German History: The White Rose Movement Posted by Constanze 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.
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:
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.
Sophie Scholl’s last words were, ‘Es lebe die Freiheit!’ (‘Long live freedom!’).
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)!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post!
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