My Copy: 9781851685363 (image from bn.com)
I’ve wanted to read this book for about a year, and when Beau of the Fifth Column mentioned Sophie as one of his heroes, I had a great incentive to go ahead and grab it off my shelf and start reading it.
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose is about Sophie, her brother Hans, and other university students, friends, and a professor or two who saw the direction Nazi Germany was heading and decided to speak out about it. Sophie came in maybe halfway through, so we’re traveling with her to her freshman year at university in Munich. These students acted as secretly as possible, knowing Gestapo informants could be anywhere (and often were), and it was unsafe to get family involved.
I think one of the big questions some might want to know is why Sophie always seems singled out as the face of the White Rose. It was because of the time period, and her utter conviction that someone needed to speak out against the regime and that the best of German character would go down the tubes and the whole people would be shamed if people didn’t speak up. She was a woman, and when discovered, so many assumed her brother led her astray, not realizing until much later that she boldly went into the movement, and just as boldly to the guillotine.
Part-biography, part history, part suspense story–it’s all worth a read. I love the authors’ presentation of the work, because it actually reads like a suspense novel. Anyone who has been to a Holocaust museum has probably seen a small snippet (at least) about the Scholls and the White Rose, but this book branches out to follow some of the other participants.
Funny enough, it doesn’t follow Sophie very much. In the beginning, certainly, when they’re introducing her, it seems to really make her stand out. As other participants of the movement come in, it felt like the authors made the choice to see what’s going on ALMOST through her eyes and her timeline of events, so she’s not a prominent figure again until her arrest. There is as much space dedicated to her family life and influences, as well as her brother’s friends and their experiences at the front. Sophie comes off as a quiet person, ever observing, and full of conviction that it’s time to do the right thing, even if they should be damned for it.
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose is definitely worth a read. It’s an incredible book, and I learned a lot more about what they tried to do and what their experiences were before and after the Gestapo found many of the participants. Some were arrested outright, some fled (or tried). What was so damaging about these young people was, other than not following the Nazi line, they tried to tell the public about the treatment of Jews long before the outside world found out. Many of the boys in the group had been to the front, saw the fighting, the dying, and the executions of Jews, and it steeled their resolve. Some of the political differences are interesting to read, too.
The group might not have lasted long, but it had a lasting effect, at least in universities and other small groups that had to hide even more fervently. It also has interesting insights as to university life during Nazi rule, and the professors who had to toe the line (or try their best to not come off as subversive as they taught their way) with the very party that scorned intellectualism and anything that depicted non-Nazi views as positive influences.
I shuddered a bit when I read about that. It had to have been hell to be a teacher during the Reich if you weren’t a believer or fellow traveler.
I think this is a story that needs to be known better. Most people have heard the names, but not all about the events. I agree with Beau of the Fifth Column when he calls her one of his heroes. She’s one of those people I would love to meet if I could borrow a time machine and visit someone. I’m just glad that after a few years of knowing a little snippet about this group of exceptional young people, I finally could read the book.
Worth it. So damned worth it to read, especially in harsh times of divisiveness, the struggle of youth to be heard is one that needs to be protected.
“We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!”
–The White Rose Society, Fourth leaflet
P.S. This was the video I saw that made me decide to read this right away instead of waiting a few more months: