Hans Scholl

Natasha Tidd

Hans Scholl was the ideal young man for the Third Reich’s future.

The first time Hans Scholl pops up on the historic lens, is at the 1936 Nuremburg Rally. An enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth, the teenager had been handpicked to be a flag bearer. He was the epitome of Aryan youth; tall, strong, athletic and intelligent, Hans Scholl was the ideal young man for the Third Reich’s future. Yet, seven years later, Hans would be labelled a traitor, a resistance leader, executed by the same party whose flag he’d once proudly held aloft. A founding member and leader of the White Rose, the story of Hans Scholl has remained something of a historic footnote, the spotlight instead focused on his younger sister, Sophie Scholl. The reason for this is complicated. The obvious answer is that in popular history we’re always looking for easy heroes – a heroic young woman who died fighting the Nazis – that’s a much simpler sell than Hans with his history in the Hitler Youth. And there is truth in that sentiment however it’s only a small fragment of the reason behind histories side-lining of Hans Scholl. For decades a veil of secrecy hid Hans true history, his sister Inga Scholl acting as gatekeeper, her love for her brother making her determined that the world would never find out who he truly was. Afraid that if they did, he and the whole of The White Rose would no longer be celebrated but demonised. Hans Scholl was put on trial by the Third Reich twice, once for his leadership of the White Rose in 1943 and once in 1938, following a 1937 arrest after which he had been charged under Paragraph 175a – the infamous German legal provision that made homosexuality a crime. Hans had been arrested alongside his brother Werner for having been members of the illegal youth group, dj.1.11. He’d joined the group in 1935 along with other boys from his Hitler Youth troop; dj.1.11 was a break from militarised activities, a chance to hike, camp and just hang out with friends. It was technically illegal, but innocent, which is likely why Werner and most of the other boys were quickly released, charges dropped. But not Hans. The investigation into the group had uncovered that in 1936, when he was sixteen, Hans Scholl had been in a relationship with another boy, then fifteen-year-old Rolf Futterknecht. This was the truth that Inga Scholl desperately hid, redirecting historians and journalists alike when asked about the 1937 arrest – Hans like Werner had been arrested for being in an illegal youth group, that was all. Gradually historians went beyond Inga, tracking down Hans Scholl’s interrogation transcripts and trial records, among this number was Ruth Sachs, a historian and researcher who translated many of these, as well as other important White Rose documents. In Sachs work, Inga’s fears for how history would treat her brother were confirmed. In her 2003 book, White Rose History Volume I, Sachs describes Hans Scholl as a ‘paedophile’ vilifying him as a homosexual predator. Yet, that is not what can actually be found in the transcripts.
Hans Scholl
Hans Scholl

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Hans’s interrogation tells the story of young romance

Instead, Hans’s interrogation tells the story of young romance. Something that started as a mutual crush and turned into a relationship, which like many relationships, included sex. Hans telling the Gestapo that it was ‘an overpowering love…that required some means of release.’ In an effort to protect his former boyfriend, Hans also tried to take full responsibility; ‘I must admit that I am the guilty party… To some extent, I was seen by [Rolf] as someone in a position of authority, to whom he had subordinated himself.’ His plan worked and Rolf Futterknecht was not taken to trial on the agreement that he would be a witness for the state. Surprisingly during his early incarnation, it wasn’t just Futterknecht that Hans remained loyal to, but the regime. He’d write Nazi slogans in his letters to his parents (who were both against the party) and to an extent used Nazi beliefs to justify his own arrest. On 14th December 1937 he wrote home, explaining he knew that homosexuality was not just a crime, but wrong and that he’d been struggling with this for years, trying to work against his feelings in the hope he’d ‘have been washed clean again.’ However, this comfort he found in the Nazi party and it’s hold over him didn’t last. During his imprisonment Hans witnessed the underbelly of the regime he loved, the dark truths behind its operation. Hans had hoped that his dedication to the Nazi party would help alleviate his sexuality, make him ‘washed clean again’, but once he was the party’s prisoner, the party only washed off his fanaticism. On 14th March 1938, he wrote again to his parents, this time examining the ideal world that the Nazi party had promised him, compared to what they actually provided, ‘My head is heavy with confusion. I can’t understand people anymore. When I hear these faceless cries of ecstatic enthusiasm coming from the radio, I want to go out onto a great lonely plane and be there alone.’ On 2nd June 1938, Hans’s trial came to a close and he was found guilty under Paragraph 175a. One year’s imprisonment was the prosecutor’s suggested punishment; however, this was waived by the judge. Hans spotless record and Hitler Youth membership providing a literal get out of jail free card. However, Hans’s close friend and fellow dj.1.11. member, Ernst Reden was not so lucky. He was also found guilty of homosexuality, and his sentence carried out; three months in Welzheim concentration camp. Shortly after his own release, Hans wrote in his diary ‘If you tear our hearts from our bodies - it is you who’ll burn to death for it.’ Yet despite this passion, he did not jump straight into resistance. The trial, the interrogations, the loss of what he’d once believed, it had all drained him and he started to sink into a depression. In 1939 Hans began studying medicine at Munich University. During this time, he dated several women, however decades later in 2018 one of his former girlfriends, Traute Lafrenz, explained to historian, Dr. Robert Zoske, that the couple broke up as Hans had a deep problem that he kept ‘dreadfully secret’. Traute refused to say what this problem was, but both Zoske and historian, Jud Newborn, believe that she was referring to Hans’s sexuality and much like Inge Scholl, she was afraid that being known as homosexual would destroy Hans’s legacy. It’s possible then that Hans was either trying to hide his homosexuality by using these girls as a cover, or that he was once again trying to become ‘clean’ of his sexuality. It’s equally possible that Hans was bi-sexual.
Ancestry UK

Who Hans Scholl dated whilst he was at Munich University is far less historically important than what he did during his time there.

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…’.
Hans Scholl

Natasha Tidd

Natasha wrote for Edition 6, LGBTQ+ history.
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Disability and LGBTQ+ History
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Section 28
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