perSISTER: Sophie Scholl & The White Rose

MAKE WAVES — #FemalePowerProject poster Honoring Sophie Scholl and The White Rose, 1942, “We took everything upon ourselves. What we did will cause waves.” At 21 years old she was executed by guillotine for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets at the university in Munich.

Sophia Magdalena Scholl was born on May 9, 1921, in Forchtenberg am Kocher, where her father, Robert Scholl, was mayor. At 12 Sophie joined the Hitler Youth, but became disillusioned. The arrest of her father left a strong impression on her. He was punished for telling his secretary: “The war! It is already lost. This Hitler is God’s scourge on mankind, and if the war doesn’t end soon the Russians will be sitting in Berlin.”

To the Scholl family loyalty meant obeying the dictates of the heart. “What I want for you is to live in uprightness and freedom of spirit, no matter how difficult that proves to be,” her father told the family.

When the mass deportation of Jews began in 1942, Sophie’s brother and his university friends bought a typewriter and a duplicating machine and wrote the first leaflet with the heading: Leaflets of The White Rose. The leaflet caused a tremendous stir among the student body. It was the first time that internal dissent against the Nazi regime had surfaced in Germany. The group also used graffiti to get their message out.

When Sophie became a student at the university and discovered her brother’s involvement with The White Rose, she too joined the group. Members of The White Rose worked in secrecy producing thousands of leaflets calling for the end of the war and strongly denouncing the inhuman acts of the Nazis. They mailed them from undetectable locations in Germany to scholars and medics. Sophie bought stamps and paper at different places, to divert attention from their activities. Each leaflet was more critical of Hitler and the German people than the last. The Gestapo had been looking for the pamphlets’ authors as soon as the first ones appeared. As the language in the leaflets became more inflammatory they stepped up their efforts. They arrested people at the slightest hint of suspicion.

A university handyman and Nazi party member saw Sophie and her brother with the leaflets and reported them. They were taken into Gestapo custody. Sophie’s “interrogation” was so cruel, she appeared in court with a broken leg.

At the age of 21, Sophie Scholl was executed by guillotine  for the crime of treason by the “People’s Court” in Germany on Feb. 22, 1943. When Sophie last spoke with her parents, within the few hours between her trial and execution, she said, “We took everything upon ourselves. What we did will cause waves.”

Making Waves: The White Rose has inspired many people and movements around the world, including many anti-war, anti-genocide, and anti-fascist activists.
These are the words of Leaflet 4’s concluding phrase, which became the motto of The White Rose resistance: We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!

Adapted from the articles by Margie Burns (Raoul Wallenberg Foundation) and by
Mr Hornberger (The Future of Freedom Foundation) and Wikipedia

To view the extraordinary images of the actual White Rose Leaflets in PDF, visit this Wikipedia page and scroll down to the “Primary Sources” section.