On the 22nd of February 1943 a brave 21-year-old woman walked to a Nazi guillotine, displaying full conviction she “had done the best I could have done for my people”.
This is where her life ended. But how did it begin?
Today marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Sophie Scholl. On May 9th, 1921 her protestant liberal German parents had their fourth child, who grew interested in art and music.
Like all “eligible” German children she was forced to endure indoctrination from the “Hitler Youth” program. The Nazi system of hate was designed to stomp children into becoming obedient followers of a fascist regime of ruthless intolerance, and to rebel against their parents.
Sophie, as might be expected of such heavy propaganda, at first participated in regular programmed camaraderie and adventures. She became a squad leader of the Nazi Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls), where they were trained to sing songs like this one.
Läutet, daß blutig die Seile sich röten,
Rings lauter Brennen und Martern und Töten
(Ringing, until ropes run red with blood,
Ring louder with burning, torture and murder)
Then her loyalty and intelligence began to take effect. Major doubts arose: Why were her friends denied membership for being Jewish? Why were books mysteriously forbidden from any discussion with her own squad? Why were women being denied any future except “wife, mother, and homemaker”?
Her older brother Hans was arrested in 1936 when he crossed one of these invisible lines of secret police, accused of being in a forbidden youth movement (Deutsche Jungenschaft, Bündische Jugend — basically the Boy Scouts).
It was this arrest of her brother that turned Sophie as a 15 year old girl away from Nazism — she felt loyalty to her family and to human values more than the irrational hate programming.
Six years later in 1942 Sophie joined her brother Hans at Munich university, where he already had been active in a group called The White Rose that opposed German fascism.
Sophie then convinced her then fiancee — a 25-year-old law student and officer in the Nazi air force named Fritz Hartnagel — to also support this group.
On the 23rd January 1943, just a month before The White Rose was uncovered and Sophie would be executed, Hartnagel returned to Germany on the last military evacuation plane out of Stalingrad. Dutiful as a Nazi officer, yet supportive of Sophie in The White Rose, he survived the war and died in 2001 at age 84.
Today she is considered one of the most important Germans of all time.