Birthday: May 9, 1921
Died At Age: 21
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Sophia Magdalena Scholl
Born in: Forchtenberg
Famous as: Anti-Nazi Activist
father: Robert Scholl
mother: Magdalena Scholl
siblings: Elisabeth Hartnagel, Hans Scholl, Inge Scholl, Thilde Scholl, Werner Scholl
Died on: February 22, 1943
education: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Sophie Scholl was a German student and political activist. She was known for her protests against Germany’s Nazi Party. Born in Forchtenberg, Sophie was among the six children of a Nazi critic named Robert Scholl. She was an aspiring artist during her growing up years. When she was a teenager, the ‘Nazi Party’ was rising as a prominent party and was about to take over Germany. Sophie was brought up in a highly liberal household and when she met other anti-Nazi activists, she developed a keen interest in theology and philosophy. As she met more political activists, revolutionary artists, and philosophers, she started opposing the non-democratic ways of Hitler’s ‘Nazi Party.’ She became a part of the famous ‘White Rose Movement’ and started opposing the war that the Nazi party was dragging Germany into. She was caught distributing anti-Nazi leaflets at the ‘University of Munich’ along with her brother Hans. The siblings were then accused of high treason and were executed. Sophie was just 21 at the time of her death. She has been commemorated since the 1970s after her anti-Nazi works became popular among the western media.
Childhood & Early Life
Sophie Scholl was born as Sophia Magdalena Scholl on May 9, 1921, in Forchtenberg, Germany, to Robert Scholl and Magdalena Müller. Her father was the elected mayor of Forchtenberg.
Robert was an idealistic man with liberal values. He brought about positive changes to his town during his stint as the mayor. In 1930, he was replaced as the mayor of Forchtenberg, following which he moved to Ludwigsburg with his family. Two years later, the family settled in Ulm where Sophie spent her teenage years.
While attending secondary school in 1932, she became aware of the political situation in Germany. She was highly inspired by the ways of her family, friends, and teachers, who opposed Hitler’s views and the development of his party. She also chose her friends carefully so as to share the same political views. Moreover, her brothers and friends were captured by the regime in 1937 during the ‘German Youth Movement’ which left a strong impact on her.
As a teenager, Sophie also became highly interested in art and painting. She started studying the works of many revolutionary artists, who were expressing their views against Nazi Germany. During her late teenage years, she became interested in theology and philosophy.
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Dissent against the Nazis
In 1940, she noticed that her school had started promoting Hitler’s views. Sophie did not take long to realize that Hitler was having a major influence on Germany’s education system. She dropped out of school and started working at a Kindergarten in Ulm. She then joined the ‘National Labor Service’ for six months. The rigid military-like environment in the ‘National Labor Service’ made her rethink about the totalitarian regime of the entire country.
After serving ‘National Labor Service,’ she enrolled at the ‘University of Munich’ in 1942 to study biology and philosophy. Her older brother Hans was also pursuing his medical education from the same university and he introduced her to some of his friends.
She became part of her brother’s social group which consisted of artists, philosophers, thinkers, and theologizers. They were basically a young group of people who abhorred the Nazis. They went to concerts, movies, and even traveled together. They then became active in carrying out various anti-Nazi activities.
By 1942, Sophie had met with artists and philosophers, such as Carl Muth and Theodor Haecker who became her friends. They mostly held discussions on how a free person should act under a dictatorial regime. By then, her father was imprisoned for making an anti-Hitler remark in front of one of his employees. The constant violation of freedom of expression turned Sophie into a revolutionary, prompting her to participate in activities against the Nazis.
The White Rose Movement
‘University of Munich’ was the place where the ‘White Rose Movement’ was initiated in 1942 by some students and teachers. The movement did not propagate violence but instead organized a series of peaceful anti-war and anti-Nazi protests. The activists participating in the movement distributed leaflets and came up with graffiti on the walls of the university to encourage more people to take part in their movement.
Sophie was unaware of the movement until she found a leaflet on the ground, which prompted her to enquire about it. Sophie joined the movement immediately after figuring out that her brother Hans had written the leaflet.
Around the same time, she learned about the mass murder of Jews and other barbaric acts of violence organized by the Nazi army. She discussed the activities of the Nazi in detail through letters with her then-boyfriend Fritz Hartnagel. These letters, which were filled with hatred towards the regime, would later become evidence to accuse Sophie of being an anti-national. Sophie also played a prominent role in getting more pamphlets printed and distributing them around the university campus.
Her brother Hans was a key member in the ‘White Rose Movement.’ However, he had kept Sophie away from the movement for her own safety. But Sophie argued that having a woman in the group will be beneficial for the movement as a woman had much lower chance of being arrested by the regime.
The pamphlets, which were distributed in the streets of Germany, called for peaceful protests against the Nazi forces. They used philosophical and intellectual arguments to establish their point. From writing and distributing the pamphlets to managing finances, Sophie was actively involved in almost every aspect of the group’s activities.
Death & Legacy
On February 18, 1943, all the members of ‘White Rose Movement’ were arrested. No testimony was allowed for the defendants and they were not given an opportunity to defend themselves. They were sentenced to death on February 22, 1943.
They were beheaded at the ‘Stadelheim Prison’ just a few hours after their sentence was announced. During her final few minutes, Sophie Scholl stood tall and said that her death would be of no use if it did not awaken thousands of people.
‘The Allied Forces’ used the sixth ‘White Rose’ leaflet to gather moral strength for their war against the Nazis. ‘The White Rose Movement’ came to be known as a political and social movement of bravery as it was held in a country where dissent meant death.
Sophie Scholl was showered with honors after her demise. ‘The Scholl Siblings Institute’ was set up at the ‘Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich’ to pay respect to Sophie and her brother Hans. Many local schools, parks, and streets have also been named after Sophie and Hans.
In 2003, a competition was held by television broadcaster ‘ZDF’ to find out who the young Germans thought was the most important German of all time. Sophie and Hans were voted as the fourth entries on the list.