Friday 25 March 2011


“There is a point at which the law becomes immoral and unethical. That point is reached when it becomes a cloak for the cowardice that dares not stand up against blatant violations of justice.” (Kurt Huber)


Today in Germany, one of the most popular heroes is Sophie Scholl. She is greatly admired for her courageous actions to defy the Nazi regime. She and other members of the White Rose, including her brother Hans, clandestinely published and distributed anti-Nazi leaflets.

Between the early summer of 1942 and February 1943, people in cities in the South of Germany and in Austria found leaflets in their mail boxes calling for protests against the Nazi regime. On February 19, 1943, Hans and Sophie took a great risk by placing copies of a sixth leaflet produced by the White Rose Group in the deserted halls of the University of Munich. After a janitor saw them, they were arrested by the Gestapo. Sophie, her brother Hans and Christoph Probst were soon tired and were executed by guillotine.

The film, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, reconstructs the last six days of her life. Based on actual trial transcripts and official police records, this film dramatizes her arrest, her interrogation, her imprisonment, her trial, and her execution.

Read more and see the film trailer at the end of the article

The White Rose:

Professor Huber
Between 1939 and 1943, the German students who formed the White Rose, Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Hans Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, Jurgen Wittenstein and Willi Graf attended the University of Munich.

This group of friends shared many common interests in music, art, medicine, and theology. Together, they listened to music, went to the theatre, hiked through the mountains, enjoyed skiing, drank wine, and conversed about controversial authors and banned books. They also attended lectures given by Professor Huber, professor of Philosophy, Psychology and Musicology at the University of Munich and discussed with him their anti-Nazi views.

As Nazi terror and brutality escalated in Germany and other parts of Europe, these students decided to take more action. After reading a copy of Bishop Galen's sermon condemning the killing of inmates in hospitals, gas chambers and asylums, Hans said: “Finally someone has the courage to speak”.
 The Catholic bishop of Munster was an outspoken critic of the Nazis. In July, 1941, he stood up in his church and said that Nazi’s killing program was murdering many handicapped people and those with genetic disorders. More than 100,000 people were killed within Germany itself, Germans who were “Aryans” but who did not fit the ideal biological description of an Aryan. Bishop Galen declared this “was against God’s commandments, against the law of nature, and against the system of jurisprudence in Germany.” Bishop Galen’s sermons were transcribed, reproduced, and  circulated widely throughout the country of Germany.

Galen’s protest encouraged Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell to publish their own anti-Nazi literature. In June, and July of 1942, Alexander Schmorell and Hans Scholl wrote the first four leaflets of the White Rose. These illegal documents were distributed throughout central Germany. They were left in telephone books, in public phone booths, mailed to professors and students, and taken to other universities for distribution. This social activism was extremely difficult and dangerous.

In May of 1942, Sophie enrolled at the University of Munich to study biology and philosophy. When she discovered the secret activities of her brother, she confronted him about the serious risks he was taking. However, she realized there was no turning back. Then, she join them as an active co-conspirator.

In November, 1942, Kurt became involved. In addition to publishing these leaflets, Hans, Alex and Willi engaged in another type of civil disobedience. On three separate evenings in February of 1943, they painted slogans on the walls of the Munich University and neighbouring buildings. They wrote "Down with Hitler", "Hitler Mass Murderer", "Freedom", and drew crossed-out swastikas.

When she was arrested, during the interrogation, she was asked if she was not personally responsible for her actions. Sophie responds that she indeed knew the consequences of her actions. She rejected “National Socialist” worldview that Hitler was a noble leader who should be respected and admired. “You’re wrong. I would do it again—because I am not wrong...”

During the court proceedings, she said: “"You know as well as we do that the war is lost. Why are you so cowardly that you won't admit it?”

The Scholls and Probst were the first to stand trial before the People's Court that tried political offenses against the Nazi German state—on 22 February 1943. They were found guilty of treason and sentenced them to death. The three were executed the same day by guillotine.

Alexander Schmorell and Kurt Huber were beheaded on 13 July 1943, and Willi Graf on 12 October 1943. Friends and colleagues of the White Rose, who had helped in the preparation and distribution of leaflets and in collecting money for the widow and young children of Probst, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to ten years.


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