Against the War with Flyers

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Four of the “White Rose’s” flyers appeared in Munich in June and July of 1942. Approximately 100 copies of each were distributed to a small circle of select recipients, for the most part academics from Munich and the vicinity. With idealism, numerous quotes from classical authors and Christian moral appeals, the texts called for passive resistance against the Nazi regime’s criminal war. In January of 1943, 6,000 to 9,000 copies of a fifth flyer in entered circulation in several cities in Southern Germany and Austria.

Five students made up the core of the “White Rose’s” circle of friends without any real organization: Hans and Sophie Scholl, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst and Alexander Schmorell. Their mentor was Kurt Huber, their professor who had laid the foundations for their oppositional attitude. Another dozen or so students, intellectuals and artists were also members of the “White Rose”.

Sophie and Hans Scholl grew up in a religiously as well as politically liberal Protestant home. Other members of the “White Rose” were also influenced by Christian humanism. They drew their moral rigorism on the other hand from the German youth movement. In the summer of 1942, Willi Graf, Alexander Schmorell and Hans Scholl experienced the senselessness and barbarity of the war in a student company at the Eastern Front. This experience strengthened their resolve to put up resistance by raising the public’s political awareness upon their return in November of 1942.

Starting in February of 1943, the group painted buildings in Munich at night with slogans such as Down with Hitler, Freedom or Hitler Mass Murderer. The group’s sixth flyer addressing students in Munich was also written in February. Making reference to the catastrophe at Stalingrad, they called upon the students to liberate themselves from the Nazi system.

The “White Rose’s” last two flyers drew attention to the hopeless war situation in more prosaic and politically unambiguous language and called for actively fighting the Nazi regime, acknowledging its crimes as such. They also included social and political aims: a federalist Germany, a united peaceful Europe, rational socialism, a free global economy, individual human rights and the rule of law.

The Scholl siblings were observed by the custodian while distributing flyers in the atrium of the university in Munich on February 18, 1943 and subsequently arrested. The People’s Court sentenced them and Christoph Probst to death four days later. Their sentences were carried out on that very same day. Willi Graf, Kurt Huber and Alexander Schmorell were sentenced to death in April of 1943. Eleven other defendants received prison sentences.

The Royal Air Force dropped hundreds of thousands of the “White Rose’s” last flyer over Germany in the spring of 1943 as the Manifesto of the Students of Munich. The flyer had been passed along to the British government prior to this by Graf von Moltke via Sweden and Bishop Berggrav of Oslo.

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  • © Photo: Lepp