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Ultimate price for free speech in Nazi Munich in 1943
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Some students in the University of Munich decided in late 1942 to do something about the Nazi suppression of free speech. Using the name of "The White Rose," they produced a series of six pamphlets over a period of about eight weeks. These were distributed at random clandestinely in Munich, Berlin, Vienna and other cities. The first one, written by a 24-year-old medical student named Hans Scholl, forecast the harsh Military Occupation to come two years later. Hans had served as a medical orderly in Poland and witnessed terrible atrocities at first hand.

The Gestapo (Secret Police) finally arrested the White Rose leaders, tipped off by a janitor, on February 18, 1943. They included Hans Scholl and his 21-year-old sister, Sophie Scholl, a professor (Kurt Huber), and three fellow students (Willi Graf, Christoph Probst, and Alexander Schmorell). All five were tried in the infamous People's Court and sentenced to death. Another 21 participants were indicted and tried separately and sentenced to jail terms. The Scholls and Graf were executed on February 22, 1943. Their guards were so impressed by their calm courage they permitted them to meet before the sentences were carried out. The trials and sentences were reported for the benefit of German morale, so the public understood what would happen if they challenged the Nazis. The New York Times of March 29, 1943 carried the headline, "Nazis execute 3 Munich students for writing anti-Hitler pamphlets."

All five main conspirators were beheaded. More than eight years earlier, Hitler installed 20 small-scale guillotines in Germany's prisons. Not the concentration or death camps -- the ordinary prisons. By the time the Nazis surrendered in May, 1945, they had beheaded about 16,500 German citizens. The youngest was 17. One widow received a macabre bill of 600 Reichsmarks for "wear of the guillotine." The executioners profited handsomely.

Sophie Scholl was the first of the "White Rose" to be decapitated, followed by her brother. But their work continued on a scale they never dreamed of. Hans had written the sixth and final pamphlet, a copy of which was smuggled to Britain via neutral Sweden. Millions of copies were made and dropped on Germany by bombers in the autumn of 1943, about nine months before D-Day.

The Scholl siblings and the "White Rose" movement have been honored in films and books, and memorialized in several Holocaust museums. Ironically, if they had survived the war, the American Army's denazification laws probably would have punished them for their membership in Nazi youth organizations in the mid-1930s.
"You can be young without money but you can't be old without money"
Maggie the Cat from "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." by Tennessee Williams


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