As the digital revolution rolls on, it is sometimes forgotten that print too can be innovative. Print Power is a series of audio slideshows exploring some of the most inspirational and unusual moments in print.
Part 3: The White Rose and other anti-Nazi leaflets
The White Rose was a non-violent resistance group that printed and distributed around 12,000 anti-Nazi leaflets during Hitler’s regime.
Two Munich University students, Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl led the group, which consisted of three other students and their lecturer. They produced and posted six versions of leaflets between May 1942 and February 1943 to professional middle class citizens of Germany.
Other groups, such as The Communist Party and the Roman Catholics, also produced leaflets.
The Communist Party often depicted Hitler as a brutal businessman. Pictures on their leaflets included an X-ray of his stomach with money inside. Religious underground leaflets implied Hitler was trying to crush Catholicism by showing him as the devil.
Producing anti-Nazi leaflets was a very dangerous practice. For this reason, printing was done via hand-held machines that could be hidden away in cellars.
By the time World War II broke out in 1939 it was considered too dangerous an activity by many groups.
It is believed that the Gestapo seized around 10% of all leaflets circulating at any one time according to Professor Jack McDonough, a historian of 20 th century Germany. In 1935 around 150,000 leaflets were seized but by 1939 only 5,000 were seized.
The core members of the White Rose group were caught in the act as they were distributing their sixth leaflet. They were executed by guillotine after a show trial, which aimed to make an example of them.
XCity spoke with Professor McDonough about the surreptitious methods for distributing leaflets, how people reacted to receiving the White Rose leaflets, and what role the western media played in sending more copies back to Germany.
Video and text by Nicola Merrifield