Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sophie Scholl on film: fact or fiction?

In response to last Friday's feature on Sophie Scholl: The Final Days I received an email from Ruth Hanna Sachs of the Center for White Rose Studies taking serious issue with aspects of the movie. In particular, the way the film presents Sophie and Hans as the leaders of the White Rose, and takes it's cues from the version of events propogated by older sister Inge Scholl. As I wrote in reply to her email, putting history on screen is problematic. I've long realized that a movie is usually not the best place to get an unembossed history lesson. After reading Ms. Sachs' scene-by-scene critique of the Sophie Scholl script I still admire the film greatly, but I can see that it may not be as historically authentic as the filmmakers would have us believe. But that doesn't surprise me. Nor am I surprised when heroes turn out to be flawed, or heroic actions spring from less-than-pure motives.

Ms. Sachs graciously agreed to let me post her email. I've included a link to the Center's website below. Check it out.


I saw your blog about your enthusiasm for Marc Rothemund’s Sophie Scholl movie.

While I am always pleased to see that people have “found” the White Rose story, you should know that the Rothemund/Breinersdorfer portrayal of the heroic actions of those college students and the adults who learned from them is by no means accurate.

To begin with, neither of the Scholls was the “leader” of White Rose resistance. Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, and Traute Lafrenz provided the “moral backbone” of the group. Christl was acknowledged as such by everyone who knew him. Alex (not Hans) penned the wonderful words that set the White Rose apart from other resistance groups, namely the words decrying the murder of Jews and Poles. Willi Graf provided firsthand account of the war crimes he had seen while on the Russian front – without his eyewitness testimony, they likely wouldn’t have been as fired up as they were, since the rest of them did not see the war crimes for themselves. And Traute Lafrenz was the first person in the group to be involved with active resistance while she was in Hamburg, BEFORE she came to Munich. They did not stop talking and start working until Traute transferred to Munich and was introduced to the group by Alex Schmorell.

The Scholl-centric version of the story is extremely problematic, because it has been perpetuated by Inge Aicher-Scholl, oldest sister of Hans and Sophie. Inge told their story because during the war, she was a die-hard Nazi, Ringführerin of Jungmädel in Ulm, responsible for teaching anti-Semitic and Nazi racial ideology to all Jungmädel leaders. Inge never, ever recanted her Third Reich politics. She merely pretended they never happened. She recruited two other people who were Nazis during the war to assist her in spreading the White Rose story as she invented in: Franz Josef Müller and Jürgen Wittenstein. Wittenstein was even Nazi Party Member #7667868. Contrary to his writings, the students of the White Rose avoided him because he proudly wore the Nazi party pin in his lapel.

These three used Inge’s White Rose fiction to cover their Nazi pasts. It is instructive that Fritz and Elisabeth Hartnagel nee Scholl refused to join Inge’s “work” because it was fiction.

Our Center for White Rose Studies is dedicated to spreading the unbiased, true story of White Rose heroism, recording the wonderful deeds and acts of all 180 or so whom the Gestapo identified with the group. If you would like to know more, please check out our Web site at:

Note especially the detailed review of the Rothemund / Breinersdorfer movie at: == You will be interested to know that even Ulli Chaussy, who served as historical consultant on the movie, was more than a little annoyed by the liberties they took. Above all, with the character of Robert Mohr, whose hands were not at all clean. Mohr was a typical hard-nosed Gestapo agent who earned a substantial promotion because of his handling of the White Rose case. The image of him shaken and moved by Sophie Scholl was one he invented out of whole cloth post-war as part of his de-Nazification efforts – something Chaussy documented for Rothemund / Breinersdorfer, that they ignored.

I’ve also written two volumes of our White Rose history trilogy, and we’ve published all the primary source materials in English translation that we can to date, with more to come as intellectual property issues are cleared up.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about our work, or why we do what we do.

Best regards,
Ruth Hanna Sachs
Center for White Rose Studies
Lehi, Utah USA


Kimberly said...

Interesting...I know little about this but want to learn more. I was disappointed that I was unable to look into this more when I visited Munich...not enough time. (there's some related places to visit there.)

JON COV said...

Sorry, old blog ..I enjoyed this movie a great deal. Regarding the comments about the true history of the "Scholl Siblings", Whilst I commend Ruth Hanna Sachs on her determination and dedication in properly researching historical facts, I believe that there is a place for this when doing individual and detailed research in order to fully understand the mind-set of these individuals.
However, the fact that the Scholl siblings "were not perfect" I think is both obvious and irrelevant (they were human beings after all). The point of the whole Scholl story is that two young people who did not like what was going on around them and despite knowing the great risks, still decided to stand up to a ruthless and evil regime when others who should have done the same did not.

Obviously they were still very young and still trying to make sense of a world that was turned upside down in the most extreme ways possible, at the same time trying to find where they could fit into that world. They most certainly would make many mistakes but what counts is that in the end they did the right thing and they did it incredibly bravely.

Yes, Sophie and Hans may have broken during the interrogations and given away names but look what they were up against and consider how brutal and evil the Gestapo were. Ruth Hanna Sachs comes across more as a reporter trying to "dig up the dirt" and I wouldn't be at all surprised if she used to be one.
The story of Hans and Sophie Scholl has encouraged thousands to stay true to what they believe in, isn't that the whole point of life?

Stephen Ley said...

Jon, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. You make a great case for the Scholl's and the movie. I agree. For what it's worth I see that Ms. Sachs' website is no longer up.

Kevin Schappert said...

The transcripts used for movie were authentic and reveal much about Sophia--undeniably that she had read Newman and Augustine and others--and these crystallized her beliefs and argument, which is solid and consistent--when the personal rights of people are being tread upon even to the point of murder, the person with knowledge has a moral responsibility to protect the dignity of every human being--straight from Christian thinking--completely consistent with the Scholls' beliefs--again in the 4th leaflet the spiritual conflict cited--stems from mature Christian thought--the Scholls were the most mature Christians in the group--Sophia's arguments hold up under scrutiny and they're on record