Kurt Huber

Kurt Huber : Nazi Germany

Kurt Huber was born in Chur, Switzerland, on 24th October, 1893. Four years later his family moved to Stuttgart, Germany.

Huber studied musicology, psychology and philosophy at the University of Munich. He obtained his doctorate in 1917 and three years began teaching at the university.

In 1941 two of his students, Alexander Schmorell and Hans Scholl, who had served in the German Army on the Eastern Front, told him about the atrocities they had seen the Schutzstaffel (SS) committing in Poland and the Soviet Union. Huber responded by telling them that it was more important to overthrow the Nazi regime than the communist government in the Soviet Union.

Later that year Huber joined with Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Inge Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf and Jugen Wittenstein to form the White Rose. The group decided to adopt the strategy of passive resistance that was being used by students fighting against racial discrimination in the United States. This included publishing leaflets calling for the restoration of democracy and social justice.

The leaflets were at first sent anonymously to people all over Germany. Taking the addresses from telephone directories, they tended to concentrate on mailing university lecturers and the owners of bars.

In Passive Resistance to National Socialism, published in 1943 the group explained the reasons why they had formed the White Rose group: "We want to try and show that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of the system. It can be done only by the cooperation of many convinced, energetic people - people who are agreed as to the means they must use. We have no great number of choices as to the means. The meaning and goal of passive resistance is to topple National Socialism, and in this struggle we must not recoil from our course, any action, whatever its nature. A victory of fascist Germany in this war would have immeasurable, frightful consequences."

The White Rose group believed that the young people of Germany had the potential to overthrow Adolf Hitler and the Nazi government. In one leaflet, Fellow Fighters in the Resistance, they wrote: "The name of Germany is dishonoured for all time if German youth does not finally rise, take revenge, smash its tormentors. Students! The German people look to us."

The White Rose group also began painting anti-Nazi slogans on the sides of houses. This included "Down With Hitler", "Hitler Mass Murderer" and "Freedom". They also painted crossed-out swastikas.

Members also began leaving piles of leaflets in public places. On 18th February, Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl began distributing the sixth leaflet produced by the White Rose group. Jakob Schmidt, a member of the Nazi Party, saw them at the University of Munich, throwing leaflets from a window of the third floor into the courtyard below. He immediately told the Gestapo and they were both arrested. They were searched and the police found a handwritten draft of another leaflet. This they matched to a letter in Scholl's flat that had been signed by Christoph Probst.

The three members of the White Rose group appeared before the People's Court judge, Roland Friesler, on 20th February. Found guilty of sedition they were executed by guillotine a few hours later.

Inge Scholl and her parents were also arrested and imprisoned. Over the next few weeks Huber, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf , Jugen Wittenstein and over eighty others suspected of being members of the White Rose group were taken into custody. Kurt Huber was found guilty of sedition and was executed on 13th July, 1943.

Primary Sources

(1) Kurt Huber, final speech in court (20th February, 1943)

As a German citizen, as a German professor, and as a political person, I hold it to be not only my right but also my moral duty to take part in the shaping of our German destiny, to expose and oppose obvious wrongs.

What I intended to accomplish was to rouse the student body, not by means of an organization, but solely by my simple words; to urge them, not to violence, but to moral insight into the existing serious deficiencies of our political system. To urge the return to clear moral principles, to the constitutional state, to mutual trust between men.

A state which suppresses free expression of opinion and which subjects to terrible punishment - yes, any and all - morally justified criticism and all proposals for improvement by characterizing them as "Preparation for High Treason" breaks an unwritten law, a law which has always lived in the sound instincts of the people and which may always have to remain.

You have stripped from me the rank and privileges of the professorship and the doctoral degree which I earned, and you have set me at the level of the lowest criminal. The inner dignity of the university teacher, of the frank, courageous protestor of his philosophical and political views - no trial for treason can rob me of that. My actions and my intentions will be justified in the inevitable course of history; such is my firm faith. I hope to God that the inner strength that will vindicate my deeds will in good time spring forth from my own people. I have done as I had to on the prompting of my inner voice.

(2) Volkischer Beobachter (21st April, 1943)

The People's Court of the German Reich, in session in Munich, dealt with a number of accused persons who were involved in the high treason of the brother and sister School sentenced on February 22, 1943.

At the time of the arduous struggle of our people in the years 1942-43, Alexander Schmorell, Kurt Huber, and William Graf of Munich collaborated with the Scholls in calling for sabotage of our war plants and spreading defeatist ideas. They aided the enemy of the Reich and attempted to weaken our armed security. These accused, having through their violent attacks against the community of the German people voluntarily excluded themselves from that community, were punished by death. They have forfeited their rights as citizens forever.