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The White Rose Movement

The White Rose Movement

The White Rose was a non-violent resistance movement that opposed the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II. The group was founded in Munich in June 1942 by a small group of students and their professor, who were deeply disturbed by the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime, particularly the Holocaust.

The core members of the White Rose were Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, Christoph Probst, and Willi Graf, all of whom were students at the University of Munich. They were later joined by others, including Traute Lafrenz, Kurt Huber, and Hans Leipelt.

The group began by distributing leaflets throughout Germany, calling on their fellow citizens to resist the Nazi government and its policies. The leaflets were handwritten or typed on thin paper, often with quotes from philosophers such as Goethe, Schiller, and Lao Tzu. The group also painted anti-Nazi slogans on walls and buildings in Munich.

The White Rose’s leaflets criticized the Nazi regime for its brutality, its suppression of freedom, and its treatment of Jews and other minorities. They called on Germans to stand up to the Nazis, to fight for freedom and democracy, and to refuse to support a government that committed such atrocities.

The group’s activities were dangerous and illegal, and the members knew that they risked their lives every time they distributed a leaflet. In February 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were caught distributing leaflets at the University of Munich by a janitor and police informer named Jacob Schmid. Schmid handed the group over to the consul of the university, Ernst Haeffner, who turned them over to the Gestapo – who arrested them. They were interrogated, tortured, and quickly tried and sentenced to death – they were beheaded by guillotine on 22nd February 1943. 

Alexander Schmorell, Christoph Probst, and Willi Graf were also caught and executed soon after. Other members of the group were arrested and imprisoned, and some were later executed as well.

Schmid received a reward of 3000 Reichmarks and was promoted as a result of his actions and hundreds of university students cheered him at a ‘thank you’ ceremony organised by the University of Munich to which he replied with the Nazi salute. He was later arrested by the American occupation forces and sentenced as a ‘major offender’ to five years hard labour – he was released in 1951 and died in 1964. 

Despite the group’s small size and limited impact, the White Rose has come to be seen as a symbol of courage and resistance in the face of tyranny. The members of the group knew that they were fighting a losing battle, but they believed that it was their duty to speak out against injustice and to stand up for what was right. Today, the White Rose is remembered as an example of the power of conscience and the importance of standing up to tyranny, no matter the cost.

Hans, Sophie and Christoph in July 1942


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