Who Hans Scholl dated whilst he was at Munich University is far less historically important than what he did during his time there. Between 1939 and 1942, Hans emerged from his depression and seems to have been determined to take what had happened to him and channel it into something greater. He befriended, among others, fellow student Alexander Schmorell and Josef Söhngen, the owner of a bookshop Hans frequented and whose homosexuality was somewhat of an open secret. Hans had found his tribe, a band of quiet radicals who engaged in riotous debates on politics, philosophy and history, Söhngen providing them with a veritable library of banned books. During this time, Hans, along with Schmorell were enlisted as a medic officers. Both men were appalled by what they saw at The Eastern Front; the civilians forced from their homes, the bodies they’d stepped over in the street and the rumours of mass killings. This kind of shock wasn’t rare among the military, however unlike other young men, when Hans and Schmorell returned to Munich, their friends weren’t just willing to hear about the horrors they’d witnessed, but eager to see what they could do about it. The White Rose began to bloom.
Between 27 June and 12 July 1942 Hans and Alexander Schmorell wrote the first four leaflets of the White Rose Society. Using a printing press hidden in Josef Söhngen’s bookshop, they made as many copies as possible, working with members including Willi Graf, Kurt Huber, Christoph Probst and later Hans’s sister, Sophie, to smuggle the leaflets anywhere and everywhere they could. By the time they came to publishing the fifth leaflet in January 1943, the White Rose was a fully fledged underground operation, printing thousands of copies and distributing them to towns and cities beyond Munich. In February, Hans escalated activities to include anti-Nazi graffiti, as well as the publication of what would be the movements final leaflet, Fellow students!.
On 18 February 1943, Hans and Sophie set their sights on a leaflet drop in Munich University’s main building. Armed with a suitcase stuffed with hundreds of copies of Fellow students! They got to work, surreptitiously leaving bundles of leaflets around the building for students to find after classes had finished. As they were about to leave Sophie realised that a number of leaflets were left over, pushed for time with classes about to let out, but determined to spread their message, she tossed the leaflets over the staircase onto the university’s atrium floor - an inescapable carpet of protest for anyone entering or exiting the building. It was this hasty action that uprooted the White Rose. Sophie had been seen and by the end of the day, brother and sister were in Gestapo custody. A draft seventh leaflet, penned by Christoph Probst was found in Hans possession and two days later he was arrested too. In the following days the Gestapo caught up with Willi Graf, Kurt Huber and Alexander Schmorell.
As he did in 1937, during his initial interrogations Hans once more tried to take sole responsibility, but when it became clear that the Gestapo already had evidence against his fellow members, he changed tact, lying about the extent of their involvement; Christoph Probst hadn’t known he was writing a leaflet, Hans had just asked him to write down his thoughts on politics (thoughts Hans had indoctrinated Probst with in the first place). Hans had made his sister Sophie distribute leaflets. He was the guilty party and should be punished as such; ‘I knew what I took upon myself and I was prepared to lose my life by so doing.’ Sadly, this time Hans was unsuccessful in his attempts to sacrifice himself to shield his loved ones from Third Reich Law. Although his false confessions had led to the majority of charges being levied against him, on 22nd February 1943, Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst were all sentenced to death by guillotine. The sentence was carried out that same day. As 23 year old Hans Scholl waited for the blade to fall, he shouted ‘Es leibe die Freiheit!/long live freedom.’
The roots of this particular call for freedom were born out of the persecution Hans Scholl faced in 1937. His experience not only changed him, but made him more aware of the endless other persecutions that tyranny causes. Hans told the Gestapo that he’d picked the name The White Rose at random, but this almost certainly wasn’t the case. Rather its name held the key to everything Hans hoped the group would do. It likely came from 1929’s, Die Weisse Rose, a banned book given to him by Josef Söhngen. The book contains this passage: ‘And I promise you that when I've found the truth, the White Rose won't have been plucked for nothing. If perhaps, it can never bloom again in all its beauty, it shall certainly not fade away, never. It shall bear fruit that will ripen. And that shall be the beginning of the liberation of the country and its citizens. We will have a country in which every single rose, white or red, shall have freedom to bloom…’.