Sophie Scholl - One in a million
From right: Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst
Photograph Copyright protected: AKG-images
Sophie Scholl was one of the few, along with her brother Hans Scholl, and friend Christoph Probst that had the courage to fight against Hitler’s regime by distributing letters and leaflets that opposed the war and National Socialism, and encouraged the German people to resist the Nazis at the height of the war. They were friends who belonged to a loose group that would be known as the White Rose. This group asked for passive and later pro-active resistance, at a time when Hitler's regime engulfed the entire European continent and vast tracts of Russia.
I must add that I am aware there were many other brave White Rose activists, and I hope I have mentioned the key people here, but for me personally, Sophie personifies everything I aspire to. I fail all the time. Justice and truth many hold dear to their hearts, but rarely are people willing to die for those sentiments. Sophie was truly one in a million.
While the majority of Germans did nothing, (probably from fear and self preservation rather than any loyalty to Hitler) Sophie and her friends stood up against tyranny and ultimately paid with their lives. People who have never lived in a totalitarian statemay have difficulty understanding how dangerous it is to organize opposition or voice an opinion different to that of the government. Arguably, Hitler's Germany was by far the most controlled state that has ever existed (perhaps with the exception on Stalin's Russia). Nevertheless these idealistic students and others risked their lives for truth and justice.
Sophie was not particularly political. In the early years like so many young Germans she went along with National Socialism, at least aspects of it. She particularly enjoyed the outdoor adventures that young people did during the 1930s. (Sophie had a great love of nature). We must not forget that Germany was still recovering from the First World War and Hitler was seen by many in the early days as a liberator of their own country, reinvigorating national identity and pride, and creating work in the depths of a global depression. It was Hans, her brother that began questioning where all this was leading, even before war broke out. Sophie was a late arrival to the cause. (Her brother in particular did not want her to join knowing the dangers this would put her in). But when she joined the White Rose, she gave everything, helped by her strong convictions of right and wrong and influenced heavily by her undying Christian beliefs.
On February 18, 1943 the group distributed its sixth and last leaflet at the University of Munich where Sophie and her brother were studying. They had already distributed thousands of leaflets and posted hundreds of letters to addresses across Germany. A janitor at the University saw Sophie throwing the leaflets into the main courtyard from above. They were arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo. The film “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days” (2005) is based on the manuscripts from that interrogation. Sophie denied nothing, in fact made a point of being proud of what she had done. The following court case was swift in its judgment, but even then Sophie did not break down, nor did she deny any of the charges, but rather proudly proclaimed her full involvement.
On February 22 1943 Sophie at the age of 22, along with her brother and Christopher Probst were executed by Guillotine. As they were led to their deaths just hours after the People's Court had delivered its verdict, it is reported that Christoph Probst: said "We shall see each other again in a few minutes," and Hans Scholl shouted loudly: "Long live freedom!" There are no reports that Sophie said anything as she was led to the Guillotine, here dignity and calmness to the moment of death was remarked upon later by the guards.
Her bravery during the interrogation and subsequent court case was remarkable. It is perhaps hardly surprising she was sentenced to death. This was not some ordinary German from the backwaters. Sophie Scholl was middle class, her father had been Mayor (although known to dislike Hitler and had served a short prison sentence for vocally denouncing him). She attended the University of Munich. Here brother had fought on the Eastern Front, a medical student, also at Munich. Sophie's sister Inga Scholl who had no involvement in the White Rose was an enthusiastic Nazi and member of the BDM, (womens branch of the Nazi Youth movement).To the authorities it must have seemed like one of their own turning against them. If someone like Sophie Scholl, a "true German" who in their eyes, had everything to gain from Nazi Germany could turn against the party, what future was there for the regime? Other notable members who were later executed for their involvement in the White Rose included: Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf. Dr George Wittenstein a friend and fellow student of Sophie and Hans was also actively involved in the White Rose. He introduced Alex Schmorell and Hans Scholl to each other. Dr Wittenstein is the last remaining survivor and lives today in the US. Later in the war the allies dropped millions of the White Rose leaflets across Germany.
For further information on The White Rose group and Sophie Scholl click on the following links: