The Haunting of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose
Posted by E on May 1, 2008
Back when I began to write some of the posts that would bring me the most attention, controversy and praise – posts on adoption, deaf culture, art, and growing up under communism – I never would have dreamed that a simple article that I wrote over the course of an hour would become my most popular post. My article on Sophie Scholl currently generates hundreds of hits every day. It never fails to amaze me how even now, decades after this young girl’s speedy trial and execution, that so many people from all over the world still enter her name in search engines.
I believe there is an innate magnetism around her story, an aura of “everyman” that pulls a spectator into her life. Vicariously, we hunger for the sort of stoic bravery and unabated faith that she had in her convictions.
The story of the White Rose is close to my heart, and it came long before the movies made her a coffee table name in North America. I have witnessed underground printing presses where people wielded the written word as weapon, and been witness to all the joy and horror of a world gone mad. I choose to keep those stories to myself, unwilling still to share all I have seen.
But there is something universal about this – a repetition of lives, a reincarnation of convinction that infuses the hearts of all who have ever been part of an underground political movement. This is why so many people search her out, this Sophie girl, and what she embodies: fearlessness in a regime of fear, faith in her own self in a world where personal identity is sacrificed to a collective state of mind-numbness.
The White Rose haunts all of us who have ever wanted to change the world. It is our hope that someday, the seeds of our actions will grow into the forests of a world where all can be free to speak their minds – politically incorrect or not – without fear and oppression.
Too often the Left has been sidetracked with the political agendas of many who would take away people’s rights to have their own ideas. Yet they will triumphantly wave the example of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose as a feather in the socialist cap. So do bland, neo-socialist liberal Arts Grants committees that espouse fairness and oneness for all, but withdraw funding of controversial projects, penalizing any work that breathes creativity and/or controversy.
But this is not what the White Rose symbolized! Sophie, her brother Hans Scholl, Alex Schmorell, Willi Graf, and Christoph Probst, along with their philosophy professor, Kurt Huber, all were executed for speaking their minds. These young people died because they published leaflets that commanded people to THINK! To break free of the mould of their oppressive national socialist regime.
To me, the White Rose will always be a harbinger of the freedom of ideas, of expression, of thought – whoever they belong to. Because ultimately, everyone deserves to have their own voice, as morally-repugnant as it may sound to some.
This is the fundamental truth: Ideas do not massacre people. Ideas on their own do not torch neighbourhoods, incite race-riots or instigate hate attacks. PEOPLE do that – people who have so much hate inside themselves that it bursts out into the world like an explosion. And these people come in all colours and all religions, and of all political affiliations.
Every race and religion is capable of violence. Curtailing ideas is only insulting the intelligence of the masses, which every doctrine considers no more intelligent than sheep. Despite what you hear through the mass media propaganda machine, the reality is that everybody can kill.
Blacks kill. Whites kill. Muslims kill people in western European neighbourhoods. Religious fundamentalists stone women to death if they dare show their ankles underneath their burkas. Christians torture and kill indigenous people in Latin Americas and the Middle East. Jews kill. Arabs kill. Communists kill. Fascists kill. Husbands kill wives. Mothers kill children.
But murder is carried out because of hatred, and hatred does not needs ideas to propagate itself. Ideas are merely used as an excuse. Ideas are the flimsy excuse behind which the true nature of hatred resides: fear, jealousy, desire for more than what the neighbour has. These are universal, primal urges. The active banning of ideas under the auspices of them being “politically-incorrect” serves only to deny the deeper roots of hatred and division.
This is the propaganda of the world we live in, a place where voices of dissent are moderated and quashed at every opportunity.
I am reminded of a saying by Voltaire that has enjoyed revived popularity: I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
To me, this is what the legacy of Sophie Scholl is all about. This is why I will always remember the actions of Hans Scholl, Alex Schmorell, Willi Graf, Christoph Probst and Professor Kurt Huber, and Sophie herself.
She is me. She is you. Sophie haunts us all. She is a part of all of us who carry inside ourselves the childish idealism of a future where all can live, breathe, and have the right to have our own thoughts without censorship.