By Christine Ngeo
Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York
The Holocaust was a dark period in history, where the murder of twelve million people was witnessed while the world kept silent. During the years of the Holocaust, humanity had nearly perished, choked off by hate, fear and desperation. There is, however, a dim candle which shimmers in this darkness, that of the groups and individuals who sought to help those doomed by Nazi extermination, whose courage and bravery attempted to shatter the German night. One such group was the White Rose.
The White Rose was a secret youth resistance organization formed in Munich in 1942 by Hans Scholl and his sister, Sophia. Together with Christoph Probst and other medical students, they distributed leaflets throughout Germany in numerous quantities in cities such as Salzburg, Linz, Vienna, Augsburg and Munich, denunciating the war in Germany, and called upon their fellow German students to revolt against Hitler and Nazi rule. The leaflets called for passive resistance as well as sabotage in war industries. They impelled their readers by urging, "Up, up, my people, let smoke and flame be our sign!"
The manuscripts called for action against "Nationalist Socialist gangsterism," telling of the atrocities occurring during the war and calling for dissociation from the Nazis and forming a new breakthrough of freedom and honor. "The name of Germany is dishonored," they wrote in their final leaflet, "...if German youth does not finally rise, take revenge, and atone, smash its tormentors, and set up a new Europe of the spirit. Students! The German people look to us."
They advocated free speech, and "the protection of individual citizens from the arbitrary will of criminal regimes of violence...." In order to spread further and exhibit their anger against the totalitarian regime, they defaced walls at The University of Munich, painting slogans calling for "Freedom," "Down with Hitler," and "Hitler the mass murderer."
They continued to distribute the leaflets to open the eyes of Germany to the atrocities of the war and the Holocaust until February of 1943 when they were arrested for high treason. On February 22, the People's Court in Munich, presided over by Roland Freisler, sentenced them to death. According to the People's Court decision, the students distribution of the leaflets were "depriving the German people of the Nationalist Socialist way of life and also of their Government." That same afternoon, they were beheaded by the guillotine at Stadelheim Prison.
The story of the courageous youths behind the White Rose is a story of hope for humanity. If one can rise up and defy a demagogue amidst a country hypnotized by his power, it is still possible that good can battle evil and win. Perhaps if the sorrows of the past can help allay the future battles against such monstrosities more people can learn to speak out and rise up against corruption and hate.
Student Art by AETI Staff Artist Jeff Renert
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