Hans Scholl is remembered for his part in the White Rose movement. A founder member of the movement, Hans beleived that a student uprising would lead to the downfall of the Nazi regime. Hans possibly underestimated the extent of the grip the state had on the people of Germany. Hans was caught, tried and executed.
Hans Scholl was born on September 22nd 1918. Unlike his sister, Sophie, Hans could be very outspoken and impulsive but he was also a determined boy who could be moody on occasions. Hans had a great knowledge of the Bible, which he read avidly.
He joined the Hitler Youth movement in March 1933 and threw himself into it with great gusto. Hans excelled at most opportunities offered by the Hitler Youth movement and in a short space of time was promoted to Squad Leader in charge of 150 boys. In particular, Hans excelled at sport and he was put in charge of the physical training programme for new recruits. It was also his task to ensure that all those in his squad listened to Hitler Youth radio addresses that went out each week.
In November 1933, Hans was ordered by senior Hitler Youth leaders in Ulm to start an elite ‘A Squad’. These leaders believed that male Hitler Youth members in Ulm had not fully taken on board the “ideological mission” of true service to Hitler. They wanted Hans to create a blueprint for how all Ulm Hitler Youth units should be. Hans was encouraged to look at the way the German Boys League of the First of November 1929 youth group operated. This group was more commonly known as ‘d.j.1.11’. Eberhard Köbel had created it. He was a communist and had been imprisoned in Dachau once the Nazis had gained power. Members of d.j.1.11 could be described as young bohemians as free thought was encouraged, as was “degenerate art” as practiced by the Bauhaus movement. They went camping but not in the traditional areas of Germany such as Bavaria and the Rhineland. Sweden and Finland were popular destinations. A great emphasis was put on reading Russian literature and most members tried to learn to play the balalaika, a Russia instrument.
It was a curious group for Hans to be told to examine as it seemed to be diametrically the opposite of everything the Hitler Youth stood for. However, he did as he was ordered and was very taken by what the d.j.1.11 stood for, especially their independent way of thinking. Hans brought such beliefs into his elite ‘A Squad’. However, it also brought him into conflict with the very people who had originally ordered him to look at the way the d.j.1.11 worked. In 1935 the ‘A Squad’ was disbanded – something that greatly angered Hans. However, it continued to meet in secret. The Ulm Hitler Youth authorities got to know of this and Hans was stripped of his squad leader status. The rank was only restored once he made a full promise that the group would never meet again. To further encourage Hans, he was selected to carry a flag representing the Ulm Hitler Youth at the 1935 Nuremberg Rally. His friends recalled that he left Ulm train station on a special party train in high spirits. But he came back from the ‘Rally of Freedom’ greatly demoralised. He had seen the drunken and rowdy behaviour of Nazi supporters at Nuremberg and such behaviour left him cold. His sister Inge noticed a major change in him on his return from Nuremberg.
Hans continued in the Hitler Youth. However, it was something that occurred while he served in the HY that may well have turned both him and Sophie against the Nazi regime. The Criminal Code of Germany covered homosexual crimes in Paragraph 175. The Nazis included an addendum that was known as Paragraph 176. This made it a criminal offence for any senior officer in the Hitler Youth and the DBM to use their position to gain sexual favours from those under their command. In 1937 Hans was accused of such an offence and was arrested by the Gestapo. Not only was Hans arrested but also some of his brothers and sisters. After what must have seemed like a long period of time, Hans was brought before a court. Here his family’s ‘national comrade’ status played to his advantage. Hans had previously admitted his guilt to the charge but the age of “X”, the other youth in the case, proved to be crucial – “X” was nearly as old as Hans and he admitted in court that he had been a willing participant. The court believed that Paragraph 176 had been introduced to help minors but that this was not relevant in this case as both of the youths involved were nearly of the same age. Hans was found not guilty and was told that he could leave the court with his head held high – despite the fact that he had admitted the charge. There can be little doubt, however, that the whole episode had done a great deal to hurt the family. Sophie claimed that she had been abused at BDM meetings simply because she was the brother of Hans. The siblings that survived World War Two later claimed that their father had declared that he would go to Berlin and personally shoot Hitler if Hans had been found guilty.
Hans had set his heart on studying medicine at university. To attend university under Hitler’s regime, you had to have gained your ‘Abitur’ and to have undertaken some form of service to the state – for young men that meant time in the military or in the RAD (National Labour Service). Hans chose the RAD and from the spring of 1937 he worked on the autobahns that were being built across Germany. As a member of RAD, he could no longer be a member of the Hitler Youth movement.
Having done his service in RAD, Hans attended university in Munich to study medicine. Some of the young people he met at the Ludwig-Maximillian University were to become the heart of the White Rose movement. Some of the young men he met had served on the Eastern Front and had witnessed the massacre of civilians and other atrocities. Stories such as these only hardened Hans’ resolve to do something that would hit the regime. He and the other members decided on a very high risk strategy. They decided that they would print leaflets that explained their beliefs and views and leave them around the university for others to pick up. In view of the number of informers that existed throughout all institutions in Nazi Germany and the extent they had infiltrated all aspects of life, it was only a matter of time before they were caught. In fact, Hans and the others initially led lucky lives as they managed to write and print off five anti-war leaflets and leave them throughout the university. The sixth and final leaflet called ‘To fellow freedom fighters in the resistance’ was also printed but it was in the very moment of leaving the leaflets around that both Hans and his sister Sophie were caught by a worker at the university.
Sophie and Hans took a bundle of this printed leaflet to the university on February 18th 1943 where both of them distributed what they could before attending a lecture.
However, they did not have time to leave them all before their lecture started. After they left their lecture they made the fatal decision to leave the rest of the leaflets at the university as they were convinced that students would be very important in any uprising against Hitler. They decided not to waste the leaflets as a great deal of time had been put into illegally printing them. Hans and Sophie went to the university’s atrium where they left the remaining leaflets. But while doing this they were seen by a caretaker called Jacob Schmid. He called the Gestapo and held Sophie and Hans until the secret police arrived. Their fate was sealed as the Gestapo had all the evidence they needed actually in the university.
Just four days later Hans was brought before the People’s Court where the sitting judge was the notorious Roland Freisler. Hans admitted his full responsibility in an attempt to end any form of interrogation that might result in him revealing other members of the movement. However, the Gestapo refused to believe that only two people were involved and after further interrogation, they gained the names of all those involved who were subsequently arrested.
Hans and Sophie, along with a fellow member of the White Rose movement, Christopher Probst were the first to be brought before the People’s Court on February 22nd 1943. The People’s Court had been established on April 24th 1934 to try cases that were deemed to be political offences against the Nazi state. Invariably these trials were nothing more than show trials designed to humiliate those brought before it, presumably in the hope that such a public humiliation would put off anyone else whom might be thinking in the same way as the condemned. All three were found guilty and sentenced to death. Hans, along with Sophie and Christopher, was taken from the court room to the place of execution at Munich’s Stadelheim Prison. His execution took place just hours after the guilty verdict was announced. His last words were “Long live freedom”.
However, his legacy remained as a copy of ‘To fellow freedom fighters in the resistance’ was smuggled out of Germany and printed en masse in England. Re-titled ‘The manifesto of the students of Munich’, millions of copies were dropped throughout Nazi Germany by Bomber Command and the USAAF.