Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sophie Scholl - The Final Days

On Monday, November 7, 2005, I went to my weekly session of the Filmmakers Symposium. Here we get to screen diverse films before they open and then speak to a guest associated with its production. I saw a film that I will not soon forget..."Sophie Scholl - Die Ietzten Tage (The Final Days)". There have already been two films about Sophie Scholl but neither had access to the lost documentation of her last five days alive.

Sophie Scholl (1921 – 1943) was a member of the White Rose resistance movement in Nazi Germany. She was convicted of treason and executed by guillotine.

At the age of twelve, she joined the Hitler Youth. Her initial enthusiasm gradually gave way to criticism. She was aware of the dissenting political views of her father, of friends, and also of some teachers. An avid reader, she developed a growing interest in philosophy and theology. This was her alternative world to National Socialism.

In 1942 she enrolled at the University of Munich as a student of biology and philosophy. Her brother Hans, who was studying medicine, introduced her to his friends. This group of friends were eventually known for their political affairs, were drawn together by their shared love of art, literature, philosophy and theology.

During the summer of 1942, Sophie had to do war service in a metallurgical plant in Ulm. At the same time, her father was serving time in prison for a critical remark about Hitler to an employee. Sophie had also participated in the production of the leaflets of the White Rose and their distribution. She was arrested on February 18, 1943, while distributing the sixth leaflet at the University of Munich. On February 22, 1943, Sophie, her brother Hans and their friend Christoph Probst were condemned to death and executed by guillotine in the convict prison Munich-Stadelheim only a few hours later. The execution was supervised by Dr. Walter Roemer who was the enforcement chief of the Munich district court at that time.

Prison officials emphasized the courage with which she walked to her execution. Just before he was executed Hans Scholl shouted out: "Long live freedom!"

The actress who portrayed Sophie Scholl, Julia Jentsch, has already won several international film awards for the role, as has the director and the film itself. It is the official German entry for Best Foreign Film for the Academy Awards.

After the film, we had a discussion with the director, Marc Rothemund, who described his search for the lost documents describing the Nazi interrogations. He discovered transcripts of the Gestapo interrogation of Sophie which were locked away for years in the GDR archives. He told us that he used the actual locations where the leaflets were distributed and the actual court house.

"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, honor, 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." - Sophie Scholl

Marc Rothemund said that Sophie Scholl was one of the greatest German heroes. She has 192 schools named after her. Sadly, though, not many people outside of Germany know who she was.

Maybe now they will...


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:30 AM

    Perhaps one of the reasons that history repeats itself is because generations do not have enough knowledge of those who came before them. I am a Canadian jew, and had never heard of the White Rose movement or Sophie Scholl. I don't even know how I came across your website. Thanks for the further links on both subjects.