Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Revolt & Resistance
Acts of Resistance
Sophia Scholl was born on May 9, 1921, the daughter of Robert Scholl, the mayor of Forchtenberg. Her full name was Sophia Magdalena Scholl. The family lived in Ludwigsburg, Germany from the summer of 1930 till spring of 1932, after which they moved to Ulm and finally to Munich where Sophie attended a secondary school for girls.
In May 1942, she would finally enrol at the University of Munich as a student of biology and philosophy. Her brother Hans Scholl, who was studying medicine there, introduced her to his friends. Hans spent two years in the military, and was a medic serving on the Eastern front, along with with friends; Alexander Schmorell, Will Graf and Jurgen Wittenstein in 1942.
Although this group of friends were eventually known for their political affairs, they were initially drawn together by a shared love of art, music, literature, philosophy and theology. Hiking in the mountains, skiing and swimming were also of importance. They often attended concerts, plays and lectures together.
The core of the White Rose consisted of students; Hans Scholl, Alex Schmorell, Willi Graf, and Christoph Probst, all in their early twenties. Also members were Hans and Sophie's sister Inge Scholl, and a professor of philosophy, Kurt Huber. Sophie also joined the group, however contrary to popular belief, she was not a co-author of the articles.
Her brother had been initially keen to keep her ignorant of their activities, but once she discovered his activities, she joined him and proved invaluable to the group: as a female, her chances of being randomly stopped by the SS were much smaller.
Between June 1942 and February 1943, they prepared and distributed six different leaflets, in which they called for the active opposition of the German people to Nazi oppression and tyranny. Several of the group members had been deployed to the Eastern Front for military service during the academic break.
In late fall the men returned and the White Rose resumed its resistance activities. In January 1943, using a hand-operated duplicating machine, the group is thought to have produced between 6,000 and 9,000 copies of their fifth leaflet, "Appeal to all Germans!", which was distributed via courier runs to many cities (where they were mailed).
Copies appeared in Stuttgart, Cologne, Vienna, Freiburg, Chemnitz, Hamburg and Berlin. Composed by Hans Scholl with improvements by Huber, the leaflet warned that Hitler was leading Germany into the abyss; with the gathering might of the Allies, defeat was now certain. The reader was urged to "Support the resistance movement!" in the struggle for "Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of criminal dictator-states". These were the principles that would form "the foundations of the new Europe".
Huber drafted the final two leaflets. A draft of a seventh leaflet, written by Christoph Probst, was found in the possession of Hans Scholl at the time of his arrest by the Gestapo, who destroyed it. The leaflets caused a sensation, and the Gestapo initiated an intensive search for the publishers.
On February 18, 1943, the Scholl's brought a suitcase full of leaflets to the university. They hurriedly dropped stacks of copies in the empty corridors for students to find when they flooded out of lecture rooms. Leaving before the class break, the Scholl's noticed that some copies remained in the suitcase and decided it would be a pity not to distribute them. They returned to the atrium and climbed the staircase to the top floor, and Sophie flung the last remaining leaflets into the air.
This frantic action was observed by the custodian Jakob Schmid. The police were called and Hans and Sophie were taken into Gestapo custody. The other active members were soon arrested, and the group and everyone associated with them were interrogated and charged with treason.
In the People's Court before the notorious Judge Roland Freisler on February 21, 1943, Scholl was recorded as saying "Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just do not dare express themselves as we did." Scholl and her brother's defiance, in the face of terrifying consequences, gained them enormous admiration.
DeVita, James "The Silenced" HarperCollins, 2006. YA novel inspired by Sophie Scholl and The White Rose.
Students Against Tyranny: The Resistance of the White Rose, Munich, 1942-1943
White Rose, The (pamphlet) Franz J. Muller,et al., White Rose Foundation, Munich 1991
At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans & Sophie Scholl Inge Jens, ed., Harper & Row, 1987
Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2007