In memoriam Hans and Sophie Scholl

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“Only in large-scale cooperation among the nations of Europe can the ground be prepared for reconstruction. (…) Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the protection of individual citizens from the arbitrary will of criminal regimes of violence-these will be the bases of the new Europe.”

These words are still surprisingly topical. They were written more than 70 years ago, in the middle of World War II, in early 1943; they were published in the fifth leaflet by the German Resistance Movement “White Rose”; their authors were Hans Scholl, Alexander Schmorell and Professor Kurt Huber.

The leaflets published by White Rose are among the best political manifestos that have ever been published in German. The passion, courage, boldness and even recklessness of which they speak have never ceased to impress. And they are a powerful testimony to the clear and resolute way in which the movement opposed the crimes committed by the Nazis.

Briefly the fifth leaflet was published, on 17 February 1943, Sophie Scholl wrote to her friend Lisa: “I’ve just been playing the Trout Quintet on the phonograph. Listening to the Andantino makes me want to be a trout myself. You can’t help rejoicing and laughing, just as you cannot be unmoved or sad at heart, when you see the springtime clouds in the sky and the budding branches sway, stirred by the wind, in the bright young sunlight. Oh, I so much look forward to the spring again. In that piece of Schubert’s, you can positively feel and smell the breezes and scents and hear the birds and the whole creation cry out for joy. And when the piano repeats the theme like cool, clear, sparkling water – oh, it’s sheer enchantment.”

One day after Sophie Scholl had written that letter, she and her brother were arrested. She was born on May 9, 1921. Later, her 29th birthday would mark the day of the Schuman Declaration. Only four days after her arrest, none other than Hitler’s henchman Freisler himself passed her death sentence in Munich’s Palace of Justice. The sentence was carried out in the late afternoon of the same day. 73 years ago to the day, on Monday, 22 February 1943, Sophie and Hans Scholl and their friend Christoph Probst were executed by guillotine.

In memoriam.

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