During the Second World War a few young people in Germany – Catholics, Lutherans, and Orthodox – decided that they must speak up against Nazism. They began secretly printing fliers and distributing them clandestinely.
Sophie and Hans Scholl and Cristoph Probst, members of “The White Rose,” were captured and executed by the Nazis on February 22, 1943. Others were later captured and executed.
They were ordinary young people, mostly in their early twenties, who decided that they could no longer acquiesce to the tyranny. As one of their pamphlets read: “We cannot remain silent. We are your guilty conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace.” They found simple but regime-threatening ways to speak the truth and try to mobilize others.
They overcame the fear of death that keeps most of Germany bound in slavery. (cf. Hebrews 2: 15). As Christopher Probst wrote in a farewell letter to his sister:
“I never knew dying is so easy… I die without any feeling of hatred… Never forget that life is nothing but a growing in love and a preparation for eternity.”
Characteristic of the faith that impelled them, Sophie Scholl wrote:
Isn’t it bewildering…that everything is so beautiful, despite all the horrors that exist? Lately I’ve noticed something grand and mysterious peering into my sheer joy in all that is lovely—the sense of a Creator whom innocent creation worships with its beauty. Only man can be hateful or ugly, because he possesses a free will to cut himself off from the chorus of praise. It often seems that he will succeed in drowning out this chorus with of his cannon thunder, curses and blasphemy. But it has become clear to me this spring that he cannot. And so I must try to throw myself on the side of the victor.
They are an inspiration for us when violence, war, and poverty weigh down on us. We too must try to throw ourselves of the side of the Victor – the suffering and risen savior.
A fairly recent film, Sophie Scholl, details the days before she and her brother were executed. I recommend it. See the note of Jim Forest on the film on his blog.
Jim Forest also has an excellent article on the White Rose with a special emphasis on Alexander Schmorell, an Orthodox member of the group, on the website of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship.