[Marxism] Sophie Scholl and the White Rose

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Mar 5 13:13:08 MST 2006

Recreating the life and eventual execution of Sophie Scholl, her
brother and one other young activist who took a valiant stand in
opposition to Hitler's regime in 1943 was an admirable act and 
took a deep committment. 

The movie was quite disappointing. The director was present for the
performance I attended here in Los Angeles and he couldn't answer
what seemed to me the most important question: what was it in the
makeup of this 21-year woman which led her, ten years after Hitler's
rise to power in Germany, take such radical action which, she had
to have known, or thought, or assumed, or feared, would cause her
to receive the ultimate sanction? You get no sense of whatever her
opinions were, since they're not really discussed. One part which
I loved was the depiction of her parents, who supported her fully.

The most political resister in the movie was the Communist woman
who shared her cell, but even her character and opinions were not
developed in a detailed manner. So while the movie was certainly
well-intended and executed, it certainly left much to be desired
in character development. I haven't seen the earlier cinematic
recreations of the White Rose, unfortunately.


ELLA TAYLOR's comment in the L.A. Weekly
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, which also represents its country at this
year's Academy Awards, is no less than the third German feature to be made
about the doomed young leader of the White Rose, a Munich-based student
movement that sought to turn the tide against Hitler by spreading the word
about his craven abandonment of German troops in the disastrous battle of
Stalingrad. It's not hard to see why some of Germany's top filmmakers keep
hacking away at this sorry slice of their history (Michael Verhoeven and
Percy Adlon, who spent their childhoods under Nazi rule, made separate
movies about the White Rose, both released in 1982). Along with her brother
Hans and other activists, Scholl was caught leafleting on campus in 1943
and, after relentless interrogation and a farcical closed-door trial,
guillotined without benefit of the 99-day grace period prescribed by law.
Quite apart from its inherent dramatic potential, this rare instance of
resistance to the Third Reich both scratches at the lingering sore of
civilian culpability and provides an irresistible opportunity to rescue some
vestigial heroism from this benighted period.

Sophie Scholl is briefly bookended by high-octane dramatic sequences and
fleshed out first by intimate confidences between Sophie (The Edukators'
Julia Jentsch) and her communist cellmate, Else Gebel (Johanna Gastdorf),
then by a florid courtroom drama that may or may not exaggerate the degree
to which Nazi apparatchiks felt threatened by this tiny group of activists
whose end run against their gargantuan force was as quixotic as it was
admirable. But the heartbeat of the movie, which is directed with more
diligence than flair by Marc Rothemund from a script by Fred Breinersdorfer,
is a sober reconstruction of the cat-and-mouse exchanges between Sophie and
her interrogator, Robert Mohr (Alexander Held).

That is this careful film's strength, and also its weakness. Based on fresh
material from recovered interrogation and trial records, Sophie Scholl is
painstakingly faithful to the facts of the case, charting this devout young
Protestant's passage from protestations of innocence to her proud assumption
of responsibility under assault from an interrogator increasingly freaked
out by her steady dignity. The movie isn't dry - Jentsch is utterly
harrowing as Sophie, barely out of girlhood and struggling to maintain her
composure and her sense of self under unspeakable pressure. But the script
is so intellectualized that I couldn't help feeling I was witnessing not two
complex people locked in struggle, but the opposed souls (and classes) of
Germany: Sophie, emblem of the cultured, tolerant and enlightened humanism
of the middle classes duking it out with Mohr, resentful member of a
disenfranchised proletariat from whose ranks sprang Hitler's most loyal
quislings. We learn that ultimately Sophie is sustained by her liberal
upbringing and her Protestant faith, but while the filmmakers are at pains
to avoid portraying her as an ascetic Christian martyr - we see her
listening to jazz with a girlfriend and leaning into the weak sunlight
filtering through the bars of her prison cell - there is little sense of
what sets this seemingly ordinary girl apart and gives her her steely

This is a critical question, for if many films about the Third Reich (among
them the potent 2002 documentary Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary) ask which
among us would have held up under pressure to collaborate, few have asked
what kind of person would resist to the death. The truly amazing revelation
in Sophie Scholl is that her interrogator, himself the father of a soldier
fighting on the Eastern front, gave her an eleventh-hour out, a way to save
herself, though at the expense of her rigorous moral code. For myself, I'd
have liked to know more about what forces deep within this courageous young
woman made her say no. 

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