Die Weiße Rose — German anti-nazi publishing activists faced capital punishment
Die Weiße Rose (“The White Rose”) was a coalition of university students in Germany during the Third Reich who opposed Hitler by independently writing, producing, and distributing leaflets throughout Germany which sought to expose the tyranny of the Nazi party in a country otherwise totally controlled by government-produced news and propaganda. They distributed their work by dropping the leaflets en masse throughout German cities, on buses and trains, city streets, and in university hallways.
Led by siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friends Willi Graf, Alex Schmorell, and Christoph Probst, the underground movement quickly spread throughout Germany as the Holocaust ensued. While throwing flyers from a stairwell at the University of Munich in 1943, Hans and Sophie were caught by a janitor; the two siblings, along with their friend Christoph, were tried, convicted, and beheaded less than a week later.
Throughout Hitler’s reign, hundreds of other members of The White Rose suffered the same fate. Today, the group’s legacy lives on as a testament to the power of the independent journalist in the face of even the most powerful tyranny. The following is an excerpt from the first of the six major pamphlets produced and distributed by members of Die Weiße Rose.
Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be "governed" without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. It is certain that today every honest German is ashamed of his government. Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes - crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure - reach the light of day?
If the German people are already so corrupted and spiritually crushed that they do not raise a hand, frivolously trusting in a questionable faith in lawful order in history; if they surrender man's highest principle, that which raises him above all other God's creatures, his free will; if they abandon the will to take decisive action and turn the wheel of history and thus subject it to their own rational decision; if they are so devoid of all individuality, have already gone so far along the road toward turning into a spiritless and cowardly mass - then, yes, they deserve their downfall.
Goethe speaks of the Germans as a tragic people, like the Jews and the Greeks, but today it would appear rather that they are a spineless, will-less herd of hangers-on, who now - the marrow sucked out of their bones, robbed of their center of stability - are waiting to be hounded to their destruction. So it seems - but it is not so. Rather, by means of a gradual, treacherous, systematic abuse, the system has put every man into a spiritual prison. Only now, finding himself lying in fetters, has he become aware of his fate.
Only a few recognized the threat of ruin, and the reward for their heroic warning was death. We will have more to say about the fate of these persons. If everyone waits until the other man makes a start, the messengers of avenging Nemesis will come steadily closer; then even the last victim will have been cast senselessly into the maw of the insatiable demon.
Therefore every individual, conscious of his responsibility as a member of Christian and Western civilization, must defend himself against the scourges of mankind, against fascism and any similar system of totalitarianism. Offer passive resistance - resistance - wherever you may be, forestall the spread of this atheistic war machine before it is too late, before the last cities, like Cologne, have been reduced to rubble, and before the nation's last young man has given his blood on some battlefield for the hubris of a sub-human. Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure.