Exhausted from calling your representatives? Looking for new activist role models? Look no further than Hans and Sophie Scholl, the German teenagers who went from being part of Hitler Youth to leading a resistance movement—and paying with their heads. Literally: Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans were beheaded in 1943, when they were just 21 and 24 years old.
Dissent ran in the Scholl family—their father Robert was sent to prison in 1942 for calling Hitler “God’s scourge on mankind.” Though Sophie, Hans, and their siblings initially joined nationalist youth organizations, in 1942, the brother, sister, and other students at the University of Munich formed the White Rose, a nonviolent resistance group.
The language of the first pamphlet they distributed feels timeless: “Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct.” But White Rose’s critiques weren’t just broadly anti-authoritarian: they also openly denounced the murder of German Jews. They left these tracts everywhere they could, even tucking them into public telephone books.
Their own sister Inge helped spread the siblings’ legacy, including through writing a book about them. A 2005 movie, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days tells their story, too, ensuring that the Scholl siblings remain a model for activists around the world of how to stand firm against injustice.
June 19, 2017