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The outgoing, charismatic and handsome Hans Scholl started his young life following the Nazi party in the increasingly unstable German nation of the 1930s. Full of hope and excitement, Scholl believed in the unquestioned authority of the Nazi party. By the age of 18, Scholl’s eyes were opened to the inhumane and unjust politics of the party, and their hidden agenda. Scholl then took action to lead a group that disseminated literature challenging the Nazi dictatorship.
Hans Fritz Scholl was born the second of Magdalena’s six children on the 22nd of September, 1918. His father, Robert Scholl was mayor of a middle class town in northern Germany and was a major influence on all of his children’s political thoughts. Though the children were caught up in Hitler’s promises for a united fatherland, technological advances and powerful community, their father urged them to take caution and taught them to question the new developments.
At the age of 12, Hans eagerly participated in political youth groups mandated by the military dictatorship. Hans was a member of the Jungenschaft group, which diverted from the Nazi ideology and towards more independent political thought. This gave him the opportunity to hear others express ideas that were dissenting and independent from the popular Nazi propaganda.
“We want to try and show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of the system. It can be done only by the cooperation of many convinced, energetic people” – Hans Scholl
Hans soon became a leader of the Hitler Youth. Feeling that Hitler’s Youth repressed individual thought and expression, Hans brought elements of religion, philosophy and international culture to his troop. In 1937, he helped his group create their own flag of self-expression. After appearing at a rally with their new flag that did not contain Nazi emblems and for breaking other Nazi regulations, Hans was arrested and incarcerated for three months.
While at the University of Munich studying medicine, Hans began to expand his political thought with the ideas of various artists, preachers, writers and philosophers. In addition to the readings, Hans learned from his peers about the non-violent resistance taking place in India and felt that the youth of Germany could one day do the same. Hans Scholl was obligated to spend his holidays away from University as a medic for combat duty during the war. However, after his father was arrested and detained for speaking out politically, Hans and his siblings became more involved in actively resisting the Third Reich.
By 1941 the Nazi dictatorship had been at war for two years and had already committed great atrocities against people within its borders and in the newly annexed lands. Hans, his sisters Sophie and Inge and their friends began to share their thoughts on the German actions and debated the role of individuals who lived in an unjust society. They spoke about religious and moral obligations, the purpose of governments and the effect the Nazi party was having on the international reputation of Germany.
“It’s high time that Christians made up their minds to do something . . . What are we going to show in the way of resistance-as compared to the Communists, for instance-when all this terror is over? We will be standing empty-handed. We will have no answer when we are asked: What did you do about it? ” — Hans Scholl
This small but dedicated group from the University of Munich named themselves the Weißen Rose (White Rose). They decided to engage in behavior that would educate others about alternative perspectives through passive resistance. At the risk of death, they began an anonymous leaflet campaign would be the best way to provoke the Youth of Germany to seek change.
Together, Hans and the other students and professors in the White Rose composed a total of six pamphlets. The first few pamphlets reported on the killings of Polish Jews, the irresponsible use of power and the murdering of the mentally ill. The pamphlets ended with increasingly stronger calls for nonviolent resistance and calls for freedom of speech, religion and peace. They began by mailing the pamphlets to various schools, bars and households chosen at random from the phone book. Their actions were done in the greatest of secrecy and increased in scope.
Words of protest and calls to resistance began to take form across the city. Graffiti appeared reading “Down with Hitler!”, “Hitler the Mass Murderer!” and “Freedom! . . . Freedom!” Hans and the other men also painted crossed out swastikas on buildings along the main boulevard in Munich.
“We will not be silent, we are your conscience, the White Rose leaves you no peace!”
After a few months they made contact with other resistance groups around the country who also began spreading the White Rose leaflets. As time went on, the rhetoric of resistance against the Nazis grew stronger. The Nazis themselves were furious at the distribution of the leaflets. The authorities knew that the source had access to copy machines and academic resources which would place them at a University, but despite many attempts, they could not find the identities of the White Rose members.
Finally, after many months of distributing the pamphlets, Hans and Sophie Scholl were spotted and arrested after leaving the newly printed sixth leaflet in the university commons. The Gestapo (German police) knew they had caught one of the White Rose leaders when they found a draft of a future leaflet in Hans’ pocket.
“…Are we to be forever a nation which is hated and rejected by all mankind? No. Dissociate yourselves from National Socialist gangsterism. Prove by your deeds that you think otherwise. A new war of liberation is about to begin. The better part of the nation will fight on our side. ” – The Fifth Leaflet
Four days later, on the 22nd of February 1943, Hans, Sophie and another leader named Christoph Probst (who had written the draft Hans had) appeared before the People’s Court. Judge and prosecutor Roland Freisler found them guilty of “undermining military morale,” “aiding the enemy” and “conspiracy to commit high treason.” They were quickly hauled off to Stadelheim prison and given a moment with their parents before their rushed execution by guillotine took place that same day. Hans was only 24 years old, while Sophie was not yet 22. Within a few weeks, the Gestapo was able to round up other members of the White Rose, most of which were either executed or sent to concentration camps. A copy of their sixth pamphlet was astonishingly smuggled out of Germany and eventually printed and air-dropped back into Germany by the Allied Forces, leading to increased Nazi resistance near the end of the war.
In the middle of a world war, intense corruption and a vicious dictatorship, Hans Scholl stuck to his principles and lived a life of honor. Hans Scholl, his sister Sophie and the other members of the White Rose are Moral Heroes because of their courage to openly question corrupt leadership and their boldness to take actions to lead their fellow countrymen towards a higher standard.