Hans and Sophie Scholl
Just a few hours before the President of the Peoples Court, Roland Freisler, had sentenced Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst to death following a lightning-quick trial. The charge was conspiracy to high treason. All three were part of the resistance Group ”Weiße Rose” (White Rose), whose other members Alexander Schmorell, Kurt Huber and Willie Graf were charged, sentenced and executed as well on April 19th and July 13th.
The story of the White Rose began in 1942 in Munich. There, in the fall of 1940, Hans Scholl, then 22-year old student of medicine from Ulm and Alexander Schmorell, his Senior by one year, had met and become friends. In Schmorell’s parental apartment they held meetings and discussions with like-minded friends, among them Schmorell’s school friend Christoph Probst. The topics were Theology, Philosophy, moral standards and Literature.
Their decision to actively resist the NS-Regimemay have been influenced by anonymous leaflets which the Scholl family in Ulm repeatedly found in their mailbox. The leaflets contained sermons by the bishop of Münster, Clemens August Graf von Galen. The Sermons gave witness to the extermination of mentally ill patients and encouraged the readers to take a stand against the Nazi terror.
The unknown distributor of these leaflets was Ulm Senior High School student Heinz Brenner. From the beginning of October 1941 he distributed his leaflets to chosen addresses. He was a classmate of Hans Hirzel and Franz Müller, friends of the Scholls. Both would soon to become active helpers to the Scholls indistributing the White Rose leaflets. For this assistance Court president Freisler sent them to the penitentiary in the second White RoseTrial.
”Leaflets of the White Rose” was the title of the first four appeals, written and distributed by Scholl and Schmorell in May and June 1942. The first leaflet starts as follows: ”Nothing degrades a civilized nation of culture more than allowing itself to be ruled without resistance by an irresponsible, despotic clique, driven and obsessed by dark desires and irrational urges.” It culminates in an appeal for passive resistance. The second leaflet reveals the facts on the murder of 300,000 Polish Jews: ”Here we see the most monstrous crime against mankind, an atrocity that is rivaled by no other in the history of mankind. ”The fourth leaflet emphatically calls for sabotage, the fourth ends as follows: ”We will not be silenced, we are your bad conscience, the White Rose will not give you peace!”
From the end of July to the beginning of November 1942 Schmorell and Scholl were drafted to military service at the eastern front, where they met and befriended Willi Graf, 24, from Saarbrücken. Upon their return he joined the White Rose as did Sophie Scholl, who had moved to Munich University in May of 1942 as well as Professor of musical science Kurt Huber, 49.
The tenor of the fifth leaflet, written by Hans Scholl and enhanced by Huber, was significantly more intense. The title had pragmatically changed the White Rose into the ”Resistance Movement in Germany”. The White Rose actually did seek contacts to other resistance groups.
The sixth and last leaflet referred to the horrible defeat at Stalingrad and demanded the the open fight against the NSDAP. On February 18th 1943 Hans and Sophie Scholl placed this leaflet outside the lecture halls of Munich University. While Sophie was throwing the rest into the entrance lobby from the second floor, both of them were discovered, denunciated and arrested. The Gestapo soon caught on to the rest of the White Rose.The inner circle was executed. Ulm students Hans and Susanne Hirzel, Franz Müller and Heinrich Guter and other friends, who had either taken part in the leaflets’ distribution or simply knew about it without reporting it, were sentenced to drastic prison Terms.
What had driven Hans and Sophie Scholl to act so carelessly and deliver not only themselves but their friends to the executioner? Was it a spontaneous moment of highspirits? An act of defiance? The challenge inseeking the ultimate risk? We find the answer in the complex personalities of Hans andSophie Scholl. Long before the times of the White Rose their expressive characters had caused an uproar in Ulm. They had already become conspicuous while they were active and leading members of the Hitler-Youth (HJ).Their behavior – punctuated by their style ofdress and their haircuts – constituted a total rejection of the bourgeoisie.
The parents, Robert and Marianne Scholl, had moved to Ulm from Ludwigsburg in 1932 with their five children. Father Robert Scholl (1891-1973) was a tax consultant and accountant. He had taken the position of Mayor in Ingersheim-Altomünster in1917. His daughter Inge was born there on August 11th 1917 as well as his son Hans on September 22nd 1918. In 1920 he was mayor of Forchtenberg, where the rest of his children were born, daughter Elisabeth on February 27th 1920, daughter Sophie on May 9th 1921 and the youngest son Werner on November 13th 1922.
When Hitler seized power in 1933 the Scholl children – against the explicit will of their father – felt themselves very much drawn towards the Hitler Youth. Inge Aicher-Scholl describes this seductive attraction to herself and her siblings in her book ”The WhiteRose”: ”We heard much about Fatherland, comradeship, national community and patriotic spirit. This impressed us very much and we paid vivid attention when we heard These phrases in school or in the street. ”Hitler was said to bring back greatness and prosperity to the fatherland. Who could have a problem with that? In addition there were ”the compact columns of the youth with their waving flags, all eyes forward, the marching drums and songs”. This sense of comradeship was overwhelming to the adolescents. They wanted to be part of it.
Quite soon the Scholl children held leading positions in the German Girls Association (BDM) and the HJ. Hans and Sophie especially practiced tests of courage and hardship, always aiming to push themselves and others to the limit. This inspired great admiration and enthusiastic approval from some, others however – especially parents – rejected them and some children and adolescents were actually scared of Hans and Sophie Scholl. Two details in their appearance have gained symbolic character and are still unforgettable to some citizens of Ulm who remember them as trademarks to this day. On one hand we have Hans Scholl’s extremely short trousers,which absolutely had to end one hand widthabove the knee and which he wore quite often even through the winter. Other Boys tried to imitate good-looking and ”suave” Hans – much to their educators dismay who were concerned about the threatening bladder infections.
Sophie on the other hand sported a Boys haircut for a while: short in the back, long inthe front, differing drastically from her contemporaries ’braids. This as well may have been a piece of freedom, enabling her to enjoy nature without girlish consideration for a hairdo. Sophie climbed the highest trees just like her brother and crawled through the thickest bushes on maneuver games. All that just had to seem highly suspicious to the good citizens. Soon she earned the nicknames ”Buabamädle” (tomboy) or just ”d’rBua” (the boy).
In their groups Hans and Sophie practiced ideals like the unconditional sharing of all food and cash – which gave them the image of either communists or true Christians – depending on the observer’s sympathy or antipathy. They subjected their surroundings to an elitist selection process. Not everyone was worthy to join them in the pursuit of their ideals.
After Hans’ and Sophie’s execution the whole family was placed under collective arrest – all except Werner, who was sent to the eastern front. He never came back. The father was sentenced to 18 months of incarceration, amongst other things for listening to BBC. Ulm’s NS district leader initiated a merciless and virulent campaign in the local press, titled ”Scholl – how much longer?” The family took their refuge in the Black Forest. Following theend of the war, the allied forces in Ulm appointed Robert Scholl Lord Mayor of Ulm on June 7th 1945. He kept this position only until 1948.
The Scholls and their circle have left lastingtraces in Ulm. Inge Scholl married Otl Aicher (1922-1991), school friend of her brother Werner. Aicher had been close to the Scholls since the autumn of 1939. He was destined to become a designer of world fame. After the war he was a prime mover for the reborn intellectual life in Ulm. He is known as ”Spiritus rector” of the Ulm Adult Education Center(VH), founded in 1946 and administrated by Inge Scholl.
Additionally Otl Aicher was founding father to the legendary College of Design (hfg), an idea he shared with Inge Scholl and Max Bill. The realization of this vision however was only possible due to generous American assistance. America donated one million DM to the ”Scholl-Foundation” founded by Inge Scholl in 1950. The names of Hans and Sophie Scholl were a guarantee that the funds would be used in the spirit of the new found freedom, a freedom that arrived too late for Hans and Sophie Scholl, who died for keeping it alive.