Alexander Schmorell

Alexander Schmorell : Nazi Germany

Alexander Schmorell, the son of a German doctor, was born in Orenburg, Russia, on 6th September, 1917. After the death of his mother in 1921 his father took him to live in Munich. While at secondary school he met Christoph Probst.

After leaving school Schmorell was forced to join the German Labour Service before entering the German Army. He was sent to Austria before taking part in the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938.

Schmorell was allowed to return to Germany where he became a medical student at the University of Munich. The following year he joined with Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Kurt Huber, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf and Jugen Wittenstein to form the ant-Nazi group, 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.

In June, 1942, Schmorell, was called up as a medic during Operation Barbarossa. He was accompanied by three fellow students from the University of Munich, Hans Scholl , Willi Graf and Jugen Wittenstein. While on duty Schmorell and his friends witnessed Jews being murdered by the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) in Poland and the Soviet Union.

When Schmorell returned to Germany in October, 1943, he and the White Rose began publishing leaflets about what he had seen while in duty. 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 Schmorell, Kurt Huber, Willi Graf , Jugen Wittenstein and over eighty others suspected of being members of the White Rose group were taken into custody. Schmorell was found guilty of sedition and was executed on 13th July, 1943.

Primary Sources

(1) Extract from the first leaflet published by White Rose (1942)

Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be "governed" without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. It is certain that today every honest is ashamed of his government. Who among us have any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes - crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure - reach the light of day?

(2) Extract from the second leaflet published by White Rose (1942)

It is impossible to engage in intellectual discourse with National Socialism because it is not an intellectually defensible program. It is false to speak of a National Socialist philosophy, for if there were such an entity, one would have to try by means of analysis and discussion either to prove its validity or to combat it. In actuality, however, we face a totally different situation. At its very inception this movement depended on the deception and betrayal of one's fellow man; even at that time it was inwardly corrupt and could support itself only by constant lies. After all, Hitler states in an early edition of "his" book (a book written in the worst German I have ever read, in spite of the fact that it has been elevated to the position of the Bible in this nation of poets and thinkers); "It is unbelievable, to what extent one must betray a people in order to rule."

We do not want to discuss here the question of the Jews, no do we want in this leaflet to compose a defence or apology. No, only by way of example do we want to cite the fact that since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way. Here we see the most frightful crime against human dignity, a crime that is unparalleled in the whole of history.

(3) 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.

(4) Inge Scholl was one of the members of the White Rose who was not executed. She wrote about the group in her book, Students Against Tyranny (1952)

What the circle of the White Rose strove for was increasing public consciousness of the real nature and actual situation of National Socialism. They wanted to encourage passive resistance among wide circles of the populace. In the circumstances, a tight, closely knit organization would not have succeeded. The panicked fear of the people in the face of the constant threat of Gestapo intervention and the ubiquity and thoroughness of the surveillance system were the strongest obstacles. On the other hand, it still seemed possible, by means of anonymous dissemination of information, to create the impression that the Führer no longer enjoyed solid support and that there was general ferment.