History of the White Rose
What Is The White Rose?
The White Rose (German: die Weiße Rose) was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany, consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor. The group became known for an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign, lasting from June 1942 until February 1943, that called for active opposition to dictator Adolf Hitler’s regime.
Who Were They?
The six most recognized members of the group were arrested by the Gestapo and beheaded in 1943. The text of their sixth leaflet was smuggled by Helmuth James Graf von Moltke out of Germany through Scandinavia to the United Kingdom, and in July 1943 copies of it were dropped over Germany by Allied planes, retitled “The Manifesto of the Students of Munich.”
Another member, Hans Conrad Leipelt, who helped distribute Leaflet 6 in Hamburg, was executed on January 29, 1945, for his participation.
Today, the members of the White Rose are honoured in Germany amongst its greatest heroes, since they opposed the Third Reich in the face of almost certain death.
Students from the University of Munich comprised the core of the White Rose — Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Alex Schmorell (canonized New Martyr in the Orthodox Church), Willi Graf, Christoph Probst, Traute Lafrenz, Katharina Schueddekopf, Lieselotte (Lilo) Berndl, Jürgen Wittenstein, Marie-Luise Jahn and Falk Harnack. Most were in their early twenties. A professor of philosophy and musicology, Kurt Huber, was also associated with their cause. Additionally, Wilhelm Geyer, Manfred Eickemeyer, Josef Soehngen, and Harald Dohrn participated in their debates. 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 high school students in the city of Ulm distributed a number of the group’s leaflets. Among this group were Hans Hirzel and Franz J. Müller.
What Was Their Message?
Here are some quotations from the White Rose leaflets:
- 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)
- …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 mechanised 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? (From Leaflet 3)
- …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.
- 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).
- Last words of Hans Scholl: Es lebe die Freiheit! (Long live freedom!).
- 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.
- I knew what I took upon myself and I was prepared to lose my life by so doing. From the interrogation of Hans Scholl.