Year
1943
Month Day
February 18

Nazis arrest White Rose resistance leaders

Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie, the leaders of the German youth group Weisse Rose (White Rose), are arrested by the Gestapo for opposing the Nazi regime.

The White Rose was composed of university (mostly medical) students who spoke out against Adolf Hitler and his regime. The founder, Hans Scholl, was a former member of Hitler Youth who grew disenchanted with Nazi ideology once its real aims became evident. As a student at the University of Munich in 1940-41, he met two Roman Catholic men of letters who redirected his life. Turning from medicine to religion, philosophy, and the arts, Scholl gathered around him like-minded friends who also despised the Nazis, and the White Rose was born.

During the summer of 1942, Scholl and a friend composed four leaflets, which exposed and denounced Nazi and SS atrocities, including the extermination of Jews and Polish nobility, and called for resistance to the regime. The literature was peppered with quotations from great writers and thinkers, from Aristotle to Goethe, and called for the rebirth of the German university. It was aimed at an educated elite within Germany.

The risks involved in such an enterprise were enormous. The lives of average civilians were monitored for any deviation from absolute loyalty to the state. Even a casual remark critical of Hitler or the Nazis could result in arrest by the Gestapo, the regime’s secret police. Yet the students of the White Rose (the origin of the group’s name is uncertain; possibly, it came from the picture of the flower on their leaflets) risked all, motivated purely by idealism, the highest moral and ethical principles, and sympathy for their Jewish neighbors and friends. (Despite the risks, Hans’ sister, Sophie, a biology student at her brother’s university, begged to participate in the activities of the White Rose when she discovered her brother’s covert operation.)

On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie left a suitcase filled with copies of yet another leaflet in the main university building. The leaflet stated, in part: “The day of reckoning has come, the reckoning of our German youth with the most abominable tyranny our people has ever endured. In the name of the entire German people we demand of Adolf Hitler’s state the return of personal freedom, the most precious treasure of the Germans which he cunningly has cheated us out of.” The pair were spotted by a janitor and reported to the Gestapo and arrested. Turned over to Hitler’s “People’s Court,” basically a kangaroo court for dispatching dissidents quickly, the Scholls, along with another White Rose member who was caught, were sentenced to death. They were beheaded–a punishment reserved for “political traitors”–on February 23, but not before Hans Scholl proclaimed “Long live freedom!”

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

WikiLeaks publishes the first documents leaked by Chelsea Manning

On February 18, 2010, a relatively obscure website called WikiLeaks publishes a leaked diplomatic cable detailing discussions between American diplomats and Icelandic government officials. The leak of "Reikjavik13" barely registered with the public, but it was the first of what ...read more

Green River serial killer pleads guilty to 49th murder

On February 18, 2011, in a Kent, Washington, courtroom, Gary Leon Ridgway pleads guilty to the 1982 aggravated, first-degree murder of his 49th victim, 20-year-old Rebecca Marrero. Marrero’s remains were found in December 2010, decades after her murder, in a ravine near Auburn, ...read more

Ray Charles records “What’d I Say” at Atlantic Records

The phone call that Ray Charles placed to Atlantic Records in early 1959 went something like this: “I’m playing a song out here on the road, and I don’t know what it is—it’s just a song I made up, but the people are just going wild every time we play it, and I think we ought to ...read more

Pluto discovered

Pluto, once believed to be the ninth planet, is discovered at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, by astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh. The existence of an unknown ninth planet was first proposed by Percival Lowell, who theorized that wobbles in the orbits of Uranus and ...read more

Mark Twain publishes “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

On February 18, 1885, Mark Twain publishes his famous–and famously controversial–novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain (the pen name of Samuel Clemens) first introduced Huck Finn as the best friend of Tom Sawyer, hero of his tremendously successful novel The Adventures ...read more

Murder ignites Lincoln County War

Long simmering tensions in Lincoln County, New Mexico, explode into a bloody shooting war when gunmen murder the English rancher John Tunstall. Tunstall had established a large ranching operation in Lincoln County two years earlier in 1876, stepping into the middle of a dangerous ...read more

First Academy Awards announced

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces the winners of the first Academy Awards on February 18, 1929. It was a far cry from the suspense, glamour and endless press coverage surrounding the Oscars today: The first award recipients’ names were printed on the back ...read more

Arsonist sets fire in South Korean subway

On February 18, 2003, a man ignites a gasoline-filled container inside a subway train in Daegu, South Korea. The blaze engulfed the six-car train, before spreading to another train that pulled into station a few minutes later. In all, 198 people were killed and nearly 150 others ...read more

Dale Earnhardt killed in crash

On February 18, 2001, Dale Earnhardt Sr., considered one of the greatest drivers in National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) history, dies at the age of 49 in a last-lap crash at the 43rd Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Earnhardt was driving his famous black ...read more