Can you imagine having the courage to challenge the Nazi government in 1943? A young 21 year old woman did just that until that government arrested her on February 18, 1943 and then brutally executed her on February 22, 1943. Her name is Sophie Scholl.
Many people did oppose the Nazi Reign of Terror. Some, like Claus von Stauffenberg and Georg Elser, attempted to assassinate Hitler. Others, like the White Rose (Weisse Rose), attempted to inspire the general population to oppose the regime. Along with her brother Hans, several friends, and a college professor, Sophie Scholl wrote and distributed anti-Nazi writings.
Since the “Weisse Rose” was based in Munich, there are a lot of references to the group here. From the perspective of 2015, it is hard to imagine the bravery of the people that set upon this collision course with the Nazi regime. It was 1943 and the Nazi’s had thoroughly consolidated their grip on power. Rumors of what was actually happening in the concentration camps and innuendo of German perpetrated war crimes were in the air. There was no doubt that getting caught would mean death. Yet, these young people risked, and ultimately sacrificed, their lives in an attempt to resist and encourage others to rebel against the state.
Many first become familiar with the Sophie Scholl story during a visit to Munich, where the Weisse Rose was based, or they have seen the 2005 film, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. Though many movies are suspect when it comes to factual accuracy, this one is excellent. It won many awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. If you are looking for a solid primer on the story, the Center for White Rose Studies maintains a great synopsis – click here.
There are several sites in Munich dealing with the topic. Most tourists first run into the large granite cube in the Hofgarten as you walk towards the Englischer Garten. On the face of the cube, some text from one of the pamphlets has been carved into it. Often, you will see stones piled on the top of the cube as a Jewish sign of respect. (There are different interpretations – see here).
Another big site is the Ludwig-Maximillian Universität where group studied. Outside, one side of the street has been renamed “Geschwister Scholl Platz” (Scholl Siblings Square) and the other named after the professor who helped them, Professor Huber. On the sidewalk in front of the university entrance, an artist has embedded various parts of the pamphlets and photos of group members into the stone. Inside, there are two memorials – a bust of Sophie and another with the all the names of the group members. Lastly, there is the DenkStätte Weiße Rose – a small organization with a small museum and research area dedicated to the Weisse Rose. Another place of remembrance is the seldom visited Perlacher Friedhof (Cemetery). It is also possible to see the approximate location where they lived in Munich – there is a plaque on the house at Franz Josef Strasse 13, but the siblings lived in a structure hidden from the street.
In all there were 7 pamphlets that were written and distributed. Reading the pamphlets is a look into their collective minds and thoughts. Here are some excerpts – with my favorite quote from each - with links to the English translation of each pamphlet:
- Do not forget that every people deserve the regime it is willing to endure.
- After all, and end in terror is preferable to terror without end
- Our present "state" is the dictatorship of evil
- Every word that comes from Hitler's mouth is a lie
- Shall we forever be the most hated and rejected nation in all the world?
- We demand that Adolf Hitler’s government return to us our personal freedom, the most valuable possession a German owns
- Hitler and his regime must fall so that Germany may live.
There are many books that have been written about the Weisses Rose and the Center for White Rose Studies has an excellent list of book reviews on the subject. Since their discovery after the collapse of the East German Regime, it is also possible to read the transcripts of the Gestapo’s interviews. After Sophie was decapitated, the Berlin resistance group, Uncle Emil, further distributed the Weisse Rose pamphlets.
Please take a moment of your day to reflect on the courage of these young people.
Scott Stephens owns and operates a boutique touring company in Munich. BayernTrips LLC offers one-of-a-kind tours which unlock the richness of Bavarian culture and history. Visit him at www.bayerntrips.com for more information