Sophie Scholl

Sophie Scholl

Sophie Scholl, the daughter of Robert Scholl, the mayor of Forchtenberg, was born on 9th May, 1921. The family moved to Ulm and in 1933 Sophie joined the Hitler Youth. At first she was enthusiastic but, influenced by the views of her father, she became increasingly critical of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi government.

Sophie's brother, Hans Scholl, was also growing disillusioned with Nazi Germany and in 1937 he was arrested and briefly jailed after being accused of subversive activities.

After leaving school in 1940 Sophie became a kindergarten teacher at the Frobel Institute in Ulm-Soflingen. This was followed by six months auxiliary war service as a nursery teacher in Blumberg. In May 1942, entered the University of Munich where she became a student of biology and philosophy. Later that year her father was imprisoned for making critical comments about Adolf Hitler to one of his employees. He was found guilty of saying: "this Hitler is God's scourge on mankind, and if this war doesn't end soon the Russians will be sitting in Berlin."

Hans Scholl was also at the University of Munich and in 1942 he had formed the White Rose group. Committed to opposing to the government of Nazi Germany members included Hans Scholl, Inge Scholl, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf and Jugen Wittenstein. Kurt Huber, a philosophy teacher at the university, was also a member of the group.

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. These were distributed throughout central Germany and the Gestapo soon became aware of the group's activities. Sophie also joined the group and over the next few months began distributing pamphlets attacking the Nazi regime. 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.

Sophie Scholl
Sophie Scholl

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: "Germans! Do you and your children want to suffer the same fate that befell the Jews? Do you want to be judged by the same standards as your traducers? Are we do be forever the nation which is hated and rejected by all mankind? No. Dissociate yourselves from National Socialist gangsterism. Prove by your deeds that you think otherwise. A new war of liberation is about to begin." The 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, Sophie Scholl and Hans Scholl began distributing the sixth leaflet produced by the White Rose group. It included the following: "The day of reckoning has come - the reckoning of German youth with the most abominable tyrant our people have ever been forced to endure. We grew up in a state in which all free expression of opinion is ruthlessly suppressed. The Hitler Youth, the SA, the SS, have tried to drug us, to regiment us in the most promising years of our lives. For us there is but one slogan: fight against the party! The name of Germany is dishonoured for all time if German youth does not finally rise, take revenge, smash its tormentors."

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. Her cell-mate, Else Gebel, said Sophie's last words were: "It is such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go. But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days, how many young, promising lives. What does my death matter if by our acts thousands are warned and alerted."

Primary Sources

(1) Sophie Scholl, letter to Fritz Hartnagel serving in the German Army (April, 1940)

There are times when I dread the war and feel like giving up hope completely. I hate thinking about it, but politics are almost all there is, and as long as they're so confused and nasty, it's cowardly to turn your back on them. You're probably smiling at this and telling yourself "She's a girl".

(2) Sophie Scholl, letter to Lisa Remppis (1941)

I think the war is starting to have powerful repercussions in every respect. Sometimes, especially of late, I've felt it grossly unfair to have to live in an age so filled with momentous events. But that's nonsense we're really being presented with scope for direct outside action.

(3) The fifth White Rose leaflet was entitled, Leaflet of the Resistance (February, 1943)

Germans! Do you and your children want to suffer the same fate that befell the Jews? Do you want to be judged by the same standards as your traducers? Are we do be forever the nation which is hated and rejected by all mankind? No. Dissociate yourselves from National Socialist gangsterism. Prove by your deeds that you think otherwise. A new war of liberation is about to begin. The better part of the nation will fight on our side. Cast off the cloak of indifference you have wrapped around you. Make the decision before it is too late! Do not believe the National Socialist propaganda which has driven the fear of Bolshevism into your bones. Do not believe that Germany's welfare is linked to the victory of National Socialism for good or ill. A criminal regime cannot achieve a victory. Separate yourself in time from everything connected with National Socialism. In the aftermath a terrible but just judgment will be meted out to those who stayed in hiding, who were cowardly and hesitant.

(4) The sixth White Rose leaflet was entitled, Fellow Fighters in the Resistance (February, 1943)

The day of reckoning has come - the reckoning of German youth with the most abominable tyrant our people have ever been forced to endure. We grew up in a state in which all free expression of opinion is ruthlessly suppressed. The Hitler Youth, the SA, the SS, have tried to drug us, to regiment us in the most promising years of our lives. For us there is but one slogan: fight against the party! 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.

(5) Roland Friesler, of the People's Court, describing the charges against Sophie Scholl (21st February, 1943)

The accused, Sophie Scholl, as early as the summer of 1942 took part in political discussions, in which she and her brother, Hans School, came to the conclusion that Germany had lost the war. She admits to having taken part in preparing and distributing the leaflets in 1943. Together, with her brother she drafted the text of the seditious Leaflets of the Resistance in Germany. In addition, she had a part in the purchasing of paper, envelopes and stencils, and together with her brother she actually prepared the duplicated copies of the leaflet. She put the prepared letters into various mailboxes, and she took part in the distribution of leaflets in Munich. She accompanied her brother to the university, was observed there in the act of scattering the leaflets.

(6) Sophie Scholl, speech in court (21st February, 1943)

Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare express themselves as we did.

(7) Else Gebel shared Sophie Scholl's cell and recorded her last words before being taken away to be executed.

It is such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go. But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days, how many young, promising lives. What does my death matter if by our acts thousands are warned and alerted. Among the student body there will certainly be a revolt.