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The White Rose Resistance 75th Anniversary

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?

These powerful words were the first of many written in the basement of an artist’s studio in Munich, Germany. It was June, 1942 when two young men serving in the Student Medical Company at the University of Munich, Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell, laboriously mimeographed hundreds of anti-Nazi leaflets. They were forming a non-violent, intellectual resistance movement under the name Leaflets of The White Rose.



 Their humble beginnings expanded into a larger group of like-minded resistors including Hans Scholl’s younger sister Sophie, fellow medical students Christoph Probst and Willi Graf, and university professor Kurt Huber. They wrote six original leaflets which appeared in cities throughout Germany, Austria, and even reached the Norwegian underground. They were determined to enlighten the German people on the horrors their government was committing. Each resistor knew the consequence of their actions—execution for committing high treason—but they were willing to risk their lives to defend goodness and truth.

From the time he was young boy, Hans Scholl was an idealist and enthusiastically dove headfirst into his chosen cause. At the time of Hitler’s rise to power, he saw the Nazi party as a chance to be a part of something bigger than himself. Yet, as time went on Hans was disillusioned as his rights were stripped away and he was forced to conform to the Nazi ideal. He became a half student, half soldier, studying medicine at the University of Munich. Hans and his company were sent to France in 1940 and to the Eastern Front in 1942. The Nazi crimes Hans witnessed in France, Poland, and Russia weighed heavily on his conscience.
 
Hans Scholl, 1942

“It's high time that Christians made up their minds to do something . . . What are we going to show in the way of resistance-as compared to the Communists, for instance-when all this terror is over? We will be standing empty-handed. We will have no answer when we are asked: What did you do about it?” Hans Scholl

Around the same time that Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell were pushing the The White Rose resistance into action, Sophie Scholl came to Munich to study at the university. Sophie found out that her brother was one of the authors of The White Rose and demanded that she be allowed to join them. She believed in the cause just as strongly as they did and longed to do something against the regime. The consequences of getting caught were so severe that Hans couldn’t bear to think of that fate befalling his little sister. But Sophie’s strong-will and conviction wouldn’t allow her stay in safety while her brother was in danger.

Sophie Scholl
February 18th, 1943 was a sunny Thursday morning in Munich. Hans and Sophie packed their suitcases full of leaflets, ready to spread their words throughout the University of Munich. It was broad daylight, but they had a missionto stir up a revolt among their fellow students because as Hitler said, “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” While students were in lectures, Hans and Sophie hurried through the empty floors, placing leaflets outside doors, on stairs, beside statues and pillars—any place most visible to the students. As they turned to go, Sophie noticed that they still had a few leaflets left. They ran up to the third floor to distribute more just as the bell rang. In a split second, Sophie placed her hand on a pile of leaflets and pushed them off the banister, a tempest of truth swirling around the students coming from their lectures. They blended into the throng of students, hoping to hide themselves in the chaos.

“You are under arrest!”

Four, piercing words filled the air. The janitor had seen them and turned Hans and Sophie into the Gestapo. They underwent interrogation, but even the Gestapo had a hard time believing the Scholls were guilty because of their calm and self-assured presence. But evidence soon appeared. Hans was carrying a draft of the seventh leaflet on him when he was arrested. It was written by Christoph Probst who, because of his wife and two young boys, had been hesitant to get too deeply entrenched in the resistance. Hans tried to destroy the evidence by ripping it into shreds, but the Gestapo managed to piece it together. They also found a letter from Christoph in Hans desk that matched the writing. Hans, Sophie, and Christoph couldn’t evade the inevitable any longer. They were found guilty of high treason.

"No one can know what secret inner ripening can come from suffering and sorrow. All we know is that every individual’s life is priceless - that each is dear to God."  Christoph Probst
 
Christoph Probst with his son.

On February 22nd, 75 years ago today, Hans, Sophie, and Christoph were taken to The People’s Court to stand trial before the infamous Nazi judge, Roland Freisler. Hitler was furious when he heard good, intelligent German students were the authors of The White Rose. Hitler personally gave the order to have Roland Freisler oversee this trial. Frisler shouted and mocked them, but they stood their ground and defended their cause even though they knew their fate was sealed before they even stepped into the courtroom.

“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 the war is lost. Why don’t you have the courage to face it? Sophie Scholl

Hans, Sophie, and Christoph were taken straight to Stadelheim prison and executed by guillotine that same day as a warning to anyone else who dared resist. Hans Scholl was 24, Sophie Scholl 21, and Christoph Probst 23 years old when they were executed. They faced their deaths with strength and dignity. They had no regrets.

“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

The White Rose resistance may not have put an immediate end to the Nazi terror, but they showed the world that there was still goodness, humanity, and faith in God abounding in hearts of people throughout Nazi Germany. Today, on the 75th anniversary of their deaths, may we not only honor and remember their bravery, but be inspired by their example to do what’s right in the midst of evil.

Es lebe die freiheit! Those were Hans Scholl’s last words as he was taken to execution.

Long Live Freedom.


-Emily



Thank you to all those helping me commemorate the 75th anniversary this week by reading and reviewing Resist! Also, Jesseca Wheaton interviewed me on her blog which you can read HERE.

1 comment

  1. I want to cry anytime I think of The White Rose. What an inspiration! Es lebe die freiheit!

    ReplyDelete