When you look at the picture, you would assume it is the mugshot of a hardened criminal. But you couldn’t be further from the truth. The picture is of Hans Scholl. He was arrested and later murdered for exposing the criminals that arrested him.
There wasn’t an awful lot of resistance in Germany against the Nazi regime, but there were some groups who actively defied the Nazis. One of those groups was the ‘White Rose’, Hans and his sister Sophie were the founders of that group.
Born on September 22 1918, Hans Scholl was the typical Aryan ideal. In 1933, he joined the Hitler Youth and quickly became a squad leader. However he soon grew disillusioned with the Nazi party. In 1937 a former member of his group, Ernest Reden, confessed to a homosexual relationship with him. Hans was arrested and kept in solitary confinement before admitting the allegations were true. Hans made a positive impact on the judge, who dismissed the choice to join the youth groups as the “youthful exuberance” and “obstinate personality” of a “headstrong young man.” The judge then dismissed the homosexual allegations as a “youthful failing.” Although he was charged under “Paragraph 175”, the paragraph in Nazi law that criminalized homosexual behavior,Hans was allowed to leave the trial with a clean slate. Ernest Reden, on the other hand, was sentenced to three months prison and three months in a concentration camp for the relationship.
Paragraph 175 was only abolished in 1994.
In the summer of 1940 Scholl was sent as a member of the medical corps that went with the German Army invading France. Although he observed little of the actual fighting as he was working at a field hospital where four hundred soldiers were being treated. As a medic he assisted during leg amputations and other operations. He was based in the town of Saint-Quentin and felt guilty about living in requisitioned houses. He told his parents in a letter: “I liked it better when we slept on straw. What am I – a decent person or a robber?”
Scholl returned to his studies in Munich. He attended classes at the university, listened to lectures at various clinics around the city, and attended the wounded soldiers who had returned from fighting on the front-line. He told his sister Inge Scholl: “Going from bed to bed to hold out one’s hand to people in pain is deeply satisfying. It’s the only time I’m really happy. But it’s madness just the same… If it weren’t for this senseless war there would be no wounded to be cared for in the first place.”
Hans was again enrolled in the military service in the spring of 1941 as a medic in the Wehrmacht. After his experiences at the Eastern Front, having learned about mass murder in Poland and the Soviet Union, Scholl and one of his friends, Alexander Schmorell, felt compelled to take action.
In 1942, Hans ,Sophie and others founded the non-violent underground protest movement called The White Rose. From the end of June until mid-July 1942, they wrote the first four leaflets. Quoting extensively from the Bible, Aristotle and Novalis, as well as Goethe and Schiller, the German poets, they appealed to what they considered the German intelligentsia, believing that these people would be easily convinced by the same arguments that also motivated the authors themselves. These leaflets were left in telephone books in public phone booths, mailed to professors and students, and taken by courier to other universities for distribution.
Hans also was responsible for graffiti on public buildings which read ‘Down With Hitler’ and ‘Hitler the Mass Murderer.’ The siblings continued to distribute the leaflets until they were apprehended in 1943 after throwing dozens of fliers from a university window.
“Since the conquest of Poland, 300,000 Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way … The German people slumber on in dull, stupid sleep and encourage the fascist criminals. Each wants to be exonerated of guilt, each one continues on his way with the most placid, calm conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!”
— 2nd leaflet of the White Rose.
The Scholls and another member of White Rose, Christoph Probst, were scheduled to stand trial before the Volksgerichtshof—the Nazi “People’s Court” notorious for its unfair political trials, which more often than not ended with a death sentence—on 22 February 1943. They were found guilty of treason. Roland Freisler, head judge of the court, sentenced them to death. The three were executed the same day by guillotine at Stadelheim Prison. Sophie went under the guillotine first, followed by Hans and then Christoph. While Sophie and Christoph were silent as they died, Hans yelled “es lebe die Freiheit!” (long live freedom) as the blade fell.
IN THE NAME OF THE GERMAN PEOPLE in the action against
- Hans Fritz Scholl, Munich, born at Ingersheim, 22 September 1918,
- Sophia Magdalena Scholl, Munich, born at Forchtenberg, 9 May 1921,
- Christoph Hermann Probst, of Aldrans bei Innsbruck, born at Murnau, 6 November 1919, now in investigative custody regarding treasonous assistance to the enemy, preparing to commit high treason, and weakening of the nation’s armed security, the People’s Court first Senate, pursuant to the trial held on 22 February 1943, in which the officers were:
President of the People’s Court Dr. Freisler, Presiding,Director of the Regional Judiciary Stier, SS Group Leader Breithaupt, SA Group Leader Bunge, State Secretary and SA Group Leader Koglmaier, and representing the Attorney General to the Supreme Court of the Reich, Reich Attorney Weyersberg,
[We]find: That the accused have in time of war by means of leaflets called for the sabotage of the war effort and armaments and for the overthrow of the National Socialist way of life of our people, have propagated defeatist ideas, and have most vulgarly defamed the Führer, thereby giving aid to the enemy of the Reich and weakening the armed security of the nation.
On this account they are to be punished by death.
Their honor and rights as citizens are forfeited for all time.
— Translation made by Berlin Documents Center HQ US Army Berlin Command of 1943 Decree against the “White Rose” group.
Something that is often overlooked is the fact that Hans had 4 more siblings aside from Sophie.
Inge Aicher-Scholl (1917–1998) she wrote a book about the White Rose after the war.
Elisabeth Scholl Hartnagel (1920–2020), married Sophie’s long-term boyfriend, Fritz Hartnagel
Werner Scholl (1922–1944) missing in action and presumed dead in June 1944. In 1942, Werner was sent out to the Russian front, where, by chance, he was stationed near Hans. The two were able to see each other fairly often.
Thilde Scholl (1925–1926)
Robert Scholl was a politician and the father of Hans and Sophie Scholl. He was a critic of the Nazi Party before, during and after the Nazi regime, and was twice sent to prison for his criticism of Nazism. He was mayor of Ingersheim 1917–1920, mayor of Forchtenberg 1920–1930 and lord mayor of Ulm 1945–1948, and co-founded the All-German People’s Party in 1952.
On 27 February 1943, five days after the execution of his children Hans and Sophie as members of the White Rose, Scholl was sentenced to 18 months in prison for listening to enemy radio broadcasts.
Although this post is titled ‘Hans Scholl’ we should not forget the sacrifices made by the other family members.
Hans Scholl would have been 104 today. In wikipedia he is called an activist, but he was much more then that.