Anti-Nazi Activist: Sophie Scholl

She was executed for treason.

Sophie Scholl was a German college student and political activist who bravely fought the Nazi propaganda machine at the cost of her young life.

Sophie was born in 1921 to a Lutheran family. Her father Robert was the mayor of Forchtenerg am Kocher. As the Nazi party rose to power in the 1930’s, Robert Scholl became a fierce critic of the oppressive regime.

Exceptionally bright and curious, Sophie was an excellent student and a talented artist. High school was difficult for her, however, because the curriculum was increasingly poisoned with Nazi indoctrination.

After high school and a stint as a kindergarten teacher, Sophie attended the University of Munich with her brother Hans. In Munich, the siblings reveled in the sophistication of big-city life. They met artists and intellectuals, but nobody knew what to do about the darkness overtaking their country.

A devoted Christian, Sophie was an admirer of Cardinal Newman, who preached a “theology of conscience” which advocated resisting authority when necessary in service of a greater good.

Determined to do what she could to save her country from the evils of Nazism, Sophie formed a resistance group with Hans and a few other friends from university. They named their group the White Rose.

Sophie knew that Hitler’s most powerful weapon was the pro-Nazi propaganda that saturated the country. She decided to combat the newspapers’ hateful lies with truthful publications delivered directly to ordinary Germans.

The White Rose wrote and printed pamphlets denouncing the Nazi regime and warning Germans that Hitler was destroying their country. Despite the extreme danger, they handed out thousands of pamphlets in Munich, and later in other parts of Germany.

The pamphlets contained sharp warnings such as: “Hitler is leading the German people into the abyss. Are we to be forever a nation which is hated and rejected by all mankind?”

On February 18, 1943, Sophie and Hans were distributing their sixth leaflet when they were arrested by the Gestapo. Sophie was interrogated so cruelly that her leg was broken.

Brought before a judge, Sophie was not allowed a lawyer. Her sole defense consisted of the following statement:

“Somebody after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.”

Sophie, Hans and fellow White Rose activist Christoph Probst were found guilty of high treason on February 22, 1943. They were sentenced to death and executed that same day.

Witnesses later described Sophie’s remarkable serenity and courage walking to the guillotine. Her last words were: “Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

Hans’ last words were “Long live freedom.”

A copy of the White Rose’s sixth and final leaflet was smuggled out of Germany and given to Allied forces. In mid-1943, the Allies dropped millions of copies over Germany. They renamed it “Manifesto of the Students of Munich.”

Today, over 200 schools in Germany are named for the Scholls.

For standing bravely for truth and freedom against Hitler’s government, we honor Sophie Scholl and the other members of the White Rose as this week’s Thursday Heroes at Accidental Talmudist.

Meet other inspiring heroes!

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