WOMEN WHO INSPIRE ME: Sophie Scholl | Weaving Pages: WOMEN WHO INSPIRE ME: Sophie Scholl

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

WOMEN WHO INSPIRE ME: Sophie Scholl

Sophie scholl bust
Bust of Sophie Scholl, placed in Walhalla in 2003. Sculptor: Wolfgang Eckert” by RyanHulin is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The twelve long years that encompassed 1933 to 1945 mark one of the most oppressive and violative period of human rights, as the rise of National Socialism led to the deaths of approximately 11 million upon the twisted justification of manufacturing an elite race. Thus the story of Hitler’s attempted conception of an 1000 year reich is forever a chilling reminder of how we, as humans, can freely adopt a cycle of hate and obsession into our lives as Germany and the rest of the world failed to foresee the momentum such contempt would gain.
These were times which revealed the worst of humanity, where a pulsing stillness invaded the streets in solace with the suffocating fear of millions. Nonetheless, these were times when the best of humanity also flourished, bringing with it an inarguably potent strength that rooted itself in the fragile scraps of hope that were left; a promise that entire world was not yet poisoned.

That promise was found in Sophie Scholl, vital as it is to not only learn from the mistakes made in those twelve years, but also from the moving acts of courage that define what it means to be human more so than the wrongs committed. Born in 1921 to Magdalena Muller and Robert Scholl, a liberal politician and Nazi critic, Scholl grew up around libertarian views which meant that despite her initial enthusiasm, she soon saw past the illusion of new found abundance that had smothered Germany in the 1930s, particularly as society grew more restrictive and she found her freedoms to continually be controlled. By the time she reached university in 1942, Scholl was a firm opposer of the Nazi dictatorship and found the opportunity to express this through her older brother’s -Hans Scholl- newly founded White Rose Movement: an intimate, unofficial Anti-Nazi group who disagreed with the way the regime imposed upon the basic rights of the German people. Thus from 1942 to 1943, the group created six leaflets hoping to stir Germany into a much needed awakening of the need for revolution, their eloquent acts of defiance only ending when their spontaneous scattering of the 6th leaflet from the university’s atrium balcony led to a series of interrogations and trials that ended with the execution of Sophie, Hans and Christoph Probst on the 22nd February 1943.

Despite its painful ending, the story of The White Rose Movement and consequently, the story of Sophie Scholl, should not be seen as a tragedy, but rather a poignant portrayal of what it means to be young, to be curious, to question the world and not simply accept what you are told. Their acts are not a self righteous display of a defence of the weak, but an outcry against the infringement of basic human rights. They grow from a craving to speak the words they wish, to read what speaks to their souls, to write on a page whatever is in their mind, and predominantly from a strong empathy with every person’s desire to do so.

For someone so young, who had so much to live for, it would have been infuriatingly easy for Sophie to have succumbed to Nazi rule, yet with her actions, it is irrefutable that she has created a legacy for the young people who follow her. Undeterred by the fact she had barely made it past twenty, she took it upon herself to take a stand in the face of oppression, to fight for the freedoms of herself and others. Like her father had wished for her family, Scholl fought for everyone to be able to “live in uprightness and freedom of spirit, no matter how difficult that proves to be”, putting herself on the front lines of a war against the oppression of civil liberties; a war which threatens to wound us all but which many who are decades older than she ever got to be shy away from. Traudl Junge, Hitler’s last private secretary, admits exactly what Sophie Scholl symbolises:


I could see that she had been born the same year as I, and that she had been executed the same year I entered into Hitler’s service. And, at that moment, I really realised that it was no excuse that I had been so young.”


I believe that to be the essence of Scholl’s story; a tribute to our moral consciousness and basic humanity to be able to distinguish right from wrong, and a reminder that every one of us has the ability and the power to oppose the violation of our freedoms, with no excuse. To me, she demonstrates that no matter my age, my gender, my nationality or any other trait, I will always have the ability to find the strength to do what is right, and make a difference, because as Sophie’s last reported words declare:


How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”


It is these words that paint the clearest picture of the girl Sophie Scholl was: selfless, just and free. An ordinary girl- a student who liked art, working with children and reading the works of philosophers and writers alike. She was like any other girl in Munich, any other student in Germany or the rest of the world, but what set her apart was her choice to reject the defilement of her humanity. Hence she is symbolic of the fact that what defines me is not who I am born, but who I choose to be.

We live in a world where our nature means there is always a new oppressor, always someone willing to exploit others for their own means. More often than not, there are too many unwilling to confront them, to stop them from unleashing an onslaught of hate and prejudice onto a world that already witnesses too much. Still there are people like Sophie Scholl who are willing to uphold the unparalleled compassion of humanity, who remind us that we can use each day to fight the world’s injustices and we must overcome our fear of doing so. She poses such an agonizing question in her last words: if we don’t, who else will?

When you are young, you spend your entire life dreaming of what you will do one day or of what you will at achieve. There is an unquestioned sense of impossibility surrounding the thought of making a difference at this age, a seemingly impassable barrier that no matter how hard you try you can not overcome. Sophie Scholl is to me, a symbol that even in the world’s darkest times, there will always be good to be found, and whether I be sixteen or twenty one or sixty five; that good can be me.

Strikingly enough, I’m reluctant to allege that Sophie Scholl would have liked what I have written here; she did not set out to be a hero, an inspiration. That, was simply a by-product of the actions she knew in her heart she had to take.



rita xo

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