It is a generally well-known fact that in Nazi Germany, Public opinion was kept under tight reign by Hitler’s SS soldiers. Those who dissented against the government were arrested and put in prison or a concentration camp, and in some cases executed. Despite this, there were many groups within the country, particularly among youths, who decided to protest against the actions and beliefs of their government. One of the most recognized of these groups was Die Weisse Rose or “The White Rose”. This student group was composed of Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst, and later included other students and professors. The group was mainly centered in the town of Munich and the University of Munich, although their influence could be seen in other parts of the country as well. What is surprising about this particular group of students is that they were what would have been considered “perfect Germans.” Hans had even been a leader in the Hitler Youth which, ironically, is where his contempt for the Nazi regime first began to form. The main question raised is of the connection between the social conditions of Nazi Germany and how these conditions may have led to the decision of the youths to protest against the government even under the threat of execution.
One of the most invaluable sources for this paper is The White Rose by Inge Scholl, the sister of Hans and Sophie Scholl. In the book, Scholl collects all six of the flyers handed out by the White Rose and numerous documents, including those of the trials and executions of the members. For researching the social conditions of the country at that time, Inside Nazi Germany by Detlev J.K. Peukert, translated by Richard Deveson, is extremely helpful. Peukert explores life in Nazi Germany and the lives of its citizens under the coercion of the SS and the constant fear of arrest. Aside from these books, there are numerous monographs which discuss Nazi Germany and opposition to the Nazis; there are also several web articles which look into the history of the White Rose. Also, there are publications of the diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl, although I am still attempting to acquire them. By looking into these sources, there will hopefully be uncovered a strong connection between life in Germany and the group’s decision to speak out against Hitler.
To investigate the connection between the social life of Nazi Germany and the decision by Hans Scholl to create the White Rose, there are three questions which arise. The first question is how involved were the three students in groups such as Hitler Youth? If the students were highly involved in such groups, it leads to questions of how much influence the groups would have had; in other words, was there a time when the youths had not been rebellious or had they always carried thoughts of dissuasion. Second, what outside forces could have led to their change of opinion and their eventual turn against the government? It is well-known that groups such as Hitler Youth were designed to form a unified mindset within the minds of German children; because of this, it is difficult to imagine what kind of influences would be needed to turn a youth away from the doctrine that they are constantly taught. Third, why, in the face of execution, did they continue to protest? The threat of arrest or execution is one of the main reasons that Germans, despite their opinions, followed Hitler and his ideals. It is likely that the students knew that their actions would lead to arrest or death. It would be important to learn why the group would continue to protest under such threats.
The role of the White Rose is of great importance to history. It proves that the coercion of the Nazis and their propaganda was not quite so widely accepted as is generally believed. The hope is that, through this paper, a connection can be found between the society of Nazi Germany and how it led to the creation of a protest group led by perfect Germans. The role of the Hitler Youth was to convince all young Germans to fight for the fatherland and follow the beliefs of the Nazi party. It is my goal to discover the reason that they abandoned those ideals to fight for a cause that they know would most likely end in their death.
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