Student Resistance in Nazi Germany ~~ The White Rose (Die Weise Rose)

One of Many Portraits of Adolf Hitler
One of Many Portraits of Adolf Hitler | Source

White Rose Resisted Nazis ~~ History Through Film

The film Die Weise Rose (The White Rose) is both history and a tribute to Sophie Scholl and the other members of the White Rose. While they were college students, they exposed social injustices and publicly published information that criticized Nazi ideology and practices.

They wanted to provoke the average German citizen to think and act more independently. The Nazis of course, labeled these university students social misfits and criminal deviants.

Between 1939 and 1943, a brother and sister and their group of friends organized themselves as The White Rose; Hans and Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Jurgen Wittenstein, and Willi Graf attended the University of Munich.

They took many courses together at the University in Munich and also spent much of their free time together – hiking, skiing, attending the theater - they liked to discuss controversial books banned by the Nazis. They also attended lectures given by Professor Huber who possessed strong anti-Nazi views. Professor Huber at the university becomes their mentor and confidant.

Lightning War
Lightning War | Source

Bishop Galen Protests Nazi Euthanasia Program

As the students became more aware of the extent of Nazi brutality - both in Germany, but especially in the Nazi - conquered parts of Eastern Europe – the students decided they had to get involved somehow in resisting the Nazis.

They were encouraged by the fact that Bishop Galen publicly delivered a sermon condemning the Nazis for secretly killing handicapped and mentally ill patients confined in hospitals and insane asylums (this was euphemistically referred to as the “T-4” Euthanasia Program).

After Bishop Galen’s public protest Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell decided to publish and distribute an anti-Nazi leaflet, even though it was illegal to criticize the Nazis in any way. With the help of their friend Christopher Probst, they wrote four leaflets in June and July of 1942.

That fall Sophie Scholl began attending university to study biology and philosophy and quickly discovered her brother’s secret anti-Nazi activities. She insisted on joining the White Rose group and began to assist in producing and distributing the leaflets and flyers.

 Adolf Hitler Greeting a Soldier
Adolf Hitler Greeting a Soldier | Source

Medics at the Front Become Resisters at the University

After serving as medics on the Russian front, several members of the White Rose published the fifth leaflet titled, “A Call to all Germans!” The fifth and sixth leaflets have the same main title, “Leaflets of the Resistance in Germany,” but different subtitles, “A Call to Action” and “Fellow Students.” In November, 1942, Kurt became involved when he was read a draft of the fifth leaflet. He drafted the sixth leaflet by himself.

The members of the White Rose left leaflets in telephone books in public phone booths, mailed copies to professors and students anonymously, and even took them to other universities for distribution. These activities were very difficult to carry out as the Nazis rationed paper and stamps and were extremely dangerous.

Buying stamps or paper in bulk would alert the authorities. Sophie was often given the task of buying the maximum number of stamps from a number of different Post Offices. At times they stole large quantities of paper from the supply closet of a business.


Anti-Nazi Flyers and Leaflets

Transporting leaflets to surrounding cities was very risky due to the fact that the military police constantly patrolled the trains. A Policeman could, and often did, demand to see the identification papers of any man on the train; any man of military age caught without official papers would be immediately arrested.

The leaflets were titled: "Leaves of the White Rose." All four leaflets carried similar messages. They mentioned the extermination of European Jews and the murder of large numbers of the Polish nobility, as well as other Nazi atrocities.

The students’ main focus was not directed at exposing the atrocities of the Holocaust, although they were terribly concerned about them. Their primary concern was to rally the German people to resist the Nazis and bring down the dictatorship.


Arrest, Trial, Three Death Sentences

Hans, Alex, and Willi participated in another kind of resistance or civil disobedience. In February 1943, on three separate nights, they painted anti- Nazi slogans on the walls of several Munich buildings, including their own university. The slogans were simple and their anti-Nazi intention was obvious: "Down with Hitler,” "Hitler Mass Murderer," and "Freedom."

Then on February 19, 1943, Hans and Sophie actually placed copies of their 6th leaflet in the empty hallways of their university. Classes were in session and they did not expect anyone to see them. However, a janitor spotted them and turned them in to the local authorities. The members of the White Rose were arrested by the Gestapo.

Sophie, Hans, and their friend and collaborator Christoph Probst, were tried and sentenced. They were allowed a brief visit with their families and then they were executed by beheading. The Nazis did not keep their arrests, trial, or beheadings secret. Their deaths were intended to serve as a terrible warning to other Germans who might be thinking about resistance.

Lightning War
Lightning War | Source

Study Guide for the film "The White Rose"

Die Weise Rose (The White Rose) directed by Michael Verhoeven (1982)

In May 1942, the White Rose society was formed by university students who were deeply concerned about the National Socialist regime. The group’s leaders were a brother and sister (Hans and Sophie Scholl) and a small tight-knit group of their friends. The friends had very strong religious and philosophical beliefs and were convinced that the Nazis were not only destroying freedom in Germany, but were essentially Godless, anti religion, as well.

In addition to their university studies and at great risk to their own lives, they designed, printed, and disseminated flyers to alert their fellow Germans to the full intentions of the Nazis and the just-beginning horrors of the Death Camps and the Holocaust. They were acutely aware of the moral and practical need to resist the Nazi regime with all their might.

They evaded the Gestapo for one year, were caught, and the founding members were sentenced to death for high treason in February 1943. In their leaflets they focus on an issue which was to be decisive in delaying the downfall of Hitler's Reich: Nazi anti-communism.

Anti-communism and anti-Semitism were the two most powerful ideological threads in the Nazi belief system. Many Germans who did not care for the virulent Nazi version of anti-Semitism, nevertheless, tolerated the Nazis because they feared communism and the Nazis were fiercely anti-communist.

Main Characters in the Film and Essay Questions

Hans Scholl (24) studied Greek/early Christian philosophers, Bible; at the university in 1939 and was drafted into a Medic Company in July 1942.

Sophie Scholl (21) comes to university to study religious authors and philosophy, works at a munitions factory (workers in blue are prisoners--forced laborers), and insists upon joining her brother in carrying out the work of the White Rose.

Herr Scholl Hans and Sophie’s father, spent four months in jail for saying out loud that Hitler was a scourge, the Gestapo tore up his office and arrested him.

Professor Huber (49) Professor of philosophy, the student’s mentor, confidant.

Christopher (23), Alex (25), Willie (25); Fritz Sophie's fiancée’ who was sent to Russian front; all part of a close circle of friends and members of the White Rose.


Construct a five (5) page typed essay based on the following questions.


1) Who were Hans and Sophie's role models? What factors influenced their decision to resist? Does their social or class status have anything to do with their resistance activities? What is their cultural background? Had they always been opposed to the Nazis?

2) What difficulties did the students have in generating their flyers? What was their purpose, in other words, what did they hope to accomplish? Did their resistance efforts include anything other than flyers?

3) Describe the controls and restraints that the Nazis exercised over everyday life. In the society depicted, who has power, and how is it wielded? Is there more than one kind of power? Discuss.

4) How do the students find out about the massacres of civilians in the east? Does their knowledge provide any insight into the question, "Who knew about the atrocities and how hard it was to find out about them?" Who else in Germany or Poland might have known about the actions of the Einsatzgruppen? (special troops that followed the regular army, were assigned to rounding up Jews and “enemies of the Nazi state and murdering them)

5) Based on this film, can you identify the benefits or disadvantages that men and women had in successfully resisting the Nazis? Would college students, rather than high schoolers or middle aged couples be likely to be involved in resistance activities? And if so, why?


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Comments 42 comments

phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 3 years ago from United Kingdom

How incredibly brave. Surely they must have realised they were signing their own death warrants when they began distributing their leaflets?

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Very interesting. Thank you

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

making great advances to a greater cause.. a martyr if you will.. but nonetheless a mark needed to be made and I agree with Phoenix.. bravery had to fill their hearts.. or or blind loyalty.. and at times it is the best remedy.. another great production Phdast7... one that will forever stain our history...

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Good Morning Phoenix - They were incredibly brave, but I also think they were probably full of that invincibility that youth sometimes has -- others may fall off this ledge, but I never will, sort of thing. Thanks for reading and commenting. Theresa

Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 3 years ago from TEXAS

Such a powerful article, Theresa.

One must wonder whether their example - (and their punishment) - influenced others to resist or to comply. Surely there had to be other moral resistance throughout the land, where people had previously been free to think and act on their own consciences. Fear can never fully destroy the will to BE, surely. These young folks came from such a previous society, obviously.

I have to ask one question which is surely from my own oversight: There's a reference to Kurt, who became a member and wrote & distributed leaflets, but I could find no other explanation of who he was or what happened to him. Who was he, or did I miss something in the reading?

Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

This is a nice read and an education trove for me. I did not know such resistance occurred in Nazi Germany at the time.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Eric. Its an excellent film and the more so because it is a true story. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Blessings! Theresa

xstatic profile image

xstatic 3 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Theresa, I knew nothing of resistance like this against the Nazis, so this is fascinating for me. Very well done and informative.

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mours sshields 3 years ago from Elwood, Indiana

Very interesting article. Unfortunately the resisters usually didn't win. Those who did resist were truly brave and were hero's. Too bad there weren't lots more of them.

Marcia Ours

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello Frank - That is the right word -- they were martyrs. Probably a combination of the unbridled bravery of youth and the enthusiastic loyalty of deep friendship. The men especially had experienced war together as medics at the front and that can be an incredibly bonding experience. Thank you for your generous comments and encouragement. Have a wonderful weekend.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Good to see you Rodric. The Germans certainly didn't resist as a people or nation, but there were several major pockets or resistance. Maybe this summer I can write about some of the others. Thanks for reading and commenting. Be well. Theresa

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello Jim - Although many Germans were passive, tolerated, even welcomed the Nazis originally, there were some notable resistance movements. Hope to write about a couple more of them, maybe over the summer. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you and your wife are having a lovely weekend. Theresa

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello Nellieanna - Thinking about your first paragraph and questions -- you are probably right that their punishment scared some people into obedience and encouraged others to resist. But Germany is an interesting case - because I think a lot of Germans were passive and cooperative not necessarily because they were afraid, but because they were by inclination "obedient to authority."

That national and familial tradition began way before the Nazis arrived on the scene. Germany had for decades and decades had an intensely conservative, authoritarian, militaristic government and leaders. They were already far right, the Nazis simply took them as far right as possible.

About Kurt, I don't remember much except that the students who didn't get the death penalty, got long prison sentences. Theresa

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

Thank you, P H Dast, for such an important and informative hub. It amazes me that The White Rose was able to function for an entire year at the height of the war - and it gives me hope. Voted up, awesome, and interesting.

Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 3 years ago from TEXAS

Yes, Theresa, you're right. I can see that the Germanic disposition is to espouse order, and certainly, conservatism. Surely Hitler, who was something of an opportunist, from what I've read, saw that as an advantage for his ideas and power-hungry ambition. I've read of how mesmerizing he was, both to crowds, but even more so, 'eyeball to eyeball' (as George would say). He was almost hypnotic. Too bad his talent wasn't directed at more beneficent ends. Who know how he might have turned out, had he had been allowed to follow his dream as an artist.

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

These were such brave people, who unfortunately met an untimely end. They were such brave souls and I admire them.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Nellieanna - I think he did use those Germanic tendencies to his advantage. And he was apparently incredibly mesmerizing as you mention. I have seen recordings of his speeches and I don't get the power or attraction. But that was a different generation; they were not overwhelmed with media and actors and politicians like we are. Have a good evening. Theresa

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Marcia - You are right. They almost never won. I have always believed that there was a great deal of resistance we will never know about. Sad, but that is the nature of events under a totalitarian regime. Thanks for commenting. Have a great week. Theresa

Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 3 years ago from TEXAS

I, also, have been unmoved by his delivery in reproductions of it. During the war itself, we got RKO Pathe news 'shorts' with the movies. Of course, then, those were the only visuals we ever got of any newsworthy happenings, so that, as you say, played a large role in his being experienced as something unique and powerful, which caught people's fancy.

He just came across like a pompous, nasty, self-promoting man, even to a little girl like myself. But, surely, partly, it was due to not knowing the language he used, though that only further emphasized his screaming delivery, rather than having employed a technique of powerful stillness, which is often more mesmerizing than a demanding delivery. Perhaps he tailored it to the audience's sensitivities. He was no fool. Apparently, what he did, worked. Sadly.

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

How very interesting and fascinating, this resistance to the Nazis. I never knew of such. Such bravery, most likely knowing of their fate.

Excellent and informative write here.

Voted up +++ and sharing

God bless, Faith Reaper

phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 3 years ago from United Kingdom

Perhaps, you had to be at one of Hitler's rallies to appreciate his hold over people. For example, I can't watch sports on TV; I find it deathly dull. But when I'm actually at a stadium watching it live, I find it quite exciting. The atmosphere is invigorating and I get caught up in the fans enthusiasm. Maybe it was the same with Hitler. He doesn't come across well in the old news reels but seeing him in person might be a different story.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Sid. They were an amazing group of young people Thank you for the votes. Theresa

I got your request and as soon as my teaching workload eases off a bit, I will get back to you.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello avian - They were incredibly brave and admirable souls. When I think of them and their lives, I realize that most of the things that trouble me are really pretty small. People and situations like this give one perspective. Hope you are having a great week.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Nellieanna - Glad to know that I wasn't the only on unmoved, but it was a different place and time and he obviously was able to motivate millions. I guess you really had to be there. Hope you are having a sunny, but pleasant week. :)

aethelthryth profile image

aethelthryth 3 years ago from American Southwest

I saw the topic and had to wait till I was on the good computer where I could comment, to read it. As to whether their example inspired people, well, I had read a book about the White Rose a long time ago, and they inspired ME! Little things like peer pressure don't seem to matter compared to doing the right thing, when considering the example of those who risked, and suffered, death for what they did. Voting up and sharing - everyone should know of the White Rose.

P.S. Can you point me to some documentation of when the average Allied civilian knew about the Holocaust? I think it was mainly in 1945, but I want to be sure. I am trying to write about the average person's perception, at the time, of their enemies, and it is so hard to keep hindsight out of the way.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi Faith - I don't think very many people are aware of the actual German resistance groups. I certainly wasn't, and didn't know anything about them until I had been teaching for several years. I have found that it is important to stress to my students that all Germans were not Nazis. \

Some supported the Nazis and some were neutral -- bystanders, and some were "rescuers" and some were "resistors." Reality is almost always way more complicated than our simple stereotypes. Thanks for reading, voting and sharing. Blessings! Theresa

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi Phoenix- I think you are right -- sometimes there is a personal magnetism when you are in the same space with someone. Your comment about sprts is very illuminating. -- the same is true for me, but I never really thought about it that way before. Very interesting perspective. Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a great week.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Good morning aethelthryth. Theirs is an inspiring story. My first introduction to them was through a book some years ago and I felt the same way. Thanks so much for reading, voting, sharing.

The book that comes to mind which might help you in your research is by Lipstadt, Deborah E. (1986). "Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust," 1933-1945. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-02-919161-0. She is a professor of Judaic Studies at Emory University and served on my dissertation committee. She did an incredible job pouring over magazines, newspapers, religious publications to see how much information was available and when.

And of course thre is the question -- just because it was in print, did people read it? Well of course, not everyone did, but we have to remember the very limited opportunities people had in terms of media and entertainment. Most households in America read at least one newspaper. You might be able to find a used copy of her book "cheap" on either Amazon or at Good luck. I am anxious to read what you write. Blessings. Theresa

MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

Just wonderful work....sharing on FB too. I had heard of the Scholls and the White Rose but had somehow forgotten. This in-depth article will keep them in my mind now. Thank you for what you do, it is so valuable!! ~Lurana

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Lurana - It is a historical, yet dramatic film that ha worked well in my upper level classes. The students think Hooray a film! and I know that they will have tow rite a five page analytical essay. We both get something out of it. :) Thank you for all your kind comments. Have a great weekend. Theresa

Peter Geekie profile image

Peter Geekie 3 years ago from Sittingbourne

Dear phdastz,

An excellent, well written and researched article as always. It's useful to remember that not all Germans were Nazis or even condoned their actions.

Perhaps a little like Oskar Schindler they should be remember for their sacrifice.

Voted up, awesome and interesting.

Kind regards Peter

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Good evening Peter.

It is important not to generalize about people, their attitudes and behaviors. This is one of the main things I struggle with in teaching students in their teens or early twenties. They have a hard time with nuances, shades of gray, and the fact that generalizations are often, even usually wrong.

Certainly, not all Germans formed a monolithic bloc and kept step with Hitler. Trying to disabuse students of such an idea is why I find books and films about groups that resisted, like The White Rose, very useful in my classes.

Thank you for your encouraging words and votes. Hope your week is going well. Theresa

UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

phdast7, this is very interesting. I had no idea the Germans executed by beheading. I don't know why that surprises me, given the systemic brutality of the Nazis, but it does. Voted up and interesting.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello Harald- There are probably cases I don't know about, but it seems like beheading was reserved for German" traitors and handled internally by the Gestapo and prison system, Whereas people who were foreigners or Jews or political enemies of the state were sent to concentration or death camps and killed by the SS or the Einsatzgruppen. I think the beheading was to send an especially strong warning to Germans not to oppose the Nazis in any way. In that of course, it was gruesomely effective. Thanks for commenting. Theresa

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

It is refreshing, though sad, to read of these courageous young people. I knew a woman who lived in Nazi Germany and she refused to hear anything bad spoken about Hitler. She said if you didn't live in Germany you don't know how wonderful he was and what good things he did.

Of course we know this isn't true, but how much did the average German know, at least in the beginning. Initially they believed the concentration camps were for dissenters... then the German people didn't want to know, they wanted to avoid the knowledge of what was happening. When the Allied forces reached Germany they found that people did not want to talk about it. If they did, which was brief, they always blamed the Nazis and the SS.

It is stories like that of the White Rose that give us faith in the Germans of that time and in all of us, that there were those who were willing to stand up against the horrors being committed around them.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

ladydeonne profile image

ladydeonne 3 years ago from Florence, SC

I have never seen the film, White Rose. I will certainly find it as you have piqued my interest. Hans and Sophie are truly martyrs. Your hub is very enlightening to me. I was not aware that there were Germans who actually resisted the Nazis. Now that I think about it, it would be very unusual for an entire race of people to have been so evil and cruel to their fellow man. Seems it's always the young people that become embroiled in human rights issues in all countries, including the United States. Their courage and bravery has changed the world. As a past student of history, I look forward to reading more of your hubs. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and sharing.

Theater girl profile image

Theater girl 3 years ago from New Jersey

Again, you have alerted me to a story that I had not heard before. What courageous human beings! Your essay has also inspired me to add a book or two to my summer reading! Thanks for sharing!

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Mary - That is a very good way to describe their story, their lief, refreshing, but also terribly sad. I do love this story for what it tells us about the human spirit and about the German people. Certainly not all were Nazis and not even all collaborators, many simply scared to death and hoping to survive. Thank you for reading this Hub and for your thoughtful comments. Theresa

CarolynEmerick profile image

CarolynEmerick 3 years ago

This is an important topic. As part German-American, my siblings and I (like many people with German background) were called Nazi by other kids just because of the German heritage. In our case, our friends were joking (although one might say it's not a funny joke! but then kids don't know any better). But I've heard stories of kids harassed and called Nazi by people who weren't joking.

Indeed, my own grandmother told me that her father hid the fact that he spoke fluent German and never taught it to her as a child. When she was older, she was upset about this and confronted him to find out why. He said "it was for your own protection."

I run a large website for Northern European heritage and culture which aims to celebrate all the different cultures of the region, even ones that may have historically not gotten along well (Slavs and Balts vs Germans for example). When this topic has come up, I was stunned by the sheer numbers of people coming forward to say their families were mistreated or had to hide their heritage to keep from being mistreated after WWII. But, they couldn't talk about it because with everything Germany did wrong, nobody wanted to hear Germans complaining.

But the thing is, who is to know which Germans were Nazi sympathizers and which ones resisted? And is it fair to take it out on people who were children at the time? It's a complex issue filled with strong emotion. As a part German-American I thank you for telling the story of "the good ones". :-)

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

ladydeonne -

Glad to have piqued your interest. When I first studied the Holocaust I wondered why all Germans didn't resist, later when I realized how oppressive the Nazis really were, I was amazed to discover people like the Scholls. They were remarkable young people. I also think being young (not having started families - no children to consider) makes it a bit easier to put one's own life in danger. Still they are heroes and martyrs. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment and for sharing.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi Theater girl. Amazingly, I didn't know about college students resisting myself until a couple of years ago. I found a book about them and I used it in a history class. Later I discovered the film. They are quite different, but both are very good. I appreciate your reading and sharing. :) Theresa

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello Carolyn - I am sorry that you and your siblings were mistreated. That is ignorance and cruelty at work.

Your website sound fascinating. I am saddened but not terribly surprised that so many people came forward saying they had been mistreated. You have asked the questions we should all be asking all the time. WW II was a terrible time and emotions do run strong, but there is no excuse for prejudice towards people who are a little different from us.

Yiuare very welcome. It was my privilege to write about the members of The White Rose. Take care. Theresa

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