Willi Graf

Willi Graf (2 January 1918 in Kuchenheim near Euskirchen – 12 October 1943 in Munich) was a member of the White Rose (Weiße Rose) resistance group in Nazi Germany. Followers of the Catholic Church in Germany regard Graf as a martyr.

Willi Graf low resolution
Willi Graf

Early life

Willi Graf's family moved to Saarbrücken in 1922, where his father ran a wine wholesaler, and was the manager of the Johannishof, the second largest banquet hall in Saarbrücken.[1] Graf went to school at the Ludwigs gymnasium. It was not long before he joined, at the age of eleven, the Bund Neudeutschland, a Catholic youth movement for young men in schools of higher learning, which was banned after Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933. In 1934, Graf joined the Grauer Orden ("Grey Order"), another Catholic movement which became known for its anti-Nazi rhetoric.[2][3] It, too, was banned and for this reason, it formed many splinter youth groups.

Graf showed conviction in his beliefs from a young age. Although compulsory at the time, he refused to associate with the Hitler Youth.[4][5] While other future members of the White Rose initially embraced the Hitler Youth, Graf never did so. Moreover, in his address book he crossed out the names of friends who had joined the Hitler Youth. In 1935, at the age of 17, Graf and a few friends marched in an annual May Day parade. The parade was dominated by swastikas, brown-shirted Hitler Youth troops marching in formation, and "Sieg Heils." However, Graf and his friends marched under their tattered school flag, making great effort to stand out from their peers. They did not don any swastikas, or participate in any of the "Sieg Heil" salutes.


After his Abitur, the German equivalent of Baccalauréat, in 1937, Willi Graf did his six-month Reichsarbeitsdienst and afterwards began his medical studies at the University of Bonn.[6] In 1938, he was arrested along with other members of the Grauer Orden and charged by a court in Mannheim with illegal youth league activities–the Bünde having been banned–in relation with his unlawful field trips, camping excursions and other meetings with the Grauer Orden.[7] The charges were later dismissed as part of a general amnesty declared to celebrate the Anschluss.[8][9] The detention had lasted three weeks. His time in jail did not weaken his decision to participate in anti-Nazi activities or organizations.

German army

In early 1940 Graf was conscripted into the German army as student-soldier. From 1940 to 1942, Graf participated in various war deployments in Europe as a medical orderly.[10] During these deployments he experienced the depths of war which included seeing the Warsaw ghetto in Poland and harsh treatment of Russian civilians. He was horrified by the suffering he witnessed.[11] In his army medic files it was noted that his care of the ill was "exemplary". It was also noted by Dr. Webel, the Chief Medical Officer, that Graf "showed himself to be an intrepid medic who never thought about his own safety." Graf was granted the service medal, 2nd class with swords, for his actions.

White Rose

AlterFriedhofStJohannGrabWilliGraf res
Grave in the St. Johann Cemetery in Saarbrücken

In 1942, as a member of the Second Students' Company in Munich, he came into contact with the Nazi resistance organization, the White Rose. He became an active member of this resistance group, which centered on Hans and Sophie Scholl. Graf's main role in the White Rose was to function as a recruiter in other cities around Germany. He also participated in anti-Nazi and anti-Hitler graffiti campaigns.[12]

On 18 February 1943, Willi Graf, along with his sister Anneliese, was seized in Munich.[13] On 19 April 1943, he was sentenced to death at the Volksgerichtshof for high treason, Wehrkraftzersetzung (undermining the troops' spirit), and furthering the enemy's cause. Willi Graf was beheaded on 12 October 1943 at Stadelheim Prison in Munich, after six months of solitary confinement.[14] During this 6-month period the Gestapo tried to extract information from Graf about other White Rose members and other anti-Nazi movements. While under interrogation Graf yielded no names, and took on blame for White Rose activities in order to protect others who had not yet been arrested.[15][16]


Graf memorial, Mandlstrasse, Munich

After the war his remains were transferred to the St. Johann Cemetery in Saarbrücken.[17] Seven schools in Germany have been named after him, among them the Willi-Graf-Gymnasium in Munich and Saarbrücken-St. Johann; a student residence in Munich also honours Graf by bearing his name. In 2003, Willi Graf was posthumously awarded the status of honorary citizen of Saarbrücken.[18]

The Catholic Church in Germany included Graf in their list of martyrs of the 20th century.[19] In 2017, the archbishop of Munich and Freising, initiated the first step in the process of beatification, a preliminary investigation in which theologians and historians will analyse the life and writings of Graf.[20][21]

In film

Graf was portrayed by Maximilian Brückner in the film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.


  1. ^ Saarbrücker Zeitung (1. January 2018), So lebte Willi Graf im Saarland
  2. ^ Schäfers 2013, p.295
  3. ^ Willi Graf Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung
  4. ^ Schäfer, Bernhard (2013). Willi Graf, in Barbara Stambolis, Jugendbewegt geprägt: Essays zu autobiographischen Texten von Werner Heisenberg, Robert Jungk und vielen anderen. V&R unipress GmbH. p. 298. ISBN 978-3-8471-0004-1.
  5. ^ Willi Graf Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung
  6. ^ Huch, Ricarda (1997). In einem Gedenkbuch zusammeln: Bilder deutscher Widerstandskämpfer. Leipziger Universitätsverlag. pp. 121–126. ISBN 978-3-931922-80-1.
  7. ^ Schäfers 2013, pp.295-296
  8. ^ Schäfers 2013, p.299
  9. ^ Willi Graf Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung
  10. ^ Willi Graf, Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand
  11. ^ Schäfer 2013, p.301
  12. ^ Willi Graf, Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand
  13. ^ Huch 1997, p. 197
  14. ^ Willi Graf, Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand
  15. ^ Goergen, Peter (2009). Willi Graf - ein Weg in den Widerstand. Röhrig Universitätsverlag. p. 175. ISBN 978-3-86110-458-2.
  16. ^ Willi Graf Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung
  17. ^ Ulrich, Bernd. "Der Widerstandskämpfer Willi Graf". Deutschlandfunk 2.1.2018.
  18. ^ Saarbrücker Zeitung (1. January 2018), So lebte Willi Graf im Saarland
  19. ^ Helmut Moll (ed.), im Auftrag der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz (2015): Zeugen für Christus. Das deutsche Martyrologium des 20. Jahrhunderts. 6th edition, Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh. pp. 486-488
  20. ^ Erzbistum prüft Seligsprechung für NS-Gegner Graf. website of the Erzbistum München, 27. Dezember 2017
  21. ^ Bahners, Patrick, Schweigen bis zum Tod, Frankfurter Allgemeine, 2 January 2018

Further reading

  • Tatjane Blaha: Willi Graf und die weiße Rose. Eine Rezeptionsgeschichte, Saur, München 2003, ISBN 978-3-598-11654-4.
  • Hans-Josef Gebel: Konsequent – von der Schulbank bis zum Schaffott, in: Gedenkschrift zum 50. Jahrestag der Hinrichtung des Saarbrücker Widerstandskämpfer Willi Graf, Stadtverwaltung, Saarbrücken, S. 28–37.
  • Hans-Josef Gebel: Willi Graf, ein Lebensbild. Zum 40. Jahrestag seiner Hinrichtung am 12. Oktober 1943, in: Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Saargegend Jg. 31 (1983).
  • Theo Heinrichs: Willi Graf, Mitglied der Widerstandsgruppe "Weiße Rose", in: Gerd G. Koenig (Hrsg.): Cuchenheim 1084–1984, Euskirchen 1984, S. 153–163.
  • Anneliese Knoop-Graf, Inge Jens (Hrsg.): Willi Graf. Briefe und Aufzeichnungen, Fischer, Frankfurt/M. 1994, ISBN 978-3-596-12367-4.
  • Helmut Moll: Den Widerstand mit dem blutigen Tod bezahlt. Katholiken unter Hitlers Terror im Euskirchener Raum, in: Euskirchen im 20. Jahrhundert, Stadtverwaltung, Euskirchen 2002, S. 239–260.
  • Klaus Vielhaber u.a. (Hrsg.): Gewalt und Gewissen. Willi Graf und die "Weisse Rose". Eine Dokumentation, Herder, Freiburg/B. 1964.
  • Hildegard Vieregg u.a. (Hrsg.): Willi Grafs Jugend im Nationalsozialismus im Spiegel von Briefen, Gruppe Willi Graf im Bund Neudeutschland, München 1984.
  • Klaus Vielhaber: Willi Graf. Von den Wurzeln der "Weißen Rose", in: Hirschberg Jg. 10 (1983)

External links

Alexander Schmorell

Alexander Schmorell (16 September 1917 in Orenburg, Russia; – 13 July 1943 in Munich) was one of five Munich University students who formed a resistance group known as White Rose (Weiße Rose) which was active against Germany's Nazi regime from June 1942 to February 1943. In 2012, he was glorified as a saint and passion bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.

Christoph Probst

Christoph Ananda Probst (born 6 November 1919, Murnau am Staffelsee – 22 February 1943, Munich) was a German student of medicine and member of the White Rose (Weiße Rose) resistance group.


Euskirchen (German pronunciation: [ˈɔʏ̯skɪɐ̯çn̩]) is a town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, capital of the district Euskirchen. While Euskirchen resembles a modern shopping town, it also has a history dating back over 700 years, having been granted town status in 1302. As of December 2007, it had a population of 55,446.

Graf (surname)

Graf is an ancient German rooted name. Some notable people with this surname include:

Anton Graf (1811-1867), German theologian, private docent at University of Tübingen

Andreas Christoph Graf (1701–1776 Augsburg), teacher, poet & author of "The Polite Student" (1745)

Andreas Graf (born 1985), Australian track cyclist

Conrad Graf (1782–1851), Austrian-German pianoforte builder

Christian Ernst Graf (1723–1804), from 1764 on called "Graaf", German/Netherland composer (Johann's son)

Daniel Graf (born 1977), German football player

Ernst Graf (1909–1988), Swiss artist

Erwin Graf (1917–2005), American basketball player

Friedrich Graf (17th cent), German politician Bavaria

Friedrich Hartmann Graf (1727–1795), German Composer (Johann's son)

Haakon Graf (born 1955), Norwegian musician

Holly Graf (born c. 1963), U.S. naval officer

Johann Graf (born 1946), German composer (father of Friedrich C. and Christian E. Graf)

Jürgen Graf (born 1951), Swiss historian

Karl Heinrich Graf (1815–1869), German Old Testament scholar and orientalist

Leopold Graf-Selinger (born 1967), Austrian Architect & Urbanist (Arch. without Frontiers), former diplomat. service, later on Ambassador of "good will", Researcher & Author

Martin Graf (born 1960), Austrian politician

Mirosław Graf (born 1959), Polish Ski Jumper

Oskar Maria Graf (1894–1967), German poet and novelist

Paul David Graf (1950–2001), American actor

Randy Graf (born 1957), former member of the Arizona State House

Rolf Graf (born 1932), Swiss cyclist

Rolf Graf (musician) (1960–2013), Norwegian musician

Steffi Graf (born 1969), German tennis player

Stephanie Graf (born 1973), Austrian athlete

Willi Graf (1918–1943), German martyr of 20th century, member of the White Rose resistance group in Nazi Germany

Wolfram Graf (16th cent), German lawyer Nördlingen

Urs Graf (1485 – c. 1529), Swiss Renaissance painter and engraver

Hildegard Vieregg

Hildegard Katharina Vieregg Hildegard Vieregg (Hamberger) born in Bad Aibling, Germany, in 1939, is a museologist and museum professional, an educator, a university professor and lecturer, author, editor and administrator. She has contributed in important way to museums, to the International Council of Museums and to its International Committee for Museology. Her research interests include memorial sites, resistance against the Nazi totalitarian regime and museology as a science.

John Knittel

John Knittel, originally Hermann Emanuel Knittel (March 24, 1891 in Dharwar, India – April 26, 1970 in Maienfeld, Graubünden) was a Swiss writer.

Karl Schneider (activist)

Karl Schneider (27 June 1869 – 5 November 1940) was a German ophthalmologist, pacifist and resistance fighter against Nazism.


Kommilitonen! (Young Blood!, or Student Activists, literally Fellow Students!) is an opera by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The libretto is by David Pountney, who was also the director of the premiere performances in March 2011.

List of Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich people

This is a list of people associated with Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich in Germany.

List of University of Bonn people

This is a list of University of Bonn people including people who have taught or studied at the University of Bonn


The Mandlstraße is a street in Munich's Schwabing district. It runs west of the Englischer Garten from the corner of Maria-Josepha-Straße / Königinstraße to the corner of Gunezrainerstraße / Biedersteiner Straße and forms the eastern edge of the protected building complex Alt-Schwabing. The street was named after Johann Freiherr von Mandl-Deutenhofer (* 1588; † 12 August 1666), chancellor and president of the court chamber in the service of the Bavarian elector Ferdinand Maria.The Prestel Publishing is located in Mandlstraße 26, Mandlstraße 14 is the marital room of the Munich branch, and Mandlstraße 23 is the Catholic Academy in Bavaria. There is also an office building of the Munich Re, completed in March 2013, the construction of which was very controversial. Since 2011, a tree-shaped sculpture (discrepancy) made of stainless steel created by American artist Roxy Paine was placed in front of the building.Lujo Brentano lived at Mandlstraße 5. Albert Langen and Josephine Rensch lived at Mandlstraße 8, as well as Olaf Gulbransson, draftsman of the satirical magazine Simplicissimus from April 1905. In 1902 the painter Max Nonnenbruch acquired the house at Mandlstraße 10. In today's Mandlstraße 26 lived Alfred Kubin, the graphic artist, from 1904 to 1906, and Alexander Eliasberg lived in the house number 24. The inhabitants of Mandlstraße from late May to late November 1942, included Sophie Scholl as well as Willi Graf and his sister Anneliese. The Austrian conductor Felix Weingartner also lived on Mandlstraße.A total of fifteen historically-protected objects are located along the 350-meter-long road, including the route to the Ensembleschutz Altschwabing (E-1-62-000-4).

People's Court (Germany)

The People's Court (German: Volksgerichtshof) was a Sondergericht ("special court") of Nazi Germany, set up outside the operations of the constitutional frame of law. Its headquarters were originally located in the former Prussian House of Lords in Berlin, later moved to the former Königsberg Wilhelmsgymnasium at Bellevuestrasse 15 in Potsdamer Platz (the location now occupied by the Sony Center; a marker is located on the sidewalk nearby).The court was established in 1934 by order of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, in response to his dissatisfaction at the outcome of the Reichstag fire trial, in which all but one of the defendants was acquitted. The court had jurisdiction over a rather broad array of "political offenses", which included crimes like black marketeering, work slowdowns, defeatism, and treason against the Third Reich. These crimes were viewed by the court as Wehrkraftzersetzung ("disintegration of defensive capability") and were accordingly punished severely; the death penalty was meted out in numerous cases.

The Court handed down an enormous number of death sentences under Judge-President Roland Freisler, including those that followed the plot to kill Hitler on 20 July 1944. Many of those found guilty by the Court were executed in Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. The proceedings of the court were often even less than show trials in that some cases, such as that of Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans Scholl and fellow White Rose activists, trials were concluded in less than an hour without evidence being presented or arguments made by either side. The president of the court often acted as prosecutor, denouncing defendants, then pronouncing his verdict and sentence without objection from defense counsel, who usually remained silent throughout. It almost always sided with the prosecution, to the point that being hauled before it was tantamount to a death sentence. While Nazi Germany was not a rule of law state, the People's Court frequently dispensed with even the nominal laws and procedures of regular German trials, and was thus easily characterized as a kangaroo court.

Sophie Scholl – The Final Days

Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (German: Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage) is a 2005 German historical drama film directed by Marc Rothemund and written by Fred Breinersdorfer. It is about the last days in the life of Sophie Scholl, a 21-year-old member of the anti-Nazi non-violent student resistance group the White Rose, part of the German Resistance movement. She was found guilty of high treason by the People’s Court and executed the same day, 22 February 1943.

The film was presented at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2005 and won Silver Bear awards for Best Director and Best Actress (Julia Jentsch). It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Stadelheim Prison

Stadelheim Prison (German: Justizvollzugsanstalt München), in Munich's Giesing district, is one of the largest prisons in Germany.

Founded in 1894, it was the site of many executions, particularly by guillotine during the Nazi period.


Studentenstadt Freimann is a student housing complex in Munich, Germany.

The complex was built in two stages, between 1961-1968 and between 1970-1977, and is Germany's largest student housing complex with 2,478 residential units in 14 buildings. Next to the Olympic Village, it is the second largest complex of the Studentenwerk München. In order to create affordable housing relatively quickly, several "Wohncontainer" (similar to mobile homes) have been set up near the original buildings. Today, more than 2,500 people live in "StuSta". The streets that run through Studentenstadt are named after the World War II era resistance group, the White Rose. For example, they are named Willi-Graf-Straße, Hans-Leipelt-Straße, and Christoph-Probst-Straße.

Susanne Hirzel

Susanne Zeller, née Hirzel (7 November 1921 in Untersteinbach – 4 December 2012), was a member of the resistance group "White Rose", for which she was arrested and convicted, but avoided the death penalty.

Therfield School

Therfield School is a mixed comprehensive school educating pupils aged 11–18 in Leatherhead, Surrey, England. Therfield School sixth form teaches courses of further education for students between the ages of 16 and 18 and has an arrangement of reciprocated entry criteria with three others in the county: The Ashcombe School, Warlingham School and Oxted School.

Ulrich Tukur

Ulrich Tukur (born Ulrich Gerhard Scheurlen; 29 July 1957) is a German actor and musician.

White Rose

The White Rose (German: die Weiße Rose) was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in the Third Reich led by a group of students and a professor at the University of Munich. The group conducted an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign that called for active opposition to the Nazi party regime. Their activities started in Munich on 27 June 1942, and ended with the arrest of the core group by the Gestapo on 18 February 1943. They, as well as other members and supporters of the group who carried on distributing the pamphlets, faced show trials by the Nazi People's Court (Volksgerichtshof), and many of them were sentenced to death or imprisonment.

The group wrote, printed and initially distributed their pamphlets in the greater Munich region. Later on, secret carriers brought copies to other cities, mostly in the southern parts of Germany. In total, the White Rose authored six leaflets, which were multiplied and spread, in a total of about 15,000 copies. They denounced the Nazi regime's crimes and oppression, and called for resistance. In their second leaflet, they openly denounced the persecution and mass murder of the Jews. By the time of their arrest, the members of the White Rose were just about to establish contacts with other German resistance groups like the Kreisau Circle or the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack group of the Red Orchestra. Today, the White Rose is well-known both within Germany and worldwide.

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