Hans and Sophie Scholl were German teenagers in the 1930s. Like other young Germans, they joined the Hitler Youth. They believed that Adolf Hitler was leading Germany and the German people back to greatness.
Gradually, Hans & Sophie changed their opinion. Their father, Robert Scholl, told his children that Hitler and the Nazis were leading Germany down a road of destruction. In 1942, Robert Scholl would be arrested and serve time in a Nazi prison for telling his secretary: “The war! It is already lost. This Hitler is God's scourge [cause of great pain] on mankind…..”
Hans & Sophie slowly understood that Hitler and the Nazis were enslaving and destroying the German people. They believed that it was the duty of a citizen, even in times of war, to stand up against an evil regime, especially when it is sending hundreds of thousands of its citizens to their deaths.
The Scholl siblings began sharing their feelings with a few of their friends, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, as well as with Kurt Huber, their psychology and philosophy professor.
One day in 1942, copies of a leaflet entitled “The White Rose” suddenly appeared at the University of Munich. The leaflet contained an anonymous essay that said that the Nazi system had slowly imprisoned the German people and was now destroying them. The Nazi regime had turned evil. It was time, the essay said, for Germans to rise up and resist the cruelty of their own government. At the bottom of the essay, the following request appeared: “Please make as many copies of this leaflet as you can and distribute them.”
The leaflet caused a tremendous stir among the student body. It was the first time that internal opposition against the Nazi regime had surfaced in Germany. The essay had been secretly written and distributed by Hans Scholl and his friends.
Another leaflet appeared soon afterward. And then another. And another. Ultimately, there were six leaflets published and distributed by Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friends, four under the title “The White Rose” and two under the title “Leaflets of the Resistance.” Their publication took place periodically between 1942 and 1943.
The members of The White Rose, of course, had to act cautiously. The Nazi regime maintained an iron grip over German society. All dissent was quickly and efficiently smashed by the Gestapo. Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friends knew what would happen to them if they were caught; they would be killed.
People began receiving copies of the leaflets in the mail. Sometimes the leaflets were left in public places (train stations, libraries…) so people could find them. They were sent to students in other universities.
The members of The White Rose did more than just write leaflets. On three nights in February 1943, Hans, Alex and Willi men used tar and paint to write slogans on the sides of buildings. They wrote "Down With Hitler", "Hitler Mass Murderer", "freedom", and drew crossed-out swastikas. This grafitti was the most public, blatant and dangerous of their activities.
The Gestapo was driven into a frenzy. It knew that the authors were having to procure large quantities of paper, envelopes, and postage. It knew that they were using a duplicating machine. But despite the Gestapo's best efforts, it was unable to catch the perpetrators. Until….