Sophie Scholl was hero who opposed the Nazi Third Reich during the Second World War.
Sophie was born May 9, 1921, in Forchtenberg, Germany. Her older brother Hans was a member of an organization known as White Rose, which consisted of students from the University of Munich and advocated peaceful and intellectual resistance to Nazi oppression and tyranny.
On February 18, 1943, Sophie was arrested along with her brother Hans at the University of Munich. The Scholls had come to the university with a suitcase containing White Rose leaflets. (The leaflet was sixth in a series written and distributed by the group. The full text of the translated leaflet is at the bottom of this post.)
While students attended classes, Sophie and her brother dropped stacks of the leaflets in hallways for students to find as they exited lecture rooms.
On their way out of the university, they noticed there were still some leaflets remaining in the suitcase. They decided to hurry back and distribute them. They proceeded up the stairs to the top floor near the atrium, where Sophie dramatically flung the leaflets into the air.
Unfortunately, this last action was witnessed by the custodian. The police were called and the Scholls were arrested and taken into custody by the Gestapo.
Sophie was initially thought to be innocent by the Gestapo investigator, but she later took full responsibility for her actions in an attempt to protect other members of the White Rose organization.
On February 22, 1943, the Scholls and another member of White Rose were put on trial before the Volksgerichtshof, the “People’s Court,” where they were found guilty of treason. The head judge sentenced them to death.
More about the guillotine and Hitler:
In 1933, Adolf Hitler had a guillotine constructed and tested. He was impressed enough to order 20 more constructed and pressed into immediate service. Nazi records indicate that between 1933 and 1945, 16,500 people were executed in Germany and Austria by this method. In Nazi Germany, beheading by guillotine was the usual method of executing convicted criminals—as opposed to political enemies, who were usually either hanged or shot. By the middle of the war, however, policy changed: the six members of the White Rose anti-Nazi resistance organisation were beheaded in 1943, as were a hundred or more conscientious objectors from that date, including Franz Jägerstätter, beheaded in Berlin on 9 August 1943. The last execution in what would later become West Germany took place on 11 May 1949, when 24-year-old Berthold Wehmeyer was beheaded in Moabit prison, West Berlin, for murder and robbery. When West Germany was formed in 1949, its constitution prohibited the death penalty; East Germany abolished it in 1987, and Austria in 1968. (Source: Wikipedia.)
Hours later the three of them were executed by guillotine – on the same day they had been convicted. Sophie was only 21 years old.
The leaflet was smuggled out of Germany and in July 1943 was retitled “The Manifesto of the Students of Munich” and dropped over Germany by Allied planes.
A 2003 television competition in Germany to determine “The Ten Most Important Germans of All Time” ranked Sophie and Hans in fourth place, higher than Bach and Albert Einstein. Readers of a women’s magazine in Germany voted Sophie “the greatest woman of the twentieth century.”
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This is my “S” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.”
White Rose – Leaflet 6 (full text)
For us there is but one slogan: fight against the party! Get out of the party organisation, which are used to keep our mouths sealed and hold us in political bondage! Get out of the lecture rooms of the SS corporals and sergeants and the party bootlickers! We want genuine learning and real freedom of opinion. No threat can terrorise us, not even the shutting down of the institutions of higher learning. This is the struggle of each and every one of us for our future, our freedom, and our honour under a regime conscious of its moral responsibility…
Fellow Fighters in the Resistance!
Shaken and broken, our people behold the loss of the men of Stalingrad. Three hundred and thirty thousand German men have been senselessly and irresponsibly driven to death and destruction by the inspired strategy of our World War I Private First Class. Fuhrer, we thank you!
The German people are in ferment. Will we continue to entrust the fate of our armies to a dilettante? Do we want to sacrifice the rest of German youth to the base ambitions of a Party clique? No, never! The day of reckoning has come – the reckoning of German youth with the most abominable tyrant our people have ever been forced to endure. In the name of German youth we demand restitution by Adolf Hitler’s state of our personal freedom, the most precious treasure we have, out of which he has swindled us in the most miserable way.
We grew up in a state in which all free expression of opinion is unscrupulously suppressed. The Hitler Youth, the SA, the SS have tried to drug us, to revolutionise us, to regiment us in the most promising young years of our lives. “Philosophical training” is the name given to the despicable method by which our budding intellectual development is muffled in a fog of empty phrases. A system of selection of leaders at once unimaginably devilish and narrow-minded trains up its future party bigwigs in the “Castles of the Knightly Order” to become Godless, impudent, and conscienceless exploiters and executioners – blind, stupid hangers-on of the Fuhrer. We “Intellectual Workers” are the ones who should put obstacles in the path of this caste of overlords. Soldiers at the front are regimented like schoolboys by student leaders and trainees for the post of Gauleiter, and the lewd jokes of the Gauleiters insult the honour of the women students. German women students at the university in Munich have given a dignified reply to the besmirching of their honour, and German students have defended the women in the universities and have stood firm…. That is a beginning of the struggle for our free self-determination – without which intellectual and spiritual values cannot be created. We thank the brave comrades, both men and women, who have set us brilliant examples.
For us there is but one slogan: fight against the party! Get out of the party organisation, which are used to keep our mouths sealed and hold us in political bondage! Get out of the lecture rooms of the SS corporals and sergeants and the party bootlickers! We want genuine learning and real freedom of opinion. No threat can terrorise us, not even the shutting down of the institutions of higher learning. This is the struggle of each and every one of us for our future, our freedom, and our honour under a regime conscious of its moral responsibility.
Freedom and honour! For ten long years Hitler and his coadjutor have manhandled, squeezed, twisted, and debased these two splendid German words to the point of nausea, as only dilettantes can, casting the highest values of a nation before swine. They have sufficiently demonstrated in the ten years of destruction of all material and intellectual freedom, of all moral substance among the German people, what they understand by freedom and honour. The frightful bloodbath has opened the eyes of even the stupidest German – it is a slaughter which they arranged in the name of “freedom and honour of the German nation” throughout Europe, and which they daily start anew. The name of Germany is dishonoured for all time if German youth does not finally rise, take revenge, and atone, smash its tormentors, and set up a new Europe of the spirit. Students! The German people look to us. As in 1813 the people expected us to shake off the Napoleonic yoke, so in 1943 they look to us to break the National Socialist terror through the power of the spirit. Beresina and Stalingrad are burning in the East. The dead of Stalingrad implore us to take action. “Up, up, my people, let smoke and flame be our sign!”
Our people stand ready to rebel against the Nationals Socialist enslavement of Europe in a fervent new breakthrough of freedom and honour.
Wow. I didn’t know Hitler guillotined people. That was one brave woman.
That’s one of the things that gets me about this story. The goddamn holocaust deniers out there fail to consider how many of his own people Hitler murdered, including 16,500 by guillotine.
I watched Die Weisse Rose several years ago and bawled at the statement, “Die Sonne scheint noch.” Now every time I see the name “Sophie Scholl,” I get goosebumps. Whenever I’m feeling grumpy, I try remembering that simple, powerful statement from a woman whose courage continues to inspire.
Thank you for this.
I think I know how you feel. That story of Sophie deeply moved me as well.
I guess it will be of little surprise that I recently caught the film, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. It’s one of those movies that really stays with you.
Thank you very much for your comment. I wasn’t aware of the other movie. I’ll see if I can find it.