Margaretha (Greta) Rothe was born in Hamburg, Germany, on 13th June 1919. Rothe was a medical student at University of Hamburg with Traute Lafrenz and Heinz Kucharski, and became interested in socialist ideas. They also listened to illegal radio stations such as Voice of America and BBC World Service. (1)
Traute Lafrenz met Alexander Schmorell at a performance of the Brandenburg Concertos. Schmorell introduced Rothe and Kucharski to Hans Scholl. Schmorell and Scholl were members of the White Rose group. Other members included Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Willi Graf and Jugen Wittenstein. (2)
At meetings of the White Rose members discussed ways they could show their disapproval of life in Nazi Germany. However, it remained a discussion group. As Anton Gill, the author of An Honourable Defeat: A History of German Resistance to Hitler (1994) has pointed out: "The group had no wish to throw bombs, or to cause any injury to human life. They wanted to influence people's minds against Nazism and militarism." (3)
Hans Scholl emerged as the group's leader: "The role was tacitly bestowed on him by virtue of that quality in his personality that, in any group, made him the focus of attention. Alex Schmorell was usually at his side, his close collaborator. Between them, they arranged for meetings and meeting places.... Sometimes they met in Hans' room for impromptu talk and discussion. For larger meetings, they gathered at the Eickemeyer studio or the villa of Dr. Schmorell, an indulgent father who shared many of his son's views." (4)
The group of friends had discovered a professor at the university who shared their dislike of the Nazi regime. Kurt Huber was Sophie's philosophy teacher. However, medical students also attended his lectures, which "were always packed, because he managed to introduce veiled criticism of the regime into them". (5) The 49 year-old professor, also joined in private discussions with what became known as the White Rose group. Hans told his sister, Inge Scholl, "though his hair was turning grey, he was one of them". (6)
In June 1942 the White Rose group began producing leaflets. They were typed single-spaced on both sides of a sheet of paper, duplicated, folded into envelopes with neatly typed names and addresses, and mailed as printed matter to people all over Munich. At least a couple of hundred were handed into the Gestapo. It soon became clear that most of the leaflets were received by academics, civil servants, restaurateurs and publicans. A small number were scattered around the University of Munich campus. As a result the authorities immediately suspected that students had produced the leaflets. (7)
Greta Rothe, Traute Lafrenz and Heinz Kucharski formed a White Rose group in Hamburg. They arranged the printing of a leaflet entitled Against Hitler and the War. They also distributed leaflets that had been produced in Munich. In January 1943, the group published a leaflet, entitled A Call to All Germans!, It included the following passage: "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." (8)
The Gestapo later estimated that the White Rose group distributed around 10,000 copies of this leaflet. This involved Rothe, Lafrenz, Kucharski, Hans Leipelt, Reinhold Meyer and Marie-Luise Jahn were involved in distributing the leaflets in Hamburg. (9) The authorities took the fifth leaflet more seriously than the others. One of the Gestapo's most experienced agents, Robert Mohr, was ordered to carry out a full investigation into the group called the "Resistance Movement in Germany". He was told "the leaflets were creating the greatest disturbance at the highest levels of the Party and the State". Mohr was especially concerned by the leaflets simultaneous appearance in widely separated cities. This suggested an organization of considerable size was at work, one with capable leadership and considerable resources. (10)
On 18th February, 1943, Sophie and Hans Scholl went to the University of Munich with a suitcase packed with leaflets. According to Inge Scholl: "They arrived at the university, and since the lecture rooms were to open in a few minutes, they quickly decided to deposit the leaflets in the corridors. Then they disposed of the remainder by letting the sheets fall from the top level of the staircase down into the entrance hall. Relieved, they were about to go, but a pair of eyes had spotted them. It was as if these eyes (they belonged to the building superintendent) had been detached from the being of their owner and turned into automatic spyglasses of the dictatorship. The doors of the building were immediately locked, and the fate of brother and sister was sealed." (11)
Jakob Schmid, 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. Following interrogation, they were all charged with treason. (12)
The authorities arrested and executed the leaders of the White Rose group. Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl, Christoph Probst, Willi Graf, Alexander Schmorell and Kurt Huber. Greta Rothe joined forces with Hans Leipelt, Heinz Kucharski, Reinhold Meyer and Marie-Luise Jahn to continue to distribute White Rose leaflets. Rothe was arrested on 9th November, 1943.
Greta Rothe and eight other women in the Hamburg group were kept in prison in Cottbus. With the advance of the Red Army towards Germany resulted in the women being moved to Leipzig. Rothe was now seriously ill with tuberculosis and she died on 14th April 1945. (13)
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.... Imperialistic designs for power, regardless from which side they come, must be neutralized for all time... All centralized power, like that exercised by the Prussian state in Germany and in Europe, must be eliminated... The coming Germany must be federalistic. The working class must be liberated from its degraded conditions of slavery by a reasonable form of socialism... Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the protection of individual citizens from the arbitrary will of criminal regimes of violence - these will be the bases of the New Europe.