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German History: The White Rose Movement Posted by on Oct 28, 2020 in Culture, History, People

Guten Tag! It’s been a while since I’ve done a travel/history post, so that’s what today’s post will be about! Today we’re going to München, Germany to learn about Sophie Scholl and Weiße Rose (White Rose), a political movement from 1942.

Weiße Rose was started by a group of students at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (Ludwig Maximilian University, a university in Munich that still operates today, and is open to the public to visit). The group’s main founders were Sophie Scholl and her brother, Hans Scholl. It was an anti-fascist group set up to urge people to actively oppose the Nazi party. The full name of their group was Die Weiße Rose Widerstand gegen die NS-Diktatur The White Rose Resistance to the NS Dictatorship.

LUDWIG MAXIMILIAN UNIVERSITY By Kt80 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9722951

It goes without saying, there were grave consequences for anyone opposing the Nazis. So Weiße Rose got their message across by writing and distributing anonymous Flugblätter (leaflets) across the city. Once their message started to spread and others got involved, they were able to send the leaflets via couriers into other cities, and even over the border into Austria. There were six complete leaflets in total, and a draft of leaflet seven. You can read them all in English here! 

Weiße Rose operated like this for about one year before they were caught. During this time, the Gestapo (short for Geheime Staatspolizei – Secret State Police) were already aware of the group’s existence, but could not do anything about it because they operated anonymously.

There are different accounts of how the group were caught out. One story says that the university’s Hausmeister (janitor) saw Sophie Scholl distributing leaflets and contacted the Gestapo. Upon seeing the Gestapo approaching, Sophie threw the remaining leaflets in the air. Another story says Sophie threw her leaflets in the air as a way of distributing them, after which the janitor called the Gestapo. Either way, it is the image of Sophie throwing her leaflets and them landing in a scattered heap on the university floor that inspired the memorial you see at the entrance to the university today:

White Rose Memorial. Author’s Own Photo.

As well as this memorial, there is an Austellung (exhibition) dedicated to Weiße Rose inside the university itself. It is free to visit, and contains all of the original White Rose leaflets!

But what was the fate of Sophie, Hans and the other members of the White Rose Movement? Sophie, Hans, and Christoph, another founder, were executed, ‘wegen landesverräterischer Feindbegünstigung, Vorbereitung zum Hochverrat und Wehrkraftzersetzung’ (‘for traitorously aiding and abetting the enemy, and preparedness to commit high treason and undermine military strength’ – quoted from a plaque at the exhibition). Other members of the group were either arrested, sent to concentration camps, or also executed. They were in their early 20s.

From the exhibition. Author’s own photo.

Sophie Scholl’s last words were, ‘Es lebe die Freiheit!’ (‘Long live freedom!’).

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If you’re ever in München, hop on the U-Bahn and get off at the stop Universität. From there it’s a short walk to the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU), where you can see all of this for yourself. The square outside the university is even named after the siblings: Look out for Geschwister-Scholl-Platz, with its huge Springbrunnen (water fountain)!

GESCHWISTER-SCHOLL-PLATZ . Von A.Schnurrenberger – Eigenes Werk, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20109705

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post!

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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


Comments:

  1. Niamh:

    I am deeply moved and inspired by the story of the White Rose. Thank you so much for sharing it. Soon, on November 3rd, the people of the U.S. will decide whether to re-elect an amoral would-be autocrat, or choose another path. I will be thinking of Sophie, Hans, and Cristoph. If your beliefs permit it, please pray for us.

    • Constanze:

      @Niamh I am so glad you enjoyed the post, Niamh. This is also why I love the White Rose story, personally. It definitely puts things into perspective.

  2. Hanoch K.:

    Interesting. Danke

  3. Pete:

    Constanze, thank you for your fantastic posts and for all who contribute to this amazing blog. I had hoped to travel to Germany several times this year before Corona happened, and München is one of my favourite cities, so thanks for sharing a little bit of history and introducing me to some new vocab too.

    • Constanze:

      @Pete So glad you’re enjoying the blog, Pete. Whilst travel is limited I think it’s nice to be able to “travel” via these blog posts!

  4. Alison Ellis:

    A very informative and useful post. We have been visiting Munich for many years ( we have Anglo-German family there) but did not know about this. On our list for the next time we are able to visit.

    • Constanze:

      @Alison Ellis So glad to hear this, Alison!! It’s definitely worth the visit.

  5. Gordon Bryce:

    I am from Greenock Scotland. I speak German fairly well and find your German Language Blog very informative and helpful increasing my knowledge of German culture and the German Language. I have been to Munich several times and have visited the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat and saw the White Rose Movement Memorial and found it very moving.

    • Constanze:

      @Gordon Bryce Thanks for sharing, Gordon! So pleased you find the blog helpful. I agree, it’s a very moving story and memorial.

  6. Allan Mahnke:

    Thank you! This movement is not well-known in the US, and it should be. There is a film that I would recommend: Sophie Scholl – die letzten Tagen. I am almost certain I remember there were subtitles.

    • Constanze:

      @Allan Mahnke Oh thanks for the recommendation, Allan!! I will see if I can find it. And yes, I had the same thoughts when learning about White Rose – I wish THIS side of things had been focused on in school history class (in the UK). It’s so important to know about the other side of that era, about all the people who were fighting AGAINST Hitler and his ideologies.


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