Friday, July 07, 2006

The White Rose Martyrs

Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell, medical students of different religions, were introduced to each other in the fall of 1940. Scholl was a Protestant while Schmorell was Orthodox. The two young men shared their interests together. Then, they realized that they both shared disgust against Hitler, the Nazis and the Reich. The two young men were soon joined by Sophie Scholl, Hans’ younger sister, Christoph Probst, a married student, and Willi Graf, a devout Catholic. Professor Kurt Huber, their professor in philosophy, joined them too.
Hans and Alex wrote the first two leaflets of the new organization. The leaflets were signed with a “White Rose”. The leaflets criticized a regular German who just sat back and did nothing to combat the Nazi regime. After the two leaflets, three more leaflets were made, with a more striking message. Here are some quotes from their leaflets:
“Therefore every individual, conscious of his responsibility as a member of Christian and Western civilization, must defend himself as best he can at this late hour, he must work against the scourges of mankind, against fascism and any similar system of totalitarianism.”
“Every word that comes from Hitler's mouth is a lie. When he says peace, he means war, and when he blasphemously uses the name of the Almighty, he means the power of evil, the fallen angel, Satan.”
“Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right - or rather, your moral duty - to eliminate this system”
“We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!”
In each of the leaflets, the White Rose members write, “Support the resistance! Distribute the leaflets!”
The White Rose members have to work in secret and made their activities oblivious even to their own families. They worked day and night duplicating the leaflets and sent the leaflets to chosen families seen in a telephone directory.
In early February, Hans, Alex and Christoph painted slogans near their school, the University of Munich, with the message “Down with Hitler!” This was the most dangerous activity of the White Rose.
On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie brought a suitcase of leaflets written by Professor Huber. worked quickly, dropping stacks of Kurt Huber's leaflets throughout the corridors. With time running out, the brother and sister hurried outside to safety. When they realized that a few more leaflets are left in the suitcase, Sophie climbed the grand marble staircase to the upper level of the hall and threw the remaining leaflets high into the air. The school janitor, a member of the Nazi party, saw this and called the Gestapo. The doors were locked and the Scholls were arrested.
Christoph Probst was arrested at the same time the Scholls were arrested. He was arrested while asking for permission from the army to visit his wife and new-born baby. The draft of Christoph's leaflet was found in Hans Scholl's pocket and, though Hans insisted he was given the draft by a stranger, the handwriting was matched to a letter from Christoph in the Scholl's apartment.
The Scholls and Probst stayed in prison for four days. During interrogation, Sophie was recorded to have said, “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare express themselves as we did.” The three were found guilty and were guillotined a few hours later on February 22, 1943. Before their execution, Christoph Probst was baptized into the Catholic faith by a priest in prison. The executioners noted Sophie, who walked with courage to the guillotine. Before being killed, she told her executioners, “Your heads will roll too.”
After the arrest of the Scholls, a warrant of arrest had been made for Alex Schmorell. All his efforts to escape failed. He was arrested in an air raid shelter on February 24, 1943, when he was recognized. Professor Huber was arrested three days later. After his arrest, the University stripped him of his doctorate and his professorship. In trial, Professor Huber defended the members of the White Rose despite humiliations. The two were executed by the guillotine on July 13, 1943.
Willi Graf was arrested in his apartment with his sister in his apartment on the day Hans and Sophie were arrested. After months of Gestapo interrogations in a futile attempt to obtain the names of the co-conspirators, Willi Graf was executed by guillotine on October 12, 1943. In the farewell letter to his sister he had the following message to his friends, "They shall continue what we have begun."
The White Rose martyrs were considered as good models for the youth in World Youth Day, 2005. Monsignor Helmut Moll of Cologne said that if he would choose a model for the World Youth Day, “I would choose the White Rose youths — Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic students of Munich who, in 1942, fought to defend the dignity of man and religion in face of Nazism.” He added, “Our society is poor in Christian models; therefore, as the Pope has said, we need figures who are an example of faith, hope and charity. These martyrs are real models of faith who have something to say to all our young people.”


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