Traute Lafrenz distributed anti-Nazi leaflets at Munich University in the 1940s, calling on people to rise against Adolf Hitler's regime in Germany.
Traute Lafrenz, the last surviving member of the White Rose resistance group, which urged Germans to stand up against Nazi tyranny during the Second World War, has died at age 103. She passed away at her home in South Carolina on March 6, reports The Guardian.
The White Rose distributed anti-Nazi leaflets at Munich University in the 1940s, calling on people to rise against Adolf Hitler's regime in Germany during the dictator's 12 years in power. Lafrenz met Alexander Schmorell who introduced her to Hans Scholl, one of the founders of the group, along with his sister Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst, in the summer of 1941.
Two years later, all but Lafrenz were executed at the Stadelheim prison in Bavaria when a medical student came across a flyer and realized Hans Scholl's involvement. In April 1943, Lafrenz was arrested by the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, and was sentenced to a year in prison for "complicity." After her release, she was arrested again by the Gestapo in Hamburg. Before her liberation from Bayreuth in April 1945, Lafrenz spent time in four Nazi prisons.
According to the Associated Press, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed his condolences to Lafrenz's family. Describing Lafrenz as a "wonderful and immeasurably brave woman," he said to her family, "Your mother was one of the few who, in the face of the crimes of National Socialism, had the courage to listen to her conscience and stand up to dictatorship, fascism and war."
The White Rose emerged out of political discussions held by the Scholls and their friends. Between June 1942 and February 1943, the group distributed six leaflets criticizing the Nazi regime and the mass murder of Jews. Inspiring passive resistance, the group declared in its fourth leaflet, "We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!"
According to Smithsonian Magazine, Lafrenz was not involved in the early leaflet productions but was welcomed into the clandestine movement, serving as a key link between operations in Hamburg and Munich. She and Sophie purchased paper and envelopes to scale up leaflet distributions.
Lafrenz's main contribution to the White Rose was carrying copies of its third leaflet from Munich to her hometown of Hamburg. Peter Normann Waage, in his book, "Long Live Freedom!: Traute Lafrenz and the White Rose," writes that she "had a central role in the White Rose, but always just behind the frontline. She participated in everything except the writing and copying of the leaflets."
Lafrenz, the youngest of three sisters, was born in Hamburg in May 1919. Her father was an accountant and her mother was a homemaker. The family "rarely discussed" politics, but her parents reportedly eventually joined the Nazi Party.
Traute Lafrenz is the last survivor of the White Rose resistance group. She is one of the few people who had the courage to stand up to the Nazis´ crimes. Consul General Heike Fuller presented the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to Traute Lafrenz today pic.twitter.com/iC9PTqOW3y— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) May 3, 2019
Though she was a member of the Hitler Youth, Lafrenz later told the Gestapo she "was neither prominent nor excellent in that organization." A blog post by Denise Elaine Heap of the Center for White Rose Studies notes that Lafrenz was not content to "silently watch in disapproval as bad things happened all around her."
She emigrated to the US in 1947 and completed her medical studies. In 1948, in San Francisco, she married fellow resident physician, Vernon Page of Texas. In her obituary, it is noted that she is survived by a daughter, three sons and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In 2019, Lafrenz was awarded Germany's highest civilian honor, the Order of Merit. The then-100-year-old was dubbed a "hero of freedom and humanity" by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.