Courage in the Face of Death: The White Rose & Sophie Scholl Story
“…The imperialist ideology of force, from whatever side it comes, must be shattered for all time….”-from “Leaflet of Resistance” from The White Rose
“…The imperialist ideology of force, from whatever side it comes, must be shattered for all time….”-from “Leaflet of Resistance” from The White RoseThe White Rose was a resistance group of college students in Germany who boldly exposed the hatred of Nazi ideology and addressed the evils of the mistreatment of and the extermination of the Jews under Hitler. Reading the text of the pamphlets these young adults produced and distributed, I find myself touched by not only their courageous devotion to writing the truth at a time when doing so would mean one’s death, but deeply impressed with the prose itself. It powerfully states precisely what was going on in the midst of all who chose to ignore what was all around them, identifying all who apathetically accepted Hitler’s crimes as being guilty, too, as they acquiesced rather than opposed it.
To express such opposition to the government at a time when Germans were dying in the war and many were enthralled by the Nazi regime, and knowing that such dissent was punishable by death, required an extraordinary courage rarely seen. Informants for the Gestapo, who could be anyone you knew, were always a threat.
“Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be “governed” without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct…if they abandon the will to take decisive action and turn the wheel of history and thus subject it to their own rational decision; if they are so devoid of all individuality, have already gone so far along the road toward turning into a spiritless and cowardly mass – then, yes, they deserve their downfall…”- from The First Leaflet of The White Rose
Sharing what they learned from “illegal” sources (the listening to of which was punishable by death) such as foreign radio broadcasts, the students wrote in hope that the people of Germany would listen, understand, and choose to resist in the ways they could. They maintained every individual could, in some way, resist and that together the goal of bringing to an end the “monster of a state” National Socialism was possible. “Passive resistance” was an option for all they maintained. The White Rose insisted that all who recognized what the dictatorship of the National Socialist Party was doing to Germany and to humanity should do what they could to end it and its continuation of the war. Every pamphlet from The White Rose asked the reader to copy and distribute it.
“…Why do the German people behave so apathetically in the face of
all these abominable crimes, crimes so unworthy of the human race?…For through his apathetic behavior he gives these evil men the opportunity to act as
they do; he tolerates this “government” which has taken upon itself such an infinitely great burden of guilt; indeed, he himself is to blame for the fact that it came about at all!…”- from The Second Leaflet of The White Rose
It was only just this past December I obtained the film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. Excellent! What impressed me most about the authenticity of its retelling of the story was that so much of the dialog was based on archival materials such as minutes from the trial/transcripts of the Gestapo interrogations. Also, the interviews (special features on the dvd) are a must to listen to. I found the interview with one of the Scholl sisters particularly of interest, with her sharing of Sophie’s personality.
Sophie Scholl’s strength is perfectly communicated throughout the film. The interrogation by Gestapo officer Robert Mohr of Sophie Scholl and her comments in court before Judge Roland Freisler (the “People’s Court” was its name though it was anything but with its proceedings conducted in secrecy and with no appeals permitted, set up by Hitler to stop political opposition ) make this film unique and informative to view. The courtroom scenes are powerful, with the words of these courageous resistors amazing in view of the tyranny they were denouncing. In their early twenties, the members of The White Rose were sentenced by Freisler to death and were executed immediately following the “trial.”
In The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich by William L. Shirer (a book I also recommend, having read it many years ago), Judge Roland Freisler is described as “perhaps the most sinister and bloodthirsty Nazi in the Third Reich after Heydrich.”
What did perplex me was why there was no depiction in the film of any mistreatment by the Gestapo upon Sophie Scholl and the others as they were notoriously known for their violent interrogation tactics, and I would think those accused of treason would have been subjected to such torture. I do not know if the Gestapo refrained from their methods in these cases, or if is uncertain if such tactics were used against the Scholls since some articles mention her leg being injured and others make no such mention.
However, in Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich he writes that, “Sophie Scholl was handled so roughly during her interrogation by the Gestapo that she appeared in court with a broken leg.”
“…why do you not bestir yourselves, why do you allow these men who are in power to rob you step by step, openly and in secret, of one domain of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanized state system presided over by criminals and drunks?…” – Excerpt from The Third Leaflet of The White Rose
I also recommend a piece by Jacob Hornberger: “The White Rose: A Lesson in Dissent” is an excellent article at The Future of Freedom website summarizing the Sophie Scholl and The White Rose story very well and it includes book recommendations about The White Rose.
And, the English translation of The White Rose pamphlets may be read here.
Finally, I recommend reading the memories of Dr. George J. Wittenstein who was a member of the inner circle of The White Rose.
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