This Day In History: Anti-Nazi Activist Sophie Scholl Is Executed (1943)

Members of The Whie Rose: Hans and Sophie Schollwith Christoph Probst. Stadt Forchtenberg |

On this day in history, the now celebrated young German student, Sophie Scholl was executed. Scholl was a valued member of The White Rose, an anti-violent, anti-Nazi group whose primary members were students at the University of Munich. The core members making up the group were arrested on February 18, 1943 by the Gestapo after they were caught handing out anti-war fliers they had smuggled into the university using a suitcase. Scholl’s capture was partly the result of her negligence.

Distribution of anti-Nazi literature was strictly forbidden. The White Rose had developed a well-structured method to give students access to their intellectually driven resistance literature. From the suitcase, stacks of fliers were dispersed throughout empty university corridors during lectures. Students would have access to the leaflets when classes ended. The day of the arrest, Sophie and her brother, Hans, who was also a member of the group, noticed the suitcase still contained some fliers. She whimsically gathered them together and tossed them into the air to scatter them throughout the hallway.

Grave of Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst. Creative Commons

Her actions caught the attention of a maintenance man who reported the students, who were then arrested while still in possession of some anti-Nazi material. Hans tried in desperation to destroy what he had on him. Sophie was able to rid herself of any material implicating who the group’s other members might be. Part of the reason Sophie was eventually able to gain membership to the group – despite her brother’s protests – was because male members making up the group recognized that the Gestapo would not suspect a female. Even at the time of her arrest, the police were willing to presume her innocence.

To protect the identities of the groups other member, both Sophie and her brother confessed. They were found guilty of treason by the infamous Volksgerichtshof, (people’s court), known for handing out death sentences like candy. On that same day, Sophie and Hans were taken to one of the largest prisons in Germany. Stadelheim prison was used regularly for executions, most often these were done by guillotine, which is how on February 22, Sophie and her brother were killed.

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