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White Rose
Hans and Sophie Scholl

White Rose
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White Rose was a underground collective, led by brother and sister Hans and Sophie Scholl who wrote and distributed pamphlets denouncing Nazi Germany and calling for German people to uproot their ignorance and inaction.

Their leaflets aimed to expose the lies of the Nazi party and incite rebellion against it. White Rose didn't need to expose the meaningless deaths of their own comrades or the horrific fact of Jewish oppression, because Germans were already aware of them. Instead, the leaflets  revealed the reasons for turning away from these harsh realities in ignorance or in acquiescence and addressed what White Rose saw as the broken spirit of the German people.

In the fourth leaflet they wrote:

Though we know that National Socialist power must be broken by military means, we are trying to achieve a renewal from within of the severely wounded German spirit. This rebirth must be preceded, however, by the clear recognition of all the guilt with which the German people have burdened themselves, and by an uncompromising battle against Hitler...

The leaflets weren't all talk. In the third issue, White Rose called for action through sabotage:

Sabotage in armament plants and war industries, sabotage at all gatherings, rallies, public ceremonies, and organisations of the National Socialist Party. Obstruction of the smooth functioning of the war machine ... Sabotage in all the areas of science and scholarship which further the continuation of the war - whether in universities, technical schools, laboratories, research institutes, or technical bureaus...
They supplemented each leaflet with work from history’s great thinkers, such as Aristotle, Friedrich Schiller, Goethe, and Lao Tzu, many of whom had been banned reading for years. In this they reach a clarity of connectivity, invocations for freedom.

White Rose operated no more than two years, generating six issues. While distributing the last of the sixth flyer at a university, it's said that Sophie ran to the top floor and threw the papers from the atrium. A janitor spotted her, and locked her and Hans in the building before calling the Gestapo, the secret police of the Nazi state. After being arrested, they were quickly shuffled through a Nazi kangaroo court before meeting death at  the guillotine.

Sophie Scholl's last words before execution were, "How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?"

For an interesting dive into what Americans knew of German underground movements in 1942, check out The Silent War by Jon B. Jansen.

By Thad Higa

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