped over Germany by Allied planes in July of the same year.

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In post-war Germany, the White Rose was and is revered. A myriad of schools, streets, and a prestigious award are named after individual members, the group or the siblings Scholl. Sophie’s story looms especially large in the history of Ulm, my hometown. She personifies the importance of acting according to one’s beliefs and of following your conscience, even in the face of great sacrifice. In our collective memory, her story reminds us to not be silent, and fight for what Sophie wrote on the back of her indictment a day before she was killed: Freiheit—Freedom.

English texts of the pamphlets are from White Rose Translation Projectand The Holocaust Research Project.

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Tanja B. Spitzer, a native of Germany who came to New Orleans a little over a decade ago to study at TulaneUniversity, is an expert on transatlantic history and cultural diplomacy.

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FAQs

How did Sophie and Hans Scholl get caught? ›

The pamphlet drop was seen by a janitor, a staunch supporter of the Nazis, who had Hans and Sophie immediately arrested by the Gestapo. The draft for the seventh pamphlet was still in Hans' bag, which led to Christoph Probst's arrest the same day.

What was the White Roses aim? ›

White Rose, German anti-Nazi group formed in Munich in 1942. Unlike the conspirators of the July Plot (1944) or participants in such youth gangs as the Edelweiss Pirates, the members of the White Rose advocated nonviolent resistance as a means of opposing the Nazi regime.

What did Sophie Scholl believe in? ›

Sophia Magdalena Scholl (9 May 1921 – 22 February 1943) was a German student and anti-Nazi political activist, active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany.

How long did the White Rose last? ›

Hans and Sophie Scholl, as well as Christoph Probst were executed by guillotine four days after their arrest, on 22 February 1943.
...
White Rose.
Monument to the "Weiße Rose" in front of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
FoundedJune 27, 1942 in Munich, Nazi Germany
FounderHans Scholl Alexander Schmorell

What were the last words of the White Rose organization? ›

Hans' last words were “Long Live Freedom!” Other members of the White Rose were executed as well, including Huber. One of the victims, Schmorell, was eventually canonized as a saint by the Russian Othodox church.

How did the White Rose end? ›

22, 1943: White Rose Members Executed. On Feb. 22, 1943, Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl, and Christoph Probst were executed for their role in urging students to rise up and overthrow the Nazi government.

What does a White Rose symbolize? ›

White roses symbolize loyalty, purity, and innocence. "Since they represent these ideas, the white rose has also become the most popular flower to be seen at weddings," says Poulson. According to Poulson, they can also symbolize eternal love, a new start, and fresh beginnings.

How many died in Night of the Long Knives? ›

85 people

Do white roses exist? ›

White Roses

Coincidentally, the white rose group also contains some of the most fragrant varieties you can grow. Many white roses have a touch of cream or pink that adds to their allure, but if you're looking for a pure white rose with no undertones, you can grow 'Iceberg,' 'White Perfumella,' or 'White Diamond. '

Why was the White Rose created? ›

The White Rose was founded in 1942 by several students at the University of Munich, including Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans. The members were united against Nazi policies and began writing and distributing leaflets calling on the German people to take action to stop injustice and genocide.

How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause such a fine sunny day and I have to go? ›

“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?

Who founded the White Rose Society? ›

In 1942 Hans Scholl founded the “White Rose” movement with some of his fellow medical students. Among the White Rose members were Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Willi Graf, and Alexander Schmorell. The “White Rose” movement was one of the few German groups that spoke out against Nazi genocidal policies.

What were the White Rose leaflets about? ›

The White Rose used the written word to call the German people to resist Nazism and to contribute to an end to the Second World War. They produced Flugblätter — leaflets or pamphlets — to spread their ideas. In total six leaflets were printed and distributed by the White Rose.

What did the Edelweiss Pirates believe in? ›

Basically, they were anti-authority and non-conformist. They also offered a way of life outside of the strangulating Nazi regime. Members of the Edelweiss Pirates defied restrictions on movement by going on hiking and camping trips.

Why are Yorkshire roses white? ›

At the Battle of Minden in Prussia on 1 August 1759, Yorkshiremen of the 51st Regiment (predecessor of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) picked white roses from bushes near to the battlefields and stuck them in their coats as a tribute to their fallen comrades. Yorkshire Day is held on this date each year.

What is the resistance in World war 2? ›

resistance, also called Underground, in European history, any of various secret and clandestine groups that sprang up throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II to oppose Nazi rule.

When did World war Two end? ›

What did Sophie Scholl fight for? ›

They were joined by Sophie, Christoph Probst and Willi Graf, and by one of their professors, Kurt Huber. Supported by a network of friends and supporters, they printed and distributed leaflets, encouraging citizens to resist the Nazi regime, denouncing the murder of Jewish people and demanding an end to the war.

Who did the White Rose fight against? ›

Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie, the leaders of the German youth group Weisse Rose (White Rose), are arrested by the Gestapo for opposing the Nazi regime. The White Rose was composed of university (mostly medical) students who spoke out against Adolf Hitler and his regime.

Was the Kreisau Circle successful? ›

Although their plans never came to fruition, the legacy of resistance established by the Kreisau Circle still remains important. The members of Kreisau came together, despite their individual differences, to fashion a Germany which was democratic, anti-racist, and internationalist.

What do white roses mean at a funeral? ›

Roses. Red represents love, respect and courage. Pink signifies grace, love and appreciation. White represents reverence, innocence, peace and hope.

What does 15 white roses mean? ›

14 Roses – way to tell someone that you are proud of the person. 15 Roses – often given to ask for forgiveness. 16 Roses – shows interest in travelling. 17 Roses – number of roses to gift to your beloved wife on her birthday.

What do 12 white roses mean? ›

A single white rose means love at first sight. What does a dozen white roses mean. A dozen white roses symbolize deep love and affection.

Who was killed on the Night of the Long Knives in June 1934? ›

Ernst Röhm was shot after refusing to commit suicide. Kurt von Schleicher, who had preceded Hitler as chancellor, was also shot. Altogether, it's thought that as many as 400 people were killed in the Night of the Long Knives. Gregor Strasser, a Nazi member with socialist views similar to Rohm was also shot.

What was the name of Hitler's new personal guard? ›

The SS (Schutzstaffel, or Protection Squads) was originally established as Adolf Hitler's personal bodyguard unit. It would later become both the elite guard of the Nazi Reich and Hitler's executive force prepared to carry out all security-related duties, without regard for legal restraint.

What is the Sudetenland and why was it important? ›

The Sudetenland was a border area of Czechoslovakia containing a majority ethnic German population as well as all of the Czechoslovak Army's defensive positions in event of a war with Germany. The leaders of Britain, France, Italy, and Germany held a conference in Munich on September 29–30, 1938.

What is the rarest color of flower? ›

Did you know that blue is the rarest flower color? Brandon George, graduate student in Public Garden Leadership at Cornell University, takes an in-depth talk on the color blue, why it is so rare in the plant world, and some tips for displaying it in a garden.

What is the rarest rose color? ›

Because the Blue Rose is the rarest color of rose, you can expect the price of the flower to be higher than other colors. Due to the fact that the blue rose is a unique rare color, it is best to contact your florist well in advance when ordering a bouquet of these mysterious flowers.

Do Rainbow roses exist? ›

Rainbow Roses are also known as Happy Roses or Kaleidoscope Roses. These blooms may look like they were plucked out of a story book, but trust us when we say they're 100% real. These unique blooms boast vibrant and brightly coloured petals, making them the life of the party or centre of attention anywhere you put them.

What does three white roses symbolize? ›

Three roses symbolizes the three words everyone loves to listen, “I love you”. Six roses signify an infatuation, a need to be loved or cherished. If you're dating someone and wish to take your relationship to the next level, gifting them with six roses is the perfect way to subtly express those feelings.

Who is represented by the white rose? ›

The White Rose was founded in 1942 by several students at the University of Munich, including Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans. The members were united against Nazi policies and began writing and distributing leaflets calling on the German people to take action to stop injustice and genocide.

What do white roses mean at a funeral? ›

Roses. Red represents love, respect and courage. Pink signifies grace, love and appreciation. White represents reverence, innocence, peace and hope.

What do red and white roses mean in England? ›

England's Influence

This war was between the Duke of York and the Lancaster family. The Duke's family symbol was the white rose, and the Lancaster family symbol was the red rose, giving the War of the Roses its name. The white rose symbolizes purity, leading to its frequent appearances at weddings.

What does 🌹 mean from a girl? ›

The rose emoji represents love.

If you get a 🌹 from a guy or girl you like, chances are they like you too! But this emoji doesn't just show romantic love, it can also be used platonically. Because of this, the 🌹 is a popular emoji to use on both Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.

What do 13 roses mean? ›

13 Roses – presented in this number, it symbolize secret admiration and eternal friendship. 14 Roses – way to tell someone that you are proud of the person. 15 Roses – often given to ask for forgiveness. 16 Roses – shows interest in travelling. 17 Roses – number of roses to gift to your beloved wife on her birthday.

What do 12 roses mean? ›

11 Roses – 'you are my treasured one'. 12 Roses – gifting someone you are fond of with 12 single roses is a simple way to ask them to be yours. 13 Roses – the meaning of roses when presented in the number 13 can either symbolize eternal friendship or a secret admirer.

Why is York called the White Rose City? ›

The White Rose of York (Latinised as rosa alba, blazoned as a rose argent) is a white heraldic rose which was adopted in the 14th century as a heraldic badge of the royal House of York. In modern times it is used more broadly as a symbol of the county of Yorkshire.

Why do people put roses on top of a casket? ›

The most common reason people place flowers on caskets at funerals is as a form of condolence. After losing a loved one, it's hard to put these feelings into words. Even if you're not close to the deceased, it's important to show support to the bereaved family in any way you can. Flowers step in when words fail.

What color rose for deceased mother? ›

White Roses: Honor your deceased mother or female figure in your life with white roses.

What flower do you give when someone dies? ›

They are the most widely accepted form of condolence and are commonly sent as sympathy offerings because they signify peace, purity and love. Consider sending white bouquets with orchids, roses, irises, or lilies to a bereavement ceremony to show your love and support.

What does red and white roses mean? ›

Red and White Roses. Mixing red and white flowers together gives your bouquet a lovely new meaning. The combination of red and white roses symbolizes unity, which makes it a popular choice for weddings and celebrations of partnership.

What color rose is for friendship? ›

While your significant other will be delighted to receive these bright blooms, yellow is also the official rose color of friendship. Show your appreciation for the great friends in your life with none other than a happy, yellow rose.

Does the Tudor Rose still exist? ›

He joined the White Rose of York with the Red Rose of Lancaster, creating the Union Rose (or Tudor Rose), which is still used as the floral emblem of England today!

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