For those of you who are completely unfamiliar with the story of the White Rose, one of the best ways to get a feel for their heroism is simply to read what they wrote.
The first four leaflets (Leaflets of the White Rose) were written between March 1942 and July 1942. Authors were Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell, though it is possible that Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst contributed to the texts. Their voices seem to echo on the pages. We also know that one of Hans Scholl's discussions with Traute Lafrenz was memorialized in Leaflet IV.
In Leaflet 1, they seek to conjure up images of Goethe and the glorious Germany of days gone by to stir up the consciences of those living under National Socialism. Failure to act will result in destruction - and shame.
In Leaflet 2, they poke fun at Hitler's bad German, and delineate the crimes that are being committed by Germans in the name of National Socialism.
In Leaflet 3, they develop the arguments for claiming that National Socialism is an evil regime. Probably the most famous of the first four leaflets, this is the one in which they clearly define what passive resistance looks like - what the man on the street can sabotage in order to bring the war machine to its knees.
In Leaflet 4, they narrowed the appeal to target devout Lutherans (pietists like Magdalena Scholl) and religious Catholics. Instead of quoting Goethe, Schiller, Aristotle, or Lao-Tse as in earlier leaflets, they concentrated on King Solomon's Proverbs (from the Bible) and Novalis' strong Catholic imagery. This leaflet is most remembered for its assurance that they were not in the pay of a foreign power, and even more so for its ending: We are your bad conscience...
Leaflet 5 appeared after a six-month silence. Hans, Alex, and Sophie had taken counsel of more experienced "propaganda" writers by this time - specifically Falk Harnack. This leaflet - Call to All Germans! - demonstrates greater maturity. It is not nearly as verbose or poetic; as a result, it delivers a far more powerful punch. In this leaflet, they looked beyond the end of the war and dreamed a new Europe.
Leaflet 6 was written by Prof. Kurt Huber. The language is gorgeous - the original German is unsurpassed for its sly wit and incisive "dialog" with the reader. He drew on the overwhelming grief following the defeat at Stalingrad in an attempt to stir patriotic feelings that superceded National Socialism. Brilliant piece of prose. [Ruth Sachs: It is hard for a translation to do justice to the power of the original.] It is only marred by the later realization that Huber meant the freedoms to apply to Aryans.
Leaflet 7 was the ill-fated document that cost Christoph Probst his life. He did not stand a chance once his Gestapo interrogators read the line praising President Roosevelt!
These leaflets and additional commentary are included in the book Gestapo Transcripts Volume I: Scholl, Schmorell and Graf. This book contains the complete interrogation transcripts for Hans and Sophie Scholl, along with "ZC13267" materials for Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf; evidence the Gestapo collected against them; an analysis of the leaflets by a Gestapo expert (brilliant analysis - for just one moment you forget he was with the Gestapo); the indictments and verdicts; and miscellaneous correspondence. One of the most amusing tangents involves the portable Remington typewriter that was used in the production and distribution of the leaflets, and the owner's attempts to get it back.
Click here to order that volume of Gestapo interrogation transcripts.
This summary of the leaflets (c) 2003 Ruth Hanna Sachs. Please contact Ruth for permission to quote.