75 years ago
"Law changes, the conscience doesn't."
Justice, freedom, human rights, moral consciousness, courage, willingness to accept responsibility – what do these values and virtues cost? On 27 June 1942, in the third year of the war, members of the White Rose group disseminated the first of their leaflets calling for passive resistance against the Nazi regime. On 18 February 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were arrested by the Gestapo, after they had scattered copies of their latest leaflet around the Main University Building. Further arrests were made in the days following and, in several separate trials, the leading members of the White Rose were convicted by an inhuman regime and put to death.
We honor the memory of:
“I may not understand much about politics and I have no ambition to do so, but I do have some feeling for what is right and what is wrong. That has nothing to do with politics or nationality.”
Letter to Fritz Hartnagel, 29 May 1940
Under interrogation, Hans Scholl tries to protect his sister. But she takes full responsibility for her own actions and tries to shield her friends. The transcript of her interrogation on 20 February 1943 records her reply to the Gestapo official’s final question as to whether she regrets what she has done: “From where I stand, I must answer ‘no’ to this question. I believe that I have done the best I could do for my countrymen under the present circumstances. So I feel no remorse for my conduct and I am willing to accept the consequences arising from it.” On 22 February 1943, Sophie Scholl was executed by decapitation in Stadelheim Prison in Munich.
“And when you have made up your minds, take action.”
Draft of the seventh pamphlet
On 20 February, Christoph Probst reports to the barracks of his Luftwaffe regiment to collect a leave of absence, in order to see his newborn child. He is immediately arrested and taken to the Gestapo Prison in Munich. Four hours after his conviction by the Volksgerichthof on 22 February, the 23-year-old father is beheaded in Stadelheim Prison, Munich. Herta Probst learns of her husband’s murder on the following day. On 22 February, she had sent a telegram pleading for clemency for her husband.
“In a world dominated by brutal negation, I can still see the positive values. (…) The shadows are there because the light is there. But the light comes first.”
Letter to Rose Nägele, 12 August 1941
In court, Hans Scholl refers to his show trial before the Volksgerichtshof as a farce. He is convicted and executed on the same day. In his report on the execution, the officer presiding describes Hans Scholl as “calm and composed”. The transcript also records Scholl’s last words: “Long live freedom.”
“Each one of us is accountable for what we do. But we have a duty to overcome our doubts and, at some point, pursue a clear course of action.”
Letter to his sister, Anneliese, 6 June 1942
During his period of imprisonment, Willi Graf writes a total of 17 letters to his family. The letters bear witness to his strong emotional attachment to his family and to his unshakeable belief in God. He does not quarrel with his fate and is full of empathy for his family and friends.
“Every nation, every individual has a claim on the basic rights of this world! Freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, protection of the individual citizen from the despotism of criminally brutal states, these are the bases of the new Europe.”
Extract from the fifth pamphlet, composed by Kurt Huber
In Kurt Huber’s concluding statement to the Volksgerichtshof on 19 April 1943, he manages to deliver parts of the speech in his own defence, which he had prepared while in custody. He asks the Court to show mercy to his young friends and accepts responsibility for their actions as well as his own. Up to the day of his execution, Kurt Huber continues to work on his research projects, in particular, on his study of the typology of folk songs. He writes to his family every week.
“Because nothing is finer than freedom of thought and independence of the will, when one has no fear of these things. Here, they are trying to take them from us, force us to forget them or give them up, but they will not succeed!”
Letter to his sister, Angelika, 1 Mai 1937
While in prison, Alexander Schmorell writes his political testament. He restates his rejection of the Nazi dictatorship, and underlines his demands for freedom and justice. A friend plans to help him escape. But when Schmorell learns of his intentions, he rejects the plan because it would put others at risk. On the 13 July 1943, at the age of 25, Alexander Schmorell is executed.
“But their spirit lives on!”
Extract from the sixth pamphlet
With the help of his girlfriend Marie-Luise Schultze-Jahn, Hans Leipelt makes copies of the sixth of the White Rose’s pamphlets. When they begin to collect money for Professor Kurt Huber’s widow, Leipelt and Jahn are denounced and arrested. Hans Leipelt, now the last political prisoner in Stadelheim, is executed on the 29 January 1945.
The White Rose Resistance Group
On 27 June 1942, in the third year of the war, members of the White Rose group disseminated the first of their leaflets calling for passive resistance against the Nazi regime. Five further appeals followed, the last calling for the overthrow of Hitler’s dictatorship. The LMU students Willi Graf, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Sophie Scholl and Hans Scholl, together with LMU Professor Kurt Huber, formed the core of the group, which maintained informal links with other individuals and groups opposed to the Nazi regime.
On 18 February 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were arrested by the Gestapo, after they had scattered copies of their latest leaflet around the Main Building. Further arrests were made in the days following and, in several separate trials, the leading members of the White Rose were convicted and sentenced to death. In all cases, the sentences were carried out without delay in the prison in Munich-Stadelheim.
Since 1945 – immediately after the war ended – LMU has been committed to keeping the legacy of the White Rose alive. An annual White Rose Memorial Lecture was instituted, which is delivered by an invited speaker at a commemorative ceremony every February. The permanent exhibition in the DenkStätte Weiße Rose tells the story of the courage and sacrifice of the group’s members.
- Photo of Sophie Scholl: University Archive, LMU Munich
- Photo of Christoph Probst: University Archive, LMU Munich
- Photo of Hans Scholl: Geschwister-Scholl-Archiv/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo
- Photo of Willi Graf: Knoop/Baez
- Photo of Professor Kurt Huber: Professor Wolfgang Huber
- Photo of Alexander Schmorell: Markus Schmorell
- Photo of Hans Leipelt: Angela Bottin
Headline: quote by Sophie Scholl (Gestapo interrogation transcripts, 1943)