You’ve probably heard of Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of over 1000 Jews during World War II. Maybe you’ve also heard of Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty, who famously smuggled escaped POWs and members of the Italian Resistance through the Vatican, right under the noses of the Nazi authorities.
Have you ever heard of the White Rose?
This non-violent resistance group was organized by students from the University of Munich, who sought to aid the larger German Resistance movement by distributing anonymous leaflets of anti-Nazi literature. The group’s adamant rejection of Nazi ideology stemmed from the firm belief of each of its members in the dignity of every human person.
Among the leaders of the White Rose were 21-year-old Sophie Scholl, her older brother Hans Scholl (both devout Lutherans), and their friend Christoph Probst (a Catholic father of three). These three youths were eventually arrested by the Gestapo, put on trial before the Nazi-sympathizing People’s Court, and condemned to death for treason. Today is the anniversary of their execution.
The story of the White Rose, and of Sophie in particular, has impacted me in a deep and lasting way that I did not quite expect. Though I suppose she’s not technically a martyr (and not a canonized saint), she reminds me a great deal of St. Joan of Arc. I think of them both when I feel afraid, and think: If those girls could bravely face the stake and the guillotine, I can certainly be brave now!
If you’d like to find out more about Sophie and her extraordinary witness, I highly recommend the film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. It is simple, eloquent and gut-wrenching (without being gory) – absolutely a must-see.
The film is in German with English subtitles. It is available on Netflix and for viewing online from Amazon Video On Demand ($2.99 for a 7-day rental).