TW: mentioning of execution
This week comes to an end with a young political activist who risked and lost her life for her political beliefs: Sophie Scholl.
She participated in the fight against the Nazi regime in Germany. For this she joined the activist group “White Rose” by her brother Hans Scholl and his friends. Her life was dedicated to open the eyes of fellow students and Germans to rise against the regime. At already a very young age Sophie started to passively resist the regime.
If you want to know more about the way she resisted and what she and her brother have done to fight the Nazi in Germany, read the full article below.
Sophie Magdalena Scholl |* 09-05-1921 | † 22-02-1943 | Germany | Political Activist/ Resistance Fighter
On May 9th 1921 Sophie Scholl was born as the fourth of the six children. Her father Robert Scholl, was the mayor of her hometown while also being a liberal politician and fervent Nazi critic.
At the age of twelve, Sophie joined the “Bund Deutscher Mädel” (League of German Girls), like most of her classmates. First she was enthusiastic, but that gradually gave way to criticism. Like her brother Hans, who once participated in the Hitler Youth Program, she became disillusioned with the Nazi Party. Political attitude became an essential criteria in her choice of friends.
Sophie had a talent for drawing and painting, and as an avid reader she developed an interest in philosophy and theology. In 1940 she barely graduated from secondary school, because she did not desire to participate in classes which had largely become Nazi indoctrination. Because she was fond of children she became a kindergarten teacher. She was hoping this job would be recognized as an alternative service in the “Reichsarbeitsdienst” (National Labor Service), a prerequisite for admission to university, but it was not. So, in spring 1941, she began a six-month stint in the auxiliary war service as a nursery teacher. Because of the military-like regimen of the Labor Service, Sophie started to rethink her understanding of the political situation and began practicing passive resistance.
She enrolled at the University of Munich, as a student of biology and philosophy, in May 1942. Her brother Hans was also studying medicine there and he introduced her to his friends. This group of friends was eventually known for their political views, but they were brought together by a shared love of art, music, literature, philosophy and theology. Between 1940 and 1941 Hans began questioning the principles and policies of the Nazi regime. He surrounded himself with like-minded friends and they eventually began writing and publishing leaflets that instructed Germans to passively resist the Nazi government. They called themselves the “White Rose” (Weiße Rose). In the summer of 1942, four leaflets were written and distributed throughout the school and central Germany.
Sophie found one of those leaflets at her university and when she realized her brother had helped writing the pamphlet, she began working with them. Her brother did not want to involve her, but she proved valuable to the group because, as a woman, her chances of being randomly stopped by the SS (Schutzstaffel) were much smaller. She helped copy, distribute and mail pamphlets and managed the group’s finances.
On February 18th 1943 she and the rest of the “White Rose” were arrested for distributing the sixth leaflet at the university. Hans and Sophie had brought a suitcase filled with leaflets to the university and dropped stacks of copies in the empty corridors for students to find. There were some left-over copies and Sophie flung those from the top floor down into the courtyard. This action was observed by the university maintenance man, who reported them. Hans and Sophie were taken into Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) custody. They found the draft for the seventh pamphlet on Hans and the Gestapo were able to match the handwriting to that of Christopher Probst. The main Gestapo interrogator originally thought Sophie was innocent, but after Hans confessed Sophie took full responsibility in an attempt to protect the other members.
In the People’s Court before judge Freisler on February 21st , Sophie was recorded saying the following words:
“Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.”
They were not allowed to defend themselves at court. So, on February 22nd 1943, Sophie, Hans and Christopher were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. They were beheaded by the guillotine in Munich’s Stadelheim Prison only a few hours later. This was, coincidently, the same prison Adolf Hitler was imprisoned for a month in 1922 after assaulting a political rival.
Prison officials, in later describing the scene, emphasized the courage with which she walked to her execution. Her last words were:
“Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go…
What does my death matter, if through us,
thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
A copy of the sixth leaflet was smuggled out of Germany after her death, through Scandinavia to the UK by a German jurist. There it was used by the Allied Forces and in mid-1943, they dropped millions of propaganda copies over Germany, now retitled “The Manifesto of the Students of Munich”.
Edit: If you want to get an even closer look on Sophie Scholl, after reading the article here, we have little tip for you. Two German Broadcasters have taken up a project about the life of Sophie Scholl and developed a social media account run by her, to give us the chance to get a closer look on the person behind the history. This instagram account was made in honour of Sophie’s 100th birthday this year, and is based on historical sources. The broadcasters however add the disclaimer that the account is fiction and just uses history as its base. One last thing about the account: as Sophie was German, the account is run in German. But the pictures already give you an insight in her life, so go check it out here: @ichbinsophiescholl. To catch up just check out the highlights or the project’s website.
Author: Hilke Cranenbroek
Image: Marlijn Metzlar