Alexander Schmorell

Alexander Schmorell (German pronunciation: [ʔalɛkˈsandɐ̯ ˈʃmo:ʁɛl]; Russian: Александр Гугович Шморель, romanizedAleksandr Gugovich Shmorel', pronounced [ɐlʲɪksəndr ɡʊɡəvʲɪt͡ʂ ʂmərʲɪlʲ]; 16 September 1917 – 13 July 1943) was a Russian-German student at Munich University who, with five others, formed a resistance group (part of the Widerstand) known as White Rose (German: Weiße Rose) which was active against the Nazi German regime from June 1942 to February 1943.[1] In 2012, he was glorified as a saint and passion bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, and is venerated by Orthodox Christians throughout the world.[2]

Saint Alexander Schmorell
Alexander Schmorell
Alexander Schmorell
Saint and Passion bearer
Born16 September 1917
Orenburg, Russian Empire
Died13 July 1943 (aged 25)
Munich, Nazi Germany
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church
Canonized5 February 2012, Munich, Germany by ROCOR
Major shrineCathedral of the Holy New-Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Feast13 July

Early lifeEdit

Alexander Schmorell was born in Orenburg, Russia on September 3/16, 1917 (Russia still used the Julian calendar when he was born)[3] Schmorell's father was Hugo Schmorell, a German-born physician who was raised in the Russian Empire. Schmorell's mother was Natalia Vedenskaya, a Russian and the daughter of a Russian Orthodox priest. Schmorell was baptised in the Russian Orthodox Church. His mother died of typhus during the Russian Civil War when he was two years old. In 1920, his widowed father married a German woman, Elisabeth Hoffman, who, like him, was raised in Russia. In 1921 the family fled from Russia and moved to Munich, Weimar Germany, Schmorell was four years old at the time. In Germany, he grew up with his step-siblings Erich Schmorell (born 1921) and Natalie Schmorell (born 1925), as well as his Russian nanny, Feodosiya Lapschina.[4] She took his late mother's place in his upbringing.

His nanny never learned how to speak German. Because of this, Alexander Schmorell grew up bilingual, speaking both German and Russian natively.[5] His friends gave him the nickname 'Schurik', a nickname he would be called by his closer friends for the rest of his life.[6] He was an Eastern Orthodox Christian who considered himself both German and Russian. As declared in the Gestapo's interrogations, he was a convinced Tsarist and then an archenemy of the Bolsheviks.

Military serviceEdit

After his Abitur (equivalent to high level High School diploma), he was called into the Reich Labour Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst) and then into the Wehrmacht (German Army during the Nazi era).[7] In 1937, he volunteered to join the Wehrmacht. At the last moment, however, he had second thoughts and refused to swear the Hitler Oath.[5] Surprisingly, he was still allowed to join the Wehrmacht. In 1938, he took part in the Anschluss (the Nazi Annexation of Austria) and eventually in the invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Work in the White Rose, Summer 1942Edit

After his military service, the artistically gifted Alexander Schmorell began studies in medicine in 1939 in Hamburg. In the autumn of 1940, he returned with his student corps to Munich where he came to know Hans Scholl, whom he met through Christoph Probst, his life-long friend.[2]

In June 1942, Schmorell, together with Hans Scholl, began the Nazi Resistance Movement "The White Rose". Their form of resistance was simple but dangerous: writing leaflets. Quoting extensively from the Bible, Aristotle and Novalis, as well as Goethe and Schiller, the iconic poets of German bourgeoisie, the leaflets appealed to what Schmorell and Scholl considered the German intelligentsia, believing that these people would be easily convinced by the same arguments that also motivated the authors themselves.[8] These leaflets were left in telephone books in public phone booths, mailed to professors and students, and taken by courier to other universities for distribution.

Deployment to Russia July–November 1942Edit

In June 1942, male students at the Ludwig Maximilian University were required to deploy to the Eastern Front over Summer break. Schmorell, along with Hans Scholl, Willi Graf, and Jurgen Wittenstein, served as medics on the Russian Front from June to November 1942.[9] During this time, White Rose activities ceased, and were not continued until the medics came home from the deployment.

While in Russia, Schmorell felt like he was at home. Although he had been born in Russia, he had no memories of his homeland, as he had emigrated when he was only four years old. In Russia, Schmorell, Scholl, Graf, and Wittenstein would sneak out of camp at night and would gather at the home of Russian peasants, where Schmorell and his friends would take part in Russian festivities.[1]

In August 1942, Schmorell came down with diphtheria. At first, he didn't tell his father and stepmother, as he didn't want to burden them. He only told them of his sickness after he had recovered.[5][10]

Schmorell and his friends left Russia on October 31, 1942. Schmorell, who had become infatuated with Russia, considered deserting the Wehrmacht, but decided against it.[5] They returned to Munich on November 5, 1942.[11]

The grave of Schmorell, named with his parents, in Friedhof am Perlacher Forst [de], Munich.

Work in the White Rose, November 1942-January 1943Edit

In December 1942, Schmorell, along with Hans Scholl, sought contact with Professor Kurt Huber. Together in 1943 they wrote the fifth leaflet, "Aufruf an alle Deutschen!" ('Appeal to all Germans!'), which Schmorell then distributed in Austrian cities.

Graffiti CampaignsEdit

On February 3, 1943, the news of the defeat of Stalingrad was broadcast to the German public. Later that day, Graf, Schmorell, and Scholl snuck out at night and graffitied public buildings with slogans such as "down with Hitler" and "Hitler the Mass murderer!" During the campaign, Schmorell would hold up the stencils while Graf painted the slogans on with tar paint. Scholl stood guard, armed with a pistol in case anyone walked in on their graffitiing. On February 8, 1943, Graf and Scholl graffitied again. This time, they used green oil-based paint.[1] On February 15, 1943, Scholl, Schmorell, and Graf snuck out and graffitied the Feldherrnhalle, then a Nazi monument to the Nazis who were killed during the failed Beer Hall Putsch. The graffiti campaigns put the Gestapo on high alert.[9]


On 18 February 1943, Sophie and Hans Scholl went to the Ludwig Maximilian University to leave flyers out for the students to read. They were seen by Jakob Schmid, a custodian at the University who was also a Gestapo informer. Schmid alerted the Gestapo, who took Hans and Sophie in custody.[12] Alexander soon learned of their capture. He then went to Willi Graf's house with the intention of warning him that Hans and Sophie had been captured. Graf was not at home, so Schmorell left a coded message and went to one of his friend's houses.[11] His friend helped him to get fake papers and gave him food and extra clothing. Schmorell's original plan was to enter a prisoner of war camp for Russia POWs, but that plan fell through when his contact did not show up.[5] Schmorell then attempted to escape to Switzerland. Fierce weather forced him back, and he returned to Munich on February 24, 1943.[1] At around 10 PM, the air raid alarm sounded. When Schmorell attempted to enter the air raid shelter, he was recognized by a former girlfriend. The Gestapo were called, and Schmorell was arrested.[13] He was captured by the Gestapo on February 24, the same day as Sophie, Hans and Christoph's funeral.[2][1] During the time between his capture and his trial, Schmorell was interrogated multiple times.

Trial and executionEdit


Gestapo Photo of Alexander Schmorell, taken after his capture on April 24, 1943

On April 19. 1943 Alexander Schmorell was put on trial, along with 13 other members of the White Rose group. Schmorell, Willi Graf, and Kurt Huber were sentenced to death. The others received prison sentences.

Unlike the first trial, where the death sentences had been carried out the same day as the verdict, Alexander's execution was delayed as his family petitioned for clemency. After about two months of deliberation, a letter came to the prison that said: “I reject all petitions for mercy.” It was signed “Adolf Hitler”.[10]

On July 13, 1943, Alexander and Kurt Huber were alerted that their execution would happen later that day. After receiving communion from an Orthodox priest, he was allowed to write a last letter to their family. Alexander wrote to his parents:

"I am going with the awareness that I followed my deepest convictions and the truth. This allows me to meet my hour of death with a conscience at peace. Think of the millions of young men who have lost their lives out on the field-their fate is the same as mine...In a few hours I will be in a better life, with my mother, and I will not forget you; I will ask God to grant you solace and peace. Yours, Shurik."[14]

The executions were supposed to be carried out at 5 pm, but as Schmorell prepared himself, he learned that the execution would be delayed. Several SS officers had appeared at Stadelheim under orders to observe the execution to see how long it took for each man to die; the SS officers were then supposed to report back to their superiors with suggestions on how to shorten or prolong the suffering of the man being hanged. The officers were put off when they learned that the execution was to be by guillotine and not hanging. They then demanded a detailed explanation of how the guillotine worked, so their time was not wasted. The execution was delayed until the SS officers left.[1][5]

The guards came for Alexander a little after 5 pm. He was led out of his cell and into the courtyard, walking to his death with his head held high, he said to his lawyer, "I'm convinced that my life has to end now, early as it may seem, for I have fufilled my life's mission. I wouldn't know what else I have to do on this earth."[15] In the execution chamber, the state attorney asked if his name was Alexander Schmorell, to which he replied, "yes".[11] Then the blade fell, and Alexander Schmorell was no more. Kurt Huber was executed a few minutes later.[13]


Icon of Saint Alexander Schmorell near his grave.

Completing the act of canonization, Schmorell was glorified as a saint and passion bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in Munich, Germany on February 5, 2012.[16]

In filmEdit

Schmorell was portrayed by Johannes Suhm in the film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005).


  1. ^ a b c d e f Hanser, Richard (2012). A noble treason : the story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Revolt against Hitler. San Francisco. ISBN 978-1-58617-557-3. OCLC 796754063.
  2. ^ a b c Über das Leben und das Werk des Märtyrers Alexander von München. In:, 30. September 2011.
  3. ^ Timofeychev, Alexey (2018-02-14). "Why Russia has 2 calendars and how it lost 13 days of history". Russia Beyond. Retrieved 2022-03-02.
  4. ^ "Initial interrogation – Alexander Schmorell". White Rose History: January 1933 - October 1943. 1943-02-25. Retrieved 2022-03-02.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Perekrestov, Elena. Alexander Schmorell : saint of the German resistance. ISBN 0-88465-421-4. OCLC 992465666.
  6. ^ "Their Story". white-rose-studies. Archived from the original on 2017-12-12. Retrieved 2013-08-04.
  7. ^ Ulli Stang (Eds.): Sophie und Hans Scholl: 22. Febr. 1942 von Nazis ermordet. Edited by DKP Marburg, Stadtteilgruppe Nord Am Grün 9, Marburg 1983, p. 3.
  8. ^ Lewis, Jessica. "The White Rose Resistance Movement & The Analysis of Their Six Leaflets".
  9. ^ a b Scholl, Inge (2011). The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-7272-1. OCLC 767498250.
  10. ^ a b Newborn, Jud (2017). Sophie Scholl and the White Rose. Oneworld Publications. OCLC 1038628416.
  11. ^ a b c Waage, Peter Normann (2018). Long Live Freedom! : Traute lafrenz and the white rose. Cuidono PR. ISBN 1-944453-06-7. OCLC 1007750099.
  12. ^ Bush, Elizabeth (2016). "We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman". Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. 69 (8): 414–415. doi:10.1353/bcc.2016.0312. ISSN 1558-6766.
  13. ^ a b Frey, Reed (2019). "Conscience before Conformity: Hans and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Resistance in Nazi Germany by Paul Shrimpton". Newman Studies Journal. 16 (1): 124–125. doi:10.1353/nsj.2019.0012. ISSN 2153-6945.
  14. ^ Newborn, Jud (2017). Sophie Scholl and the White Rose. Oneworld Publications. OCLC 1038628416.
  15. ^ Forest, Jim (2016-06-10). "Alexander Schmorell, freed from the tyranny of fear". U.S. Catholic. Retrieved 2021-11-21.
  16. ^ "Neumärtyrer Alexander Schmorell: Die Engel staunten ob deiner Geduld". FAZ. 7 February 2012. p. 27.

Further readingEdit

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