The story of Sophie Scholl is breath-taking and heart-breaking. In 1943, along with her older brother and four other students at the University of Munich, she was arrested while distributing copies of an anti-Hitler flyer at the University. They called themselves the “White Rose” movement. Sophie had worked as a teacher and a nurse. She had heard first-hand accounts of the euthanasia of handicapped children. Her brother and many of his university friends had served over the summer vacation as medical assistants at military hospitals on the eastern front in Russia. They had seen and heard accounts of some of the atrocities committed by German troops in the German-occupied territories in the east.
Sophie and her brother were interrogated by the Gestapo for several days, then tried and condemned to death by one of the notorious People’s Courts of the Nazi government. They were executed by guillotine the same day their sentences were handed down.
The movie depiction of Sophie and the other members of the White Rose group is based on meticulous research, and is able to re-create what was written and said by them based on documents discovered in Russian and East German archives after the collapse of Communism.
What emerges is a picture of an extraordinarily courageous young woman (she was just 21 when she was executed) who is also a Christian martyr. Sophie’s parents were Lutherans. Her mother expecially was a committed Christian. Sophie’s faith, her prayers in prison as she is awaiting interrogation and trial, are neither overlooked nor overemphasized. It is simply an essential part of who she was. When one of her interrogators argues with her that the handicapped and disabled were leading lives not worth living, she responds clearly and emphatically that, “All life is precious.”
The name that the Scholls chose for their group points to Luther as well. Luther’s symbol or crest, granted him by the Elector of Saxony was the white rose around a red heart, with a cross at the center.
When Sophie is allowed to make brief statements before her sentencing, she looks at the judge and calmly states, “Soon, you will stand where we now stand.” Later that day, at 5:00pm, she was executed.
The film is in German with English subtitles, but remarkably easy to follow. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to understand what life during World War II was like in Germany – both the good and the bad. You can order a DVD of the film directly from Greenleaf (the price is $29.99).
The film had a particular connection to me. When I was 20 years old, I spent a year in Germany as an exchange student. The dormitory I lived in was located on a street called Geschwister-Scholl-Strasse (Siblings Scholl Street).