February 22, 1943: Members of the White Rose are executed.
The White Rose (die Weiße Rose) was one of the most famous anti-Nazi resistance groups working within the borders of the Third Reich; their defiant opposition against Adolf Hitler and the atrocities and oppression of his government was and is especially remarkable when juxtaposed with the traditional image of the apathetic German citizen, oblivious to or unwilling to speak out against the crimes of their own leaders and military. The principal members of the organization were students from the University of Munich - Hans and Sophie Scholl, Alex Schmorell, Willi Graf, Lilo Berndl, Jürgen Wittenstein, Falk Harnack, Christoph Probst, Traute Lafrenz, Katharina Schueddekopf, and Marie-Luise Jahn. Several had refused to join the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls ,(membership was, at that point in the war, compulsory), and most were motivated by moral reasons; some, as medical students, had witnessed the horrors of the war on the Eastern Front, atrocities committed by Germans against civilians, and the conditions of the Jewish ghettos in Warsaw and other cities.
The White Rose’s main activity was spreading awareness through leaflets and pamphlets heavily influenced by religious texts, ancient philosophy, and traditional German writers, while avoiding detection by the Gestapo. The second of the six eventual leaflets (and a seventh draft) read:
The German people slumber on in dull, stupid sleep and encourage the fascist criminals. Each wants to be exonerated of guilt, each one continues on his way with the most placid, calm conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!
Shortly after the total surrender of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad (and on the same day as Joseph Goebbels’ “total war” speech), a custodian at the university witnessed the Scholl siblings distributing pamphlets at the school, and the two were soon taken into custody by the Gestapo to be interrogated. Hans and Sophie Scholl, along with Christoph Probst, were tried by the People’s Court in a hasty show trial, found guilty, and executed by guillotine all on the same day - February 22,1943. More members were executed in July and October of that year, and others connected to the organization were sentenced to prison terms; however, it was the Scholls, more than any other members of the White Rose, who became symbols of selfless resistance and martyrs in postwar Germany.
We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace
- Leaflet Four