The White Rose
February 22, 1943 - At 5PM on this day, 21-year-old Sophie Scholl was the first of three to die in the guillotine for involvement with the White Rose, a non-violent resistance movement against the Nazis.
In 1942 Sophie's father had been jailed for negative comments he had made to a coworker about the Nazi regime. Sophie was also keenly aware of the mass killings of Jews and other atrocities that were being committed by the Third Reich.
While attending the University of Munich, Sophie fell in with a group of artists and writers who liked to debate philosophy. The group consisted of Sophie's older brother Hans, a friend named Christoph Probst, and several others. They called themselves the White Rose and they began secretly distributing leaflets that called for the German people to peacefully bring an end to Hitler's regime.
Here's an excerpt from the first leaflet:
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!
On February 18, 1943, Sophie and her brother hurried to distribute their sixth round of leaflets at the University of Munich. The idea was to place the leaflets where students would find them as they flowed into the halls between classes. At the last minute, Sophie tossed the final stack of leaflets into the air above the main atrium and was spotted by a janitor. Soon thereafter she was arrested by the Gestapo.
Sophie, along with her brother and Christopher Probst were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.
By all accounts, Sophie bravely faced her fate. As recalled by a prison guard, her last words were:
Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?
In all, six members of the White Rose would be executed. Their deaths would not be in vain. A copy of the same leaflet that Sophie was arrested for distributing was smuggled out of Germany. The allies reprinted the text and dropped millions of them over Germany within weeks of Sophie's death.
Today there are schools and streets all across Germany that carry Sophie's name.