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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Die Widerständigen, Zeugen der Weißen Rose

Starts January 29

The title, “The Resisters, Witnesses of the White Rose,” refers to the members of the group which protested the rule of the Nazis during World War II. After months of successful underground resistance and distribution of anti-government propaganda, they were betrayed by members of their own group and arrested one after the other. Many were sentenced to death, others to prison terms. The most famous were Hans and Sophie Scholl.

Since 2000 director Katrin Seybold has interviewed 14 survivors and friends and relatives of the group, including some who died before the film was finished. They share their memories and photos for the first time before the camera. This is an important contribution to historical fact and is especially interesting to Germans and all others who want to know more about 1942-43, when the Weiße Rose members stood up, when others failed to do so. 

About the "Weiße Rose" - Who has the Nerve to Stand Up against an Evil Empire?

Although Seybold made Die Widerständigen, Zeugen der Weißen Rose, a documentary film honoring the surviving members of the White Rose, she does not include important background information about this resistance group.  She must have thought that everyone knows the story and just allowed the members to tell their stories as they saw it.  This is a story of a heroic group of students who tried to fight with words against the Nazi Regime when everyone else remained complacent. They took great risks and knew the penalty if they got caught but nevertheless they used great courage to do so.

It is speculated that the name of the group The White Rose comes from the title of a book which was written in the 1930s. The White Rose is a symbol of purity and innocence in the face of evil. It is an appropriate name for this young group of students and a philosophy professor from the University of Munich in 1942 who were the first group to make the decision to resist the Nazi regime by writing leaflets and distributing them at the university and by mail.  Sophie and Hans Scholl along with their group of friends had many logistical problems to face in writing, printing and distributing these leaflets.  Everything was controlled by the Nazi including stamps. They received financing from Stuttgart. Unfortunately on February 18, 1943, Sophie and Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst were placed under arrest after the janitor witnessed them distributing the pamphlets at the university. The trial four days later sentenced them to death by guillotine and they were executed the same day.  Since they had no defense lawyer, they had the courage to defend themselves. They also showed an amazing amount of courage and strength even up to the end and are still honored in Germany as some of the greatest heroes of that time. It is hard to believe that the only one person served time for this act of injustice after the war and that was the janitor.

Many others were arrested, some went to prison, some were executed and some were set free.  Traute Lafrenz, the girl friend of Hans Scholl, was considered so dangerous she was placed in her own cell.  She was moved from one place to the other waiting for her trail to begin and was lucky that by the end of the war the Allies had freed the area that she was in so she escaped near death. Their leaflets turned up in different parts of Germany and Austria.  Even at the University of Hamburg the leaflets were distributed.  The students at the Hamburg University were sent to concentration camps and executed. Their last leaflet was also smuggled to the Allies who edited it and air dropped millions of copies over Germany.

For anyone interested in this topic there are books: The White Rose by Inge Scholl, A Noble Treason by Richard Hanser, An Honorable Defeat by Anton Gil, White Rose History by Ruth Hanna Sachs, Sophie Scholl & The White Rose by Annette Dumbach & Dr. Jud Newborn

There are films: Sophie Scholl – Die Letzen Tage (The Final Days) 2005, Das Versprechen (The Promise) 1970, Fünf Letze Tage (The Last Five Days) 1982, and Die Weiße Rose (The White Rose) 1982.

Besides books and films, there are squares and fountains commemorating the Scholls and Professor Huber in Munich as well as streets and plazas named after them throughout Germany. The pamphlets and court transcripts are also available.  Currently there seems to be a trend to uncover what the German Resistance was doing and it is also surprising to realize that there were 15 attempts on Hilter’s life.  It is nice to see the other side of the coin not just what did the Nazi but also that there was a German resistance.

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