Nobody knows for sure where the name came from. Die Weiße Rose...
The White Rose. Hans Scholl, when questioned by the Gestapo, claimed "The
White Rose" was chosen arbitrarily after reading a Spanish novel of
the same title, but Hans was leading his interrogators astray whenever possible.
Only Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell knew why "The White Rose"
would forever remind us of their actions over the few months between the
summer of 1942 and February 1943.
summer of 1942, Hans and Alex had formed a close-knit group of friends who
shared the same ideals and interests in music, art and philosophy. They
soon recognized their shared disgust for Adolf Hitler, the Third Reich and
the Gestapo. The first "members" of the group included Hans, Alex
and Jürgen Wittenstein. Soon they were joined by Christoph Probst,
a level-headed, married soldier and father of three who was loved by everyone
who knew him. Willi Graf was also a medical student and a devout Catholic
who, despite the urging of friends and schoolmates, never joined the Hitler
Youth and refused to acknowledge those who did. And there was Sophie Scholl,
Hans Scholl's younger sister who joined Hans and his friends at the University
to study biology and philosophy. These friends, later joined by popular
philosophy professor Kurt Huber, formed the heart of The White Rose.
Hans and Alex acted alone at first, writing and duplicating an editorial
leaflet with the heading: "Leaflets of The White Rose". The leaflet
was scathing in its criticism of every-day Germans who sat back and did
nothing to combat the Third Reich. The leaflet went on to suggest "passive
resistance" as the best way to silently encourage the downfall of the
"government". Three more leaflets quickly appeared, all with the
same heading: "Leaflets of The White Rose". Each of these documents
was more hard-hitting than the last, while more and more friends of Hans
and Alex began to contribute. Two final leaflets appeared, one in January
1943 and the last around February 18th. These were headed "Leaflets
of the Resistance".
The First Leaflet
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
of 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 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 as best he can at this late hour, he must work 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!
From Freidrich Schiller’s The Lawgiving of Lycurgus
Viewed in relation to its purposes, the law code of Lycurgus
is a masterpiece of political science and knowledge of human nature. He
desired a powerful, unassailable start, firmly established on its own
principles. Political effectiveness and permanence were the goal toward
which he strove, and he attained this goal to the full extent possible
under possible under the circumstances. But if one compares the purpose
Lycurgus had in view with the purposes of mankind, then a deep abhorrence
takes the place of the approbation which we felt at first glance. Anything
may be sacrificed to the good of the state except that end for which the
State serves as a means. The state is never an end in itself; it is important
only as a condition under which the purpose of mankind can be attained,
and this purpose is none other than the development of all man’s
power, his progress and improvement. If a state prevents the development
of the capacities which reside in man, if it interferes with the progress
of the human spirit, then it is reprehensible and injurious, no matter
how excellently devised, how perfect in its own way. Its very permanence
in that case amounts more to a reproach than to a basis for fame; it be
comes a prolonged evil, and the longer it endures, the more harmful it
At the price of all moral feeling a political system was
set up, and the resources of the state were mobilized to that end. In
Sparta there was no conjugal love, no mother love, no filial devotion,
no friendship; all men were citizens only, and all virtue was civic virtue.
A law of the state made it the duty of Spartans to be inhumane
to their slaves; in these unhappy victims of war humanity itself was insulted
and mistreated. In the Spartan code of law the dangerous principle was
promulgated that men are to be looked upon as means and not as ends -
and the foundation of natural law and of morality were destroyed by that
What an admirable sight is afforded, by contrast, by the
rough soldier Gaius Marcius in his camp before Rome, when he renounced
vengeance and victory because he could not endure to see a mother’s
The state [of Lycurgus] could endure only under the one
condition: that the spirit of the people remained quiescent. Hence it
could be maintained only if it failed to achieve the highest, the sole
purpose of a state.
From Goethe’s The Awakening of Epimenides,
Act II, Scene 4.
Though he who has boldly risen from the abyss
Through an iron will and cunning
May conquer half the world,
Yet to the abyss he must return.
Already a terrible fear has seized him;
In vain he will resist!
And all who still stand with him
Must perish in his fall.
Now I find my good men
Are gathered in the night,
To wait in silence, not to sleep.
And the glorious word of liberty
They whisper and murmur,
Till in unaccustomed strangeness,
On the steps of our temple
Once again in delight they cry:
Please make as many copies of this leaflet as you can and distribute them.
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