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