Chapter Eight: The True Legend Of The White Rose

From left to right: Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Christof Probst.

In 1943, the first and last spontanic rebel in the days of the third reich was burst. This wasn't an organized and well planned revolt like the attempts of the resistance movement in Berlin and in the different fronts. It was a spontanic rebel of young people, students and professors that had enough from the tyranny and evils of the nazi regime. The group that stood behind the rebel was a resistance group of students called the "white rose". The group acted in the university of Munich and its main leaders was three anti-nazi and idealist students: Hans Scholl, Christof Probst and Alex Schmorell- medicine students, and Sophie Scholl, Hans' sister that studied philosophy and biology. The spiritual guide of the group was a professor to philosophy, psychology and musicology called Kurt Huber. To the main five people joined another medicine student- George Wittenstein, that was the only one of them who had survived the war against the nazi regime. Behind this six leaders there were many students and professors in Munich university and in other universities in Germany, and George Wittenstein tells that they were something like three hounded men and women.

This is the story of a small and idealistic resistance group. Not like the main resistance movement, their activities were hopeless, but they sure proved great heroism and courage among the group's members.

Our story begins in one young man, named Hans Scholl. His childhood was similar to the childhood of many boys that had grown under the influence of the nazi regime. When he was a boy, he joined Hitler's youth with his sister Sophie, who even became a leader. The enthusiasm of Hans and Sophie had changed to a great disappointment, especially when they saw their jewish friends humiliated and thrown out of society. Hans tried to "change the movement from inside". The reactions of the movement's leaders was swift: Hans was thrown out of Hitler's youth, and even stood before a court. He was arrested for a while and after his release, he became a determinant anti-nazi. He became more strong in his opinions after the nazi humiliation and violence against the German jews, and the terror in the occupied countries. When he started to learn religion and philosophy, his anti-nazism turned into an idealist ideology. Except the Humanistic subjects, Hans was very interested in medicine, and he had enrolled to Munich's university and started to learn it.

In his first months of learning, Hans established a group of intellectual medicine students, that used to talk about humanistic subjects until the small hours of the night, and even to invite professors, writers and musicians from outside to lecture. In that time, politics was not discussed in the group's meeting.

The group that turned later into the "white rose" started to develop itself in that time. All the members of Hans' group were anti-nazi, but they were deep in their beloved world of humanistic and medicine, and politics didn't interest them. But the mass deportation of the jews and the terror against the occupied peoples changed the situation, and the students realized that this is the time to act.

The first base to the "white rose" was created by Hans Scholl and another medicine student called Alex Schmorell. Schmorell was a German that his family came from Russia. His father was a German and his mother was Russian. As a half russian, he developed a deep hatred for the racist nazi regime, who saw the Slavic races as sub humans. He was Hans' good friend and together they started in their first political activity. In the summer of 1942 they wrote four leaflets, and they left them in many places. The leaflets were dropped in public telephone cabins and mailed to students and professors all over Germany. In this way, the anti-nazi ideas of the two friends was spread in universities all over the country. Some leaflets found their way to the gestapo, and the secret police started to wonder about their source.

We may think that spreading leaflets is an easy job, but that's was not true. The nazi dictatorship didn't suffer any opposition and the punishment was death. There were many spies of the secret police. The gestapo was able to listen to any phone call or open any letter, and its agents were searching passenger trains, so even carrying the leaflets in trains was a risky thing to do. The students that carried the leaflets to different places in train just "hoped for the best". In any case, the problem was solved in an interesting way. The leaflets were given to female students, who were less checked by the gestapo.

After the creation of the first leaflets, Hans' sister, Sophie, enrolled to the university to learn biology and philosophy. She was an anti-nazi brave young women, and a devoted pacifist. She soon discovered the "white rose" and wanted to join too. In the beginning Hans didn't want Sophie in, in order to defend  her, but he surrendered after a short time. Sophie had joined the "white rose" and became one of its leaders. Another medicine student named Christof Probst joined the group in that time. He wasn't so politically involved like the others, and he didn't wrote the leaflets himself. Christof was the only one who was married, and he had three children. Another students that joined the growing group were Trawte Lefrantz- Hans' girlfriend, Gizla sheriling, Heinrich Gutter and many others.

After the group was finally formed, Hans thought that he must give it a name. He called it the "white rose". The origin of the name is not clear, but the historian Zeller wrote that the color white represented pureness.

The leaflets that was written by the group were titled as the "leaves of the white rose". They attacked the nazi regime and mentioned its crimes, from the mass extermination of jews and the murder of the Polish nobility and intellectual elite, to the dictatorship and the elimination of the personal freedom of the German people. The leaflets contained quotes from great philosophers and writers like Goethe, Nobalis, Aristotle and Law Tso, and they were written in a very high level. It was clear that they were written to intellectual public, and especially to students and professors.

The white rose tried to claim that they not spies of the allies, as the following quote from one of their leaflets proved:

"We emphatically point out that the white rose is not in the pay of any foreign power. Although we know that the national socialist power must be broken by military means, we seek the revival of the deeply wounded German spirit".

The leaflet continues with a suggestion:

"Do not forget the minor scoundrels of this system. Note their names, so that no one may escape... We shall not be silent- we are your bad conscience. The white rose will not leave you in peace!"

 Taken from: "points of view- memories of the white rose/ Dr. George Wittenstein".

In the summer of 1942 the nazi establishment sent all of the medicine students, including our heroes, to the russian front, to work in field hospitals. In the train they met another person that will be important in the future events. Willy Graf was a medicine student that was sent to the front as a soldier. He was an anti-nazi, and he was so against the regime that he removed from his lists the telephone of any friend that joined Hitler's youth. He became a good friend of Hans and Alex, and when they returned to Munich he became an important member in the group.

The white rose members spent three months in Russia, and they left it with great anger. They spent a few days in Warsaw, and were shocked to see that the city were destroyed completely although it surrendered without resistance. Wittenstein was really shocked when he visited the Warsaw Getto. He saw how the Ukrainian soldier can shoot in the jews for a box of cigarettes, and how the S.S gourds humiliate the people of the Getto without any provocation. He succeeded to photo the horrific events. Thanks to Alex Schmorell, that spoke fluent Russian, they could communicate with the Russian workers and farmers. Alex punished a gourd that hit a Russian farmer and almost stood before a military court because of that. Hans gave his tobacco box, a very rare an expensive thing, to a jewish worker that he met. Everyone felt for the Poles, Russians and jews and they realized that just a military lost could save them and Germany. Wittenstein wrote that this was a very hard decision for a man that loves his motherland, like he and his friends loved Germany.

When our heroes returned to Germany they tried to bring more members to their small group. They felt that the national moral is very low because of the lose in Stalingrad, and the allies air raids on the German cities. In that time, another man joined the group. Professor Kurt Huber, 50, lectured on philosophy in Munich university. He was an excellent teacher, and he always lectured about forbidden subjects. When he lectured about Leibnitz, he used his ideas to attack the regime, and he even gave a lecture about the jew philosopher Spinoza, what was strictly forbidden under the nazi regime. Huber joined the group and was involved in the writing of the leaflets. He became the spiritual guide of some of the members.

In 13th july, 1943, the nazi governor of Bavaria, Paul Gisler, that was known as a brutal and barbaric nazi criminal, called all the students in Munich to a special rally. In his speech he said the all the male students that can't serve in the army must work in factories, and the female students must give their contribution- bring a child for Hitler every year! Gisler said that the women that are not attractive enough to find a boyfriend can have sex with his body gourds, and he promise that they will have "a great time".

The Bavarians are known in their rude sense of humor, but this was too much. All the female students left the room in protest, and when Gisler ordered to arrest them, the male students rebelled. The nazi student leader was taken as a hostage, and Gisler was thrown out of the room with his gourds, while the students were throwing things at him!
This wasn't enough to the mad students. They ran in the streets of Munich and, in first and last time in the days of the third Reich, made street demonstrations. Leaflets that called the German youth to overthrow the regime were given freely in the streets by the white rose and other students. Students wrote "Hitler out!" and "Freedom!" on walls, and swastikas were covered in black spray. In the first time, a open rebel was burst against the nazi regime. The white rose members realized that this is the time to raise their activity, and they spread a last, long leaflet. The leaflet was written by professor Kurt Huber, and it was one of the most beautiful leaflets written by the white rose:

"...Freedom and honor! For ten years Hitler and his accomplices have abused, distorted, debased these noble German words... and cast the most precious values of the nation to the swine. During this ten years destruction of all material and spiritual values they showed what freedom and honor mean to them. This horrible blood bath which they have caused throughout europe has opened the eyes of even the most naive and simpleminded German... The name of Germany will be dishonored forever, lest German youth finally rise to smash his tormentors and invoke a new, intellectual and spiritual europe.

Stalingrad's dead implore us! rise up, my people, the fiery beacons beckon!"

taken from: "Points of view- memories of the white rose/ Dr. George Wittenstein"

But after the high came the final fall. In 18th February, 1943, Hans and Sophie entered the university with a bag containing many leaflets. After they spread many of them in the halls and lecture rooms, they climbed to the roof and thrown all the content of their bag to the university yard. A senior genitor saw them and told the gestapo. Soon, Hans and Sophie were arrested.

Hitler's reaction was swift. The "people's court" was opened in Munich. The defendants were Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christof Probst. The Gestapo was very cruel to them, and Sophie came to the court with a broken leg. The friends were very brave. Sophie asked to the judge Freisler: "We have lost the war! everyone knows it! Why you are so coward and can't recognize that?!". The judge Freisler (you will read a lot about this man in the last chapter), wrote in the sentence that::

"Hans Fritz Scholl, Sophia Magdalena Scholl, and Christof Hermann Probst are accused that in the time of war they spread leaflets calling for the sabotage of the war effort and armaments and for the overthrow of the national socialist way of life of our people, have propagated defeatist ideas, and have most vulgarly defamed the Fuhrer (Hitler), thereby giving aid to the enemy of the Reich and weakening the armed security of the nation.

On this account their are sentenced by DEATH.

Their honor and rights as citizens are forfeited for all time."

Points of view- memories of the white rose/ Dr. George Wittenstein

In the same day, Hans, Sophie and Christof marched in their last way to the Guillotine. Few seconds before the execution Christof shouted: "We will meet each other in a few minutes!", and Hans responded: "Long live the freedom!". The knife of the Guillotine answered them. Their death was the death of the "white rose".

Alex Schmorell tried to escape to Switzerland, but returned because of deep snow. He was betrayed by a former girlfriend and was arrested during an air raid in Munich. He was sentenced to death along with Wily Graf and Professor Huber. Hundreds of people that were connected with the "white rose" were arrested and sentenced to different jail punishments. The only man that stayed alive after the war was George Wittenstein, that was hid by his brave commander in the army. He was tried to court again after he tried to help a jewish woman to escape from Germany, but he succeeded to disproved the accusation and he was set free. He was sent to the russian front, got wounded and came back to Germany.

After his return to Germany, he took part in the only successful and unknown coup against the nazi regime. Few days before the allies cultured the city, Dr. Repeat Grengaros, a minor officer, stole weapons and established the "Bavarian freedom movement". He and his soldiers occupied the communication facilities of Munich. They arrested the governor of Bavaria and other important nazi leaders. In the final battle against the S.S and the other nazi forces many soldiers got wounded or even died. They put white flags on all the important buildings in the city, and gave her to the americans without a battle. In this way, a bitter battle on Munich was prevented and lot of citizens were saved. unfortunately, this brave and important act was forgotten and books doesn't mention it (Wittenstein told about it in his memories).

After the war, George Wittenstein had continued to study medicine and became a doctor. Few years after he got a prize from the Government of west Germany on his bravery and heroism and the White Rose's fight against the lawless nazi regime.

Now that we read about the brave and hopeless resistance of the "white rose", lets go back to the serious resistance leaded by Beck and Stauffenberg, and to the only coup against the nazi regime that had hopes of success. This is the time to hear about the most important activity of the German opposition to Hitler. The open revolt of 20th July, 1944.
 

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