- Jenny Hill
- BBC correspondent in Berlin
Her name is not widely known outside of Germany, but Sophie Scholl is an iconic figure in her country and her story is extraordinary.
This month marks the centenary of the birth of this woman who stood up to Adolf Hitler and that cost her her life.
His activity in the resistance has been recounted in books, movies and plays. Y continues to inspire people today.
Scholl was born in 1921 in a country at that time in turmoil. But his childhood was safe and comfortable.
Her father was the mayor of the south-western town of Forchtenberg (although the family later moved to Ulm) and Sophie and her five siblings grew up in a Lutheran home that respected Christian values.
But by the time he reached adolescence, Hitler was already in power.
“Don’t tell me it’s for the country”
At first, Sophie and her older brother Hans they supported to the formation that Hitler led since 1921, the National Partysocialist German Workman (NSDAP, for its acronym in German), known colloquially as the Nazi Party.
Like many other young people, he joined the Hitler Youth movement and she joined the sister organization for girls, the League of German Girls.
It is said that his father, a fervent critic of Hitler, was appalled by his children’s initial enthusiasm, and that his influence, as well as that of the rest of his family and friends, was gradually having an effect on them.
In the end, the brothers were unable to reconcile their own liberal tendencies with the policies of the Third Reich, as the German state was then called, and, realizing how his Jewish friendships and artists were being treatedas, they began to be increasingly critical of the regime.
By the time Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, his position became one of opposition.
Young Germans were being sent to war, and in that context Sophie wrote to her boyfriend Fritz Hartnagel, who was also a soldier: “I cannot understand how some people continually put the lives of others at risk. I will never understand it and I think that It’s horrible. Don’t tell me it’s for the country. “
This recent German account of Instagram, which tells the story of Sophie Schol with modern actors, it has attracted half a million followers.
Sophie followed in the footsteps of her brother Hans and entered the University of Munich, where he was studying medicine.
There brother and sister shared a circle of friends, who were united by a taste for art, culture and philosophy.
To Sophie, who was studying the latter subject as well as biology, she liked to dance, play the piano and was a talented painterthey say.
But those were violent times. Some of the students had already served in the military. They were living under a military rule and they were determined to resist.
“They will not shut us up”
To that end, Hans Scholl and his friend Alexander Schmorell founded the group Rosa Blanca, which was later joined by Sophie, Christoph Probst and Willi Graf, as well as one of their teachers, Kurt Huber.
Supported by a network of friends and supporters, they printed and distributed flyers urging citizens to resist the Nazi regime, they denounced murders of Jews and demanded the end of the war.
“They will not shut us up,” read one of those pages. “We are the White Rose, your bad conscience, and we will not leave you alone.”
The group issued its sixth pamphlet in early 1943.
“The name of Germany will be damaged forever if the German youth do not rise up, take revenge and atone at the same time, crush their torturers and found a new European spirit.”
That It was his latest pamphlet.
On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie were distributing flyers at the university.
It is not clear why Sophie climbed to the top floor of the main university building, which overlooked the atrium, and tossed a bundle of pamphlets over the railing. Many assume that he wanted most of the students to see them.
But a janitor saw the pages fall and reported her to the Gestapo, the secret police.
She and her brother were interrogated and, after a short trial, sentenced to death.
They refused to divulge the identity of the other members of the group, but the authorities found them anyway. In a few months they had all been executed.
On the morning that Sophie, who was 21 at the time, faced the guillotine, she said:
“What a beautiful and sunny day, and I must go … What does my death matter, if for us, thousands of people woke up and were motivated to take action?”
Those words, his bravery, are still honored today in Germany, where schools and streets bear his name and that of his brother. And many regret that the other members of the White Rose are not so remembered.
However, Sophie’s name has also been exploited for other purposes.
A few years ago there was outrage when the far-right AfD party issued the slogan “Sophie Scholl would have voted for AfD.”
During a political event in Hanover last November, a young woman jumped on stage and compared herself to Sophie Scholl.
Now, on the occasion of the centenary of her birth, the German Mint will issue a commemorative coin, there will be masses in her honor and a new Instagram channel dedicated to her.
Many will silently reflect on the life of a young woman whose courage and conviction still touch hearts and minds.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.