A small group of young Germans organize a rebellion against the Nazis. Based on a true story. [ The White Rose credits: Dir: Michael Verhoeven/ Lena Stolze, Martin Benrath, Wulf Kessler/ 108 min/ Drama, Foreign Language/ Germany/ In German with English subtitles/ Anti-Socialism, Resistance to Tyranny/ Also listed as Die Weisse Rose]
Not all World War II-era Germans were Nazis, and some even made heroic attempts to revolt against their authoritarian leaders, often at a great price. This film focuses on the activities of a few such courageous people, university students who published and anonymously distributed an influential anti-Nazi newsletter called The White Rose. Through this newsletter, these brave young people spread anti-Nazi ideas and sparked the first anti-Nazi student demonstration that occurred during the Third Reich.
As the film opens, the first issues of The White Rose, made by Hans Scholl and a few other university students, are already in circulation. Hans’s sister Sophie gradually figures out that her brother is the newsletter’s author and, despite his protestations, joins him and his friends in publishing it. The risks these students take at every stage of the newsletter’s production and distribution are enormous. Getting the paper on which to print the newsletter is risky. Writing it is risky. Printing it is risky. Buying stamps to distribute it is risky. Above all, being in possession of the newsletter is risky. And risk in this case does not mean prison; it means torture and death.
Nonetheless, they endure these risks despite some close calls, and, emboldened by their success, they go even further. They make contacts within the army to explore the possibility of a coup. They constantly expand the network of people involved in their movement. They begin stockpiling guns. With so much activity, it seems that they have a real chance of making a difference. But, of course, a happy ending was not in their cards.
All this might seem overly dramatized but isn’t. At times The White Rose actually underplays the events. For instance, in the film Hans and Sophie Scholl defy their captors during a rather tame interrogation and later in court. Impressive enough, but in real life they were brutally tortured during interrogation, bullied in court, and yet still openly defied their captors to the last. Where people get this kind of courage, God only knows. This touching story of valor in the face of authoritarian government will be of strong interest to libertarians generally, but it’s particularly recommended for those of high-school and college age, focusing as it does on some of the young heroes of this era. It’s also solid entertainment in its own right—suspenseful, well paced, and very moving.