(21 May 1921 - 22 February 1943)
Of all the members of the White Rose, Sophie Scholl is by far the person who is most identified with the White Rose, and about whom the most has been written. Some of this is due to the fact that she and her brother Hans were both involved, that they were the ones that were caught, and also that they were executed in such a swift manner. Part of this also has to do with the fact that Sophie was female, and that she was only twenty-one years old when she was executed.
Sophie Scholl was the fourth child, and third daughter, born to Robert and Magderena Scholl. She was born in a little town named Forchtenberg, where her father was the mayor. In many ways, even though she was not the youngest, because she was the youngest (surviving) girl, Sophie was treated as the baby of the family.
As the Scholl children were growing up, times were tough, but the Scholls had it better than most. Robert Scholl was employed, and he earned enough money that they didn't starve. Although they still had to be extremely careful when spending money, there was still enough to take care of the children (including one godchild) and, during some of this time, alse employ to hire some household help.
In 1929, however, the U.S. stock market crashed, causing a worldwide economic depression. In Forchtenberg, Robert Scholl was up for re-election - and he lost.
Luckily, Robert Scholl was the type of person who made things happen, and in a time of such hardship for all of Germany, he was able to find a job in Stuttgart. The family moved then, in 1930, to Ludwigsberg, which was half and hour away, but could be easily reached by train. However, during this time, Robert Scholl was hardly at home, since after work, he was taking courses in order to become a business and tax consultant. Although he wasn't particularly happy with this, he knew he had to take care of his family, and with the Nazis winning more elections in Germany, he probably knew his days as a politician were over if they came to power. In 1932, he found a job in Ulm, and so the family moved once again.
Even as a child, Sophie had a sense of doing what was right. For example, in those days, the children who were the best students got to sit in the front of the classroom. Sophie was very often at the front of the classroom, but there came to be a day when it was her sister Liesl's (Elisabeth's) birthday, and the teacher made Liesl give up her seat up front. Sophie thought this was unfair, and even though she was only about seven years old, and this was about her older sister, she went up to the teacher to try to convince him that Liesl should at least be able to stay up front on her birthday. The teacher didn't change his mind, but it was an episode that he remembered and told her parents about at the next set of conferences.
Although she already had this idea of what was right, she, like her siblings, was impressed by the Nazis for a time. They could even reconcile themselves to some of the more gruesome programs of the Nazis, such as the forced sterilization of people and children with disabilities. She became an active member in the Bund Deutsche Mädel (BDM), eventually moving up in the ranks. However, after Hans came back from the Nürnberg rallies quite disillusioned with what he saw there, the seeds of doubt also began to be planted in Sophie's mind. She was truly dedicated to her BDM troop, but after her brothers were arrested, many people, among them girls in her troop, did not want to be associated with her. Awhile later, Sophie and one of her friends, who was also a BDM troop leader, wanted to see how much freedom the Nazi party would allow, instead of the collar insignia that the girls were supposed to wear, they had the girls in their troops use a different one. For this 'insubordination', Sophie was kicked out of the BDM.
As Sophie's faith in the Nazis faded, she became more aware of a need for a faith in God to provide hope during these dark days of German history. Her father was pretty sceptical of anything religious, but her mother was a devout Lutheran, and had tried to instill these values into her children. However, for a long time, with their enthusiasm for the Nazis, it seemed like a lost cause, and when the time came for Werner and Sophie to be confirmed, they insisted that they do so in their Nazi youth organisation uniforms. However, as Sophie and her siblings became more disillusioned with the Nazi regime, their Christian faith became more important to them. Sophie, in particular, felt that the Protestant churches had been too complicit with the Nazis, and became very interested in Roman Catholicism, spending much time reading St. Augustine among others. All of the Scholl siblings were greatly impressed by the courage of Bishop Clemens Graf von Galen, who denounced the Nazi "Aktion T4" program, in which people, particularly children, with physical or mental handicaps were systematically murdered. Copies of his sermons were typed out by people and anonomously sent all over the country. This, undoubtedly, became one of the inspirations for the actions of the White Rose.
Sophie, unlike her sisters before her, strove to finish her Abitur, a test which only the best high-school students take, and which is necessary to continue on to University. Especially with the economy as bad as it was, it was unusual for parents to be willing to pay to educate a girl this far. Even though by 1942, the enrollment at German Universities were nearly half women, the Nazi government also considered this a waste, considering the rightful place of women was to be at home, taking care of the house and bringing up many children.
However, Sophie's dream of attending University would not be an easy one to attain. A six-month stint of work for the government was required of everyone. Sophie attempted to get out of this by serving as a kindergarten teacher as her older sister Liesl had done, but after going through the training to do this, she was told serving as a kindergarten teacher would no longer count, and she'd have to do the regular service anyway. Sophie was sent to the town of Krachenweis. Her lodging was in one of the buildings that belonged to the castle there, where the rooms, which were unheated, even in winter, were set up for anywhere from four to ten women to bunk. Unfortunately, Sophie was a assigned to one of the rooms which ten women shared. Every minute of the day was planned for them, whether it be work or "free time", starting at six in the morning, and leaving for visits home or getting visitors was rarely allowed. Furthermore, even keeping one's own clothes was not allowed, becoming communal clothing, and the women were not even allowed out to go to church whether it be on Sundays or holidays such as Easter.
Luckily, after a couple of months, although Sophie still was housed in the same place, her place of work was changed so that she could actually have a tiny measure of freedom in coming and going. However, after serving more than half of this six-month term, the policy on the length of service was again changed, and now she was required to work an entire year. However, Sophie was assigned to help a nearby farm family with housework and childcare, which made this forced service a little more bearable.
Finally, in May of 1942, Sophie was able to join her brother Hans studying at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich. She started her course of study majoring in biology and philosophy. She quickly became a part of her brother's circle of friends, and was happy to have friends around who had similar perspectives to herself and Hans. At LMU, she received one of the leaflets of the White Rose, and after reading this, she and Traute Lafrenz, who at that time was Hans' girlfriend, strongly suspected that Hans had something to do with this. Although he was not immediately forthcoming that he had done this, he eventually confessed to them his participation in this, and they pledged to help as well.
After one semester at LMU, Sophie again had to work for the government, this time at a munitions factory where there were also female Russian prisoners. Sophie believed that the best thing that she could do during this time was to work as slowly and ineffectively as possible and in such a way so that the supervisors would believe that she was barely capable of doing such work.
Once this term of service was over, Sophie resumed her studies, and was reunited with Hans and the others who had spent three months as medics in Russia as well as her other friends. As a "full-fledged" member of the White Rose, she now helped procure paper and stamps (as a woman, she was much more inconspicuous doing so) and trying to keep track of the funds which they had to put toward their activities.
On 18 February 1943, Sophie and Hans came to LMU not for classes, but to distribute leaflets encouraging resistance to the students at the university in the wake of the "uprising" which had occurred when the Gauleiter had been to there just previously. Sophie and Hans were arrested, and brought to the Gestapo. At first, it seemed like they would be able to talk their way out of it, but as their apartment was searched, the Gestapo found too much incriminating evidence.
Once it became apparent that the evidence against Hans and Sophie had been found, Sophie confessed to Robert Mohr, the interrogator, that the entire idea of the White Rose had been her idea. Mohr tried to give Sophie a way out, if she would admit to the "error" of her ways and claim that she only participated in these actions because of her brother. She absolutely rejected this, telling Mohr that she was proud of what she had done, that he, not she, had the wrong perspective on the world, and that given the chance, she would do everything all over again.
During the time that Sophie was incarcerated, she spent time sharing a cell with a woman named Else Gebel, who was also a political prisoner. Ms. Gebel also became useful to her captors in that she had secretarial skills, and so she often worked for them in that capacity. During the short time that she knew Sophie, she was extremely impressed with her, and Sophie made her promise that after the war she would find her parents and tell them about the last few days of her life. Else Gebel did this, and her account of the final days of Sophie Scholl has now been made into two films.
At her trial, Sophie still was not intimidated, and correctly foretold that while it may be their heads today, it would not be long before the heads of those conducting these show trials would be sought.