Goethe, Bismark, Luther, Einstein. These names will appear on your screen within a tenth of a second when you type in “German national heroes” in the google search bar. What big names! Goethe – probably the most influential european poet defining the 19th century’s literary movements, scientific theories, philosophy currents; Bismark – the first prime minister of the 2nd German Reich, defining Germany’s domestic politics and establishing the welfare state; Martin Luther – the founder of Protestantism and finally Albert Einstein – the world’s most famous scientist.
These men perfectly fit the cliché national hero: “strong, intellectual, idealistic men” whose life and legacy shaped their home country. I want to write about a completely different national hero. She doesn’t appear in every history book or travel guide about Germany, she didn’t live a long and eventful life, and didn’t fight for her ideals from the day she was born. To me, however, she is just as important for Germany as all of the names I just mentioned.
Sophie Scholl was a young girl from Munich, who grew up during the rise of the Nazi Regime. She was born on the 9th of May 1921, in a small village called Forchtenberg, and was raised in a traditional christian household. Just like every other german girl, she had to join the “Hitler Jugend” or “Bund Deutscher Jungmädel” as a teen and salute Führer with great enthusiasm. After she graduated from High School, she decided to become a pre-school teacher – one of a few professions that were suitable for women at the time.
Looking for an intellectual challenge she soon left her position and joined her brother Hans to study Philosophy and Biology at the University of Munich.
There she started to study, reflect on, and discuss the political situation in Germany. Along with other students and professors, she founded a peaceful protest group called the White Rose.
On small pamphlets, they urged the population to resist Hitler’s Fascist regime that was becoming more brutal and oppressive every day. In their texts they also denounced the persecution of Jews and non-Germans.
As the pamphlets circulate around a number of big German Cities, Gestapo officials (the Nazi police force) become aware of the group.
In February 1943, roughly a year after the group was founded, Hans and Sophie Scholl are arrested and sentenced to execution. In their trial they have a chance to save their lives and revoke all they have said about the nazi regime. Sophie stays strong: “I am, now as before, of the opinion that I did the best that I could do for my Nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences that result from my conduct.” Sophie died for her beliefs.
Though she was not the “typical” national hero, Sophie had much in common with Goethe, Luther and Einstein.
She had a strong mind that could withstand the propaganda and brainwash that were forced on so many others. Her intellectual bravery and idealism inspired many others and she became a role model for women and peaceful resistance fighters. “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 do.” Thank you for your bravery Sophie.
She was 21 when she died.
– by Pauline F.