Germany on Sunday commemorated the 100th birthday of Sophie Scholl, a young woman who became an icon for her role in the anti-fascist ‘White Rose’ resistance group.
Scholl and other group members were arrested in 1943 after scattering leaflets critical of Adolf Hitler’s regime and the war from a balcony at the University of Munich. She and her brother Hans were executed four days later after refusing to apologize.
White Rose may have been the only German resistance group that mentioned the mass murder of European Jewry.
The group’s story, including the Scholl siblings’ gradual awareness and then rejection of the horrors of National Socialist ideology and militarism, has become a staple of history lessons in German schools. It also has been regularly dramatized in films, plays and most recently an Instagram account.
On Sunday, dozens of young people in Munich took part in a theatrical live performance about Scholl’s life — held in the open air due to pandemic restrictions.
Recent attempts by anti-lockdown protesters to portray Sophie Scholl as an example of the need to resist government rules on mask-wearing and social distancing have been denounced by organizations representing Holocaust survivors, including the International Auschwitz Committee.
Josef Schuster, the head of the German Central Council of Jews, criticized the appropriation comparisons between anti-lockdown protesters and the victims of Nazi persecution as “repulsive and intolerable.”
The governor of Bavaria, Markus Soeder, paid homage to Scholl on Friday, noting that at 21 she had been willing to “sacrifice this life for freedom, for her stance, for her conscience.”
Seven members of the White Rose group, including Sophie, and her brother, Hans, 24, were guillotined after their clandestine activities were uncovered.
During her trial on February 22, 1943, Sophie told the famous “hanging” Judge Roland Freisler, “Somebody had to make a start. What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don’t dare say it out loud.”
“We have lost the war,” she added. “Everyone knows it. Why are you are so cowardly as to not recognize that?”
The brother and sister, along with fellow activist Christof Probst, were sentenced to death and executed the same day.
In 2000 readers of a German magazine for teenaged girls chose Scholl as the most important woman of the 20th century.
She was overwhelmingly chosen for the honor out of a selection of ten, according to the results of a questionnaire announced in the January 12, 2000, issue of Brigitte magazine, which comes out twice monthly and has about 1 million subscribers.
About 10,000 readers responded, with more than a quarter choosing Scholl.