The White Rose resistance circle (Die Weiße Rose) stretched far beyond Munich, but at its heart were six individuals: students Hans Scholl (1918–1943), and Sophie Scholl (1921–1943), who were brother and sister, Christoph Probst (1919–1943), Alexander Schmorell (1917–1943), and Willi Graf (1918–1943), and Professor Kurt Huber (1893–1943).
Between 1942 and 1943 the group wrote and disseminated six pamphlets calling on the German people to resist Nazism. They used a second-hand duplicating machine, and despite wartime shortages obtained paper, envelopes, and stamps. They distributed the pamphlets at great personal risk. On 18 February 1943 Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl took copies of the sixth pamphlet to the University of Munich and deposited them around the atrium at the entrance of the main university building. They were spotted by a university caretaker and detained. Their arrest followed, and on 22 February Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst were sentenced to death and executed by guillotine just hours after the conclusion of their trial. Alexander Schmorell, Kurt Huber, and Willi Graf were subsequently arrested, tried, and sentenced to death on 19 April. Schmorell and Huber were executed three months later, on 13 July, and Graf was executed on 12 October 1943.
The White Rose used the written word to call the German people to resist Nazism and to contribute to an end to the Second World War. They produced Flugblätter — leaflets or pamphlets — to spread their ideas. In total six leaflets were printed and distributed by the White Rose. The first four leaflets were drafted by Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell in the summer of 1942. On 23 July 1942 Hans, Alex, and Willi Graf set off for a tour of duty at the Russian front. When they returned they resumed the leaflet campaign. Kurt Huber helped them with the fifth leaflet in January 1943, and wrote the sixth leaflet independently in February 1943 following the Germans’ terrible defeat at Stalingrad. Huber laid the blame squarely at Hitler’s door, and urged the reader to resist: ‘Es gibt für uns nur eine Parole: Kampf gegen die Partei!’ [For us there is only one cry: fight the Party!]. The rough version of a seventh leaflet, drafted by Christoph Probst, was found on Hans Scholl when he was apprehended at the university in February 1943. Hans tried to swallow the incriminating paper but was unable to do so.
Two publications produced by members of the White Rose Project tell the story of the White Rose in more detail: Defying Hitler – The White Rose Pamphlets (Bodleian Library Publishing, 2022) and The White Rose: Reading, Writing, Resistance (Taylor Institution Library, 2019). While there are many versions of the pamphlets in English, the translations included here are the result of a collaborative process (as is true of the original pamphlets) and were undertaken by undergraduate students at the University of Oxford as part of The White Rose Project.
This video from the White Rose Foundation (Weiße Rose Stiftung) in Munich shows how the leaflets were typed, copied using a duplicating machine, and posted.