Traute Lafrenz was born in Hamburg, Germany, on 3rd May, 1919. After leaving school she went to study medicine at the University of Hamburg in 1939. Soon afterwards she met Alexander Schmorell at a performance of the Brandenburg Concertos. Schmorell introduced Lafrenz to Hans Scholl and by 1942 the couple for a time were "conducting a passionate and tumultuous relationship." (1)
Lafrenz moved to Munich to be with Hans and joined the White Rose group. Other members of the group included Schmorell, Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Willi Graf, and Jugen Wittenstein. "Traute Lafrenz would have been an asset and an ornament to any group, being both unusually bright and unusually attractive. There was nothing of the tamed and domesticated Kinder, Kuche, Kirche (children, kitchen, and church) ilk about her." (2)
According to Elisabeth Scholl, the White Rose group was formed because of the execution of members of the resistance: "We learned in the spring of 1942 of the arrest and execution of 10 or 12 Communists. And my brother said, In the name of civic and Christian courage something must be done. Sophie knew the risks. Fritz Hartnagel told me about a conversation in May 1942. Sophie asked him for a thousand marks but didn’t want to tell him why. He warned her that resistance could cost both her head and her neck. She told him, I’m aware of that. Sophie wanted the money to buy a printing press to publish the anti-Nazi leaflets.” (3)
Hans Scholl soon emerged as the group's leader: "The role was tacitly bestowed on him by virtue of that quality in his personality that, in any group, made him the focus of attention. Alex Schmorell was usually at his side, his close collaborator. Between them, they arranged for meetings and meeting places.... Sometimes they met in Hans' room for impromptu talk and discussion. For larger meetings, they gathered at the Eickemeyer studio or the villa of Dr. Schmorell, an indulgent father who shared many of his son's views." (4)
In June 1942 the White Rose group began producing leaflets. They were typed single-spaced on both sides of a sheet of paper, duplicated, folded into envelopes with neatly typed names and addresses, and mailed as printed matter to people all over Munich. At least a couple of hundred were handed into the Gestapo. It soon became clear that most of the leaflets were received by academics, civil servants, restaurateurs and publicans. A small number were scattered around the University of Munich campus. As a result the authorities immediately suspected that students had produced the leaflets. (5)
The opening paragraph of the first leaflet said: "Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be "governed" without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. It is certain that today every honest German is ashamed of his government. Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes - crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure-reach the light of day? If the German people are already so corrupted and spiritually crushed that they do not raise a hand, frivolously trusting in a questionable faith in lawful order in history; if they surrender man's highest principle, that which raises him above all other God's creatures, his free will; if they abandon the will to take decisive action and turn the wheel of history and thus subject it to their own rational decision; if they are so devoid of all individuality, have already gone so far along the road toward turning into a spiritless and cowardly mass - then, yes, they deserve their downfall." (6)
The group of friends had discovered a professor at the university who shared their dislike of the Nazi regime. Kurt Huber was Sophie's philosophy teacher. However, medical students also attended his lectures, which "were always packed, because he managed to introduce veiled criticism of the regime into them". (7) The 49 year-old professor, also joined in private discussions with what became known as the White Rose group. Hans told his sister, Inge Scholl, "though his hair was turning grey, he was one of them". (8)
One of these leaflets was sent to Kurt Huber. He was then invited to the home of Alexander Schmorell. He turned up but was reluctant to get involved in a discussion about resisting the Nazi government. Traute Lafrenz abruptly turned to Huber and asked if he had received a White Rose leaflet. "He must have paused; the question, so pointed and direct, from a young woman he had never met before, must have startled him. He undoubtedly was put on guard: Kurt Huber was a man who did not find independent, sophisticated, and intellectual women sympathetic. He was comfortable with women who accepted the role that nature had given them: the comforter, the nurturer, the provider of sanctuary for the struggling man in a hostile world. As he saw it, women were there to pour coffee for the men as they talked over the serious issues of the world; women were not there for intellectual companionship or friendship, but for spiritual succor. He replied to the young woman that yes, he had received a leaflet. He didn't say much beyond that, except that he doubted the impact of the leaflet was worth the terrible risks." (9)
Yvonne Sherratt has pointed out that in contrast to Hitler's ideological opponents, Huber was neither left-leaning nor Jewish. He was a nationalist conservative, believing in the sanctity of tradition and the importance of the nation." (10) Kurt Huber was also strongly anti-communist and was unhappy with the passage in the leaflet that said: "The first concern of every German is not the military victory over Bolshevism, but the defeat of National Socialism." Huber left the meeting without making it clear if he was willing to join the group. (11)
In December 1942, Hans Scholl went to visit Kurt Huber and asked his advice on the text of a new leaflet. He had previously rejected the idea of leaflets because he thought they would have no appreciable effect on the public and the danger of producing them outweighed any effect they might have. However, he had changed his mind and agreed to help Scholl write the leaflet. (12) Huber later commented that "in a state where the free expression of public opinion is throttled a dissident must necessarily turn to illegal methods." (13)
The first draft of the fifth leaflet was written by Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell. (14) Kurt Huber then revised the material. The three men had long discussions about the content of the leaflet. Huber thought that the young men were "leaning too much to the left" and he described the White Rose group as "a Communist ring". (15) However, it was eventually agreed what would be published. For the first time, the name White Rose did not appear on the leaflet. The authors now presented them as the "Resistance Movement in Germany". (16)
This leaflet, entitled A Call to All Germans!, included the following passage: "Germans! Do you and your children want to suffer the same fate that befell the Jews? Do you want to be judged by the same standards as your traducers? Are we do be forever the nation which is hated and rejected by all mankind? No. Dissociate yourselves from National Socialist gangsterism. Prove by your deeds that you think otherwise. A new war of liberation is about to begin."
It ended with the kind of world they wanted after the war finished: "Imperialistic designs for power, regardless from which side they come, must be neutralized for all time... All centralized power, like that exercised by the Prussian state in Germany and in Europe, must be eliminated... The coming Germany must be federalistic. The working class must be liberated from its degraded conditions of slavery by a reasonable form of socialism... Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the protection of individual citizens from the arbitrary will of criminal regimes of violence - these will be the bases of the New Europe." (17)
The Gestapo later estimated that the White Rose group distributed around 10,000 copies of this leaflet. Traute Lafrenz and Sophie Scholl purchased the special paper needed, as well as the envelopes and stamps from a large number of shops to avoid suspicion. Each leaflet was turned out one by one, night after night. "In order to stay awake and to function during the day, they took pep pills from the military clinics where the medics worked." (18) The conspirators had to ensure that the Gestapo could not trace the source to Munich so the group had to post their leaflets from neighbouring towns." (19)
Traute Lafrenz took the leaflet to Hamburg where a branch of the White Rose group had been established. This included Heinz Kucharski, Greta Rothe, Hans Leipelt, Katharina Leipelt, Rudolph Degkwitz, Felix Judd, Elisabeth Lange, Frederick Geussenhainer and Gretl Mrosek. (20)
The authorities took the fifth leaflet more seriously than the others. One of the Gestapo's most experienced agents, Robert Mohr, was ordered to carry out a full investigation into the group called the "Resistance Movement in Germany". He was told "the leaflets were creating the greatest disturbance at the highest levels of the Party and the State". Mohr was especially concerned by the leaflets simultaneous appearance in widely separated cities including Stuttgart, Vienna, Ulm, Frankfurt, Linz, Salzburg and Augsburg. This suggested an organization of considerable size was at work, one with capable leadership and considerable resources. (21)
On 13th January, 1943, the Gauleiter of Bavaria, Paul Giesler, addressed the students of University of Munich in the Main Auditorium of the Deutsche Museum. He argued that universities should not produce students with "twisted intellects" and "falsely clever minds". Giesler went on to state that "real life is transmitted to us only by Adolf Hitler, with his light, joyful and life-affirming teachings!" He went on to attack "well-bred daughters" who were shirking their war duties. Some women in the audience began calling out angry comments. He responded by arguing that "the natural place for a woman is not at the university, but with her family, at the side of her husband." The female students at the university should fulfill their duties as mothers instead of studying. He then added that "for those women students not pretty enough to catch a man, I'd be happy to lend them one of my adjutants". (22)
Traute Lafrenz and Katharina Schüddekopf began shouting abuse at Giesler. Other women in the audience joined in. (23) Giesler then ordered their arrest by his SS guards. Male students came to their aid and fights began all over the auditorium. Those who managed to escape ran out of the museum and after forming themselves in a large group, began marching in a procession in the direction of the university. They linked arms as they marched singing songs of solidarity. However, before they got to the university armed police forced them to disperse. (24)
The White Rose group believed there was a direct connection between their leaflets and the student unrest. They decided therefore to print another 1,300 leaflets and to distribute them around the university. On 18th February, 1943, Sophie and Hans Scholl arrived at the University of Munich with a suitcase packed with leaflets. According to Inge Scholl: "They arrived at the university, and since the lecture rooms were to open in a few minutes, they quickly decided to deposit the leaflets in the corridors. Then they disposed of the remainder by letting the sheets fall from the top level of the staircase down into the entrance hall. Relieved, they were about to go, but a pair of eyes had spotted them. It was as if these eyes (they belonged to the building superintendent) had been detached from the being of their owner and turned into automatic spyglasses of the dictatorship. The doors of the building were immediately locked, and the fate of brother and sister was sealed." (25)
Jakob Schmid, a member of the Nazi Party, saw them at the University of Munich, throwing leaflets from a window of the third floor into the courtyard below. He immediately told the Gestapo and they were both arrested. They were searched and the police found a handwritten draft of another leaflet. This they matched to a letter in Scholl's flat that had been signed by Christoph Probst. Following interrogation, they were all charged with treason. (26)
Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst were all tried for high treason on 22nd February, 1943. They were all found guilty. Judge Roland Freisler told the court: "The accused have by means of leaflets in a time of war called for the sabotage of the war effort and armaments and for the overthrow of the National Socialist way of life of our people, have propagated defeatist ideas, and have most vulgarly defamed the Führer, thereby giving aid to the enemy of the Reich and weakening the armed security of the nation. On this account they are to be punished by death. Their honour and rights as citizens are forfeited for all time." (27) They were all executed later that day. (28)
Traute Lafrenz and other members of the White Rose group were quickly arrested and put on trial on 19th April, 1943. (29) She told the court that she "knew of the crime of Scholl, though not in its details, but they made no report" to the Gestapo. Judge Freisler sentenced her to a year's imprisonment. (30) Alexander Schmorell, Kurt Huber and Willi Graf were all found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death. (31)
Lafrenz later admitted that she expected a longer sentence. "We talked loudly and excitedly, despite the three death sentences. We told each other that condemned men were usually granted several months for appeals and so on, and by that time the war could be lost and over with." However, the three men were executed on 13th July, 1943. (32)
The White Rose group that Traute Lafrenz set up in Hamburg continued to distribute anti-Nazi leaflets. They were all eventually arrested. Katharina Leipelt (9th January, 1944) and Elisabeth Lange (28th January, 1944) committed suicide. Reinhold Meyer died in Fühlsbüttel Prison (12th November, 1944) and Frederick Geussenhainer died in Mauthausen Concentration Camp (24th April 1945), Greta Rothe died of tuberculosis in Leipzig-Meusdorf Prison (15th April, 1945). The leaders of the group were all executed as the Red Army advanced on Germany. This included Hans Leipelt (29th January, 1945), Heinz Kucharski (17th April, 1945), Kurt Ledien (23rd April, 1945) and Gretl Mrosek (21st April, 1945). (33)
In 1947 Traute Lafrenz emigrated to the United States where she studied at Saint Joseph's Hospital in San Francisco, California. She married and gave birth to four children. After moving to Chicago, Dr. Page ran a successful private practice. From 1972 to 1994 she served as head of the Esperanza School, an institution for emotionally disturbed and retarded children. (34)
Traute Lafrenz would have been an asset and an ornament to any group, being both unusually bright and unusually attractive. There was nothing of the tamed and domesticated Kinder, Kuche, Kirche (children, kitchen, and church) ilk about her...
Traute Lafrenz had what not many German girls, even the pretty ones, were blessed with: style. Like Alex Schmorell, she had a cosmopolitan air that contrasted vividly with the more provincial ways of the young Bavarians around her. But there was something hoydenish about her, too, a coltish vivacity inherited from a Viennese mother that made her an exhilarating companion and playmate. Hans Scholl found her so, and they were soon going to concerts together, comparing lecture notes after class, and engaging in spirited discussions of the state of the world over wine in a favored restaurant called the Bodega. Before long, their relationship developed into an intense love affair. A mutual loathing of the regime of Adolf Hitler, and a commitment to risk life itself to oppose it, did not preclude the burgeoning of the normal drives and passions of youth among the members of the White Rose circle.
Traute abruptly turned to Kurt Huber and asked if he had received a White Rose leaflet. He must have paused; the question, so pointed and direct, from a young woman he had never met before, must have startled him. He undoubtedly was put on guard: Kurt Huber was a man who did not find independent, sophisticated, and intellectual women sympathetic. He was comfortable with women who accepted the role that nature had given them: the comforter, the nurturer, the provider of sanctuary for the struggling man in a hostile world.
As he saw it, women were there to pour coffee for the men as they talked over the serious issues of the world; women were not there for intellectual companionship or friendship, but for spiritual succor. He replied to the young woman that yes, he had received a leaflet. He didn't say much beyond that, except that he doubted the impact of the leaflet was worth the terrible risks.