At the start of the year 1943, Sophie Scholl was a twenty-one-year-old student at the University of Munich. She had a vibrant social life, enjoyed her family, and was engaged to be married. However, the looming darkness of the Nazi era cast a very dark shadow on her life. Instead of cowering to her fears, she sought a way to resist. She joined a non-violent resistance movement called “The White Rose” founded by her brother, Hans and his friends. Members distributed anonymous leaflets to the German people informing them about the reality of the Nazi Regime and encouraged the German people to resist. Using a manual typewriter and copy machine, the members produced thousands of copies of leaflets and stuffed them into individually addressed envelopes. Carrying suitcases filled with these envelopes, members took trains alone to strategic cities. In the dark hours of night, they emptied the contents into mailboxes, hoping not to be caught. Then, they got back on a train and returned home.
As a result, thousands of Germans received these leaflets. Eventually catching the attention of the Nazis, their efforts became even more risky. However, this did not deter the efforts of the White Rose members.
On February 18, 1943, hoping to start a student protest, Sophie, and Hans, with a suitcase filled with leaflets, entered the University of Munich. They spread and scattered the leaflets throughout the gallery corridors. Instead of making a sure getaway, they threw the last pile of leaflets over a banister and then tried to escape as the students came out of class. They were caught and handed over to the Gestapo. In the four days of interrogations and imprisonment,
Sophie was given several chances to have her charges lessened, by denying her true involvement. She refused. She, Hans and Christoph Probst, another member, married with children, were tried on February 22, 1943, found guilty and beheaded literally hours after the trial.Sophie went to her death without “the flicker of an eyelash” according to her executioner. Later that year, a leaflet was smuggled out of Germany. Millions of copies were made and distributed by the allies by plane all over Germany.
About the Painting:
It seems to me that Sophie Scholl could have had a very nice life, had she remained silent in the shadow of the Nazi Regime. This painting captures Sophie, having thrown the leaflets over the banister in the university, she watches them flutter down like the petals of a white rose. Sophie was willing to step out of the darkness into the light of truth. Her hands are raised up....in surrender? No, she is raising them up in in victory. Her desire for truth and justice to prevail, and her love and concern for the future of her country overcame her fears. She was not "just a girl" as the Nazis seemed to think. She was a strong, courageous, free woman.
This painting was part of a travelling exhibition "Beauty instead of Ashes" in Germany, England and the US. There are 7 paintings in total. You can see this painting as well as the others here
It was unveiled in Berlin, Germany. See here .
To go back to the painting, click here