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Wesleyan University Press
The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943 / Edition 2

The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943 / Edition 2


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The White Rose tells the story of Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl, who in 1942 led a small underground organization of German students and professors to oppose the atrocities committed by Hitler and the Nazi Party. They named their group the White Rose, and they distributed leaflets denouncing the Nazi regime. Sophie, Hans, and a third student were caught and executed.

Written by Inge Scholl (Han's and Sophie's sister), The White Rose features letters, diary excerpts, photographs of Hans and Sophie, transcriptions of the leaflets, and accounts of the trial and execution. This is a gripping account of courage and morality.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819560865
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Publication date: 06/01/1983
Edition description: 2d ed. Originally published as Students Against Tyranny. Trans. from the German
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 575,629
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.47(d)

About the Author

INGE SCHOLL is the surviving sister of Hans and Sophie Scholl.

Read an Excerpt


The White Rose

In the warm springlike days of early February after the Battle of Stalingrad I was riding in a commuter train from Munich to Solln. Next to me in the railway compartment sat two Party members who were discussing in whispers the latest news from Munich. "Down With Hitler!" had been painted in large white letters on the university walls. Leaflets calling for resistance to the regime had been scattered, and the city had been shaken as if by an earthquake. Everything was still standing; life went on as before; but beneath the surface something had changed. I could tell as much from the conversation of the two men sitting opposite one another in the compartment, putting their heads together. They talked about the end of the war and what they would do when it would suddenly confront them. "The only thing I will be able to do is to shoot myself," said one of them. He glanced quickly in my direction to see whether I had overheard him.

No doubt these two breathed easier when, a few days later, flaming red posters were displayed to calm the populace. They announced:

Sentenced to Death for High Treason:
Christoph Probst, age 24
Hans Scholl, age 25
Sophie Scholl, age 22
The Sentences Have Already Been Carried Out.

The newspapers carried reports of irresponsible lone wolves and adventurers, who by their acts had automaticallyexcluded themselves from the community of the Volk. The rumors had spread that up to a hundred persons had been apprehended and that more death sentences could be expected. The president of the People's Court had been flown in expressly from Berlin to execute swift judgment.

In a subsequent court action the following were also condemned and executed:

Willi Graf Professor Kurt Huber Alexander Schmorell.

What had these people done? What was their crime?

While some people mocked and vilified them, others described them as heroes of freedom.

But were they heroes? They attempted no superhuman task. They stood up for a simple matter, an elementary principle: the right of the individual to choose his manner of life and to live in freedom. They did not seek martyrdom in the name of any extraordinary idea. They were not chasing after grandiose aims. They wanted to make it possible for people like you and me to live in a humane society. Perhaps their greatness lies in the fact that they committed themselves for the sake of such a simple matter, that they were strong enough to give their lives in defense of the most elementary right. It is perhaps more difficult to stand up for a worthy cause when there is no general enthusiasm, no great idealistic upsurge, no high goal, no supporting organization, and thus no obligation; when, in short, one risks one's life on one's own and in lonely isolation. Perhaps genuine heroism lies in deciding stubbornly to defend the everyday things, the trivial and the immediate, after having been bombarded with so much oratory about great deeds.

The tranquil town in the Kochertal where we lived as children seemed forgotten by the world. Our only communication with the outside was the yellow mail coach that carried us over a long, bumpy road to the railroad station. But my father, the mayor, was disturbed by the inconvenience of our isolation, and finally he prevailed over the conservative local farmers in a long struggle to build a branch line connecting us with the railway.

To us children, however, the world of this little town was not narrow, but rich, great, and splendid. We also soon learned that the world did not end at the horizon where the sun rose and set, and one day the wheels of our beloved railway carried us and all our belongings far away across the Swabian Jura.

We had taken a great leap when we got off the train in Ulm, that city on the Danube which was henceforth to be our home. Ulm — the name sounded to us like the boom of the biggest bell in its mighty cathedral. At first we were homesick, of course, but soon new things captured our attention, in particular the Höhere Schule (secondary school) in which the five of us were enrolled in turn.

One morning I heard a girl tell another on the steps of the school, "Now Hitler has taken over the government." The radio and newspapers promised, "Now there will be better times in Germany. Hitler is at the helm."

For the first time politics had come into our lives. Hans was fifteen at the time, Sophie was twelve. We heard much oratory about the fatherland, comradeship, unity of the Volk, and love of country. This was impressive, and we listened closely when we heard such talk in school and on the street. For we loved our land dearly — the woods, the river, the old gray stone fences running along the steep slopes between orchards and vineyards. We sniffed the odor of moss, damp earth, and sweet apples whenever we thought of our homeland. Every inch of it was familiar and dear. Our fatherland — what was it but the extended home of all those who shared a language and belonged to one people. We loved it, though we couldn't say why. After all, up to now we hadn't talked very much about it. But now these things were being written across the sky in flaming letters. And Hitler — so we heard on all sides — Hitler would help this fatherland to achieve greatness, fortune, and prosperity. He would see to it that everyone had work and bread. He would not rest until every German was independent, free, and happy in his fatherland. We found this good, and we were willing to do all we could to contribute to the common effort. But there was something else that drew us with mysterious power and swept us along: the closed ranks of marching youth with banners waving, eyes fixed straight ahead, keeping time to drumbeat and song. Was not this sense of fellowship overpowering? It is not surprising that all of us, Hans and Sophie and the others, joined the Hitler Youth.

We entered into it with body and soul, and we could not understand why our father did not approve, why he was not happy and proud. On the contrary, he was quite displeased with us; at times he would say, "Don't believe them — they are wolves and deceivers, and they are misusing the German people shamefully." Sometimes he would compare Hitler to the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who with his flute led the children to destruction. But Father's words were spoken to the wind, and his attempts to restrain us were of no avail against our youthful enthusiasm.

We went on trips with our comrades in the Hitler Youth and took long hikes through our new land, the Swabian Jura. No matter how long and strenuous a march we made, we were too enthusiastic to admit that we were tired. After all, it was splendid suddenly to find common interests and allegiances with young people whom we might otherwise not have gotten to know at all. We attended evening gatherings in our various homes, listened to readings, sang, played games, or worked at handcrafts. They told us that we must dedicate our lives to a great cause. We were taken seriously — taken seriously in a remarkable way — and that aroused our enthusiasm. We felt we belonged to a large, well-organized body that honored and embraced everyone, from the ten-year-old to the grown man. We sensed that there was a role for us in a historic process, in a movement that was transforming the masses into a Volk. We believed that whatever bored us or gave us a feeling of distaste would disappear of itself. One night, as we lay under the wide starry sky after a long cycling tour, a friend — a fifteen-year-old girl — said quite suddenly and out of the blue, "Everything would be fine, but this thing about the Jews is something I just can't swallow." The troop leader assured us that Hitler knew what he was doing and that for the sake of the greater good we would have to accept certain difficult and incomprehensible things. But the girl was not satisfied with this answer. Others took her side, and suddenly the attitudes in our varying home backgrounds were reflected in the conversation. We spent a restless night in that tent, but afterwards we were just too tired, and the next day was inexpressibly splendid and filled with new experiences. The conversation of the night before was for the moment forgotten. In our groups there developed a sense of belonging that carried us safely through the difficulties and loneliness of adolescence, or at least gave us that illusion.

Hans had learned a repertory of songs, and his troop enjoyed hearing him sing to his own guitar accompaniment. He sang not only the songs of the Hitler Youth but also folksongs of many countries and peoples. What a magical effect the singing of a Russian or Norwegian song could produce with its gloomy, impelling melancholy. How much it told about these peoples and their lands.

But after a time Hans underwent a remarkable change; he became a different person. Some disturbing element had entered his being. This had nothing to do with Father's objections; he was able to close his ears to those. It was something else. The leaders had told him that his songs were not allowed, and when he made light of this prohibition, they threatened punishment. Why should he be forbidden to sing these songs that were so full of beauty? Merely because they had been created by other races? He could see no sense in it; he was depressed, and his light-hearted manner disappeared.

At this time he was honored with a very special assignment. He was chosen to be the flagbearer when his troop attended the Party Rally in Nuremberg. His joy was great. But when he returned, we could not believe our eyes. He looked tired and showed signs of a great disappointment. We did not expect any explanation from him, but gradually we found out that the image and model of the Hitler Youth which had been impressed upon him there was totally different from his own ideal. The official view demanded discipline and conformity down to the last detail, including personal life, while he would have wanted every boy to follow his own bent and give free play to his talents. The individual should enrich the life of the group with his own contribution of imagination and ideas. In Nuremberg, however, everything was directed according to a set pattern. Day and night the talk was about Treue — loyalty. But what was the foundation of Treue, after all, but being true to oneself? Rebellion was stirring in Hans's mind.

Soon afterward a new prohibition upset him. One of the leaders snatched out of his hands a book by his favorite author, Sternstunden der Menschheit by Stefan Zweig. It was banned, he was told. But why? There was no answer. A similar judgment was pronounced against another German author whom Hans liked very much. This man had had to flee Germany because he had defended the idea of peace.

Finally the open break came.

Some time before, Hans had been promoted to the rank of Fahnleinführ er — troop leader. He and his boys had sewn a handsome banner, bearing in its design a great mythical beast. This flag was something special; it was dedicated to the Furhrer, and the boys had pledged their loyalty to the banner because it was the symbol of their fellowship. One evening, however, when they had come into formation with their banner and stood in review before a higher-echelon leader, the unheard-of happened. The leader suddenly and without warning ordered the little flagbearer, a cheerful twelve-year-old, to hand over the banner.

"You don't need a banner of your own. Use the one prescribed for everyone."

Hans was deeply disturbed. Since when this rule? Didn't the cadre leader know what this particular flag meant to the troop? After all, it was not just another piece of cloth that could be changed at will.

The order to hand over the banner was repeated. The boy stood rigid, and Hans knew how he felt and that he would refuse. When the order was given for the third time, in a threatening voice, Hans noticed that the flag was trembling. At that he lost control. He quietly stepped from his place in the ranks and slapped the cadre leader.

That put an end to Hans' career as Fähnleinführer.

The spark of tormenting doubt which was kindled in Hans spread to the rest of us.

In those days we heard a story about a young teacher who had unaccountably disappeared. He had been ordered to stand before an SA squad, and each man was ordered to pass by the teacher and to spit in his face. After that incident no one saw him him again. He had disappeared into a concentration camp. "What did he do?" we asked his mother in bewilderment. "Nothing. Nothing," she cried out in despair. "He just wasn't a Nazi, it was impossible for him to belong. That was his crime."

Oh God, at that the doubts which had arisen soon turned to deep sadness and then burst into a flame of rebellion. Within us the world of purity and faith was crumbling, bit by bit. What was really happening to our fatherland? No freedom, no flourishing life, no prosperity or happiness for anyone who lived in it. Gradually one bond after another was clamped around Germany, until finally all were imprisoned in a great dungeon.

"Father, what is a concentration camp?"

He told us what he knew and suspected and added: "That is war. War in the midst of peace and within our own people. War against the defenseless individual. War against human happiness and the freedom of its children. It is a frightful crime."

But perhaps the tormenting disappointment was only a bad dream, from which we would awaken in the morning. In our hearts arose a violent struggle. We tried to defend our old ideals against everything we had seen and heard.

"But does the Führer have any idea of the concentration camps?"

"How could he not know, since they've existed for years and were set up by his closest friends? And why didn't he use his power to do away with them at once? Why are those who are released from them forbidden on pain of death to tell anything about what they went through?"

There awoke in us a feeling of living in a house once beautiful and clean but in whose cellars behind locked doors frightful, evil, and fearsome things were happening. And as doubt had slowly taken hold of us, so now there grew within us a horror and a fear, the first germ of unbounded uncertainty.

"But how is it possible that in our country a thing like this could take over the government?"

"In a time of great troubles," explained Father, "all sorts come to the surface. Just recall the bad times we had to live through: first the war, then the difficult postwar years, inflation, and great poverty. Then came unemployment. If a man's bare existence is undermined and his future is nothing but a gray, impenetrable wall, he will listen to promises and temptations and not ask who offers them."

"But after all, Hitler did keep his promise to do away with unemployment."

"No one denies that. But don't ask about his methods! He started up the munitions industry, he's building barracks. Do you know where that will lead? He could have eliminated unemployment by means of peacetime industries — in a dictatorship that can easily be managed. But surely we are not like cattle, satisfied if we have fodder for our bellies. Material security alone will never be enough to make us happy. After all, we're human beings, with free opinions and our own beliefs. A regime which would tamper with these things has lost every spark of respect for man. Yet that is the first thing which we must demand from it."

This talk between Father and ourselves occurred on a long hike in the spring. Once again we had thoroughly talked out our questions and doubts.

"What I want most of all is that you live in uprightness and freedom of spirit, no matter how difficult that proves to be," he added.

Suddenly we were comrades, our father and ourselves, and none of us were conscious that he was so much older. We had the welcome sensation of seeing our horizons widen, and at the same time we understood that this expansion of the world brought with it danger and risk.

Now our family was a small, stable island in the ever stranger, incomprehensible swirl of events.

But along with this feeling there was something else for Hans and my youngest brother Werner, something which gave shape to their lives in the years between fourteen and eighteen and which filled them with indescribable high spirits. That was their association with a small group of friends in the Jungenschaft — an organization which existed in various German cities, particularly where the cultural life was still active. It was the last remaining splinter of the disbanded Bündische Jugend and had actually long since been outlawed by the Gestapo. The club had its own most impressive style, which had grown up out of the membership itself. The boys recognized one another by their dress, their songs, even their way of talking. I do not know whether such a phenomenon can be described at all; it has to be experienced at first hand. For these boys life was a great, splendid adventure, an expedition into an unknown, beckoning world. On weekends they went on hikes, and it was their way, even in bitter cold, to live in a tent such as the Lapps used in the Arctic. Seated around the campfire they would read aloud to each other or sing, accompanying themselves with guitar, banjo, and balalaika. They collected the folksongs of all peoples and wrote words and music for their own ritual chants and popular songs. They painted and took photographs, wrote and composed — and out of the results they put together their magnificent and inimitable "Excursion Books" and magazines. In winter they climbed the most remote meadow slopes and skied down the most daring breakneck runs. They loved to practice with their foils in the early dawn. They carried certain favorite books that opened to them new dimensions of the world and of their inner selves. They were solemn and silent; with their own peculiar sense of humor they had whole buckets of sarcasm, mockery, and skepticism. They would race through the woods in wild, unrestrained excitement; plunge into ice-cold rivers during early mornings; then for hours on end lie on their stomachs watching the game and the wildfowl. At concerts they would sit just as still, with bated breath, drinking in the music. If a good film happened to be in town, they turned up at the movies, or in the theater when a play aroused their interest. They explored the museums and were well acquainted with the cathedral and its most inaccessible splendors. In a special way they loved the blue horses of Franz Marc, the vibrant fields and suns of van Gogh, and the exotic world of Gauguin. But none of this conveys anything precise. And perhaps it is better not to be precise, because they themselves were so uncommunicative as they quietly grew into adulthood, into life.


Excerpted from "The White Rose"
by .
Copyright © 1983 Inge Aicher-Scholl.
Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction by Dorothee Sölle: The legacy of the White Rose
Leaflets of the White Rose
Concluding Remarks (1969)
Documents: Indictment Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst, Sentence of Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst

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The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately, many people do not know how much resistance against Hitler was during the 'Third Reich'. One of the most well-known groups was the 'Weisse Rose' a group of students in Germany who distributed flyers in the University when they were caught and brought to court and finally executed. None of them was older than 25 when they did. In fact, Germany has never forgotten those intelligent and smart people who were willing to gave their lives in order to stop the Nazi regime. Hans and Sophies Sister, Inge Scholl, established a foundation in Germany in memory of the 'Weisse Rose' and travels around Europe to tell people about her experiences from that time. This book gives you an idea abouth the life of those young people and their goals as well as their last statements.If you want to know more about the resistance of this group in Munich than you should read this book. It will change your point of view!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently took a trip to Washington D.C. and visited the Holocaust musuem where there was a display about The White Rose. It definitely intrigued me and I bought this book about the members of The White Rose. This book is a bit choppy at times (I wish the leaflets and other documents could have been mixed in with Inge Scholl's account of the events) but it's definitely a great and important read. The members of The White Rose and their courage, especially Hans and Sophie Scholl (who are the main focus of the book), are absolutly awe inpsiring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
robbytenor More than 1 year ago
The brave young people in a brainwashed society. Their love for their fellow citizens and these tyrannical enemies... i felt frequently how ardent and unforgettable the white rose members' humaneness is.... it's incredibly important and instructive for future generations of possible brainwashees or brave rebels. We would all do well by humanity living up to this example.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book tells a pretty much untold version of the Germans up to and during World War Two and how the Nazis began with benevolent youth groups similar to the Boy Scouts but later became militant and how the emergence of Nazi militancy caused strain on German families. Also discussed is how Academics and others were taken into custody as threats to Hitler's ideology and later executed. The book tells of the silent but existing Germans who fought against the explosion of Nazism.