The White Rose and the Definition of ‘Resistance’

Simon Henderson explains the significance of Hans and Sophie Scholl in the history of Nazi Germany.

Members of the White Rose, Munich 1942. From left: Hans Scholl, his sister Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst.On February 18th 1943 Hans and Sophie Scholl threw hundreds of leaflets from the third floor of the main building in the centre of the Munich University campus. The last sentence of them read: ‘Our people stand ready to rebel against the National Socialist enslavement of Europe in a fervent breakthrough of freedom and honour’. Brother and sister were executed four days later. Along with other members of the White Rose movement, they dared to struggle against the ideological straitjacket of the Nazi police state. Remarkable and courageous young people, inspirational figures whose example of honour and integrity transcends time and place, the Scholls, alongside Christoph Probst, Willi Graf, Alex Schmorell and their Professor, Kurt Huber, boldly resisted Hitler’s regime. The story of the White Rose should be celebrated as the triumph of inquisitive minds and of the indefatigability of the human spirit.

Nevertheless, their motivations and aims remain uncertain, while the precise place of their movement in the orbit of resistance and opposition in Nazi Germany is intriguing. Their story poses important questions and offers great opportunities to historians exploring resistance and conformity among the people of the Third Reich.

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