Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Student Resistance Movement

Hans Scholl (left), Sophie Scholl (middle) and Christoph Probst (right), leaders of the White Rose resistance organization. Munich 1942 | Courtesy of USHMM

Have you ever thought, why didn’t anyone try to stop Adolf Hitler? Were any Germans ever against him? Was the German community aware of the harm that Hitler was causing to innocent people? Indeed, there were. But who were the people behind these courageous acts? A group of college student attempted to stop Hitler and his heinous acts against Jews and his betrayal of the German people. In 1942, the group known as the White Rose arose in the streets of Munich, Germany. It was a student resistance movement that was created to expose Hitler to all of Germany. Their acts were believed to portray the true meaning of Christianity. The group made leaflets that contained information about the Nazis and their injustices. The letters were mailed to random addresses all over Germany. These students were willing to do whatever was needed in order to follow their moral duty and stop Hitler and his army.1

Sophie Scholl will always be remembered as one of the key individuals in the White Rose movement. She was born in Forchtenberg, Germany in 1921. She grew up in a religious and very political home. Her father was the mayor of the small town and her mother was a deaconess at their local church.2 Her parents raised her family to live an anti-Nazi life. Sophie was the second of three children. Both Hans and Sophie, like most other young Germans, were a part of the Hitler youth movement. There, individuals would be taught Nazi morals and train for battle. While in the program, Sophie and Hans were exposed to the injustices that were done by the Nazi government.3 Hans, her older brother, and his friends were responsible for starting the resistance movement. They named it after a white rose because it portrayed “purity and innocence.”4.

Monument to the “Weiße Rose” in front of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Hans was attending the University of Munich when he started the movement. Along with friends that were also opposed to Hitler and the Nazi regime, they began writing leaflets that denounced the inhumanity of Hitler and his army. They described the Nazis as gangsters and violent criminals.5 After Sophie graduated High School, she followed her brother’s footsteps and attended the University of Munich, where she studied biology and philosophy.6

Sophie was an excellent writer, which played a crucial role in not only writing leaflets but distributing them as well. Not only did the group write leaflets, they spread their beliefs by spraying quotes on twenty-nine different public buildings. Some of the sayings were, “Down with Hitler” and the word “Freedom” on the sides of the entrance of the University of Munich.7 On one very significant leaflet, they exposed the horrendous acts, in which Hitler was responsible for the mass-murder of Jewish people. The group described this as, “the most terrible crime against human dignity, a crime not to be compared to any similar one in the history of mankind.”8

Sophie Scholl arrested by the Gestapo │ courtesy of armysmartygirls.com

One night, Sophie had a dream that she and her brother were arrested by the Gestapo. Little did she know that her dream would one day become a reality.

“Our people stand ready to rebel against the national socialist enslavement of Europe in a fervent breakthrough of freedom and honor.” This was the last line of the last leaflet that Hans and his sister would distribute on February 18, 1943.9 While everyone was in class, Hans and Sophie distributed the leaflets around the University. When they were done, Sophie went back and threw a stack of leaflets down a balcony. She was not able to flee the scene fast enough, as a Janitor saw her throw the leaflets down a balcony and went after her and the man beside her, Hans. The janitor stopped the individuals and reported the incident. Later, they were detained and taken to Gestapo Headquarters, where they were questioned. At the time, Hans still had a hand-written letter in his pocket, which incriminated his friend, Christoph Probst. The letter was potentially going to be the group’s next leaflet. Christoph was brought in for questioning. The individuals were detained for four days. They were questioned, and they in turn became victims of the brutality of the Nazi machine. While detained, the Gestapo broke one of Sophie’s legs. The three individuals were found guilty of “high treason,” and four days later were beheaded. The Gestapo did not stop, and they were on the lookout for other people who were involved in the group. It was not until five months after their execution when more members were detained and punished. One of the individuals was a Professor who had helped the group write some of the leaflets; he was later executed as well.10

The members of the White Rose stood up for their beliefs and condemned the horror of the Nazis, including Sophie, who was willing to do whatever was needed to inform others and stop Hitler from committing injustices, even if it meant losing her life in the process of it. They exposed the Nazis to all of Germany and fought to stop Hitler. Sophie Scholl along with her friends will go down in history for their braveness and courage to stop the Nazi regime.  

  1. Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn, Sophie Scholl and the White Rose (Oxford: Oneworld Publications), 5.
  2. Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia, 2002, s.v. “Sophie Scholl,” by Anne Commire.
  3. John M. Lewis, “Germany and the White Rose,” New Hampshire Bar Journal 53, No. 2 (2012): 56-57.
  4. Russel Freedman, We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler (New York: Clarion Books, 7
  5. John M. Lewis, “Germany and the White Rose,” New Hampshire Bar Journal 53, No. 2 (2012): 56-57.
  6. Russel Freedman, We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler (New York: Clarion Books, 24.
  7. Simon Henderson, “The White Rose and the definition of ‘resistance: Simon Henderson explains the significance of Hans and Sophie Scholl in the history of Nazi Germany,” History Review No. 53 (2005): 42.
  8. Simon Henderson, “The White Rose and the definition of ‘resistance: Simon Henderson explains the significance of Hans and Sophie Scholl in the history of Nazi Germany,” History Review No. 53 (2005): 42.
  9. Simon Henderson, “The White Rose and the definition of ‘resistance: Simon Henderson explains the significance of Hans and Sophie Scholl in the history of Nazi Germany,” History Review No. 53 (2005): 42.
  10. Simon Henderson, “The White Rose and the definition of ‘resistance: Simon Henderson explains the significance of Hans and Sophie Scholl in the history of Nazi Germany,” History Review No. 53 (2005): 42.
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Student Resistance Movement
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Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Student Resistance Movement

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7 Comments

  • In all of the history classes I have ever had, never heard of this movement. I have read plenty of books, seen many movies about these times in the world but not one mentioned this. I’m glad there were people brace enough to stand up to Hitler, especially when that could have meant death. I’m sure there were more people but they never got their voice because they were probably scared to speak out or do something.

  • During my Junior year in High School, my English teacher dedicated a whole semester to literature during the Jewish Genocide and Nazi Germany. I remember learning about the horrors of this era, watching documentaries and reading Night by Ellie Wiesel, but during that whole semester I never heard of Sophie Scholl nor the White Rose Movement. This is an incredible story that more people should learn about because when we think about Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany we usually think about Germans who supported this, but not the Germans who were against it. These individuals who reveled against Hitler are an inspiration to act and go against what is wrong, even if it seems everyone supports it.

  • It’s interesting that a rebellion, rather a resistance, began so late during Hitler’s reign. By 1942, Hitler had began taking over much of Europe, and Germany was about three years into World War II. Concentration camps had began to be put up all over Germany and Europe, and Hitler’s reign was beginning to be a nuisance and horrible mistake. This article did a good job at highlighting what the resistance attempted to fix and inform their fellow citizens. Great article.

  • I knew that there were people and groups that stood up to Hitler, but I had never heard of this groups, The White Roses. I think that it is a very courageous thing to do, especially then when standing up to Hitler was punishable by death. It makes me sad to think that there had to be a resistance, because something like World War two should have never happened in the first place.

  • I have seen way too many movies about concentration camps and about people like Sophie and Hans that tried to help the brutalized Jews in the camps. I torture myself when I watch the movies, but it’s so interesting to learn about. I didn’t know about the white rose and I’m glad I got to learn about the courageous acts of these young students. It makes me feel like I could do something to help people in need even though I am still a student. I’m sure they knew the dangers of creating a resistance against Hitler and they did it anyway. I guess no good deed goes unpunished.

  • I always learned about the horrible things Adolf Hitler and the Nazis did to the people of Germany but this is the first time hearing about the people who stood up to Hitler and it is really inspiring. It was inspiring to learn the Sophie was willing to lose her life to expose Adolf Hitler and the Nazis by letting the public know of his dangerous acts against the Jews. When most individuals would rather live in fear then stand up for something they believe in, Sophie and the White Rose did the opposite and stood up for what they believed was their moral duty. I would have liked more information about what the Gestapo Headquarters were because I was confused on what this place was. Overall, this was a great article and I learned something new.

  • This is a really crazy and inspiring story. I had never really given much thought on how Germans who did not side with Hitler and the Nazis expressed their dissenting views, but it was nice to read about a courageous group of college students attempting to expose the Nazis and their crimes- especially when they knew what was at stake. The only thing about the article was, I was a tiny bit confused when Hans was introduced.

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