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300px-WhiteRose

The White Rose Group, including Sophie and Hans Scholl, alongside Christoph Probst

Hitler’s regime of terror and propaganda was extensive and wide-spread, but anti-Nazi beliefs still ricocheted through the public domain in Germany. Let's focus on the opposition to the Nazi state, and the fate of the rebels approaching and during the war.

To start with, we’ll look at some unlikely rebels; priests and arch-bishops. In fact, as you might already know, the Nazis and the church were not on the best of terms during the 1930’s; many priests conflicted with the Nazi ideals. Take the Catholic Archbishop of Munster, von Galen, led a successful campaign to end euthanasia of mentally-disabled people. A group of radical priests even went as far as to consult Pope Pius XI about the Nazi state, arguing the Nazis did not honour the concordat which they had agreed with the nationalists back in 1933. So, later in 1937, they spread the Pope's message 'With Burning Concern', which attacked Hitler as 'a mad prophet with repulsive arrogance' and was read in every Catholic Church. The Nazis reacted by dropping religious studies and beginning the dissolution of monasteries in the nation. On the other side to the Catholics, many Protestant pastors, led by Martin Niemöller, formed the Confessional Church in opposition to Hitler's Reich Church. Niemöller was then found and arrested by Himmler’s forces, and was then incarcerated in a concentration camp from 1937-1945. Another Protestant pastor, Dietrich Bonhöffer, took part in something inconceivable during the war; the assassination of Hitler. In 1944, a group of army officers and intellectuals called the Kreisau Circle tried to bomb Hitler. The bomb was planted by Colonel Stauffenberg. It all went according to plan, and the bomb even exploded, but Hitler survived. In retaliation, 5,000 people were executed. The communists tried to strike back with a vengeance too, a paramilitary wing of the Social Democratic Party, called the Reichsbanner, began to sabotage railway lines across Germany, and also acted as spies for the USSR. Some, but very few youth also rejected the Nazi state. A famous couple of rebels called Sophie and Hans Scholl, brother and sister, were the key elements of the White Rose group formed in a Munich University. They set about producing several anti-Nazi leaflets, but they were discovered and guillotined in 1943. Their pamphlets were found by the allies, who then air dropped them across the country in 1944. Finally, there were the 'swing' groups that were rife during the war. These were young people who rejected Nazi values, drank alcohol and danced to jazz. There were many of these, but the more violent groups were called the Edelweiss Pirates. They daubed anti-Nazi slogans, sheltered deserters and beat up Nazi officials. In 1944, the Cologne Pirates (the Edelweiss Pirates based in Cologne) killed the Gestapo chief, so the Nazis publicly hanged 12 of them.

The Nazis tried their hardest to suppress human intolerance of the Nazi party, but like any system, there were its enemies which not even Hitler could destroy. Although many suffered from their rebellions, it goes to show that in the Nazi state, people didn’t always choose to conform.

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