During the Second World War a group of medical students at the University of Munich got together to discuss poetry. This included Alexander Schmorell, Hans Scholl, Jürgen Wittenstein, Christoph Probst and Willi Graf. At meetings they took it in turns reading poems and the others had to guess the name of the poet. One evening, on 21st May, 1942, Hans read a poem about a tyrant that contained the passage: "Mounting the rubbish heap around him/He spews his message on the world." The people living under this tyrant accepted his rule: "The masses lived in utter shame/For foulest deeds they felt no blame." At the end, the poem predicts that this nightmare period will pass with the overthrow of the tyrant, and one day his reign will be looked back upon, and talked about, like the Black Plague.
No one at the meeting could identify the poet. Probst suggested that it had been written in Germany recently. "Anyway, those verses couldn't be more timely. They might have been written yesterday." Schmorell agreed and suggested that the poem should be mimeographed and dropped over Germany from an airplane "with a dedication to Adolf Hitler". Graf added that it should be printed in the Völkischer Beobachter. Scholl then told the group the name of the poet was Gottfried Keller. "Actually, the verses were written in 1878, and they don't refer to events in Germany at all, but to a political situation in Switzerland. The author is Gottfried Keller". (1)
After this the meetings tended to be more political and the members discussed ways they could show their disapproval of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. 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." (2)
The friends became known as the White Rose group. Hans Scholl soon 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." (3)
Christoph Probst was promoted to the rank of sergeant in the medical service and posted to Innsbruck. (7) Over the next few weeks Sophie Scholl, Traute Lafrenz, Lilo Ramdohr and Gisela Schertling became active members. Inge Scholl, Hans and Sophie's sister, who lived in Ulm, also attended meetings whenever she was in Munich. "There was no set criterion for entry into the group that crystallized around Hans and Sophie Scholl... It was not an organization with rules and a membership list. Yet the group had a distinct identity, a definite personality, and it adhered to standards no less rigid for being undefined and unspoken. These standards involved intelligence, character, and especially political attitude." (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)
According to Elisabeth Scholl, the White Rose group was formed because of the execution of members of the resistance: "We learned in the spring of 1942 of the arrest and execution of 10 or 12 Communists. And my brother said, In the name of civic and Christian courage something must be done. Sophie knew the risks. Fritz Hartnagel told me about a conversation in May 1942. Sophie asked him for a thousand marks but didn’t want to tell him why. He warned her that resistance could cost both her head and her neck. She told him, I’m aware of that. Sophie wanted the money to buy a printing press to publish the anti-Nazi leaflets.” (7)
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. (8)
The opening paragraph of the first leaflet said: "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 German is ashamed of his government. Who among us has 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? If the German people are already so corrupted and spiritually crushed that they do not raise a hand, frivolously trusting in a questionable faith in lawful order in history; if they surrender man's highest principle, that which raises him above all other God's creatures, his free will; if they abandon the will to take decisive action and turn the wheel of history and thus subject it to their own rational decision; if they are so devoid of all individuality, have already gone so far along the road toward turning into a spiritless and cowardly mass - then, yes, they deserve their downfall." (9)
According to the historian of the resistance, Joachim Fest, this was a new development in the struggle against Adolf Hitler. "A small group of Munich students were the only protesters who managed to break out of the vicious circle of tactical considerations and other inhibitions. They spoke out vehemently, not only against the regime but also against the moral indolence and numbness of the German people." (10) Peter Hoffmann, the author of The History of German Resistance (1977) claimed they must have been aware that they could do any significant damage to the regime but they "were prepared to sacrifice themselves" in order to register their disapproval of the Nazi government. (11)
The second leaflet was published in the third week of June 1942 dealt with the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany and in Eastern Europe. "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. For Jews, too, are human beings - no matter what position we take with respect to the Jewish question - and a crime of this dimension has been perpetrated against human beings. Someone may say that the Jews deserved their fate. This assertion would be a monstrous impertinence; but let us assume that someone said this - what position has he then taken toward the fact that the entire Polish aristocratic youth is being annihilated? (May God grant that this program has not fully achieved its aim as yet!) All male offspring of the houses of the nobility between the ages of fifteen and twenty were transported to concentration camps in Germany and sentenced to forced labor, and all girls of this age group were sent to Norway, into the bordellos of the SS!"
The leaflet then raised questions about the way the German population were responding to these atrocities: "Why tell you these things, since you are fully aware of them - or if not of these, then of other equally grave crimes committed by this frightful sub-humanity? Because here we touch on a problem which involves us deeply and forces us all to take thought. Why do the German people behave so apathetically in the face of all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race? Hardly anyone thinks about that. It is accepted as fact and put out of mind. The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals; they give them the opportunity to carry on their depredations; and of course they do so. Is this a sign that the Germans are brutalized in their simplest human feelings, that no chord within them cries out at the sight of such deeds, that they have sunk into a fatal consciencelessness from which they will never, never awake? It seems to be so, and will certainly be so, if the German does not at last start up out of his stupor, if he does not protest wherever and whenever he can against this clique of criminals, if he shows no sympathy for these hundreds of thousands of victims. He must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt. For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do; he tolerates this government which has taken upon itself such an infinitely great burden of guilt; indeed, he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! " (12)
The third leaflet claimed that the goal of the White Rose was to bring down the Nazi government. It suggested the strategy of passive resistance that was being used by students fighting against racial discrimination in the United States: "We want to try and show them 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 only one available is passive resistance. 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 first concern of every German is not the military victory over Bolshevism, but the defeat of National Socialism." (13)
This leaflet was sent to Sophie Scholl's philosophy teacher, Kurt Huber. He was then invited to the home of Alexander Schmorell. He turned up but was reluctant to get involved in a discussion about resisting the Nazi government. Traute Lafrenz abruptly turned to Huber and asked if he had received a White Rose leaflet. "He must have paused; the question, so pointed and direct, from a young woman he had never met before, must have startled him. He undoubtedly was put on guard: Kurt Huber was a man who did not find independent, sophisticated, and intellectual women sympathetic. He was comfortable with women who accepted the role that nature had given them: the comforter, the nurturer, the provider of sanctuary for the struggling man in a hostile world. As he saw it, women were there to pour coffee for the men as they talked over the serious issues of the world; women were not there for intellectual companionship or friendship, but for spiritual succor. He replied to the young woman that yes, he had received a leaflet. He didn't say much beyond that, except that he doubted the impact of the leaflet was worth the terrible risks." (14)
Yvonne Sherratt has pointed out that in contrast to Hitler's ideological opponents, "Huber was neither left-leaning nor Jewish. He was a nationalist conservative, believing in the sanctity of tradition and the importance of the nation." (15) Kurt Huber was also strongly anti-communist and was unhappy with the passage in the leaflet that said: "The first concern of every German is not the military victory over Bolshevism, but the defeat of National Socialism." Huber left the meeting without making it clear if he was willing to join the group. (16)
The group needed funds for the printing and mailing of the leaflets. Fritz Hartnagel who was on leave, gave Sophie 1,000 Reichsmarks, for what she told him was "a good purpose". Falk Harnack, a member of the Red Orchestra resistance group, also provided help. As well as sending the leaflets in the mail, members of the group carried them in suitcases to towns in southern Germany and delivering them to their supporters. This was highly dangerous as the Gestapo often carried out searches of passengers in trains. As a result of this activity, resistance groups were set up in Hamburg and Berlin. (17)
There is a photograph of Sophie Scholl that was taken on 23rd July, 1942 (see below). Richard F. Hanser, the author of A Noble Treason: The Story of Sophie Scholl (1979) has pointed out: "They are all standing next to an openwork iron fence whose top reaches only a few inches over their heads. Peering down at them over the fence is Sophie, who is standing on something on the other side. She has evidently been there for some time. Her satchel-like briefcase, probably filled with books, is hooked by its handles to one of the fence spikes. She is wearing a knitted sweater with broad stitches, and her dark hair is falling loosely to her shoulders.... In one of the photographs, her lifted arms are flung wide, and there is a correspondingly wide smile on her face. It is a light and girlish gesture at a time that could not have been happy for her." (18)
A fourth leaflet was published in July 1942. It included detailed of the large number of German soldiers killed during Operation Barbarossa: "Neither Hitler nor Goebbels can have counted the dead. In Russia thousands are lost daily. It is the time of the harvest, and the reaper cuts into the ripe grain with wide strokes. Mourning takes up her abode in the country cottages, and there is no one to dry the tears of the mothers. Yet Hitler feeds with lies those people whose most precious belongings he has stolen and whom he has driven to a meaningless death." The ended the leaflet with the words: "We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!" (19) Lilo Ramdohr remembers Christoph Probst criticising the leaflet as being "too emotional". (20)
At the end of July, 1942, Hans Scholl, Jürgen Wittenstein, Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf, were sent to the Eastern Front as medics. During their time in Poland and the Soviet Union they witnessed many examples of atrocities being committed by the German Army which made them even more hostile to the government. They were also upset by having to treat so many wounded and dying soldiers. It became clear that Germany was fighting a war it could not win. (21)
Hans Scholl later told his sister Inge about one incident that had a profound impact on him. "During the transport to the front their train had stopped for a few minutes at a Polish station. Along the embankment he saw women and girls bent over and doing heavy men's work with picks. They wore the yellow Star of David on their blouses. Hans slipped through the window of his car and approached. The first one in the group was a young, emaciated girl with small, delicate hands and a beautiful, intelligent face that bore an expression of unspeakable sorrow. Did he have anything that he might give to her? He remembered his Iron Ration - a bar of chocolate, raisins, and nuts - and slipped it into her pocket. The girl threw it on the ground at his feet with a harassed but infinitely proud gesture. He picked it up, smiled, and said, I wanted to do something to please you. Then he bent down, picked a daisy, and placed it and the package at her feet. The train was starting to move, and Hans had to take a couple of long leaps to get back on. From the window he could see that the girl was standing still, watching the departing train, the white flower in her hair." (22)
Scholl, Wittenstein, Graf and Schmorell returned to Munich in November, 1942. The following month Scholl went to visit Kurt Huber and asked his advice on the text of a new leaflet. He had previously rejected the idea of leaflets because he thought they would have no appreciable effect on the public and the danger of producing them outweighed any effect they might have. However, he had changed his mind and agreed to help Scholl write the leaflet. (23) Huber later commented that "in a state where the free expression of public opinion is throttled a dissident must necessarily turn to illegal methods." (24)
Lilo Ramdohr was a member of the White Rose group. (25) Ramdohr arranged for Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell to meet her boyfriend, Falk Harnack. Harnack was critical of the leaflets because he thought they "were academic, intellectual, and much too flowery to have an impact on the masses" and had obviously been published by people who "didn't speak the language of the working people." Harnack insisted that the group needed to join forces with those on the left of the political spectrum. (26)
Scholl agreed and Harnack and suggested that they formed a branch of their group in Berlin. "They were eager to establish some kind of contact with the anti-Nazi opposition in Berlin, where efforts were being made to bring together the various factions of the resistance - Communist, liberal, conservative-military - into a unified movement with a consensus on aims and action. Falk Harnack had the necessary connections, including contacts with high-ranking army officers." (27)
The first draft of the fifth leaflet was written by Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell. (28) Kurt Huber then revised the material. The three men had long discussions about the content of the leaflet. Huber thought that the young men were "leaning too much to the left" and he described the White Rose group as "a Communist ring". (29) However, it was eventually agreed what would be published. For the first time, the name White Rose did not appear on the leaflet. The authors now presented them as the "Resistance Movement in Germany". (30)
This leaflet, entitled A Call to All Germans!, 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."
It ended with the kind of world they wanted after the war finished: "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." (31)
The Gestapo later estimated that the White Rose group distributed around 10,000 copies of this leaflet. Sophie Scholl and Traute Lafrenz purchased the special paper needed, as well as the envelopes and stamps from a large number of shops to avoid suspicion. Each leaflet was turned out one by one, night after night. "In order to stay awake and to function during the day, they took pep pills from the military clinics where the medics worked." (32) The conspirators had to ensure that the Gestapo could not trace the source to Munich so the group had to post their leaflets from neighbouring towns." (33)
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 including Stuttgart, Vienna, Ulm, Frankfurt, Linz, Salzburg and Augsburg. This suggested an organization of considerable size was at work, one with capable leadership and considerable resources. (34)
On 3rd, 8th and 15th February, 1943, Willi Graf, Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell went out into the darkened streets and painted slogans such as "Freedom" and "Down with Hitler!" on the walls of apartment houses, state buildings, and the university. In some places they added a white swastika, crossed out with a smear of red paint. Christoph Probst, who was living in Innsbruck at the time, heard about this, he told his friends that "these nocturnal forays were dangerous and foolish." (35)
On 13th January, 1943, the Gauleiter of Bavaria, Paul Giesler, addressed the students of University of Munich in the Main Auditorium of the Deutsche Museum. He argued that universities should not produce students with "twisted intellects" and "falsely clever minds". Giesler went on to state that "real life is transmitted to us only by Adolf Hitler, with his light, joyful and life-affirming teachings!" He went on to attack "well-bred daughters" who were shirking their war duties. Some women in the audience began calling out angry comments. He responded by arguing that "the natural place for a woman is not at the university, but with her family, at the side of her husband." The female students at the university should fulfill their duties as mothers instead of studying. He then added that "for those women students not pretty enough to catch a man, I'd be happy to lend them one of my adjutants". (36)
Traute Lafrenz and Katharina Schüddekopf began shouting abuse at Giesler. Other women in the audience joined in. (37) Giesler then ordered their arrest by his SS guards. Male students, including Hans Leipelt, came to their aid and fights began all over the auditorium. Those who managed to escape ran out of the museum and after forming themselves in a large group, began marching in a procession in the direction of the university. They linked arms as they marched singing songs of solidarity. However, before they got to the university armed police forced them to disperse. (38)
The White Rose group believed there was a direct connection between their leaflets and the student unrest. They decided therefore to print another 1,300 leaflets and to distribute them around the university. 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." (39)
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. (40)
Sophie, Hans and Christoph were not allowed to select a defence lawyer. Inge Scholl claimed that the lawyer assigned by the authorities "was little more than a helpless puppet". Sophie told him: "If my brother is sentenced to die, you musn't let them give me a lighter sentence, for I am exactly as guilty as he." (41)
Sophie was interrogated all night long. She told her cell-mate, Else Gebel, that she denied her "complicity for a long time". But when she was told that the Gestapo had found evidence in her brother's room that proved she was guilty of drafting the leaflet. "Then the two of you knew that all was lost... We will take the blame for everything, so that no other person is put in danger." Sophie made a confession about her own activities but refused to give information about the rest of the group. (42)
The trial took place on 22nd February, 1943. The indictment against Christoph Probst stated: "Early in 1943 the accused Hans Scholl requested that his friend, the accused Probst (with whom he had for a long time exchanged ideas about the political situation), write down his ideas on current political developments. Probst then sent him a draft, which without doubt was to be duplicated and distributed, though there was no time for such action. This draft was found in Scholl's pocket at the time of his arrest." (43)
Judge Roland Freisler argued in court that Probst was guilty of producing "in cowardly defeatism" a leaflet "which takes the heroic struggle in Stalingrad as the occasion for defaming the Führer as a military swindler and which then, progressing to a hortatory tone, calls for opposition to National Socialism and for action which would lead, as he pretends, to an honorable capitulation. He supports the promises in this leaflet by citing-Roosevelt! And his knowledge about these matters he derived from listening to British broadcasts!."
Freisler added that Probst's defence was that he had not intended the material to be used as a leaflet was not convincing or acceptable: "Whoever acts in this way - and particularly at this time, when we must close our ranks - is attempting to cause the first rift in the unity of the battle front. And German students, whose traditional honor has always called for self-sacrifice for Volk and fatherland, were the ones who acted thus!" (44)
Friends of Hans and Sophie had immediately telephoned Robert Scholl with news of the arrests. Robert and Magdalena went to Gestapo headquarters but they were told they were not allowed to visit them in prison over the weekend. They were not told that there trial was to begin on the Monday morning. However, another friend, Otl Aicher, telephoned them with the news. (45) They were met by Jürgen Wittenstein at the railway station: "We have very little time. The People's Court is in session, and the hearing is already under way. We must prepare ourselves for the worst." (46)
Sophie's parents tried to attend the trial and Magdalene told a guard: "I’m the mother of two of the accused." He responded: "You should have brought them up better." (47) Robert Scholl was forced his way past the guards at the door and managed to get to his children's defence attorney. "Go to the president of the court and tell him that the father is here and he wants to defend his children!" He spoke to Judge Roland Freisler who responded by ordering the Scholl family from the court. The guards dragged them out but at the door Robert was able to shout: "There is a higher justice! They will go down in history!" (48)
Later that day Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst were all found guilty. Judge Freisler told the court: "The accused have by means of leaflets in a time of war called for the sabotage of the war effort and armaments and for the overthrow of the National Socialist way of life of our people, have propagated defeatist ideas, and have most vulgarly defamed the Führer, thereby giving aid to the enemy of the Reich and weakening the armed security of the nation. On this account they are to be punished by death. Their honour and rights as citizens are forfeited for all time." (49)
Werner Scholl was in court in his German Army uniform. He managed to get to his brother and sister. "He shook hands with them, tears filling his eyes. Hans was able to reach out and touch him, saying quickly, Stay strong, no compromises." (50)
Robert and Magdalena managed to see their children before they were executed. Their daughter, Inge Scholl, later explained what happened: "First Hans was brought out. He wore a prison uniform, he walked upright and briskly, and he allowed nothing in the circumstances to becloud his spirit. His face was thin and drawn, as if after a difficult struggle, but now it beamed radiantly. He bent lovingly over the barrier and took his parents' hands... Then Hans asked them to take his greetings to all his friends. When at the end he mentioned one further name, a tear ran down his face; he bent low so that no one would see. And then he went out, without the slightest show of fear, borne along by a profound inner strength." (51)
Magdalena Scholl said to her 22 year-old daughter: "I'll never see you come through the door again." Sophie replied, "Oh mother, after all, it's only a few years' more life I'll miss." Sophie told her parents she and Hans were pleased and proud that they had betrayed no one, that they had taken all the responsibility on themselves. (52)
Else Gebel shared Sophie Scholl's cell and recorded her last words before being taken away to be executed. "How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause.... 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." (53)
They were all beheaded by guillotine in Stadelheim Prison only a few hours after being found guilty. A prison guard later reported: "They bore themselves with marvelous bravery. The whole prison was impressed by them. That is why we risked bringing the three of them together once more-at the last moment before the execution. If our action had become known, the consequences for us would have been serious. We wanted to let them have a cigarette together before the end. It was just a few minutes that they had, but I believe that it meant a great deal to them." (54)
The Gestapo began arresting other members of the White Rose group. Alexander Schmorell went to see Lilo Ramdohr who allowed him to stay the night. She was able to get hold of a Yugoslav passport from a friend who was a printer and had the photo replaced with one of Schmorell. His plan was to travel to Switzerland. However, when he arrived at the railway station he discovered that all papers and train tickets were being checked by the police. (55)
Schmorell attempted to get help from people not connected to the White Rose group but when he visited a friend, Marie Luise, she contacted the police. (56) Schmorell made a full confession and admitted duplicating and distributing the leaflets: "Schmorell traveled to Salzburg, Linz, and Vienna and put leaflets addressed to places in those cities in the mails." He also said he was responsible for "defacing walls in many places in Munich" with the words "Down With Hitler", "Hitler the Mass Murderer" and "Freedom". (57)
Willi Graf, Alexander Schmorell and Kurt Huber were all arrested. The Gestapo interviewed Graf for several days and nights. He willingly admitted his guilt but refused to give the names of other members of the White Rose group. It was later claimed that "brilliant lights were beamed into his eyes constantly as three voices questioned him in irregular, unpredictable patterns". (58)
Several members of the White Rose group were put on trial on 19th April, 1943. This included Alexander Schmorell, Kurt Huber, Willi Graf, Traute Lafrenz, Hans Hirzel, Susanne Hirzel, Falk Harnack, Eugen Grimminger, Heinrich Bollinger, Helmut Bauer, Franz Müller, Heinrich Guter, Gisela Schertling and Katharina Schüddekopf. (59)
At the beginning of the trial, the lawyer representing Huber leaped to his feet at the beginning of the trial, raised his arm in the Nazi salute, and shouted "Heil Hitler!" He then announced that he was disassociating himself from his client: "This is the first time I have heard the contents of these leaflets. As a German and a protector of the law of the German Reich, I cannot tolerate such vilification of the Führer. I cannot defend such a monstrous crime. I respectfully ask this court to be relieved of the obligation to defend my client." (60)
Judge Roland Freisler replied: "This court thoroughly understands your position. You may lay down your brief." Freisler ordered another attorney present to represent Kurt Huber. This lawyer protested that he didn't know the case, had not examined the evidence. Freisler waved away the objections. Huber was also upset by the news that other academics had refused to serve as character witnesses." (61)
Kurt Huber, Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf were all charged with high treason. "Kurt Huber, Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf in time of war have promulgated leaflets calling for sabotage of the war effort and for the overthrow of the National Socialist way of life of our people; have propagated defeatist ideas, and have most vulgarly defamed the Führer, thereby giving aid to the enemy of the Reich and weakening the armed security of the nation." (62)
The indictment againt Graf and Schomorell stated that both men should "have been particularly grateful to the Führer, for he ordered army pay for them during the time of their university attendance - as was true for all enlistees assigned to medical study. Inclusive of money for food, they received over 250 marks per month, and exclusive of money for food, but with rations in goods, it still amounted to about 200 marks - more than most students ordinarily receive from home". He was accused of distributing leaflets and recruiting others "for anti-German projects".
Willi Graf said almost nothing in his defence when he appeared in the dock. Judge Roland Freisler told Graf that he "had the Gestapo running in circles for a while... but in the end we were too smart for you, weren't we?" (63) "Graf stood tall, pale, his features closed, his blue eyes remote". When he refused to answer questions Freisler ordered him to leave the dock. "Graf sat down, his eyes blank; it was as if his spirit had left the chamber." (64)
Kurt Huber gave a speech in the court. He tried to explain his sense of responsibility as a German professor. "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."
He finished with the words: "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." (65)
Judge Roland Freisler responded: "A German university professor is first and foremost an educator of the young. As such he ought to try, in time of difficulty and struggle, to see that our university students are trained to be worthy younger brothers of the soldiers of 1914 at Langemarck in Flanders; that they are reinforced in their absolute trust in our Führer, our people and our Reich; and that they become seasoned fighters, prepared for any sacrifice! The accused Huber, however, acted in an exactly opposite manner! He nourished doubt instead of dispelling it; he delivered addresses about federalism and democracy for Germany, about a multiparty system, instead of teaching and setting an example in his own life of rigorous National Socialism. It was not a time for tackling theoretical problems, but rather for grasping the sword, yet he sowed doubt among our youth.... Huber further states that he believed he was performing a good deed... The days when every man can be allowed to profess his own political beliefs are past. For us there is but one standard: the National Socialist one. Against this we measure each man!" (66)
Willie Graf, Kurt Huber and Alexander Schmorell were all convicted of high treason and were all sentenced to death. Other sentences included Eugen Grimminger, ten years; Heinrich Bollinger and Helmut Bauer, seven years; Hans Hirzel and Franz Müller, five years; Heinrich Guter, eighteen months; Susanne Hirzel, six months; Traute Lafrenz, Gisela Schertling and Katharina Schüddekopf, one year each. (67)
Falk Harnack was surprisingly found not guilty. Judge Roland Freisler commented: "Falk Harnack failed to report his knowledge of treasonous activity. But such unique and special circumstances surround his case that we find ourselves unable to punish his deed of omission. He is accordingly set free." (68)
Harnack grabbed Kurt Huber's hand and said desperately, "It was not in vain." Alexander Schmorell called out to him about Lilo Ramdohr: "Give my best to Lilo, tell her I think about her often." Harnack was ordered to follow the three men walking to death row. They walked through the long corridor. "harnack noticed boxes outside each cell, intended to hold the condemned men's clothing. They were to sleep naked, manacled." (69)
Harnack was released the next day. Richard F. Hanser, the author of A Noble Treason: The Story of Sophie Scholl (1979) has argued that the Gestapo knew he was guilty and also knew he was a member of the Red Orchestra network. His brother, Arvid Harnack, and his wife, Mildred Harnack, had been executed two months earlier. "As it turned out, his acquittal was only a tactic. The Gestapo wanted to watch him after his release, in the hope of linking him to his dead brother's organization." (70)
Huber and Schmorell was executed on 13th July, 1943. However, Graf was kept alive as they hoped he would provide information on other members of the White Rose network. They offered to change the verdict in exchange for information. When he refused they made threats against his family. (71)
While in prison Graf wrote a letter to his parents: "What hurts me most of all is that I am causing such pain to those of you who go on living. But strength and comfort you'll find with God and that is what I am praying for till the last moment. I know that it will be harder for you than for me. I ask you, Father and Mother, from the bottom of my heart, to forgive me for the anguish and the disappointment I've brought you. I have often regretted what I've done to you, especially here in prison. Forgive me and always pray for me! Hold on to the good memories.... I could never say to you while alive how much I loved you, but now in the last hours I want to tell you, unfortunately only on this dry paper, that I love all of you deeply and that I have respected you. For everything that you gave me and everything you made possible for me with your care and love. Hold each other and stand together with love and trust.... God's blessing on us, in Him we are and we live." Graf was executed on 12th October, 1943. (72)
The White Rose group that Traute Lafrenz had set up in Hamburg continued to distribute anti-Nazi leaflets. They were all eventually arrested. Katharina Leipelt (9th January, 1944) and Elisabeth Lange (28th January, 1944) committed suicide. Reinhold Meyer died in Fühlsbüttel Prison (12th November, 1944) and Frederick Geussenhainer died in Mauthausen Concentration Camp (24th April 1945), Greta Rothe died of tuberculosis in Leipzig-Meusdorf Prison (15th April, 1945). The leaders of the group were all executed as the Red Army advanced on Germany. This included Hans Leipelt (29th January, 1945), Heinz Kucharski (17th April, 1945), Kurt Ledien (23rd April, 1945) and Gretl Mrosek (21st April, 1945). (73)
Lilo Ramdohr, a member of the White Rose group, argued that her life was very hard after the war. "Her mother and stepfather really didn’t want to have much to do with her, because they saw her – still! – as a traitor to Germany." Lilo pointed out that much later members of the White Rose become celebrated figures, as German society has searched for positive role models from the Nazi Germany period. However, she claims that "at the time, they’d have had us all executed,” she says of the majority of her fellow Germans in the immediate post-war period. (74)
The choice of the name "White Rose" is not easily explained. The rose as a symbol of secrecy might have occurred to them, and "white" might have reflected the fact that their leaflets were not inspired by any colour of political thought, but by broad humanism...
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.
The White Rose, whose leaders were Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans, students at the University of Munich, who printed a series of clandestine pamphlets condemning Nazi rule and calling for resistance to it. Together with several like-minded students, all of whom were inspired by their Christian faith and commitment to humanistic ideals, they distributed these pamphlets throughout Germany and Austria.
One of the many groups resembling each other both in spirit and in action was that of the Scholls (brother and sister) and their friends; in 1942 and 1943 they prepared and distributed leaflets in Munich calling for resistance to the government and the war. Although they realized that their activities could hardly do any significant damage to the regime, but they were willing to sacrifice themselves. Secretly they may have hoped to produce greater results, but primarily they were ready to stake their lives for the cause.
A small group of Munich students... spoke out vehemently, not only against the regime but also against the moral indolence and numbness of the German people. Under the name White Rose they issued appeals and painted slogans on walls calling for an uprising against Hitler. They also established ties with like-minded students in Berlin, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Vienna... Their motives were amongst the simplest and, sadly, the rarest of all: a sense of right and wrong and a determination to take action.
Using small duplicating machines, the students defied an enormously powerful state apparatus. The password White Rose was designed to symbolize a Christian spirit which loved every thing that was noble and beautiful and opposed the "dictatorship of evil" in National Socialist Germany. In mid-February 1943, the Scholls, helped by other students, took part in a demonstration on the streets of Munich, the first protest of its kind in the Third Reich.
All the members of the White Rose shared a deep love of German philosophy and used ideas from the heritage to vent their loathing of the Nazis... The White Rose were brave and non-violent, and resisted in the only way they could: with words. They distributed idealistic, romantic leaflets, calling on the German people to stand up against repression and violence.
The accused Hans Scholl occupied his thoughts for a long time with the political situation. He arrived at the conclusion that just as in 1918, so also after the seizure of power by the National Socialists in 1933, it was not the majority of the German masses but the intellectuals in particular who had failed politically.
He therefore decided to prepare and distribute leaflets intended to carry his ideas to the broad masses of the people. He bought a duplicating machine, and with the help of a friend, Alexander Schmorell, with whom he had often discussed his political views, he acquired a typewriter. He then drafted the first leaflet of the White Rose and claims singlehandedly to have prepared about a hundred copies and to have mailed them to addresses chosen from the Munich telephone directory. In doing so, he selected people in academic circles particularly, but also restaurant owners, who, he hoped, would spread the contents of the leaflets by word of mouth.
These seditious pamphlets contain attacks on National Socialism and on its cultural-political parties in particular; further, they contain statements concerning the alleged atrocities of National Socialism, namely the alleged murder of the Jews and the alleged forced deportation of the Poles.
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 German is ashamed of his government. Who among us has 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? If the German people are already so corrupted and spiritually crushed that they do not raise a hand, frivolously trusting in a questionable faith in lawful order in history; if they surrender man's highest principle, that which raises him above all other God's creatures, his free will; if they abandon the will to take decisive action and turn the wheel of history and thus subject it to their own rational decision; if they are so devoid of all individuality, have already gone so far along the road toward turning into a spiritless and cowardly mass - then, yes, they deserve their downfall. Goethe speaks of the Germans as a tragic people, like the Jews and the Greeks, but today it would appear rather that they are a spineless, will-less herd of hangers-on, who now - the marrow sucked out of their bones, robbed of their center of stability - are waiting to be hounded to their destruction. So it seems - but it is not so. Rather, by means of gradual, treacherous, systematic abuse, the system has put every man into a spiritual prison. Only now, finding himself lying in fetters, has he become aware of his fate. Only a few recognized the threat of ruin, and the reward for their heroic warning was death. We will have more to say about the fate of these persons. If everyone waits until the other man makes a start, the messengers of avenging Nemesis will come steadily closer; then even the last victim will have been cast senselessly into the maw of the insatiable demon. Therefore every individual, conscious of his responsibility as a member of Christian and Western civilization, must defend himself as best he can at this late hour, he must work against the scourges of mankind, against fascism and any similar system of totalitarianism. Offer passive resistance-resistance - wherever you may be, forestall the spread of this atheistic war machine before it is too late, before the last cities, like Cologne, have been reduced to rubble, and before the nation's last young man has given his blood on some battlefield for the hubris of a sub-human. Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure.
We are not in a position to draw up a final judgment about the meaning of our history. But if this catastrophe can be used to further the public welfare, it will be only by virtue of the fact that we are cleansed by suffering; that we yearn for the light in the midst of deepest night, summon our strength, and finally help in shaking off the yoke which weighs on our world.
We do not want to discuss here the question of the Jews, nor do we want in this leaflet to compose a defense 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. For Jews, too, are human beings - no
matter what position we take with respect to the Jewish question - and a crime of this dimension has been perpetrated against human beings. Someone may say that the Jews deserved their fate. This assertion would be a monstrous impertinence; but let us assume that someone said this - what position has he then taken toward the fact that the entire Polish aristocratic youth is being annihilated? (May God grant that this program has not fully achieved its aim as yet!) All male offspring of the houses of the nobility between the ages of fifteen and twenty were transported to concentration camps in Germany and sentenced to forced labor, and all girls of this age group were sent to Norway, into the bordellos of the SS! Why tell you these things, since you are fully aware of them - or if not of these, then of other equally grave crimes committed by this frightful sub-humanity? Because here we touch on a problem which involves us deeply and forces us all to take thought. Why do the German people behave so apathetically in the face of all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race? Hardly anyone thinks about that. It is accepted as fact and put out of mind. The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals; they give them the opportunity to carry on their depredations; and of course they do so. Is this a sign that the Germans are brutalized in their simplest human feelings, that no chord within them cries out at the sight of such deeds, that they have sunk into a fatal consciencelessness from which they will never, never awake? It seems to be so, and will certainly be so, if the German does not at last start up out of his stupor, if he does not protest wherever and whenever he can against this clique of criminals, if he shows no sympathy for these hundreds of thousands of victims. He must evidence not only sympathy; no, much more: a sense of complicity in guilt. For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as they do; he tolerates this government which has taken upon itself such an infinitely great burden of guilt; indeed, he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all! Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty! It is not too late, however, to do away with this most reprehensible of all miscarriages of government, so as to avoid being burdened with even greater guilt. Now, when in recent years our eyes have been opened, when we know exactly who our adversary is, it is high time to root out this brown horde. Up until the outbreak of the war the larger part of the German people was blinded; the Nazis did not show themselves in their true aspect. But now, now that we have recognized them for what they are, it must be the sole and first duty, the holiest duty of every German to destroy these beasts.
Many, perhaps most, of the readers of these leaflets do not see clearly how they can practise an effective opposition. They do not see any avenues open to them. We want to try and show them 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 only one available is passive resistance. 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 first concern of every German is not the military victory over Bolshevism, but the defeat of National Socialism... We cannot provide each man with the blueprint for his acts, we can only suggest them in general terms.
Neither Hitler nor Goebbels can have counted the dead. In Russia thousands are lost daily. It is the time of the harvest, and the reaper cuts into the ripe grain with wide strokes. Mourning takes up her abode in the country cottages, and there is no one to dry the tears of the mothers. Yet Hitler feeds with lies those people whose most precious belongings he has stolen and whom he has driven to a meaningless death.
Every word that comes from Hitler's mouth is a lie. When he says peace, he means war, and when he blasphemously uses the name of the Almighty, he means the power of evil, the fallen angel, Satan....
We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!
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.
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.
The accused, Sophie Scholl, as early as the summer of 1942 took part in political discussions, in which she and her brother, Hans Scholl, 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.
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.
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.
On February 22, 1943, the People's Court, convened in the Court of Assizes Chamber of the Palace of Justice, sentenced to death the following persons: Hans Scholl, aged 24, and Sophia Scholl, aged 21, both of Munich, and Chrstoph Probst, aged 23, of Innsbruck, for their preparations to commit treason and their aid to the enemy. The sentence was carried out on the same day.
Typical outsiders, the condemned persons shamelessly committed offences against the armed security of the nation and the will to fight of the German people by defacing houses with slogans attacking the state and by distributing treasonous leaflets. At this time of heroic struggle on the part of the German people, these despicable criminals deserve a speedy and dishonorable death.
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.
The third group of accused in the present trial are foolish children, who present no serious threat to the security of the Reich. At the head we find here the schoolmates Hans Hirzel and Franz Müller. Hirzel often visited Scholl when the latter was in Ulm on leave. Scholl exercised a strong influence and persuasiveness, particularly on such an immature addle-brain as Hirzel. And this power, as the People's Court knows from firsthand experience, was even heightened by the fact that it consisted of nothing but intellectualistic theorizing. Scholl worked on Hirzel for his purposes. He advised him to inform himself in political matters, so that at Germany's collapse he might work as a public speaker to promote Scholl's federalistic-individualistic multiparty democracy!
Sophie Scholl persuaded Hans Hirzel to distribute leaflets expressing these ideas. On two occasions she notified him in advance of her coming and asked him to meet her at the station. However, he wanted to avoid the meeting and did not show up; as a result she came to him, brought about 500 leaflets, and asked him to prepare them for mailing to addresses in Stuttgart. He copied names out of the city directory and put them in the mails. He agreed to and performed this action though on a later reading of the leaflets he could not declare himself in agreement with their contents! The extent to which his mind was poisoned by the Scholls is shown by the fact that earlier he had accepted from them 80 marks for the purpose of buying a duplicating machine and equipment; that he further tried to make an anti-German poster-a swastika with the caption, "Whoever wears this is an enemy of the people." To be sure, he was unsuccessful in this, and he threw the duplicating machine into the Danube even before Sophie Scholl brought him the leaflets.
It has struck the Court that three pupils from one and the same school class (there was also Heinrich Guter) are involved in this action and that even more names were mentioned! There must be something at the bottom of all this, having to do with the atmosphere in this class and for which the Senate cannot hold these students alone to blame. One has to be ashamed that there is a class of this sort in a German humanistic Gymnasium! But it is not the job of the Court to investigate the underlying reasons in detail. The family of young Hirzel had wanted to raise him to be a decent German. Obviously he is not very well, he has had several serious bouts of illness, and he shows a tendency toward an exclusive preoccupation with intellectual matters, which in reality is more a dilettantish interest in phraseology and an urge to experiment. This boy, hardly aware of his own nature, came under the influence of a vile girl, Sophie Scholl, and let himself be misused. His confused attempts to philosophize, to explain his deeds, even though he was not in agreement with the leaflet, appeared not to be lies; they merely bore testimony to his conceit. The Court assumes that he will rid himself of this trait upon experiencing his moral awakening to the manhood of active life, as he will do with his eccentric-but in this connection characteristic- attempts to conduct experiments by injecting himself with chemicals or to have himself locked in a cement mixer so that he can observe the mixing process from the inside! We do not judge him by standards that apply to a university student or instructor.
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 Scholl 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 Wilhelm 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.
Eugen Grimminger of Stuttgart furnished funds in support of this action, though, to be sure, he was not fully aware of its details. The Court was unable to establish that he consciously gave aid to the enemy of the Reich. Furthermore, he gave considerable assistance to his employees who were serving in the armed forces, though on the other hand he was aware that the money might be used for purposes injurious to the state. He has been sentenced to ten years in jail. Heinrich Bollinger and Helmut Bauer of Freiburg had knowledge of the treasonous acts of the above-named accused but failed to report them, despite the fact that they are mature adults, and in contravention of the obligation of every German to make report of treasonous plans of this sort. In addition, they listened to enemy broadcasts. They have been sentenced to seven years in jail, and they have forfeited their honor as citizens for the same length of time.
Hans Hirzel and Franz Müller of Ulm, immature youths, aided in the distribution of the treasonous leaflets. In consideration of their youth they were sentenced to five years' imprisonment.
The accused Heinrich Guter of Ulm, likewise a young person who knew of the treasonous acts but failed to report them, was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment. Three girls who were guilty of the same act were sentenced to one year's imprisonment.
One other accused person, who assisted in the distribution of the leaflets but who did not know their contents, was given a sentence of six months in jail because she failed to carry out her obligation to inform herself about the contents of the leaflets.
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.