The Scholl Siblings: Murdered by the Nazis 75 Years Ago

In Germany, many schools are named after the Scholl siblings, and there is a good reason. Sophie and Hans Scholl were resisters. They authored and distributed leaflets against the Hitler regime and the war, and gave their lives for freedom.

Their resistance group, the White Rose (“Weiße Rose”) was made up of students from the University of Munich. While there also were resisters who tried to kill Adolf Hitler or other high-ranking officials in Nazi Germany, the Scholls and their fellow campaigners concentrated on getting the word out, the word against Nazi terror, and yes, the word for freedom.

In 1943, Sophie Scholl was 21, her brother Hans was a few years older. Hans had been part of Hitler’s youth organization. Over the years, they learned what was going on at the front lines. At some point, they heard of systematic murder in concentration camps.

In one of their leaflets they said Hitler had deceived the German people. The tyranny in the Reich was unacceptable and the worst the German people had ever been confronted with. It was time to resist.

After the students were murdered by the Nazi regime, the content of that leaflet was reprinted by the British, on another leaflet, in German. Thousands of copies were dropped over the Reich. Many Germans had the opportunity to read what the Scholls and their comrades had written.

Seventy-five years ago, to the day, on February 18th, 1943, Sophie and Hans Scholl were caught distributing hundreds of copies of one of their leaflets at the University of Munich, by caretaker Jakob Schmid. He told the Gestapo. As a result, Sophie and Hans were arrested.

Only four days later, on February 22nd, 1943, the notorious Nazi judge Roland Freisler convicted and sentenced them to death. Both were decapitated under the guillotine that same day, along with one of their comrades.

The Scholl siblings were not the only Germans who fought the Nazi regime. But they were among the few freedom fighters who risked everything, since they knew the war, the injustice, the murder and genocide spread and pursued by the German regime needed to be stopped. To them it was a question of conscience.

Jakob Schmid, the man who denunciated the Scholl siblings, was arrested by the American liberators in 1946, and sentenced to five year in prison.

Today, there are not just many “Geschwister Scholl Schulen” (“Scholl Siblings Schools”) all over Germany, but also faculties which carry their name, as well as memorials, including a Plaque at the University of Munich. Many streets and squares were named after them too.

Three movies tell the Scholl’s story, including “Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage” (“Sophie Scholl – The Last Days”). This motion picture received a prize at the Berlinale, and it was nominated for an Academy Award.

Remembering Sophie and Hans Scholl and what they stand for is just as important today as it was back then, also because of the rise of antisemitism in Europe, in the United States, including on campuses, and elsewhere.

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