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Pamphlet Distributed by the White Rose Movement

White Rose Movement
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
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type: Pamphlet

Throughout its 12-year reign, the Nazi dictatorship faced very few acts of resistance from the German population. German universities, like many institutions in Nazi Germany, never took any notable action to oppose the regime. Students and faculty proved to be a significant source of support for Nazism. Although students opposed everyday expectations forced upon them by Nazi policies,1 dissent rarely led to acts of organized resistance. The featured source documents the most significant exception to this trend: the student-led White Rose Movement at Munich University. 

Led by the siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, the group also included the students Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst, and professor of philosophy Kurt Huber.2 Schmorell, Graf, Probst, and Hans Scholl were medical students who had been drafted into duty on the Eastern Front, where they became convinced of the brutality of Nazi policies. Sophie Scholl was a 21-year-old student of biology and philosophy.  Facing extreme danger, the members of the movement secretly drafted and distributed six anti-Nazi pamphlets in 1942–1943.3 Composed by Kurt Huber, the sixth pamphlet—seen here—is specifically addressed to students.

On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were caught distributing the sixth pamphlet in the main lecture hall of Munich University. Investigations led the Gestapo to other members of the movement. Probst and the Scholls were tried in a hasty show trial before the People's Court on February 24. They were executed on the same day. Graf, Huber, and Schmorell were tried and executed in the subsequent months. The main Nazi propaganda newspaper Völkischer Beobachter justified the executions as punishment for "spreading defeatist ideas."4 Three days after the first executions, Nazi student leaders held speeches in the Munich University auditorium, where hundreds of students "jeered and stamped their feet…with outstretched arms" in the Nazi salute.5 

The White Rose Movement was one of the very few acts of organized student resistance.6 As Germany attempted to come to terms with its collective guilt following the Second World War, many cited the White Rose to claim—falsely—that resistance had been widespread during the Nazi period.

For more on students' attitudes toward Nazi policies on university campuses, see the items Report on the Camaraderie House for Female Students of Göttingen and Memo Regarding Maria-Elizabeth Koch.

Inge Scholl, the sister of Hans and Sophie, published a moving portrait of the resistance movement, including many original documents from the interrogations and trial, in The White Rose: Munich 1942-1943 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1970). 

Whereas the first four pamphlets appealed to the educated German public through extended quotes from poets and philosophers, the final two pamphlets offered urgent calls to action in the midst of the war.

Scholl, White Rose, 146–7.

Quoted in Kurt Sontheimer, "Der studentische Widerstand gegen den Nationalsozialismus," in Die Weiße Rose: Student Resistance to National Socialism 1942/1943, ed. Hinrich Siefken (Nottingham: University of Nottingham Press, 1991), 188. 

According to scholar Michael Grüttner, organized student resistance consisted of "the White Rose in Munich, multiple Communist resistance circles, which were very active above all in Berlin for a short while, and other student groups about which we still know very little…" Gru╠łttner, Studenten im Dritten Reich (Paderborn: Ferdinand Scho╠łningh, 1995), 426.

Processs of selecting national political leaders.

From a poem by Theodor Körner, formerly a member of the Lützow Freikorps and the author of "fiery patriotic lyrics." The poem references Körner's service in the War of Liberation" against Napoleon—and in this case it would have been read as a call to resist an unjust regime.

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Fellow Students!

Shaken, our people faces the downfall of our men of Stalingrad. Three hundred thirty thousand German men have been senselessly and irresponsibly rushed into death and ruin by the brilliant strategy of the man who served as a private in the Great War. Führer, we thank you!

It is festering in the German people: Do we want to continue entrusting the fate of our armies to a dilettante? Do we want to sacrifice the rest of our young Germans to the base, power-seeking instincts of a Party clique? Nevermore.

The day of reckoning has come, our German youth's reckoning with the most abhorrent tyranny that our people has ever endured. In the name of all young Germans, we demand that Adolf Hitler's State return to us our personal freedom, the German’s most valuable possession, which he has cheated us out of in the most disgraceful way.

We have grown up in a State where every free expression of opinion has been ruthlessly gagged. The HJ, SA, and SS have tried to make us uniform, to revolutionize us, to narcotize us in the most fruitful educational years of our lives. "Ideological training" was the name given to the despicable method of stifling our budding independent thought and self-esteem in a haze of empty phrases. A "Führerauslese"1 of a kind as fiendish and at the same time as narrow-minded as one can possibly imagine, grooming its future Party bosses at Ordensburgen [special educational centers for Party cadres] to become godless, shameless, and unscrupulous exploiters and cutthroats, to become blind, mindless followers of the Führer. We "brain-workers" were exactly right for becoming the cudgel of this new ruling class. Front-line soldiers are disciplined like schoolboys by student leaders and would-be Gauleiter; Gauleiter, with prurient jests, assault the honor of female students. German female students at the university in Munich have given a dignified reply to the insult to their honor, and German male students have intervened and stood their ground on behalf of their female classmates. That is a first step toward gaining our right to free self-determination, without which intellectual values cannot be created. We are grateful to our brave fellow students, female and male, who have led the way by setting this shining example!

For us, there is only one watchword: Fight against the Party! Get out of the Party formations, in which the goal is to keep us politically muzzled! Get out of the lecture rooms of the SS Unter- or Oberführer and the Party bootlickers! True scholarly activities and genuine intellectual freedom are at stake! No threat of any kind can frighten us, not even the closing of our universities. Each of us must fight for our future, our freedom and honor in a body politic that is aware of its moral responsibility.

Freedom and honor! For ten long years, Hitler and his comrades have squeezed these two magnificent German words and made them loathsome, have banged on them and twisted them as only dilettantes can, dilettantes who cast the highest values of a nation before swine. They have sufficiently demonstrated what freedom and honor mean to them during ten years of the destruction of all physical and intellectual freedom, of all moral substance in the German people. Even the dumbest German’s eyes have been opened by the dreadful blood bath which they have brought about everywhere in Europe and continue to bring about each day. The German name will remain forever disgraced unless German youth stand up at last, engage simultaneously in revenge and expiation, smash their tormentors, and bring about a new intellectual and spiritual Europe.

Students! The German people is watching us! It expects us, as in 1813 with the breaking of Napoleon’s domination, now also in 1943 to break the domination of National Socialist terror through the power of the mind.

Berezina and Stalingrad blaze in the East; the dead of Stalingrad implore us!

"Fresh on, my people, the flame signals are smoking!"2

Our people is rising up against the enslavement of Europe by National Socialism, in a new, trustful breakthrough of freedom and honor!

 

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Date Created
1942 to 1943
Language(s)
German
Location
Munich, Germany
Document Type Pamphlet
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