White Rose memorial
DenkStätte Weiße Rose
A small memorial museum in Munich
dedicated to the "Weiße Rose" resistance movement in Nazi Germany
. It is associated mostly with the names of siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, who were both studying at Munich University at the time.
>More background info
>What there is to see
>Access and costs
>Combinations with other dark destinations
>Combinations with non-dark destinations
More background info:
Weiße Rose ('white rose') was the name adopted by a circle of students/friends that formed a kind of intellectual underground resistance against the Nazis
. Central to the group were about six activists, out of whom Hans and his younger sister Sophie became the most enduringly famous in contemporary public consciousness – partly helped by the film "Sophie Scholl – the Final Days" which raked in various German and European awards and in 2006 was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign language film.
Out of the group's purely intellectual, hidden opposition emerged more active resistance in the form of anti-Nazi slogans smeared on walls under the cover of night, and, especially, in the form of a series of flyers, written, printed, duplicated and distributed secretly. In these flyers, ordinary Germans were asked to open their eyes and see the reality behind the Nazi propaganda and no longer support the disastrous war that was plunging Germany
into a catastrophe. These activities started in the summer of 1942, but from January 1943, at the time when the disaster of the battle of Stalingrad (see Volgograd
) signalled the fact that Germany would not be able to win this war, activities were intensified. The flyers, initially rather convoluted in their language and full of literary allusions and quotes, became more and more direct and outspoken in the process.
On 18 February, while distributing their 6th flyer, the Scholl siblings were caught and together with other White Rose activists put on a show trial at the infamous Volksgerichtshof ('People's Court') under the notorious "judge" Roland Freisler, known for his breathing fire and brimstone in such trials. Not surprisingly, they were sentenced to death and executed on 22 February 1943.
However, a copy of the group's last flyer found its way into Great Britain
– and from July 1943 thousands of copies were dropped over Germany by RAF
planes… a belated reward for the internal resistance efforts that until then so few in or outside Germany knew of or even imagined.
The memorial museum's name "DenkStätte", by the way, deviates from the usual German term "Gedenkstätte" – this is of course not a mistake but rather wordplay: "Gedenken" means 'to commemorate', just "denken" means 'to think' … you get the picture: you're supposed to not just think back and contemplate here, but use your head more actively … after all you're in a university building …
The original memorial opened in 1997; after almost twenty years this was closed for a major overhaul. The new exhibition opened on 18 February 2017, the 74th anniversary of the arrest of the Scholl siblings.
What there is to see: While the old exhibition was text-heavy and monolingual (German only), the new exhibition is not only more modern, in a generally sleeker design and incorporating audiovisual elements, but – most importantly from an international visitor’s perspective – it is now also bilingual, providing English translations for all texts and labels, and on the video screens you can also select English versions.
Before you can see any of this you have to find it, which is a little tricky – see below
for detailed directions, also pointing out some related artwork. Once you’ve located the entrance go down the stairs to enter the memorial exhibition.
Shades of the colour blue dominate the design and the vaulted basement space is well illuminated so it feels airy and light despite the location (the previous exhibition was a little gloomier). For those who want to study everything in depth and don’t want to keep standing on their feet the whole time while doing so, stools are dotted around for the use by visitors.
Except for one display case/table in the centre of the hall between the columns, the exhibition wraps around the walls. The background and development of the White Rose movement is presented, within its Nazi
context. Copies of the flyers they distributed are presented and explained. A number of sections are headed by key underlying concepts such as “conscience”, "human dignity”, “freedom”, “justice”, “responsibility”. And there are stations with interactive touchscreens about the biographies of individual members. A number of audio and video stations provide testimonies by witnesses of the time.
Also covered are the arrests, detention and trials of the group, and include documents from their interrogation by the Gestapo
and a farewell letter by the member Willi Graf written before his execution. Like Sophie and Hans Scholl and other group members who had already been executed on 22 February 1943, Graf was beheaded at Munich
’s Stadelheim prison in October that year.
The reactions by the Allies and the media coverage of the time is also presented. And a special section is about the post-war remembrance of the White Rose and their memorialization. At one end of the hall is a large table with chairs, presumably for having group discussions. But on it are also a few leaflets and brochures that visitors can pick up, e.g. about other locations associated with (members of) the White Rose.
The central display case/table has a few books on display and presents the four-part motto “read, think, discuss, act”.
Naturally, the exhibition is very thin on physical artefacts (notable exceptions are a diary by Willi Graf and a Russian Orthodox cross he carried while drafted to the Eastern Front), so it’s mostly photos, documents and interpretative texts that dominate the presentation, interspersed with the audiovisual elements
Undoubtedly, however, this new exhibition is a significant improvement over its predecessors, and is highly recommended to all those who want to learn more about the topic of resistance against the Nazis
and the individuals involved here in Munich
and at other universities.
Outside the building, on the pavement in front of the main entrance doors and on the square around the fountain, a special kind of on-the-ground-monument is "scattered" about: clay paving stones designed to look like White Rose flyers, some in clusters, some on their own, half folded over and seemingly blown about by the wind. The originally only temporary installation was eventually made permanent and renewed in 2006.
's Ludwig-Maximilians University north of the old city centre on the main Ludwigstraße boulevard about halfway en route to the fashionable district of Schwabing, on Geschwister-Scholl-Platz.
Access and costs: a bit hidden, but not impossible to find; free.
: the exhibition is a bit tricky to locate if you don't know where you're going – so here's some detailed directions (also refer to the photos for illustration): first make your way to Munich
's main university building on Geschwister-Scholl-Platz (the name is already an indication, of course), which, coming from the city centre, is located towards the end of Ludwigstraße, shortly before you get to the impressive Victory Arch (Siegestor) – it's perfectly walkable – but there's also a metro stop (Universität, line U 3 or U 6) nearby. The entrance is in the building to the left (west).
By the fountain in front of the entrance you may already see the ground memorial paving stones in the shapes of flyers; closer to the main entrance, there's the largest cluster of these. But to get to the memorial museum, which is INSIDE the building, you need to enter through the middle and ascend a flight of stairs, then descend another flight of stairs, set at a slight angle down into the main hall/atrium and head right.
Don't be puzzled by the fact that this is a working university and student life goes on as normal around you. The many noticeboards in the entrance area are also mostly of concern to students only – although you may find a floor plan on which you might just spot the location of the "DenkStätte Weiße Rose" (it took me a while to make it out). There's an information desk to the left too, but this was closed when I visited (September 2009) and there was only a small sign saying "DenkStätte Weiße Rose" pointing right … but nowhere in particular. So: up the central stairs it is and then down into the atrium, past white marble neo-Grecian sculptures, and across a floor with animal mosaics set into it. You may notice two memorial sculptures to the left and right of the red marble wall opposite – the one on the right-hand side is a bust of Sophie Scholl. The memorial museum is housed in the basement room behind this wall – the entrance is just round the corner to the right and it says "DenkStätte Weiße Rose" above the door.
Opening times: Between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 on Saturdays
Time required: depends; if you want to read everything on display and go through all the audiovisial material too, then you may need over an hour. But some elements can also be skimmed or spipped.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
in general see Munich
The most important other site related to the Nazi-ear in Munich is the NS documentation centre
, which also has a section about the White Rose group and other resistance efforts.
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
- White Rose memorial 01 - Uni building
- White Rose memorial 02 - information desk inside
- White Rose memorial 03 - sign for the exhibition
- White Rose memorial 03b - new design
- White Rose memorial 04 - hall and stairs
- White Rose memorial 05 - Sophie Scholl bust
- White Rose memorial 06 - stairs down to the exhibition entrance
- White Rose memorial 07 - in the old monolingual exhibition
- White Rose memorial 08 - in the new exhibition
- White Rose memorial 09 - modernized
- White Rose memorial 10 - and finally bilingual
- White Rose memorial 11 - exhibits
- White Rose memorial 12 - the flyers
- White Rose memorial 13 - fountain outside the University entrance
- White Rose memorial 14 - scattered metal flyers set into the pavement outside
- White Rose memorial 15 - one part seems to be missing