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The White Rose Anti-Nazi Group

The White Rose Anti-Nazi Group


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We learned in the spring of 1942 of the arrest and execution of 10 or 12 Communists. And my brother (Hans Scholl) said, "In the name of civic and Christian courage something must be done." Sophie knew the risks. Fritz Hartnagel told me about a conversation in May 1942. Sophie asked him for a thousand marks but didn’t want to tell him why. He warned her that resistance could cost both her head and her neck. She told him, "I’m aware of that". Sophie wanted the money to buy a printing press to publish the anti-Nazi leaflets.

The choice of the name "White Rose" is not easily explained. The rose as a symbol of secrecy might have occurred to them, and "white" might have reflected the fact that their leaflets were not inspired by any colour of political thought, but by broad humanism... The group had no wish to throw bombs, or to cause any injury to human life. They wanted to influence people's minds against Nazism and militarism.

The White Rose, whose leaders were Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans, students at the University of Munich, who printed a series of clandestine pamphlets condemning Nazi rule and calling for resistance to it. Together with several like-minded students, all of whom were inspired by their Christian faith and commitment to humanistic ideals, they distributed these pamphlets throughout Germany and Austria.

One of the many groups resembling each other both in spirit and in action was that of the Scholls (brother and sister) and their friends; in 1942 and 1943 they prepared and distributed leaflets in Munich calling for resistance to the government and the war. Although they realized that their activities could hardly do any significant damage to the regime, but they were willing to sacrifice themselves. Secretly they may have hoped to produce greater results, but primarily they were ready to stake their lives for the cause.

A small group of Munich students... spoke out vehemently, not only against the regime but also against the moral indolence and numbness of the German people. Under the name White Rose they issued appeals and painted slogans on walls calling for an uprising against Hitler. They also established ties with like-minded students in Berlin, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Vienna... Their motives were amongst the simplest and, sadly, the rarest of all: a sense of right and wrong and a determination to take action.

Using small duplicating machines, the students defied an enormously powerful state apparatus. The password White Rose was designed to symbolize a Christian spirit which loved every thing that was noble and beautiful and opposed the "dictatorship of evil" in National Socialist Germany. In mid-February 1943, the Scholls, helped by other students, took part in a demonstration on the streets of Munich, the first protest of its kind in the Third Reich.

All the members of the White Rose shared a deep love of German philosophy and used ideas from the heritage to vent their loathing of the Nazis... The White Rose were brave and non-violent, and resisted in the only way they could: with words. They distributed idealistic, romantic leaflets, calling on the German people to stand up against repression and violence.

During the transport to the front their train had stopped for a few minutes at a Polish station. Along the embankment he saw women and girls bent over and doing heavy men's work with picks. They wore the yellow Star of David on their blouses. Hans slipped through the window of his car and approached. The first one in the group was a young, emaciated girl with small, delicate hands and a beautiful, intelligent face that bore an expression of unspeakable sorrow. Did he have anything that he might give to her? He remembered his Iron Ration - a bar of chocolate, raisins, and nuts - and slipped it into her pocket. The girl threw it on the ground at his feet with a harassed but infinitely proud gesture. He picked it up, smiled, and said, "I wanted to do something to please you". Then he bent down, picked a daisy, and placed it and the package at her feet. The train was starting to move, and Hans had to take a couple of long leaps to get back on. From the window he could see that the girl was standing still, watching the departing train, the white flower in her hair.

Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be "governed" without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. It is certain that today every honest German is ashamed of his government. Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes-crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure-reach the light of day? If the German people are already so corrupted and spiritually crushed that they do not raise a hand, frivolously trusting in a questionable faith in lawful order in history; if they surrender man's highest principle, that which raises him above all other God's creatures, his free will; if they abandon the will to take decisive action and turn the wheel of history and thus subject it to their own rational decision; if they are so devoid of all individuality, have already gone so far along the road toward turning into a spiritless and cowardly mass - then, yes, they deserve their downfall.... Offer passive resistance-resistance - wherever you may be, forestall the spread of this atheistic war machine before it is too late, before the last cities, like Cologne, have been reduced to rubble, and before the nation's last young man has given his blood on some battlefield for the hubris of a sub-human. Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure.

Passive resistance commonly refers to actions of non-violent protest or resistance to authority. The central feature is the conscious choice by the actors to abstain from a violent response even in the face of violent aggression. The term came into common use during the independence struggle in India between the 1920s and 1948. It has been used widely by groups who lack formal authority or position and has sometimes been called the weapon of the weak... Passive resistance has a long and varied history... Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) famously articulated his call for civil disobedience with his act of tax refusal during the Mexican War in the 1840s. Suffragists held demonstrations in major cities in the United States and Great Britain in the early years of the twentieth century; a few participated in hunger strikes.

Passive resistance gained a broad public recognition in the United States as the civil rights movement exploded in the 1950s and 1960s. Throughout the movement years, techniques of passive resistance were used both to assert a moral position about rights and equality and to apply economic and political pressure. Martin Luther King Jr. drew on Gandhi and his own Christian tradition to formulate a strategy of nonviolence. Like Gandhi’s satyagrahis, civil rights activists marched peacefully and publicly in Birmingham, Alabama, in Selma, Alabama, and elsewhere. They also accepted upon themselves the costs of their actions, including discomfort, arrest, beatings, and even death.

The accused Hans Scholl occupied his thoughts for a long time with the political situation. He arrived at the conclusion that just as in 1918, so also after the seizure of power by the National Socialists in 1933, it was not the majority of the German masses but the intellectuals in particular who had failed politically.

He therefore decided to prepare and distribute leaflets intended to carry his ideas to the broad masses of the people. He bought a duplicating machine, and with the help of a friend, Alexander Schmorell, with whom he had often discussed his political views, he acquired a typewriter. He then drafted the first leaflet of the White Rose and claims single handedly to have prepared about a hundred copies and to have mailed them to addresses chosen from the Munich telephone directory. In doing so, he selected people in academic circles particularly, but also restaurant owners, who, he hoped, would spread the contents of the leaflets by word of mouth.

These seditious pamphlets contain attacks on National Socialism and on its cultural-political parties in particular; further, they contain statements concerning the alleged atrocities of National Socialism, namely the alleged murder of the Jews and the alleged forced deportation of the Poles.

Since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way. Here we see the most frightful crime against human dignity, a crime that is unparalleled in the whole of history... All male offspring of the houses of the nobility between the ages of fifteen and twenty were transported to concentration camps in Germany and sentenced to forced labor, and all girls of this age group were sent to Norway, into the bordellos of the SS! Why tell you these things, since you are fully aware of them - or if not of these, then of other equally grave crimes committed by this frightful sub-humanity? Because here we touch on a problem which involves us deeply and forces us all to take thought. Why do the German people behave so apathetically in the face of all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race? Hardly anyone thinks about that. It is accepted as fact and put out of mind. The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals; they give them the opportunity to carry on their depredations; and of course they do so... Up until the outbreak of the war the larger part of the German people was blinded; the Nazis did not show themselves in their true aspect. But now, now that we have recognized them for what they are, it must be the sole and first duty, the holiest duty of every German to destroy these beasts.

Germans! Do you and your children want to suffer the same fate that befell the Jews? Do you want to be judged by the same standards as your traducers? Are we do be forever the nation which is hated and rejected by all mankind? No. Dissociate yourselves from National Socialist gangsterism. Prove by your deeds that you think otherwise. A new war of liberation is about to begin. The better part of the nation will fight on our side. Cast off the cloak of indifference you have wrapped around you. Make the decision before it is too late! Do not believe the National Socialist propaganda which has driven the fear of Bolshevism into your bones. Do not believe that Germany's welfare is linked to the victory of National Socialism for good or ill. A criminal regime cannot achieve a victory. Separate yourself in time from everything connected with National Socialism. In the aftermath a terrible but just judgment will be meted out to those who stayed in hiding, who were cowardly and hesitant.... Imperialistic designs for power, regardless from which side they come, must be neutralized for all time... All centralized power, like that exercised by the Prussian state in Germany and in Europe, must be eliminated... The coming Germany must be federalistic. The working class must be liberated from its degraded conditions of slavery by a reasonable form of socialism... Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the protection of individual citizens from the arbitrary will of criminal regimes of violence - these will be the bases of the New Europe.

The accused, Sophie Scholl, as early as the summer of 1942 took part in political discussions, in which she and her brother, Hans Scholl, came to the conclusion that Germany had lost the war. She admits to having taken part in preparing and distributing the leaflets in 1943. Together, with her brother she drafted the text of the seditious Leaflets of the Resistance in Germany. In addition, she had a part in the purchasing of paper, envelopes and stencils, and together with her brother she actually prepared the duplicated copies of the leaflet. She put the prepared letters into various mailboxes, and she took part in the distribution of leaflets in Munich. She accompanied her brother to the university, was observed there in the act of scattering the leaflets.

How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause.... It is such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go. But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days, how many young, promising lives. What does my death matter if by our acts thousands are warned and alerted. Among the student body there will certainly be a revolt.

Questions for Students

Question 1: According to Elisabeth Scholl (source 2), why did Hans Scholl establish the White Rose Group in the spring of 1942.

Question 2: Read sources 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 14. Describe the methods used by the White Rose in an attempt to overthrow the Nazi government.

Question 3: In their leaflets the White Rose group made it clear that they believed in "passive resistance". What does this mean and why has it been described as the "weapon of the weak"? Can you name other groups who have used this strategy? It will help you to read source 13 before answering this question.

Question 4: What did the authors of the first leaflet (source 12) mean with the words: "Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure."

Question 5: In the early months of 1942, several of its members of the White Rose group were sent to serve as medical staff working with German troops in the Soviet Union. What did they see on their way to the Soviet Union that encouraged them to produce their second leaflet? It will help you to read sources 10 and 15, before answering this question.

Question 6: Read source 15. Is there anything in this source that you do not think is completely accurate? Why did they include this in the leaflet.

Question 7: Describe the kind of society that the White Rose group wanted to achieve after the defeat of the Nazis. You will need to read source 16 before answering this question.

Question 8: The historian, Peter Hoffmann, has claimed: "Although they realized that their activities could hardly do any significant damage to the regime, but they were willing to sacrifice themselves. Secretly they may have hoped to produce greater results, but primarily they were ready to stake their lives for the cause." Do the last words of Sophie Scholl (source 19) support Hoffmann's views on the White Rose group.

Answer Commentary

A commentary on these questions can be found here.


Holocaust Resistance: The White Rose - A Lesson in Dissent

The date was February 22, 1943. Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie, along with their best friend, Christoph Probst, were scheduled to be executed by Nazi officials that afternoon. The prison guards were so impressed with the calm and bravery of the prisoners in the face of impending death that they violated regulations by permitting them to meet together one last time. Hans, a medical student at the University of Munich, was 24. Sophie, a student, was 21. Christoph, a medical student, was 22.

This is the story of The White Rose. It is a lesson in dissent. It is a tale of courage, of principle, of honor. It is detailed in three books, The White Rose (1970) by Inge Scholl, A Noble Treason (1979) by Richard Hanser, and An Honourable Defeat (1994) by Anton Gill.

Hans and Sophie Scholl were German teenagers in the 1930s. Like other young Germans, they enthusiastically joined the Hitler Youth. They believed that Adolf Hitler was leading Germany and the German people back to greatness.

Their parents were not so enthusiastic. Their father, Robert Scholl, told his children that Hitler and the Nazis were leading Germany down a road of destruction. Later, in 1942, he would serve time in a Nazi prison for telling his secretary: &ldquoThe war! It is already lost. This Hitler is God&rsquos scourge on mankind, and if the war doesn&rsquot end soon the Russians will be sitting in Berlin.&rdquo Gradually, Hans and Sophie began realizing that their father was right. They concluded that, in the name of freedom and the greater good of the German nation, Hitler and the Nazis were enslaving and destroying the German people.

They also knew that open dissent was impossible in Nazi Germany, especially after the start of World War II. Most Germans took the traditional position, that once war breaks out, it is the duty of the citizen to support the troops by supporting the government. But Hans and Sophie Scholl believed differently. They believed that it was the duty of a citizen, even in times of war, to stand up against an evil regime, especially when it is sending hundreds of thousands of its citizens to their deaths.

The Scholl siblings began sharing their feelings with a few of their friends, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, as well as with Kurt Huber, their psychology and philosophy professor.


Hans Scholl (left), Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst, leaders of the White Rose resistance organization. Munich 1942 (USHMM Photo)

One day in 1942, copies of a leaflet entitled &ldquoThe White Rose&rdquo suddenly appeared at the University of Munich. The leaflet contained an anonymous essay that said that the Nazi system had slowly imprisoned the German people and was now destroying them. The Nazi regime had turned evil. It was time, the essay said, for Germans to rise up and resist the tyranny of their own government. At the bottom of the essay, the following request appeared: &ldquoPlease make as many copies of this leaflet as you can and distribute them.&rdquo

The leaflet caused a tremendous stir among the student body. It was the first time that internal dissent against the Nazi regime had surfaced in Germany. The essay had been secretly written and distributed by Hans Scholl and his friends.

Another leaflet appeared soon afterward. And then another. And another. Ultimately, there were six leaflets published and distributed by Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friends, four under the title &ldquoThe White Rose&rdquo and two under the title &ldquoLeaflets of the Resistance.&rdquo Their publication took place periodically between 1942 and 1943, interrupted for a few months when Hans and his friends were temporarily sent to the Eastern Front to fight against the Russians.

The members of The White Rose, of course, had to act cautiously. The Nazi regime maintained an iron grip over German society. Internal dissent was quickly and efficiently smashed by the Gestapo. The Scholls and their friends knew what would happen to them if they were caught.

People began receiving copies of the leaflets in the mail. Students at the University of Hamburg began copying and distributing them. Copies began turning up in different parts of Germany and Austria. Moreover, as Hanser points out, the members of The White Rose did not limit themselves to leaflets. Graffiti began appearing in large letters on streets and buildings all over Munich: &ldquoDown with Hitler! . . . Hitler the Mass Murderer!&rdquo and &ldquoFreiheit! . . . Freiheit! . . . Freedom! . . . Freedom!&rdquo

The Gestapo was driven into a frenzy. It knew that the authors were having to procure large quantities of paper, envelopes, and postage. It knew that they were using a duplicating machine. But despite the Gestapo&rsquos best efforts, it was unable to catch the perpetrators.

One day, February 18, 1943, Hans&rsquo and Sophie&rsquos luck ran out. They were caught leaving pamphlets at the University of Munich and were arrested. A search disclosed evidence of Christoph Probst&rsquos participation, and he too was soon arrested. The three of them were indicted for treason.

On February 22, four days after their arrest, their trial began. The presiding judge, Roland Freisler, chief justice of the People&rsquos Court of the Greater German Reich, had been sent from Berlin. Hanser writes:

Freisler and the other accusers could not understand what had happened to these German youths. After all, they all came from nice German families. They all had attended German schools. They had been members of the Hitler Youth. How could they have turned out to be traitors? What had so twisted and warped their minds?

Sophie Scholl shocked everyone in the courtroom when she remarked to Freisler: &ldquoSomebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don&rsquot dare to express themselves as we did.&rdquo Later in the proceedings, she said to him: &ldquoYou know the war is lost. Why don&rsquot you have the courage to face it?&rdquo

In the middle of the trial, Robert and Magdalene Scholl tried to enter the courtroom. Magdalene said to the guard: &ldquoBut I&rsquom the mother of two of the accused.&rdquo The guard responded: &ldquoYou should have brought them up better.&rdquo Robert Scholl forced his way into the courtroom and told the court that he was there to defend his children. He was seized and forcibly escorted outside. The entire courtroom heard him shout: &ldquoOne day there will be another kind of justice! One day they will go down in history!&rdquo

Robert Freisler pronounced his judgment on the three defendants: Guilty of treason. Their sentence: Death.

They were escorted back to Stadelheim prison, where the guards permitted Hans and Sophie to have one last visit with their parents. Hans met with them first, and then Sophie. Hanser writes:

No relatives visited Christoph Probst. His wife, who had just had their third child, was in the hospital. Neither she nor any members of his family even knew that he was on trial or that he had been sentenced to death. While his faith in God had always been deep and unwavering, he had never committed to a certain faith. On the eve of his death, a Catholic priest admitted him into the church in articulo mortis, at the point of death. &ldquoNow,&rdquo he said, &ldquomy death will be easy and joyful.&rdquo

That afternoon, the prison guards permitted Hans, Sophie, and Christoph to have one last visit together. Sophie was then led to the guillotine. One observer described her as she walked to her death: &ldquoWithout turning a hair, without flinching.&rdquo Christoph Probst was next. Hans Scholl was last just before he was beheaded, Hans cried out: &ldquoLong live freedom!&rdquo

Unfortunately, they were not the last to die. The Gestapo&rsquos investigation was relentless. Later tried and executed were Alex Schmorell (age 25), Willi Graf (age 25), and Kurt Huber (age 49). Students at the University of Hamburg were either executed or sent to concentration camps.

Today, every German knows the story of The White Rose. A square at the University of Munich is named after Hans and Sophie Scholl. And there are streets, squares, and schools all over Germany named for the members of The White Rose. The German movie The White Rose is now found in video stores in Germany and the United States. Richard Hanser sums up the story of The White Rose:

Source: The Future of Freedom Foundation. Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.


White Rose: The German Anti-Nazi Activists Beheaded in 1943

Across Germany and especially in Munich, the city where they were most active, people remember and honor, by naming streets, monuments, even a top literary prize after the Scholl siblings and their bold protest group White Rose. To many Germans and to many other people around the world now, they are a symbol of bravery and moral conviction in the face of immensely powerful oppressors like the Nazi government of Germany.

They wouldn’t be complicit, they couldn’t be silent. They called out evil, brutality, and the blind, deluded fascism of the Third Reich right up until the moment the guillotine finally ended their cries for reason, peace, and freedom.

Secretly, a handful of students and one professor from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and a few other supporters wrote seven leaflets (five distributed by the group, one after their capture, and one unpublished) stating the horrors of the Nazi Government and demanding that the German people recognize and to stop the Nazi terror. The group used bold language to denounce the government as seen below,

“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” (Source: wikipedia.org).

This is a quote from the second leaflet written, printed, and distributed by the White Rose. It shows the intensity with which they opposed the Nazi regime and their demand that Germans see beyond the propaganda and see the truth.

The members of this group were Hans and Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst (the first members to be put on trial and executed), Kurt Huber, Hans Conrad Leipelt and Alex Schmorell, (who were also executed), Rudi Alt, Helmut Bauer, Lieselotte Berndl, Heinrich Bollinger, Harald Dohrn, Manfred Eickemeyer, Hubert Furtwängler, Wilhelm Geyer, Willi Graf, Heinrich Guter, Falk Harnack, Marie-Luise Jahn, Wolfgang Jaeger, Traute Lafrenz, Gisela Schertling, Katharina Schüddekopf, Josef Söhngen, and Jürgen Wittenstein.

They were Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Buddhist, some inspired by anthroposophy, Eastern philosophies or by the terror of time spent fighting at Stalingrad. Alexander Schmorell, who wrote much of the group’s material, was even canonized as a New Martyr by the Orthodox Church, his holy image depicting a cross and a white rose in his hand.

Alexander Schmorell. By Angelika Knoop-Probst, Nicoasc – CC BY 3.0

The first leaflet the group published was the text of a sermon by the Bishop August von Galen which Hans Scholl had read in 1941 and which Sophie Scholl had acquired permission to use. The Bishop wrote scathingly of the Nazis, especially for their practices of euthanasia for the sake of eugenics and the belief that they were improving the German race. White Rose published their first piece in the summer of 1942. Over the next year, they published four more leaflets, leaving them in public phone booths, mailing them to academic colleagues and sending them to other universities across the country.

Several group members served on the Eastern front. Graf had seen the Jewish Ghettos set up by the Nazis in Poland. Schmorell, who spoke fluent Russian, was able to hear stories from Russians and other Slavs of war crimes and the inhumane violence of the German Army and Waffen SS. All these experiences added to the moral conviction of the Group and explains the fiery rhetoric of their leaflets.

Willi Graf

In January 1943, White Rose printed between 6,000 and 9,000 copies of their fifth leaflet. On February 18 th of that year, Hans and Sophie placed stacks of this literature around their university just before classes ended. As Sophie pushed a stack off of a top banister into the open Atrium below, she was spotted by a janitor. She and Hans were reported and arrested by the Gestapo. A quick investigation into items on their person and in their home lead to the arrests of most of the other members.

In a time in Germany where free speech was not a right, when dissent was forbidden, when Total War was the only acceptable mindset, these young students and activists knew what they faced.

On February 22 nd , 1943, the Scholls and Probst stood trial in the Volksgericht, in a “people’s court” for political offenses. It was a show trial to make an example of them.

They were quickly found guilty and, the very same day, all three were beheaded by guillotine. They were committed idealists and true believers until their last.

As the blade dropped, Hans shouted, “let freedom live!”

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?

-Sophie Scholl’s last words

Schmorell and Professor Huber were beheaded on July 13 th , 1943. Leipelt suffered the same fate on January 29 th , 1945 after being caught distributing the group’s sixth leaflet in Hamburg. Huber’s wife was sent a bill for 600 marks. The charge was for “wear of the guillotine.”

Professor Kurt Huber. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

The sixth leaflet Leipelt had been distributing had been smuggled out of Germany after the trials and into the hands of the Allied forces. They proceeded to airdrop millions of copies over Germany as an anti-Nazi propaganda campaign preceding their invasion. The Group recognized the inevitability of a German defeat who saw the increasing power of the Soviet Union, Britain and America and the limits of Germany’s war machine.

Through plays, operas, books, films, and the hearts and minds of the German people, the legacy of White Rose lives on as a great inspiration. For example, Hans and Sophie Scholl were voted some of the greatest Germans to have ever lived.

The 2005 film Sophie School: Die Letzten Tage(the final days), based on witness interviews and official transcripts, is a compelling look at the investigation and trials.


The White Rose Opposition Movement

In 1942 Hans Scholl, a medical student at the University of Munich, his sister Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Willi Graf, and Alexander Schmorell founded the “White Rose” movement, one of the few German groups that spoke out against Nazi genocidal policies.

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Nazi tyranny and the apathy of German citizens in the face of the regime’s “abominable crimes” outraged idealistic “White Rose” members. Many of them had heard about the mass murder of Polish Jews as a soldier on the eastern front, Hans Scholl had also seen firsthand the mistreatment of Jewish forced laborers and heard of the deportation of large numbers of Poles to concentration camps.

The group expanded into an organization of students in Hamburg, Freiburg, Berlin, and Vienna. At great risk, “White Rose” members transported and mailed mimeographed leaflets that denounced the regime. In their attempt to stop the war effort, they advocated the sabotage of the armaments industry. “We will not be silent,” they wrote to their fellow students. “We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!" Because the students were aware that only military force could end Nazi domination, they limited their aims to achieve “a renewal from within of the severely wounded German spirit.”

After the German army’s defeat at Stalingrad in late January 1943, the Scholls distributed pamphlets urging students in Munich to rebel. But in the next month, a university janitor who saw them with the pamphlets betrayed them to the Gestapo (German secret state police).

The regime executed Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst on February 22, 1943. Officials also eventually arrested and executed philosophy professor Kurt Huber, who had guided the movement, and the rest of the “White Rose” members.

At his trial Huber remained loyal to the eighteenth century German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s ethical teaching, as he concluded his defense with the words of Kant’s disciple Johann Gottlieb Fichte:

And thou shalt act as if
On thee and on thy deed
Depended the fate of all Germany,
And thou alone must answer for it.


White Rose Resistance to Hitler's Regime, 1942-1943

The students were certainly successful in acting within their highest moral standards despite the slim chances of succeeding, but they were not successful in spreading widespread opposition to the regime.

Although one member of the White Rose survived the war, the campaign ended when Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst were executed.

Although the campaign was generally unsuccessful, it did grow within Munich and then expand to other cities in Germany. What started as a group of two or three students turned into a campaign of about three hundred students.

Database Narrative

Amidst the omnipresence of violence during World War II, nonviolent protest is often overlooked or unheard of. However, there were several resistance campaigns that took place in Germany, led by its own citizens. One such campaign in the period of 1942-1943 was the resistance initiated by the White Rose society. Although they were ultimately unsuccessful, the members of the White Rose became an influential example of student resistance against repressive regimes.

The main leaders of the campaign, Hans Scholl, Alex Schmorell, and Sophie Scholl, were not all anti-Nazi throughout their entire lives. Schmorell’s family was always opposed to the Nazi regime, but the young Scholls had originally believed in Hitler’s values and even joined the Hitler Youth despite their father’s disapproval. Gradually, Hans and Sophie began to sympathize with their father’s views of the regime, especially when they observed harsh treatment and dehumanization of their Jewish friends. Breaking off from the common theory that citizens should support their troops in war no matter what the circumstances, the young Scholl siblings thought that it was the duty of citizens to stand up against what they perceived as an evil regime, even in wartime, especially when it was killing such a huge quantity of its own citizens. Hans tried to alter the direction of the movement from within the Hitler Youth, but was immediately thrown out and even sent to court.

Organized resistance was essentially out of the question since the Gestapo was permitted to listen to any phone call, open any mail, or search anyone’s person, all without reason. Speaking openly and honestly with friends was also rare, since people never knew who was a Nazi spy, or which one of their friends or neighbors would turn them in. This is not to suggest that opposition of the regime was nonexistent on the contrary, we now know that there were over three hundred citizens who openly disagreed with the Nazi mindset, but groups of them were so small and isolated that it was difficult to know of each other and therefore initiate a larger movement.

George Wittenstein, another member of the White Rose, and Alex Schmorell met in 1938 on an obligatory two-year army service where they were in the same training school for medics. By 1939, most of the members of the White Rose were enrolled at the University of Munich. However, shortly after the war started, most of the medical students were drafted and required to attend classes in uniform. It was in this student company that Wittenstein introduced Schmorell and Hans Scholl.

Within the first couple of months at the University of Munich, Hans Scholl created a group of intellectual medicine students that convened at nights to talk about cultural subjects, and would even invite professors, writers, and musicians to come lecture to the group. This group, which had fostered deep friendships through similarities in profound subjects beyond the common interest in medicine, initially avoided the topic of politics altogether. However, as the regime became increasingly oppressive, the group realized the necessity of taking action.

In the early summer of 1942, Hans Scholl and Alex Schmorell wrote the first four of six opposition leaflets, called the “Leaves of the White Rose.” These leaflets attacked the Nazi regime and mentioned its crimes, from the mass extermination of Jews, to the dictatorship and the elimination of the personal freedoms of Germany’s citizens. Furthermore, it called the Nazi regime evil, and called for Germans to rise up and resist the oppression of their government. The leaflets also contained quotes from great philosophers and highly esteemed writers, demonstrating how they were clearly aimed at the intellectual public, and especially students and professors. At the bottom of the leaflets was the phrase, “Please make as many copies of this leaflet as you can and distribute them.”

The “Leaves of the White Rose” were left in telephone boxes, mailed to students and professors throughout Germany, and brought by train to spread the White Rose’s beliefs to other regions of the country. Since traveling on trains with such dangerous documents was extremely risky, females began to take on the responsibility of distributing leaflets to other cities because they were less likely to be searched by the Gestapo. Of the first hundred leaflets that the students mailed, thirty-five were given to the Gestapo. However, many of the pamphlets successfully arrived at their destinations, and some even showed up in different parts of Austria.

All four leaflets were written in a relatively short time period, between June 27 and July 12. As far as is known today, Hans Scholl wrote the first and fourth leaflets, while Alex Schmorell wrote the second and third ones. George Wittenstein edited the third and fourth leaflets. The “Leaves of the White Rose” caused a remarkable reaction among the student body, for this resistance literature challenged the regime’s authority and stimulated ideas of opposition among young people.

Sophie Scholl enrolled in the University of Munich shortly following the creation of the first leaflets, and soon learned about the White Rose society. Although Hans originally opposed her participation in the group in an attempt to defend her, he eventually surrendered and allowed her to join. Sophie soon became one of the main leaders of the group. A mutual friend of Hans and Sophie, Christoph Probst, also joined the White Rose around this time, but did not help write the leaflets since he had transferred to the University of Innsbruck.

In the later months of the summer, the University did not know what to do with the medical students they had drafted so they sent them to the Russian front for 3 months to experience medical care under fire, and to work as physician assistants in field hospitals. During this time, Willi Graf, another medical student, befriended Hans and Alex and became an active member of the group once they returned to the University in November. After seeing the treatment of the Russians, the members of the White Rose understood that the only way Germany could be saved was by losing the war, a difficult realization for the students who truly did love their homeland. Once they returned to Germany, their energy increased and they began writing their next leaflet.

When the group returned, their main objective was to increase the size of their campaign and to find willing participants at other universities to continue to spread the group’s message. By this point, bombings over Germany began to take place, and the citizens felt the effects of war thus, they were slightly more willing to voice their opinions against the regime. Around this time, Kurt Huber, a professor of philosophy, psychology, and musicology at the University of Munich joined the campaign.

Although the pamphlets were the main method of opposition by the White Rose, on February 4, 8, and 15, they painted huge slogans on walls throughout Munich, including at the university. The graffiti was short and simple with statements such as: “Freedom!” “Down with Hitler!” and “Hitler the Mass Murderer!”

The fall of Stalingrad in February 1943 was a great turning point in the war and inspired Huber to write the fifth leaflet at the request of Hans. The group accepted the draft, making only minor changes, and sent it out between February 16 and 18. This leaflet took a different tone and was now entitled “Leaflets of the Resistance Movement of Germany,” as was the sixth and final leaflet.

While furious Nazi officials tried to clear away the unexpected call for freedom and justice, the rebellion began to spread, first by jumping to Berlin. A medical student who was friends with Hans took the responsibility of forming a similar resistance group there and brought copies of the leaflets that the group wrote. Inspired by the courage of the White Rose, students also decided to become active in Freiburg. Later, a female student carried a leaflet to Hamburg where yet another group of students took up the responsibility of spreading the resistance even further.

The sixth leaflet was the final one written. On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie went to the university with a large suitcase filled with leaflets to distribute. They placed stacks in the hallways minutes before lectures were dismissed, but there were still extra leaflets when finished. Consequently, Hans and Sophie went to the roof and dumped the rest of the suitcase into the court. The two nearly went unnoticed, but were observed by a senior janitor at the university who locked the doors of the building and turned them over to the Gestapo. When a draft of a leaflet that Christoph Probst had written was found in Hans’ pocket, Probst was arrested as well. Within a few days, over eighty people were arrested throughout Germany, some executed and some sent to concentration camps.

On February 22, 1943, a “People’s Court” was opened in Munich and after a trial that lasted barely four hours, Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst were convicted of high treason and sentenced to death. The presiding Judge, Roland Freisler, who had been sent from Berlin, could not understand what had corrupted these German youths. After all, they came from good families, attended German schools, and had been members of the Hitler Youth. Sophie shocked everyone in the courtroom with her response: “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare to express themselves as we did. You know that war is lost. Why don’t you have the courage to face it?”

Hans’ and Sophie’s parents were denied entrance to the trial. However, once escorted back to the prison, the guards permitted the Scholls to reunite for the last time since the guards were so impressed by the siblings’ bravery. The guards also permitted Sophie, Hans, and Christoph to have one last meeting. Once finished, Sophie was led first to the guillotine. A witness described Sophie as unflinching as she walked to her death. The executioner also remarked that he had never seen someone meet the end of life as courageously as she did. Next was Christoph, who shouted, “We will meet each other in a few minutes!” right before his death. Last was Hans, whose last words were simply: “Long live the freedom!” The Nazis were so eager to eliminate this danger to the regime that the news of the incident was not released until after the executions took place.

This was not the end of the killing. Alex Schmorell tried to escape to Switzerland, but had to retreat due to deep snow. He was later arrested during an air raid, after being betrayed by a former girlfriend. A second trial took place on April 19, at which Schmorell, Graf, and Huber were all tried and convicted. Schmorell and Huber were later executed on July 13, 1944, and Graf was executed on October 12. Hundreds of other people connected with the White Rose were arrested and sentenced to various punishments. George Wittenstein was the only man to survive the war. He was tried after attempting to help a Jewish woman escape from Germany, but was found not guilty and was set free.


The White Rose Anti-Nazi Group - History

Hans Scholl (left), Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst, members of the White Rose, in Munich, 1942 two of the group’s leaflets (inset).

AKG-Images/Wittenstein/Newscom (Top) Holocaustresearchproject.Org (Left Leaflet) The Granger Collection, New York (Right Leaflet)

How a group of college students in Nazi Germany risked their lives to defy Hitler’s rule

On Feb. 18, 1943, two students at the University of Munich were arrested and taken into police custody. Hans Scholl, 25, and his sister Sophie, 22, were members of the White Rose, an underground anti-Nazi resistance group founded in 1942 by a handful of students at the University of Munich. The Nazis were committing genocide against the Jews and other “undesirables” in Germany and the parts of Europe it occupied. By discreetly placing anti-Nazi leaflets in public places across Germany, the group hoped to rouse people to action against Adolf Hitler’s totalitarian Nazi regime.

The courageous acts by the Scholls and others in their group—six ended up paying with their lives—only recently began getting attention in the U.S. And the account of their bravery during the darkest days of World War II (1939-45) offers lessons that are still relevant today, according to Annette Dumbach, co-author of the book Sophie Scholl and the White Rose.

“In a world filled with totalitarian tendencies,” says Dumbach, “[the White Rose] story is emblematic for people who fight back in the extreme moments of total state control.” She adds that their actions resonate with young people “who can identify with their struggle, their fumbling, their mistakes, their daring and courage even in the face of death.”

Hitler rose to power in the early 1930s at a time when Germany was in desperate shape (see Timeline). Its defeat in World War I (1914-18) and the harsh conditions imposed on it by the U.S., Britain, and France in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles—including enormous reparation payments to the victors—had left Germany humiliated and impoverished. Its economy only worsened with the worldwide economic depression that followed the 1929 stock market crash.

All this provided fertile ground for Hitler’s radical nationalist ideology. The Nazis (short for National Socialists) promised to stop reparation payments, give all Germans food and jobs, and make them proud to be German again. In 1930, Hitler’s party won 18 percent of the vote in parliament, effectively making it impossible to govern the country without Nazi support. To break the deadlock, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor (similar to prime minister) in January 1933.

Less than a month later, Hitler used a fire that destroyed the Reichstag, the parliament building in Berlin, as an excuse to declare a state of emergency and suspend democratic protections like freedom of speech. The Nazis began embedding the idea of a “master race” into the national psyche, elevating Germans to a genetic ideal they called “Aryan” and categorizing non-Aryans as “sub-human.”

Jews, in particular, became the prime scapegoats for Germany’s ills. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws stripped Jews of their citizenship and political rights, expelled them from the army, and banned them from marrying people of “German blood.” Following two days of state-sanctioned violence against Jews in 1938 that came to be known as Kristallnacht (see box), Jews were banned from public places like universities and theaters and were eventually forced into ghettos.

Hitler’s plans extended beyond Germany and led to the start of World War II in 1939. In an effort to give the German people more “living space,” Hitler annexed Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939. His invasion of Poland in 1939 sparked an all-out war in Europe. By 1942 Germany occupied much of Europe, including France and a chunk of the Soviet Union (see map). Nazi persecution of the Jews was formalized as the “Final Solution,” a plan to systematically murder all of Europe’s 10.5 million Jews. (The Nazis also persecuted and killed millions of others, including Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, and the disabled.)


White Rose: The German Anti-Nazi Activists Who Were Beheaded In 1943

Across Germany and especially in Munich, the city where they were most active, people remember and honor, by naming streets, monuments, even a top literary prize after the Scholl siblings and their bold protest group White Rose. To many Germans and to many other people around the world now, they are a symbol of bravery and moral conviction in the face of immensely powerful oppressors like the Nazi government of Germany.

They wouldn’t be complicit, they couldn’t be silent. They called out evil, brutality, and the blind, deluded fascism of the Third Reich right up until the moment the guillotine finally ended their cries for reason, peace, and freedom.

Secretly, a handful of students and one professor from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and a few other supporters wrote seven leaflets (five distributed by the group, one after their capture, and one unpublished) stating the horrors of the Nazi Government and demanding that the German people recognize and to stop the Nazi terror. The group used bold language to denounce the government as seen below,

“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” (Source: wikipedia.org).

This is a quote from the second leaflet written, printed, and distributed by the White Rose. It shows the intensity with which they opposed the Nazi regime and their demand that Germans see beyond the propaganda and see the truth.

The members of this group were Hans and Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst (the first members to be put on trial and executed), Kurt Huber, Hans Conrad Leipelt and Alex Schmorell, (who were also executed), Rudi Alt, Helmut Bauer, Lieselotte Berndl, Heinrich Bollinger, Harald Dohrn, Manfred Eickemeyer, Hubert Furtwängler, Wilhelm Geyer, Willi Graf, Heinrich Guter, Falk Harnack, Marie-Luise Jahn, Wolfgang Jaeger, Traute Lafrenz, Gisela Schertling, Katharina Schüddekopf, Josef Söhngen, and Jürgen Wittenstein.

They were Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Buddhist, some inspired by anthroposophy, Eastern philosophies or by the terror of time spent fighting at Stalingrad. Alexander Schmorell, who wrote much of the group’s material, was even canonized as a New Martyr by the Orthodox Church, his holy image depicting a cross and a white rose in his hand.

Alexander Schmorell. By Angelika Knoop-Probst, Nicoasc – CC BY 3.0

The first leaflet the group published was the text of a sermon by the Bishop August von Galen which Hans Scholl had read in 1941 and which Sophie Scholl had acquired permission to use. The Bishop wrote scathingly of the Nazis, especially for their practices of euthanasia for the sake of eugenics and the belief that they were improving the German race. White Rose published their first piece in the summer of 1942. Over the next year, they published four more leaflets, leaving them in public phone booths, mailing them to academic colleagues and sending them to other universities across the country.

Several group members served on the Eastern front. Graf had seen the Jewish Ghettos set up by the Nazis in Poland. Schmorell, who spoke fluent Russian, was able to hear stories from Russians and other Slavs of war crimes and the inhumane violence of the German Army and Waffen SS. All these experiences added to the moral conviction of the Group and explains the fiery rhetoric of their leaflets.

Willi Graf

In January 1943, White Rose printed between 6,000 and 9,000 copies of their fifth leaflet. On February 18 th of that year, Hans and Sophie placed stacks of this literature around their university just before classes ended. As Sophie pushed a stack off of a top banister into the open Atrium below, she was spotted by a janitor. She and Hans were reported and arrested by the Gestapo. A quick investigation into items on their person and in their home lead to the arrests of most of the other members.

In a time in Germany where free speech was not a right, when dissent was forbidden, when Total War was the only acceptable mindset, these young students and activists knew what they faced.

On February 22 nd , 1943, the Scholls and Probst stood trial in the Volksgericht, in a “people’s court” for political offenses. It was a show trial to make an example of them.

They were quickly found guilty and, the very same day, all three were beheaded by guillotine. They were committed idealists and true believers until their last.

As the blade dropped, Hans shouted, “let freedom live!”

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?

– Sophie Scholl’s last words

Schmorell and Professor Huber were beheaded on July 13 th , 1943. Leipelt suffered the same fate on January 29 th , 1945 after being caught distributing the group’s sixth leaflet in Hamburg. Huber’s wife was sent a bill for 600 marks. The charge was for “wear of the guillotine.”

Professor Kurt Huber. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

The sixth leaflet Leipelt had been distributing had been smuggled out of Germany after the trials and into the hands of the Allied forces. They proceeded to airdrop millions of copies over Germany as an anti-Nazi propaganda campaign preceding their invasion. The Group recognized the inevitability of a German defeat who saw the increasing power of the Soviet Union, Britain and America and the limits of Germany’s war machine.

Through plays, operas, books, films, and the hearts and minds of the German people, the legacy of White Rose lives on as a great inspiration. For example, Hans and Sophie Scholl were voted some of the greatest Germans to have ever lived.

The 2005 film Sophie Scholl: Die Letzten Tage(the final days), based on witness interviews and official transcripts, is a compelling look at the investigation and trials.


The History Notes

Fifty-four years ago three German students were arrested. A few days later they were hauled before the Volksgerichtshof ("People's Court"), sentenced to death and executed by beheading the same day. Within a few months many more arrests were made, and, in a second trial, three additional death sentences were handed down. (The "People's Court," I should add, existed outside the German constitution. It was created by the NSDAP, the National Socialist Party, in 1934 for the sole purpose of eliminating Hitler's enemies.)


In the early summer of 1942, a group of young people — including Willi Graf, Christoph Probst, Hans Scholl, his sisters Sophie and Inge Scholl, and Alex Schmorell, all in their early twenties, as well as their professor of philosophy, Kurt Huber, formed a a non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany. The group became known for an anonymous leaflet campaign, lasting from June 1942 until February 1943, that called for active opposition to the Nazis regime.


The group co-authored six anti-Nazi Third Reich political resistance leaflets. Calling themselves The White Rose, they instructed Germans to passively resist the Nazis. They had been horrified by the behavior of the Germans on the Eastern Front where they had witnessed a group of naked Jews being shot in a pit. The White Rose was influenced by the German Youth Movement, of which Christoph Probst was a member. Hans Scholl was a member of the Hitler Youth until 1936 and Sophie was a member of the Bund Deutscher Mädel.

Between June 1942 and February 1943, they prepared and distributed six different leaflets, in which they called for the active opposition of the German people to Nazi oppression and tyranny. Huber drafted the final two leaflets. A draft of a seventh leaflet, written by Christoph Probst, was found in the possession of Hans Scholl at the time of his arrest by the Gestapo, who destroyed it. Alex Schmorell and Hans Scholl wrote four leaflets, copied them on a typewriter with as many copies as could be made, probably not exceeding 100, and distributed them throughout Germany. These leaflets were left in telephone books in public phone booths, mailed to professors and students, and taken by courier to other universities for distribution. All four were written in a relatively brief period, between June 27 and July 12. As far as is known today, Hans Scholl wrote the first and fourth leaflets, Alex Schmorell participated with the second and third.
1942: Hubert Furtwangler, Hans Scholl, Willi Graf, unknown, Sophie Scholl and Alexander Schmorell before leaving for service on the Russian front


Producing and distributing such leaflets sounds simple from today's perspective, but, in reality, it was not only very difficult but even dangerous. Paper was scarce, as were envelopes. And if one bought them in large quantities, or for that matter, more than just a few postage stamps (in any larger numbers), one would (have) become instantly suspect.

All leaflets were also sent to the members of the White Rose, in order that we could check whether they were intercepted. Significantly, of the first 100 leaflets, 35 were turned over to the Gestapo.

Several members had served in the German Army before resuming their studies. This provided them with information about the atrocities being committed by the Schutz Staffeinel (SS).Willi Graf had served as a medical orderly in France and Yugoslavia in 1941 whereas Hans Scholl and Schmorell had seen Jews being murdered in Poland and the Soviet Union. When Scholl and Schmorell returned to Munich in November, 1942, they joined up with Graff and began publishing leaflets about what they had seen while in the army.

In "Passive Resistance to National Socialism", published in 1943 the group explained the reasons why they had formed the White Rose group:
"We want to try and show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of the system. It can be done only by the cooperation of many convinced, energetic people - people who are agreed as to the means they must use. We have no great number of choices as to the means. The meaning and goal of passive resistance is to topple National Socialism, and in this struggle we must not recoil from our course, any action, whatever its nature. A victory of fascist Germany in this war would have immeasurable, frightful consequences."

The White Rose group also began painting anti-Nazi slogans on the sides of houses. This included "Down With Hitler", "Hitler Mass Murderer" and "Freedom". They also painted crossed-out swastikas. The members of The White Rose worked day and night, cranking a hand-operated duplicating machine thousands of times to create the leaflets which were each stuffed into envelopes, stamped and mailed from various major cities in Southern Germany. Recipients were chosen from telephone directories and were generally scholars, medics and pub-owners in order to confuse the Gestapo investigators.

On Thursday, February eighteenth, 1943, Sophie and Hans distributed the pamphlets personally at the university. They hurriedly dropped stacks of copies in the empty corridors for students to find when they flooded out of lecture rooms. Leaving before the class break, the Scholls noticed that some copies remained in the suitcase and decided it would be a pity not to distribute them.

They returned to the atrium and climbed the staircase to the top floor, and Sophie flung the last remaining leaflets into the air. This spontaneous action was observed by the custodian Jakob Schmid. The police were called and Hans and Sophie were taken into Gestapo custody. The other active members were soon arrested, and the group and everyone associated with them were brought in for interrogation.

Sophie and Hans were questioned for four days in Munich, and their trial was set for 22nd February. They, along with Christoph, were arrested. Within days, all three were brought before the People's Court in Berlin. On February 22, 1943. The trial was run by Roland Freisler, head judge of the court, and lasted only a few hours, they were convicted of treason and sentenced to death. Only hours later, the court carried out that sentence by guillotine. All three faced their deaths bravely, Hans crying out his last words, "Long Live Freedom!"

Later that same year, other members of the White Rose - Alexander Schmorell (age 25), Willi Graf (age 25), and Kurt Huber (age 49) - were tried and executed. Most of the other students convicted for their part in the group's activities received prison sentences.

Prior to their deaths, several members of the White Rose believed that their execution would stir university students and other anti-war citizens into a rallying activism against Hitler and the war. Accounts suggest, however, that university students continued their studies as usual, citizens mentioned nothing, many regarding the movement as anti-national. Their actions were mostly dismissed, until after the war when their efforts were eventually praised by the German consciousness.


White Rose: The Germans who tried to topple Hitler

Seventy years ago today, three German students were executed in Munich for leading a resistance movement against Hitler. Since then, the members of the White Rose group have become German national heroes - Lilo Furst-Ramdohr was one of them.

In 1943, World War II was at its height - but in Munich, the centre of Nazi power, a group of students had started a campaign of passive resistance.

Liselotte Furst-Ramdohr, already a widow at the age of 29 following her husband's death on the Russian front, was introduced to the White Rose group by her friend, Alexander Schmorell.

"I can still see Alex today as he told me about it," says Furst-Ramdohr, now a spry 99-year-old. "He never said the word 'resistance', he just said that the war was dreadful, with the battles and so many people dying, and that Hitler was a megalomaniac, and so they had to do something."

Schmorell and his friends Christoph Probst and Hans Scholl had started writing leaflets encouraging Germans to join them in resisting the Nazi regime.

With the help of a small group of collaborators, they distributed the leaflets to addresses selected at random from the phone book.

Furst-Ramdohr says the group couldn't understand how the German people had been so easily led into supporting the Nazi Party and its ideology.

"They must have been able to tell how bad things were, it was ridiculous," she says.

The White Rose delivered the leaflets by hand to addresses in the Munich area, and sent them to other cities through trusted couriers.

Furst-Ramdohr never delivered the leaflets herself but hid them in a broom cupboard in her flat.

She also helped Schmorell make stencils in her flat saying "Down with Hitler", and on the nights of 8 and 15 February, the White Rose graffitied the slogan on walls across Munich.

Furst-Ramdohr remembers the activists - who were risking their lives for their beliefs - as young and naive.

One of the best-known members of the group today is Hans Scholl's younger sister Sophie, later the subject of an Oscar-nominated film, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. Furst-Ramdohr remembers that Sophie was so scared that she used to sleep in her brother's bed.

"Hans was very afraid too, but they wanted to keep going for Germany - they loved their country," she says.

On 18 February, Hans and Sophie Scholl set off on their most daring expedition yet. They planned to distribute copies of their sixth - and as it would turn out, final - leaflet at the University of Munich, where students would find them as they came out of lectures.

The siblings left piles of the leaflets around the central stairwell. But as they reached the top of the stairs, Sophie still had a number of leaflets left over - so she threw them over the balcony, to float down to the students below.

She was seen by a caretaker, who called the Gestapo. Hans Scholl had a draft for another leaflet in his pocket, which he attempted to swallow, but the Gestapo were too quick.

The Scholl siblings were arrested and tried in front of an emergency session of the People's Court. They were found guilty and executed by guillotine, along with their friend and collaborator Christoph Probst, on 22 February 1943.

Hans Scholl's last words before he was executed were: "Long live freedom!"

The rest of the White Rose group was thrown into panic. Alexander Schmorell went straight to Lilo Forst-Ramdohr's flat, where she helped him find new clothes and a fake passport. Schmorell attempted to flee to Switzerland but was forced to turn back by heavy snow.

Returning to Munich, he was captured after a former girlfriend recognised him entering an air raid shelter during a bombing raid. He was arrested, and later executed.

Lilo Furst-Ramdohr was herself arrested on 2 March. "Two Gestapo men came to the flat and they turned everything upside down," she says.

"They went through my letters, and then one of them said 'I'm afraid you'll have to come with us'.

"They took me to the Gestapo prison in the Wittelsbach Palais on the tram - they stood behind my seat so I couldn't escape."

Furst-Ramdohr spent a month in Gestapo custody. She was regularly interrogated about her role in the White Rose, but eventually released without charge - a stroke of luck she puts down to her status as a war widow, and to the likelihood that the Gestapo was hoping she would lead them to other co-conspirators. After her release she was followed by the secret police for some time.

She then fled Munich for Aschersleben, near Leipzig, where she married again and opened a puppet theatre.

The final White Rose leaflet was smuggled out of Germany and intercepted by Allied forces, with the result that, in the autumn of 1943, millions of copies were dropped over Germany by Allied aircraft.

Since the end of the war, the members of the White Rose have become celebrated figures, as German society has searched for positive role models from the Nazi period.

But Furst-Ramdohr doesn't like it. "At the time, theyɽ have had us all executed," she says of the majority of her compatriots.

She now lives alone in a small town outside Munich, where she continued to give dancing lessons up to the age of 86.

Her friend Alexander Schmorell was made a saint by the Russian Orthodox church in 2012.

"He would have laughed out loud if heɽ known," says Furst-Ramdohr. "He wasn't a saint - he was just a normal person."

Lucy Burns interviewed Liselotte Furst-Ramdohr for the BBC World Service programme Witness. Listen via BBC iPlayer or browse the Witness podcast archive.


The White Rose Movement

The White Rose movement opposed Hitler, Nazi rule and World War Two. The White Rose movement is probably the most famous of the civilian resistance movements that developed within Nazi Germany but some of its members paid a terrible price for their stand against the system.

The White Rose movement was made up of students who attended Munich University. Its most famous members were Hans and Sophie Scholl. Members of the White Rose movement clandestinely distributed anti-Nazi and anti-war leaflets and it was while they were in the process of doing this that they were caught.

Nazi Germany was a police state. Whether it was true or not, people believed that informants were everywhere. To keep secrecy, membership of the White Rose movement was extremely small. It produced anti-war leaflets that were also deemed to be anti-Nazi. What those in it did was extremely dangerous. If they were captured they would have been charged with treason with the inevitable consequences. That is why the group had to be kept very small – everyone knew each other and each was convinced of the loyalty of everyone in the group.

The White Rose movement was active between June 1942 and February 1943. In that time they made six anti-war/anti-Nazi leaflets, which were distributed in public. Member also engaged in a graffiti campaign within Munich.

One of the leaflets entitled “Passive Resistance to National Socialism” stated:

“Many, perhaps most, of the readers of these leaflets do not see clearly how they can practise an effective opposition. They do not see any avenues open to them. We want to try to show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of the system. It can be done only by the cooperation of many convinced, energetic people – people who are agreed as to the means they must use. We have no great number of choices as to the means. The only one available is passive resistance. The meaning and goal of passive resistance is to topple National Socialism, and in this struggle we must not recoil from any course, any action, whatever its nature. A victory of fascist Germany in this war would have immeasurable frightful consequences. We cannot provide each man with the blueprint for his acts, we can only suggest them in general terms. Sabotage in armaments plants and war industries, at all gatherings, rallies and organisations of the National Socialist Party…………….convince all your acquaintances of the hopelessness of this war………………and urge them to passive resistance.”

Another leaflet was called “To the fellow fighters in the resistance”, which was written in February 1943, after the German defeat at Stalingrad.

“The day of reckoning has come – the reckoning of German youth with the most abominable tyrant our people have ever been forced to endure. We grew up in a state in which all free expression of opinion is ruthlessly suppressed. The Hitler Youth, the SA, the SS have all tried to drug us, to regiment us in the most promising years of our lives. For us there is but one slogan: fight against the party. The name of Germany is dishonoured for all time if German youth does not finally rise, take revenge, smash its tormentors. Students! The German people look to us.”

It was while leaflets were being distributed at Munich University that Hans and Sophie Scholl were arrested by the Gestapo. They had already distributed many White Rose leaflets that they were carrying. However, Sophie and Hans realised that they had not distributed all of them. As so much trouble was taken to produce these leaflets, they decided that they would ensure that the rest were also distributed. They were seen throwing the leaflets around the university’s atrium by a caretaker called Jakob Schmid and he contacted the Gestapo. This occurred on February 18 th 1943. The Scholl’s were literally carrying all the evidence needed by the Gestapo.

Both Hans and Sophie admitted their full responsibility in an attempt to end any form of interrogation that might result in them revealing other members of the movement. However, the Gestapo refused to believe that only two people were involved and after further interrogation, they gained the names of all those involved who were subsequently arrested.

Sophie, Hans and Christoph Probst were the first to be brought before the People’s Court on February 22 nd 1943. The People’s Court had been established on April 24 th 1934 to try cases that were deemed to be political offences against the Nazi state. Invariably these trials were nothing more than show trials designed to humiliate those brought before it, presumably in the hope that such a public humiliation would put off anyone else whom might be thinking in the same way as the condemned. All three were found guilty and sentenced to death by beheading. The executions took place the same day.

More trials took place on April 19 th and July 13 th 1943 when other members of the White Rose movement were brought before the People’s Court. Not all of them were executed. The third trial (July 13 th ) was not presided over by the infamous Roland Freisler and the main witness – also on trial (Gisela Schertling) – withdrew her evidence that she had given during her interrogation. As a result, the judge acquitted all of those on trial that day with the exception of one, Josef Soehngen, who was given 6 months in prison.

Before World War Two in Europe ended, the final leaflet produced by the White Rose movement was smuggled out of Germany and handed to the advancing Allies. They printed millions of copies of it and dropped them all over the country.