SEPT / OCT 2012: BY VERONICA LEIGH
In 2005, a movie titled Sophie Scholl: Die letzten Tage (Sophie Scholl: The Final Days) directed by Marc Rothemund debuted in theaters, detailing the last six days of Sophie Scholl’s life. Starring is Julia Jentsch as Sophie, Fabian Hinrichs as Hans Scholl, and Alexander Held as Robert Mohr.
For those unfamiliar with the movie, the White Rose, or Sophie, this is not the first cinematic attempt at relaying the story. In 1982 two films dealt with the subject, called Die Wiesse Rose (The White Rose) and Fuenf letzte Tage (Five Last Days), but the productions were characteristic of its time and the information of the courageous anti-Nazi group were restricted. By 2005, however, the transcripts of the interrogations had been released and light had been shed on the final days of the White Rose.
The movie opens in WWII in Nazi Germany, with university student, Sophie Scholl and a friend singing along to a Billie Holiday song. Not long after, Sophie leaves the apartment. Unbeknownst to most of her friends and family, she and her older brother Hans are participating in an underground movement against the Nazis. Hans decides to distribute the leaflets they produced at the University of Munich and Sophie volunteers to assist in the endeavor. Whilst distributing the leaflets, they are arrested and taken into Gestapo custody. Initially, they deny any involvement with these illegal papers until the Gestapo produces evidence of their guilt.
What follows is an intense psychological battle between Sophie and her interrogator, Robert Mohr. Despite pressure from all sides, she does not waver in political beliefs and remains steadfast to her faith in Christ. Knowing full well that her outcome will be bleak if she doesn’t renounce all that she stands for, Sophie chose to do what was right.
The majority of the film follows her final days accurately, relying on the interrogation transcripts, witness testimonies, letters and interviews with former White Rose members and those closely connected to the group. Not only is the movie a masterpiece in capturing the spirit of the group, what I find remarkable is that the director, an atheist, does not cover up the fact that Sophie was a professing Christian and handled her faith respectfully.
Sophie and her brother came from a unique family. Their mother, Magdalena, was a deaconess of the Lutheran church and a nurse during the First World War. Although ten years Robert Scholl’s senior, Magdalena was impressed with the pacifistic idealist. The two married and had six children. Before Nazis took power in Germany, Robert was the mayor of Forchtenberg; after, he and the family relocated to Ulm and he ran his own business consulting office. Though a Christian, he taught his children to be free thinkers and never to follow anyone blindly. For a time, the Scholl children did embrace National Socialism but due to their individualistic sensibilities, they began to question everything, and that saved them.
When the Second World War broke out, the Scholl family stood in opposition of it. Eventually, Hans and the youngest brother Werner were drafted into the army. Hans opted to enter into the medical corps, which would permit him to return periodically to the University of Munich to study medicine. Sophie had dreams of gaining a higher education and despite the governments’ postponement of that, in spring of 1942 she headed to Munich. It wasn’t long before she discovered Hans’ clandestine actions and writings and participated enthusiastically. After another stint on the eastern front, Hans and Sophie and their friends resumed their underground activities and on that fateful day in February of 1943, as they distributed their leaflets, they were arrested.
As in the film, Sophie and Hans denied any connection to the leaflets but quickly switched their position and took complete responsibility for it. On the fifth day the trial took place and three White Rose members were condemned to death. On her way to her execution, Sophie reminded her brother and friend, “The sun is still shining!”
And for Sophie Scholl, it still is. ■
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Veronica Leigh is an aspiring novelist, who lives in Indiana with her family and six furbabies. Her obsessions range from Jane Austen to the Holocaust to the TV show Once Upon a Time. She has published two short autobiographical pieces and hopes to see more in print. She also lurks on her blog.