The Resistance Group That Battled Hitler With Words

Getty / Getty

While there were plenty of bombs, tanks, and guns fighting against the Nazi regime during WWII, heavy artillery was just one method of combat. The White Rose resistance group chose to battle Hitler with words.

In June 1942, German siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, along with friends Willi Graf, Alexander Schmorell, and Christoph Probst, formed a non-violent resistance group called "White Rose." To protest Hitler’s heinous acts of genocide and educate their fellow Germans, the White Rose anonymously penned a series of leaflets that exposed what the regime was doing. In addition to writing the material, White Rose members were also responsible for distributing it—a dangerous task. But they found plenty of dedicated students willing to do it, establishing a network throughout Munich, Hamburg, Freiburg, Berlin, and Vienna.

On February 18, the Scholls brought a suitcase full of leaflet no. 6 to the University of Munich, leaving stacks in the hallways for students to find. Hans and Sophie were on their way out of the building when they decided to fling the remaining leaflets from the top of a staircase.

A "white rose" monument at the University of Munich in Bavaria, Germany. Credit: Gryffindor via WikimediaCommons // Public Domain

The dramatic gesture was their undoing—it caught the attention of the maintenance man, who called the police. Hans and Sophie were taken into custody later that night, and the Gestapo, the secret state police, wasted no time convicting the Scholls of treason. On February 22, 1943, just four days after the stairwell incident, the Scholls and Probst were sent to the guillotine. Graf, Schmorell, and faculty member Kurt Huber suffered the same fate later that year.

But the White Rose had the last laugh: One of their last leaflets was smuggled out of the country, and in July 1943, Allied planes dropped millions of them over Germany.