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The White Rose – The symbol of our opposition to euthanasia

by | May 11, 2021

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Many people have asked why the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition uses the white rose as its symbol. You may have heard about the White Rose campaign composed mainly of students in Munich who resisted the Nazi regime and whose leaders were killed on February 22, 1943.

Most of you will not be aware that opposition to the Nazi T-4 euthanasia program, which killed as many as 300,000 people, influenced the formation of the White Rose campaign. 

Hans & Sophie Scholl

Some research suggests that Hans and Sophie Scholl heard the sermon by Bishop von Galen, the Bishop of Muenster, who on August 3, 1941, challenged the killing of people with disabilities by euthanasia. Other sources state that they read the sermon, but in either case, the sermon was clearly an inspiration for the Scholls to act.

On May 9, 2021 Immanuel Marcus published an article in the Berlin Spectator commemorating the 100th birthday of Sophie Scholl, who died by the guillotine on February 22, 1943. Marcus writes:

Elisabeth Hartnagel-Scholl was a hundred years and one day old when she died on February 28th, 2020. In theory, her sister Sophie Magdalena Scholl could be alive today, had Nazi Germany not murdered her. At least she could and should have lived to become an old lady, just like others who resisted the Nazi regime, just like millions of victims of the Shoah and of the war.

Marcus tells us what happened:

Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans Scholl and others founded the underground organization The White Rose. At Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, they were caught distributing leaflets with texts that slammed the regime and Germans who just followed it. On February 18th, 1943, they were arrested by the Gestapo. Only four days later, on February 22nd, they were sentenced to death by judge Freisler and beheaded on the same day.

Sophie Scholl is recognized as a hero because she stood against the tyranny of her day. She was martyred for her heroism. Marcus states:

Sophie Scholl was born in Forchtenberg, a small town in the southwestern part of Germany, on May 9th, 1921, a hundred years ago today. She had four siblings. Early on, she was influenced by her parents’ liberal views and the Christian values that were held high in the family. In the case of Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie, their conscience forced them to do something against the regime, against the war and the genocide. This makes her one of Germany’s biggest heroines.

In 2013, I re-published an interview Der Spiegel conducted with Historian Götz Aly titled: “The Victims of Nazi Euthanasia Have Been Forgotten.”  Götz wrote a book about the Nazi euthanasia program titled, “The Burdened.”

In 2014, I re-published an interview The Daily Mail conducted with Elizabeth, the sister of Hans and Sophie Scholl. Elizabeth lived to be 100 years old.

In 2016, I published Charles Lewis’s book review of the biography of Cardinal Clems von Galen titled: The Lion of Münster: The Bishop Who Roared Against the Nazis. This is a book that is worth reading.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.

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