becoming a self in history, becoming a self in my street
Sophie Scholl was a student at the University of Munich during the Second
World War. She was part of a small group called The White Rose whose aim it was to resist the Nazi tyranny by
passive means. On 22nd February 1943 Sophie, her brother Hans and their friend Christoph Probst were
executed by guillotine on charges of high treason. They were respectively 21, 25 and 24 years of age. Their
means of resistance had been to write letters and paint the walls with anti Nazi slogans in the hope that
people reading them would find the courage to resist the Nazis through even the smallest acts. The night
before she died Sophie told her cellmate a dream she had had. The cellmate, Else Gebel, wrote it down to
give to Sophie’s family. This is what she wrote.
On a beautiful sunny day you brought a
child in a long white dress to be baptised. The way to the church was up a steep mountain, but you carried the
child safely and firmly. Unexpectedly there opened up before you a crevasse in the glacier. You had just time
enough to lay the child safely on the other side before you plunged into the abyss. You interpreted your dream
this way. The child in the white dress is our idea; it will prevail in spite of all obstacles. We were permitted to
be pioneers, but we must die early for the sake of that idea.
Sophie had been
very influenced by her brother Hans who was a medical student. They were inspired by Christianity and by their
conviction that intellectuals have a responsibility to speak the truth regarding the state of the world. While
serving on the Russian front in the autumn of 1942 Hans wrote the following words in his diary, addressing the
failure of German intellectuals:
But it is the very negation of the intellect that you
serve in this desperate hour.
You do not see the despair. You are rich; you do not see the poor.
Your soul has dried up because you didn’t want to heed the call. You apply your intellect to the refinement of
the machine gun, but even in your young years you brushed aside the simplest, the primary questions: Why?
Before their execution Sophie and Hans were allowed to see their
parents. Christoph was not allowed to see his wife and three children, the youngest of whom had just been
born. The guards of the prison were so impressed by their calm self assurance that they allowed the three to be
together for a brief moment just before their execution. Before he died Christoph Probst said, ‘I didn’t know
dying could be so easy!’ He added: ‘in a few minutes we shall meet in eternity.’
The White Rose: Munich, 1942-1943 (Paperback) by Inge Scholl (Author), Dorothee Solle
(Introduction), Arthur R. Schultz (Translator), Wesleyan University Press; Revised edition (1983)