Critical Literacy Unit: "The White Rose"

A Critical Literacy Unit for German Community-Based Heritage Language Schools

Created by Fanny Jasper, German Language School of the North Bay (Novato/CA)

Sophie Scholl: Die weiße Rose (The White Rose)


Target student group: German HL learners, grades 9-12

Length of unit: 13 weeks

This is a critical literacy unit that explores the historic period of the Third Reich/Nazi Germany with the help of a class reader and supplemental texts.

The knowledge that most of the German HL students in our school have about the time of the Third Reich usually comes from their families, but also from what they have learned in their U.S. high school: key dates and events of WWII and Hitler's dictatorship, and the Holocaust. This unit approaches the topic from an angle that is not widely taught in U.S. high schools: Resistance groups within Nazi-Germany, the non-violent intellectual group gathering around the siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl. The reader chosen for the unit is a third person recount in simplified German, based on the memoirs of Sophie's sister Inge, as well as historical documents.

Aside from the study of the reader itself (in class and at home), as well as some factual historic background information (from various additional source texts), the unit focuses on some critical reading activities: a) the rhetoric of the "flyers" that the resistance group distributed in different cities in Germany, and their effect on us, as readers, and b) the awakening political activism of the text's central characters, and their motivations.

An additional focus of the unit is the question of "national/cultural" identity. I am proposing to do that with the help of a survey: given the historic events described in the text, the characters repeatedly voice their sentiments about "being German". How do those sentiments compare with the HL students' personal associations about Germany, of being German, and the feelings of other members of their language community (such as family members of different generations, with varying degrees of connectedness to the German culture)?

Unit Scope and Sequence:


The historical background:

  • Exploring the events of the period 1933-42 as well as Sophie School's biography in a group-puzzle-activity
  • Differentiated learning facilitated through source texts of varying difficulty: Seiffarth, "Einleitung"; Berger/Martini, p.48ff;

Awakening: From youth enthusiasm to youth resistance

  • Comparing Seiffarth, Chap.1-3 and Scholl, p.4-25: Students trace character development (Sophie, Hans, father)
  • Group work: Students dramatize/present key elements of character development

The flyers:

  • Seiffarth, Chap.4-7; the original flyers (on Students analyze the rhetoric of the resistance groups' flyers and its effect
  • Art extension project and gallery walk

The trial:

  • Seiffarth, Chap.8
  • Self-reflective writing: "What would I have done?"/ "Could catastrophe have been averted?"

The question of national identity: 

  • Analyzing the characters' sentiments about "being German"
  • Language community survey: finding questions - interviewing community members - reporting/summarizing results


Class reader:

> Achim Seiffarth, Sophie Scholl: Die weiße Rose, 2013 (Klett/Cideb), ISBN 978-88-530-1339-2

Additional sources:

> Inge Scholl, Die weiße Rose, 1995 (Easy readers), ISBN 978-3-12-675515-3

> Bundeszentrale fur politische Bildung:

> Berger / Martini, Generation E, 2005 (Klett / Cideb), ISBN 978-3-12-675247-3

Published: Tuesday, October 20, 2020