The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’
The honest men who just want to be left in peace.
Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves.
Those with no sides and no causes.
Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness.
Those who don’t like to make waves – or enemies.
Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature.
Those who live small, mate small, die small.
It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control.
If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you.
But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe.
Safe?! From what?
Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does.
I choose my own way to burn.
Sophia Magdalena Scholl (9 May 1921 – 22 February 1943) was a German student and anti-Nazi political activist, active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany.
She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich (LMU) with her brother, Hans.
As a result, she was executed by guillotine.
Since the 1970s, Scholl has been extensively commemorated for her anti-Nazi resistance work.
Between 1940 and 1941, Scholl‘s brother, Hans Scholl, a former member of the Hitler Youth, began questioning the principles and policies of the Nazi regime.
As a student at the University of Munich, Hans Scholl met two Roman Catholic men of letters who redirected his life, inspiring him to turn from studying medicine and pursue religion, philosophy, and the arts.
Gathering around him like-minded friends, Alexander Schmorell, Wil Graff, and Jurgen Wittenstein, they eventually adopted a strategy of passive resistance towards the Nazis by writing and publishing leaflets that called for democracy and social justice, calling themselves the White Rose.
In the summer of 1942, four leaflets were written and distributed throughout the school and central Germany.
Based upon letters between Scholl and her boyfriend, Fritz Hartnagel, she had given two volumes of Saint John Henry Newman’s sermons to Hartnagel when he was deployed to the eastern front in May 1942.
Scholl learned of the White Rose pamphlet when she found one at her university. Realizing her brother helped write the pamphlet, Scholl herself began to work on the White Rose.
She and the rest of the White Rose were arrested for distributing the sixth leaflet at the University of Munich on 18 February 1943.
The Scholls brought a suitcase full of leaflets to the university main building. They hurriedly dropped stacks of copies in the empty corridors for students to find when they left the lecture rooms.
Leaving before the lectures had ended, the Scholls noticed that there were some left-over copies in the suitcase and decided to distribute them.
Sophie flung the last remaining leaflets from the top floor down into the atrium. This spontaneous action was observed by the university maintenance man, Jakob Schmid.
Hans and Sophie Scholl were taken into Gestapo custody. A draft of a seventh pamphlet, written by Christoph Probst, was found in the possession of Hans Scholl at the time of his arrest by the Gestapo.
While Sophie Scholl got rid of incriminating evidence before being taken into custody, Hans did try to destroy the draft of the last leaflet by tearing it apart and trying to swallow it.
However, the Gestapo recovered enough of it and were able to match the handwriting with other writings from Probst, which they found when they searched Hans‘s apartment.
The main Gestapo interrogator was Robert Mohr, who initially thought Sophie was innocent. However, after Hans had confessed, Sophie assumed full responsibility in an attempt to protect other members of the White Rose.
In the People’s Court before Judge Roland Freisler on 21 February 1943, Scholl was recorded as saying these words:
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.
No testimony was allowed for the defendants; this was their only defense.
On 22 February 1943, Scholl, her brother, Hans, and their friend, Christoph Probst, were found guilty of treason and condemned to death.
They were all beheaded by guillotine by executioner Johann Reichhart in Munich’s Stadelheim Prison only a few hours later, at 17:00 hrs.
The execution was supervised by Walter Roemer, the enforcement chief of the Munich district court.
Prison officials, in later describing the scene, emphasized the courage with which she walked to her execution. Her last words were:
Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go… What does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?
After her death, a copy of the sixth leaflet was smuggled out of Germany through Scandinavia to the UK by German jurist Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, where it was used by the Allied Forces.
In mid-1943, they dropped over Germany millions of propaganda copies of the tract, now retitled The Manifesto of the Students of Munich.
Playwright Lillian Garrett-Groag said in Newsday on 22 February 1993, that
It is possibly the most spectacular moment of resistance that I can think of in the twentieth century … The fact that five little kids, in the mouth of the wolf, where it really counted, had the tremendous courage to do what they did, is spectacular to me. I know that the world is better for them having been there, but I do not know why.
In the same issue of Newsday, Holocaust historian Jud Newborn noted that
You cannot really measure the effect of this kind of resistance in whether or not X number of bridges were blown up or a regime fell … The White Rose really has a more symbolic value, but that’s a very important value.