Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Student Resistance Movement

Hans Scholl (left), Sophie Scholl (middle) and Christoph Probst (right), leaders of the White Rose resistance organization. Munich 1942 | Courtesy of USHMM

Have you ever thought, why didn’t anyone try to stop Adolf Hitler? Were any Germans ever against him? Was the German community aware of the harm that Hitler was causing to innocent people? Indeed, there were. But who were the people behind these courageous acts? A group of college student attempted to stop Hitler and his heinous acts against Jews and his betrayal of the German people. In 1942, the group known as the White Rose arose in the streets of Munich, Germany. It was a student resistance movement that was created to expose Hitler to all of Germany. Their acts were believed to portray the true meaning of Christianity. The group made leaflets that contained information about the Nazis and their injustices. The letters were mailed to random addresses all over Germany. These students were willing to do whatever was needed in order to follow their moral duty and stop Hitler and his army.1

Sophie Scholl will always be remembered as one of the key individuals in the White Rose movement. She was born in Forchtenberg, Germany in 1921. She grew up in a religious and very political home. Her father was the mayor of the small town and her mother was a deaconess at their local church.2 Her parents raised her family to live an anti-Nazi life. Sophie was the second of three children. Both Hans and Sophie, like most other young Germans, were a part of the Hitler youth movement. There, individuals would be taught Nazi morals and train for battle. While in the program, Sophie and Hans were exposed to the injustices that were done by the Nazi government.3 Hans, her older brother, and his friends were responsible for starting the resistance movement. They named it after a white rose because it portrayed “purity and innocence.”4.

Monument to the “Weiße Rose” in front of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Hans was attending the University of Munich when he started the movement. Along with friends that were also opposed to Hitler and the Nazi regime, they began writing leaflets that denounced the inhumanity of Hitler and his army. They described the Nazis as gangsters and violent criminals.5 After Sophie graduated High School, she followed her brother’s footsteps and attended the University of Munich, where she studied biology and philosophy.6

Sophie was an excellent writer, which played a crucial role in not only writing leaflets but distributing them as well. Not only did the group write leaflets, they spread their beliefs by spraying quotes on twenty-nine different public buildings. Some of the sayings were, “Down with Hitler” and the word “Freedom” on the sides of the entrance of the University of Munich.7 On one very significant leaflet, they exposed the horrendous acts, in which Hitler was responsible for the mass-murder of Jewish people. The group described this as, “the most terrible crime against human dignity, a crime not to be compared to any similar one in the history of mankind.”8

Sophie Scholl arrested by the Gestapo │ courtesy of armysmartygirls.com

One night, Sophie had a dream that she and her brother were arrested by the Gestapo. Little did she know that her dream would one day become a reality.

“Our people stand ready to rebel against the national socialist enslavement of Europe in a fervent breakthrough of freedom and honor.” This was the last line of the last leaflet that Hans and his sister would distribute on February 18, 1943.9 While everyone was in class, Hans and Sophie distributed the leaflets around the University. When they were done, Sophie went back and threw a stack of leaflets down a balcony. She was not able to flee the scene fast enough, as a Janitor saw her throw the leaflets down a balcony and went after her and the man beside her, Hans. The janitor stopped the individuals and reported the incident. Later, they were detained and taken to Gestapo Headquarters, where they were questioned. At the time, Hans still had a hand-written letter in his pocket, which incriminated his friend, Christoph Probst. The letter was potentially going to be the group’s next leaflet. Christoph was brought in for questioning. The individuals were detained for four days. They were questioned, and they in turn became victims of the brutality of the Nazi machine. While detained, the Gestapo broke one of Sophie’s legs. The three individuals were found guilty of “high treason,” and four days later were beheaded. The Gestapo did not stop, and they were on the lookout for other people who were involved in the group. It was not until five months after their execution when more members were detained and punished. One of the individuals was a Professor who had helped the group write some of the leaflets; he was later executed as well.10

The members of the White Rose stood up for their beliefs and condemned the horror of the Nazis, including Sophie, who was willing to do whatever was needed to inform others and stop Hitler from committing injustices, even if it meant losing her life in the process of it. They exposed the Nazis to all of Germany and fought to stop Hitler. Sophie Scholl along with her friends will go down in history for their braveness and courage to stop the Nazi regime.  

  1. Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn, Sophie Scholl and the White Rose (Oxford: Oneworld Publications), 5.
  2. Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia, 2002, s.v. “Sophie Scholl,” by Anne Commire.
  3. John M. Lewis, “Germany and the White Rose,” New Hampshire Bar Journal 53, No. 2 (2012): 56-57.
  4. Russel Freedman, We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler (New York: Clarion Books, 7
  5. John M. Lewis, “Germany and the White Rose,” New Hampshire Bar Journal 53, No. 2 (2012): 56-57.
  6. Russel Freedman, We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler (New York: Clarion Books, 24.
  7. Simon Henderson, “The White Rose and the definition of ‘resistance: Simon Henderson explains the significance of Hans and Sophie Scholl in the history of Nazi Germany,” History Review No. 53 (2005): 42.
  8. Simon Henderson, “The White Rose and the definition of ‘resistance: Simon Henderson explains the significance of Hans and Sophie Scholl in the history of Nazi Germany,” History Review No. 53 (2005): 42.
  9. Simon Henderson, “The White Rose and the definition of ‘resistance: Simon Henderson explains the significance of Hans and Sophie Scholl in the history of Nazi Germany,” History Review No. 53 (2005): 42.
  10. Simon Henderson, “The White Rose and the definition of ‘resistance: Simon Henderson explains the significance of Hans and Sophie Scholl in the history of Nazi Germany,” History Review No. 53 (2005): 42.

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This Post Has 48 Comments

  1. Natalie Thamm

    While this article has a heartbreaking end, it is great and inspiring. While I had known that there was resistance within Germany against Hitler, I had not realized that such an important one was composed of college students. Sophie, her brother Hans, and everyone that participated are true heroes and I think more people should know about the bravery that they exhibited bringing to light the horrors of the Nazi regime.

  2. I found this article incredibly interesting and insightful. It actually gives me a little hope for humanity because I had no idea that there were German people who were actually opposed to Hitler’s actions. It makes it even more powerful that those people were young college students, it makes the story a little relatable, because despite the consequences I would like to believe that I would have stood up for the Jews too.

  3. Alexandra Cantu

    I hadn’t heard the story of Sophie or the Resistance Movement. It’s was an interesting article to read about how the students chose a white rose to represent their purity. They had a lot of courage and bravery to stand up for what they believed in especially for being young adults. This was a well written article I really enjoyed it

  4. The white rose resistance is definitely something to admire, the group consisted of students that attended a university and had Christian beliefs. This group let their beliefs be heard despite possible backlash from the Nazis which during their existence were using inhumane tactics. This article just makes it more clear that the Nazis were the worst by beheading 3 students and a professor. The Nazis could have simply arrested them or shot them, but the beheadings were clearly done to send a message to others that opposed them.

  5. Reese Lujan

    I hadn’t heard the story of Sophie not even about the Resistance Movement. It’s actually quite an interesting article to read about especially the way the article shows how the students chose a white rose to represent their purity. Just putting myself in their shoes I don’t think id have the guts to do all that the did they really had a lot of courage and bravery. Truly remarkable young adults.

  6. This story is very sad but also filled with much bravery. The actions of Sophie and Hans Scholls, along with the other members of the White Rose Movement, provided real insight as to what was going on to the German community. Germans were exposed to a lot of Nazi propaganda and having a courageous group of people providing truth had to have helped them see the injustices happening, at the very least have them question the morality of what the Nazi’s were doing. I had not heard this story before and I was really hoping that they would make it out a live.

  7. This was an unbelievable and interesting story for two reason. First off I knew Hitler was a brutal dictator to the Jews however I didn’t know he was willing to get this brutal to his own people. Killing students for freedom of speech is surreal yet actions such as this is what made Hitler so powerful. Secondly, I did not realize that there was any serious opposing to Hitler from his own people. I did know Hitler grew into power as an opposition party in a time when the country was deeply divided however as his power grew and the people power diminished I didn’t know that there were any groups that did things such as this. Very courageous act.

  8. It’s amazing how some people will put their lives at risk for what they truly believe in. Hans and Sophie are no exception to this statement. The sibling duo, both in college, attempted to spread awareness about Hitler, the Nazi’s, and what kind of terrible acts they were instilling on mainly Jewish people. Although they lost their lives in the act, they should always be remembered as two of the most courageous and strong people we have come to learn about. They stood up for what they believed in without a second thought of what could happen to them.

  9. Before reading this article I was fully aware that there were activists out there to help stop the reign and terror of Adolph Hitler, nut I was completely ignorant and oblivious to the fact that it was possible for their to be rebels within Germany that became activists against this Terrorism. Overall I believe this article to be a real eye opened because I had no idea that anybody in Germany would take such action and go so far as to get executed. Its truly remarkable what these students have done to help end the horrible reign of Hitler and his policies.

  10. Great article with lots of information. I had never heard of Sophie Scholl or the White Rose Student Resistance Movement until reading your article. I found it quite interesting that Sophie was raised to believe that it was her Christian responsibility to oppose Hitler and the Nazi movement. I am sure that others felt that, but very few seemed to have followed through with their belief system. I also like that the group chose a white rose as their symbol since it meant purity. It must have been scary to be a member of the movement, painting anti-Nazi quotes on public buildings and distributing leaflets to the public. It seems a shame to me that we are just now learning about the brave acts of so many college students that once attempted to stop Hitler and his Nazis.

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