[Marxism] Interview with Sophie Scholl director

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 9 18:45:49 MST 2006

MARCH 8, 2006

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
directed by Marc Rothemunde

Although it didn’t win gold at the Oscars for best foreign film, Sophie 
Scholl: The Final Days has already earned its place as one of the great 
anti-Nazi films.

Based on Nazi interrogation records and other documents, the film is about 
the martyred leader of The White Rose, an anti-Nazi student group that ran 
resistance in Munich during World War II. It shows how Sophie, a latter-day 
Joan of Arc, ultimately chooses to die rather than betray her ideals and 

Although the story has been told before, according to director Marc 
Rothemunde, Sophie’s compelling story is a revelation to most Americans.

“About 95 percent of American audiences are shocked—most of them think all 
Germans were Nazis and murderers. That’s one reason it was important to 
make the film,” says Rothemunde. “This is a true story based on such 
intense research that almost all the dialogue was actually said. All the 
action is true. It was challenging to treat this real history as a 
compelling drama, without losing accuracy.”

MERIN: When did Sophie’s story become known in Germany?

ROTHEMUNDE: During the ’60s. They began teaching it in schools.

M: Why did it take 20 years for the story to be introduced into the curriculum?

R: It took time for the German people to rebuild Germany. The country was 
totally destroyed. People were very poor. There was the Marshall Plan and 
the Cold War between East and West. It took one or two generations—20 to 30 
years—to rebuild Germany. In the ’60s, there was a wonderful economy. The 
past wasn’t considered so important. The first real movies about the Nazi 
years weren’t made until the ’80s, when The White Rose, the Oscar-winning 
Black Trumpet and some other films were made. This was the first generation 
of movies—of directors—to deal with Nazi history.

M: Sophie Scholl is one of several recent German films—The Downfall, The 
Ninth Day and Before the Fall, among others—that challenge our impressions 
of Germans’ behavior during the Nazi regime. Why are these films being made 
now? Is this a trend in German cinema?

R: In Germany, we make 100 movies per year. There have been five or six 
historical films like those you mention in the last three years. That’s not 
a trend. But fortunately those that are made get a lot of recognition in 
Germany and abroad.

In my generation of film directors, we’re curious about our history—we want 
to know what our grandparents experienced. Our grandparents don’t talk 
about it, so we’re exploring. We’ve reached a maturity and level of 
experience where people trust us, so we can get financing for our films. 
Now that Germany is rebuilt and reunified, we don’t focus so much about 
those issues. But those in our grandparents’ generation are the last 
eyewitnesses to the Nazi regime, and we must question them to find out what 
happened. It involves all of us.

And what involves all of us, too, is that there’re still Nazis, not only in 
Germany, but around the world. That’s terrible and, as long as there are 
Nazis, you have to try to open their eyes—and remind the others to keep an 
eye on them.

M: How does the film address social and political issues of today’s Germany?

R: For example, recently in Germany there was a Nazi demonstration against 
unemployment—they’re blaming Turkish workers for unemployment. But, 8,000 
young people who saw Sophie Scholl demonstrated against the Nazis.

M: Are there many Nazis in Germany?

R: In Berlin, it‘s 1.5 percent—that‘s about 40,000 people. Just in Berlin. 
Mostly they’re in the East, where Communism ruined the economy and poor 
people who lived under Communism are now very vulnerable to the influence 
of the other extremist system of the far right.

You have to keep what happened fresh in people‘s minds, so it won’t happen 
again. It‘s a responsibility—without feeling guilty—to know the past and be 
aware of Nazis nowadays.

Scholl’s message is civil courage: See what‘s happening; don‘t look away; 
say something; do something.

Civil courage isn’t always political action, not always a life or death 
matter. In classrooms, there’s one little fat boy who’s tortured. In 
workplaces, someone gets hurt and others look away.

Leaflets distributed by Sophie Scholl weren‘t very political. They call for 
passive resistance to Hitler. It’s a call for human rights. Audiences have 
been so touched by Sophie—especially Americans. They’ve said they hope 
American young people will see the film—not to learn about German history, 
but to see a character like Sophie who stands up.

Around the world, it’s mostly students who rise up against military 
dictatorships. In Korea, in South America—in Argentina, for example—it’s 
students who got tortured and killed. There are resistance fighters in all 
countries. Sometimes, they’re too few—like in Nazi Germany. German people 
were guilty. But saying all were guilty is too simple. You don’t learn 
anything that way.

M: What do you see as the essence of Nazism?

R: For me, it’s hate and blaming other people for what happens to you. 
Something bad happens, and you blame another group of people and hate and 
persecute them.

An essential question we should all ask is: Why does one baby—a perfectly 
normal baby—grow up to be a Sophie Scholl, and another grow up to be a Hitler?

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