"Female SS soldiers fill a mass grave with corpses while under guard by British soldiers at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, 1945." (source)
fot: George Rodger
"In Spain, loyalist soldiers teach target practice to women who are learning to defend the city of Barcelona against fascist rebel troops of general Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War, on June 2, 1937." (source)
February 22nd, 1943: The first three White Rose executions occur
On February 22nd, 1943, Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl, and Christoph Probst were tried before the People’s Court of Germany, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to death. They were executed by guillotine later that day.
The Scholls and Probst were members of the White Rose, a German intellectual resistance group opposed to the actions of the Third Reich. Composed primarily of students at the University of Munich, the members of the White Rose had become disillusioned with the Nazi regime and became committed to enlightening their fellow Germans about the atrocities their government was committing and the lies they were being fed.
From June 1942 to February 1943, the White Rose produced six pamphlets which appealed to the German people to rise up in dissent against the government and sabotage the efforts of the Nazis. These pamphlets were written primarily by the core members of the White Rose—the Scholls, Probst, their friends Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf, and their philosophy professor Kurt Huber—and were distributed to random houses throughout Munich and other parts of Germany by other members of the White Rose. In addition, the members of the White Rose scrawled anti-Nazi slogans on the walls of the University of Munich.
Though their resistance was non-violent, such dissent was still extremely dangerous and ultimately cost many members of the White Rose their lives. Hans and Sophie Scholl were arrested on February 18th when they were caught distributing the sixth White Rose leaflet. Christoph Probst was arrested after the handwriting on a copy of the seventh (never distributed) leaflet was matched to his. The Scholls and Probst were executed on February 22nd.
Alexander Schmorell, Kurt Huber, and Willi Graf were arrested later that month. They were tried before the People’s Court on April 19th and sentenced to death. Schmorell and Huber were executed on July 13th; Graf, whom the Gestapo believed could provide them with more information on German resisters, was interrogated for several more months until his execution on October 12th. Besides the executed members of the White Rose, numerous others were tried and sentenced to prison for their activities with the resistance group.
Despite the execution of the group’s leaders, however, the spirit of the White Rose lived on after their deaths. In the days following the executions of the Scholls and Probst, some students at the University of Munich continued to post anti-Nazi graffiti on the walls. In addition, copies of the sixth White Rose pamphlet were smuggled out of Germany and were later dropped by the thousands across the country by British RAF pilots.
"There is only one slogan for us: fight against the Party! Get out of all Party organizations, which are used to keep our mouths shut and hold us in political bondage!…We want genuine learning and real freedom of expression. No threat can intimidate us, not even the closure of our universities and colleges. This struggle is for each and every one of us, for our future, our freedom, and our honor under a regime that will be more conscious of its moral responsibility."
—extract from the 6th White Rose leaflet
Group of German soldiers walking down a street in Yalta, Crimea.
Wehrmacht prisoners from the Normandy beach head - June of ‘44
US Marines during an amphibious landing, c. 1944
Thousands of our men will soon be returning to you. They have been gone a long time and they have seen and done and felt things you cannot know. They will be changed. They will have to learn how to adjust themselves to peace. Last night we had a violent electrical storm around our countryside. The storm was half over before we realized that the flashes and the crashing around us were not artillery fire but plain old fashioned thunder and lightning. It will be odd to hear only thunder again. You must remember that such little things as that are in our souls, and will take time.
And all of us together will have to learn how to reassemble our broken world into a pattern so firm and so fair that another great war cannot soon be possible. To tell the simple truth, most of us over in France don’t pretend to know the right answer. Submersion in war does not necessarily qualify a men to be the master of the peace.
All we can do is fumble and try once more—try out of the memory of our anguish—and be as tolerant with each other as we can.
Three German soldiers with food thermoses hiding in a ravine near Sevastopol.
A US soldier during the Battle of Cherbourg, the battle to capture and secure the port city for the Western Europe Allied war effort; France - 26 June 1944
Photo by Robert Capa