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The secret student resistance to Hitler - Iseult Gillespie

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In 1943, Allied aircraft rained tens of thousands of leaflets on Nazi Germany below. The leaflets urged readers to renounce Hitler, to fight furiously for the future— and to never give up hope. Their call to action rippled through homes and businesses— and their message even reached concentration camps. They were signed: the White Rose. Iseult Gillespie details the story of the resistance group.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director WOW-HOW Studio
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Producer Tatiana Koroleva, Daria Kachan , Marina Vasilieva
  • Animator Elmar Aleskerov, Pavel Cherviakov, Andrei Dudko, Dmitrii Zakharchuk, Kseniia Meleschuk, Anastasiia Novikova, Kirill Novikov
  • Storyboard Artist Elmar Aleskerov
  • Illustrator Elmar Aleskerov, Egor Krivopusk, Kate Evseieva, Nikita Bondarenko, Denis Iakovenko
  • Art Director Victor Zhuravliov
  • Music Cem Misirlioglu
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
When Hitler seized power in 1933, the Scholl siblings seemed like unlikely rebels. Hans joined the Hitler Youth, while Sophie joined the League of German girls. Hans in particular rose quickly through the ranks. But he began to challenge the propaganda he was being fed.

Although she was less outspoken than her brother, Sophie also grew disillusioned. She adopted passive resistance at school, reading when she was meant to be listening to Nazi indoctrination. At home the family tuned into forbidden radio, where they heard shocking news of concentration camps and barbaric policies. For an explanation of how these horrific circumstances came about, watch the TED lesson on how Hitler rose to power.

In the summer of 1942, Sophie moved to Munich and soon discovered a leaflet under her desk at the University of Munich. It urged Germans to cast off fear and apathy, to rise up against Hitler, to sabotage the war effort - and ended with a call to pass on the message. She was thrilled that someone was expressing the rage she had harbored for years - but who was behind this daring act?

When she learned that one of the authors was none other than her beloved older brother, Sophie’s shock soon gave way to determination. She join the group Hans had formed with his fellow medical students Christoph Probst, Willi Graf and Alexander Schmorell. Along with their philosophy professor Kurt Huber, this group are considered the core of the White Rose.

From June 1942 to February 1943, they worked feverishly to spread dissent, and clung to independent thought in the face of evil. You can access the entire text of all the leaflets the group distributed, at the Center for White Rose Studies.

For a first person account of the inner workings of the organization, click here. For an interactive timeline of the Second World War and the development of the White Rose, please visit this site.

At the height of the Second World War, the White Rose mailed leaflets to random addresses throughout Munich, covering their tracks along the way. But their fury was incandescent, and their message soon spread far beyond the city. Their tactics remain a model for anti-war activists everywhere, as explained by this article from the Peace Foundation.

For photographs and information about the ongoing role of the White Rose in Munich’s history and the pavement memorials at the University of Munich, click here. There are also walking tours and memorials throughout the city, which you can visit. You can also read Sophie Scholl and the White Rose for a detailed background on the group’s history and legacy, plus suggestions for further readings.

The White Rose were not the only resistance group working against the government. Visit these sites for more information on national networks, attempted coups, offshoots of the White Rose active in Berlin, Freiberg and Hamburg, and the ongoing legacy of the group’s resistance.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director WOW-HOW Studio
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Producer Tatiana Koroleva, Daria Kachan , Marina Vasilieva
  • Animator Elmar Aleskerov, Pavel Cherviakov, Andrei Dudko, Dmitrii Zakharchuk, Kseniia Meleschuk, Anastasiia Novikova, Kirill Novikov
  • Storyboard Artist Elmar Aleskerov
  • Illustrator Elmar Aleskerov, Egor Krivopusk, Kate Evseieva, Nikita Bondarenko, Denis Iakovenko
  • Art Director Victor Zhuravliov
  • Music Cem Misirlioglu
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more