WHITE ROSE Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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The White Rose Society (German, Die WeiBe Rose) was a World War II-era resistance movement in Germany calling for passive resistance against the Nazi regime. The group of Munich students released six leaflets from June 1942 to February 1943.


A seventh leaflet, which may have been prepared, was never released because the group was captured by the Gestapo. The White Rose consisted of five students, all in their early twenties, at Munich University. Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie led the rest of the group, including Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf. They were joined by a professor, Kurt Huber, who drafted the final two leaflets.


The men of White Rose were war veterans, and had fought on the French and Russian fronts. They had witnessed the German atrocities, both on the battlefield and during the Holocaust, and sensed that the reversal of fortunes that the Wehrmacht suffered at Stalingrad would eventually lead to Germany’s defeat. They rejected the Prussian militarism of Adolf Hitler’s Germany and believed in a federated Europe that adhered to Christian principles of tolerance and justice. Quoting extensively from the Bible, Lao Zi, Aristotle and Novalis, as well as Goethe and Schiller, they appealed to what they considered the German intelligentsia, believing that they would be intrinsically opposed to Nazism. At first, the leaflets were sent out in mass mailings from different cities in Bavaria and Austria, since the members believed that southern Germany would be more receptive to their anti-militarist message.


Following an extended lull in activities after mid-July 1942, the White Rose took a more vigorous stance against Hitler in February 1943, issuing the final two leaflets and painting anti-Nazi slogans throughout Munich, most notably on the gates of the university. The shift in their position is obvious from the heading of their new leaflets, which now read, “The Resistance Movement in Germany". The sixth leaflet was distributed in the university on February 18, 1943 to coincide with students leaving their lectures. With almost all of the leaflets distributed in prominent places, Sophie Scholl made the headstrong decision of climbing the stairs to the top of the atrium and dropping the final leaflets onto the students below. She was spotted by a caretaker, who was a member of the Nazi party, and arrested together with her brother. The other active members were soon rounded up and the group and everyone associated with them were brought in for questioning.


The Scholls and Probst were the first to stand trial, on February 22, 1943. They were found guilty of treason. Roland Freisler (the Supreme Judge of the People’s Court of Germany) sentenced them to be executed by guillotine that same day. The other key members of the group were also beheaded later that summer. Friends and colleagues of the White Rose, who 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.


With the fall of Nazi Germany, the White Rose came to represent opposition to tyranny in the German psyche, seen to have been without interest in personal power or self-aggrandizement. Their story became so well-known that the composer Carl Orff, claimed (by some accounts falsely) to his Allied interrogators that he was a founding member of the White Rose and was released. While he was personally acquainted with Huber, there is a lack of other evidence (other than Orff’s word) that Orff was involved in the movement, and he may well have made his claim to escape imprisonment.


The square where the central hall of Munich University is located has been named “Geschwister-Scholl-Platz” after Hans and Sophie Scholl, the square next to it “Professor-Huber-Platz.” Many schools, streets and places all over Germany were named in memory of the members of the White Rose.


The group’s activities were the subject of a German movie, directed by Michael Verhoeven, Die weiBe Rose, released in the United States (subtitled) as “The White Rose".