6. Sophie Scholl: The Heroine Declared a Traitor for her Defiance of the Nazi Regime.
Sophie Scholl was a real-life heroine, a young woman who put her life on the line to speak up against the Nazi regime. However, to that regime, she was a traitor because of her bravery, and the bravery of the rest of her organization, The White Rose, threatened to shatter the stranglehold of fear the Nazis had over the German people.
Sophie was the daughter of Robert Scholl, the Mayor of Forchtenberg. Robert was critical of the Nazi regime, and Sophie grew up surrounded by people who were equally anti-Nazi. At the age of twelve, she was required to join the League of German Girls. However, her initial excitement turned to criticism when she experienced Nazi propaganda first-hand. In 1942, Sophie joined her brother Hans as a student at the University of Munich. It was there that the brother and sister and some of their like-minded friends formed The White Rose Organization, an anti-Nazi movement dedicated to peaceful resistance.
Many of the young men in the group had seen some military service before university and had seen first hand Nazi murders of Jewish people. The horror of this and the groups increasing awareness of the situation in Germany caused them to publish leaflets advocating the restoration of democracy and justice and urging the German people to refuse to comply with the Nazi regime. These leaflets were distributed secretly to cities across Germany. Unsurprisingly, their message began to attract the attention of the Gestapo. However, no one could pin down the origin of the group.
On February 18, 1943, Sophie took a suitcase of leaflets with her to university. She left stacks of them in corridors for other students to find. However, she found she had a few flyers remaining. So, instead of leaving them undistributed, Sophie took the leaflets to the top of the university building and scattered them onto the ground below. She was spotted and soon after arrested along with the rest of the group.
At her trial, Sophie remained unrepentant. “Somebody, after all, had to make a start.” She said, “What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just do not dare express themselves as we did.” Although many people secretly admired the stance of The White Rose, few dared to protest their execution. On February 22, 1943, Sophie, her brother and their friend Christoph Probst were found guilty. They were beheaded as traitors at 5 pm that same day.