Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sophie Scholl and the Struggle for Freedom

While we are on the subject of movies about political protest and the fundamental inalienable right of peoples to live in a free society, we might use this opportunity to plug a film we will take up in June, Sophie Scholl: Die Letzten Tage (The Final Days).

"In 1943, as Hitler continues to wage war across Europe, a group of college students mount an underground resistance movement in Munich. Dedicated expressly to the downfall of the monolithic Third Reich war machine, they call themselves the White Rose. One of its few female members, Sophie Scholl is captured during a dangerous mission to distribute pamphlets on campus with her brother Hans. Unwavering in her convictions and loyalty to the White Rose, her cross-examination by the Gestapo quickly escalates into a searing test of wills as Scholl delivers a passionate call to freedom and personal responsibility that is both haunting and timeless.۠"

Sophie was Protestant, but she was highly influenced by both Blessed John Henry Newman and his "theology of conscience," as well as Blessed Clemens August von Galen, the Catholic bishop of Münster who forcefully spoke out against Nazi policies. In fact, the White Rose was founded after Sophie and other members, including her brother Hans and Christoph Probst, both featured in the movie, read anti-Nazi sermons by the "Lion of Münster."

Movie reviewer Steven D. Greydanus describes how her faith shines in the film.

"Throughout her ordeal, Sophie’s guiding light — symbolized by the rays of the sun, often regarded by Sophie with upturned face — is her Christian faith, a cornerstone of her critique of Nazi ideology and atrocities, and a taproot of her moral strength. A devout Protestant, Sophie unapologetically invokes God and conscience under cross-examination as the basis for her actions, the source of human dignity and the necessary guiding light to put the German people on the path to recovery. In her private moments, when she allows herself to be vulnerable and afraid, Sophie opens her heart to God, pleading for help and strength. In an hour of extreme need she gladly prays with a prison chaplain, receiving his blessing in the name of the Holy Trinity."

The film is based on historical records and much of the dialogue is taken directly from long-hidden official transcripts of the case.


More about Cardinal Newman, Cardinal von Galen, and the White Rose, including documentary excerpts, is available in prior posts here and here.

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