Heroes come in all ages. The Scholl siblings were just college students when they took on the Third Reich and stood up to the Nazis with their powerful words.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi Connor.
Connor: You know, our listeners, a lot of them are younger and maybe some teenagers too. And you know, I think when you’re that age, you often don’t realize a difference that someone at that age can make in the world, even at a younger age. I don’t think there’s any age limit, at which someone, you know, you must be 18 before making an impact on other people’s lives. Like, there’s no law about that there’s nothing like that, right? And so today I wanted to talk with you and our listeners about a story, about a true story, about a group of young people who were led by this brother and sister duo who stood up to tyranny. no matter how, you know, frightening, it may have been. And I get very moved by this story because it’s so impactful, especially because of how young they were. And, you know, we haven’t really on this podcast gotten too deep into the history of World War II yet. And, but there’s an episode we’ll be doing soon. And, you know, most kids have at least heard about Adolf Hitler. And, you know, the whos committed, you know, in Nazi Germany during World War II. And, you know, anyone who dared to stand up to this regime, which is another word for, you know, government, typically like a bad government, anyone who stood up with silenced, literally sent to death camps or just outright executed. And, you know, imagine living under that type of government every single day, especially as a young person when that’s kind of all, you know, I think of it today. I mean, this is by no means as a comparison, but just as a point of reference, I think of my kids where, you know, we’ve gone on, let’s see, they’re, almost 12 and 10, and they’ve each gone on maybe four or five trips flying on a plane. And I was thinking the other day, they have never known what it’s been like to fly without the TSA, you know, without having to be patted down and searched through our bags and go, and, you just don’t know. And so I feel like, you know, growing up in that environment and World War II, especially in Germany, you know, the kids especially just that was how it was. And, that was kind of the world, you know, that you were used to. And I think it becomes much harder to speak out though when you know the result is going to be great hardship and, potentially the loss of your life. I mean, imagine like, well, well, I want to live, so I’m just gonna be quiet, go about my way, hope this past is quickly, just deal with it. And, of course, that’s what 99.99999% of people did. But there were exceptions, and we’re gonna talk about a couple of ’em, today. You know, most people just aren’t brave enough to risk all that. And, frankly, I don’t blame them.
Brittany: I wonder sometimes if I would be brave enough, you know, you like, you’d like to say, like, yeah, I, would be the one to stand up. But I think that’s what makes it and tell me if I’m saying they’re not names wrong always for it. Is it schul? It’s sholl? Isn’t it?
Connor: Yeah, I didn’t mention that. So we’re gonna be talking today about Sophie and Han’s Scholl.
Brittany: That’s right. And they’re the brother and sister dou, and they are just so amazing and courageous because again, like, I would like to believe that I would be the person, you know, standing up and saying, no, you know, this is wrong. But I am much older than they were. And, you know, this young brother and sister duo were in college, I believe it was at like, the height of the Nazi regime. So this is when things are really heating up. People are trying to realize how much their, you know, the country has changed, right? And a lot of people were horrified by what was going on in their country, but they were scared to speak out. And you know, they saw what happened when others tried to speak out. And I think that probably made them even more so want to just stay quiet. And we talked in other episodes about, you know, how American colonists used pamphlets to spread their ideas, which is one of my favorite parts about the founding of this country. But the Scholls kind of did their own, like a modern, more modern pamphlet. Obviously, it was the forties wasn’t modern, but, so they had this group they called the White Rose, and they kind of did the same thing they printed pamphlets and flyers, and they were listing all of like Hitler’s actions that were clearly terrible. And so his government was called The Third Reich, that’s what they called it. So they do a lot of speaking out against the Third Reich, and they had some other students join them. And, can you imagine like, having to admit what you were doing? I always kind of wondered about that. Like, how did they get people to join them without being like, all right, have fun with that? Like, right? So that’s crazy.
Connor: Well, what was the recruiting, speech like? Right?
Brittany: Yeah, that’s what I wanna know. So they used to go, like in the middle of the night, they would just walk the streets and put pamphlets in mailboxes. sometimes even like, you know how there’s pickpockets? They were like the opposite of a pickpocket. They’re, they like would stick flyers in people’s pockets without them noticing.
Connor: A push pocket.
Brittany: Yeah. Push pocket. So, I mean, this is some bravery that, whew, I don’t know if I could do it.
Connor: Bravery and, passion. you know, they were extremely passionate. They were raised by parents who, you know, were like-minded and wanted to stand up for the truth. And, you know, they believed Sophie and Hans that if they could teach the German people, their people about what the Nazis were doing, that they could help change the course of history. And, you know, male members of the white rose knew all too well what the Nazis were doing since men were forced into military service. They saw it, you know, firsthand. And they wanted to put a stop to it. And they called their pamphlets, you know, the white rose or sometimes the leaflets of resistance.
Brittany: I like that.
Connor: And, leaflet, you know, it’s like a pamphlet a leaflet. And, so one night, the boys in the group, spray painted the school’s wall with, you know, some graffiti with some anti-Hitler messages. Now, this was a huge risk, of course, right? Getting caught speaking out against Hitler. This was essentially a death sentence. But they did this anyways because they felt like they could not sit by and watch their country submit and, give in to evil. And, there’s this saying, Brittany, I know you’re familiar with yes, it’s this Latin saying, I’m gonna butcher it. Cause you know, I don’t speak Latin fluently, but it’s noli te dare ad malum sed contra illum audacter procede something like that. But
Brittany: Better than I could have done.
Connor: What it, means is do not give in to evil, but proceed boldly against it. I’m gonna say that again. Do not give into evil, but proceed boldly against it. And, that’s, I feel like that is what Sophie and Hans did. And, so in white paint on the side of this building, they wrote down with Hitler, mass murderer, Hitler, freedom, all exclamation points at the end down with Hitler, mass murderer, Hitler, freedom. And, so when the teachers and the students arrived the next day, as you can imagine, right? They see these words written all over campus. And you know, Sophie later remarks, she said, once we fight with our words, that’s how she saw their effort. That it was not a war of bombs and planes and guns and things like that. This was a war of words. A war of ideas. And I think that’s why this story is so impactful for me, is because it’s very relatable. It, we live in very different conditions Yes. And sinfully. So, you know, but we have a similar war of ideas. And if we don’t recognize that there is this war of ideas, that there are people out there who want to hurt your mind, they want to control you, they want to teach you bad ideas that allow them to have power over you. And if we don’t, like, like imagine if you’re in the middle of the battleground in World War II and you have no idea, you know, maybe you’re deaf and mute and blind, right? and you’re just walking into this battlefield, well, you’re gonna probably get shot and killed because you dunno, you’re in the middle of a battlefield. And I feel like it’s that way too with us today, where if you don’t know that you are in the middle of this, is a big word, and I’ll explain it, an ideological battlefield ideological, like, it’s like ideas, right? It’s, it just means a battle of ideas. If you don’t know that you’re in this battle over ideas, then you’re probably going to be a casualty of war. You’re probably gonna have, you know, you’re gonna be affected negatively by these people. They’re gonna be able to win over you cuz you don’t know that you need to put your shield up, right? That you need to defend yourself. And so that’s how I think about, when Sophie says, you know, we fight with our words, it very much for her was this battle that they were trying to win.
Brittany: You know, And I feel like you and I as writers, obviously, again, very different conditions, and they were, but you know, that’s kind of what I feel my weapon is as a writer. Like my weapon. That’s my words. But again, much different situation. I’m not comparing myself to Sophie at all. But one thing, so fun fact about my life, the last or one year in college, my last year before I dropped out, I studied Nazi propaganda because I wanted to know how did this, right? How they managed to basically take over an entire country. And we’ve talked about Edward Bernays before in an earlier episode. Yeah. And that all kind of ties together. But, so one reason I wanted to bring that up is these pamphlets were really shocking for a lot of Germans because there’s this misconception that like all the German people knew what Hitler was doing, that, you know, he, they knew about the Jewish people being sent away to these camps and the horrific things that were happening at these camps. But they didn’t, a lot of them didn’t know. They knew that the Jewish people were being sent somewhere. They didn’t necessarily know where. And it’s not like today where we have the internet and we have Twitter and we have a, you know, a camera in our pocket at all times. So Hitler was implementing something terrible called the final solution. He was kept trying to exterminate or kill pretty much every Jewish person, not just Jewish people, anybody who wasn’t, you know, quote-unquote pure-blood German. It reminds me of Harry Potter. What do they call them, I, can’t remember what they call them, but mud bloods are like the Jewish people, right? They’re the ones, yeah. They try to send away. So, I mean, I can’t even imagine fearing for my life because of an ethnicity I didn’t even choose to be, to be born something you can’t change. so that’s, so under mench was the word. They used to describe anyone that wasn’t like pure German. They were unfit for society. So people knew Hitler was not obviously quiet about what he was doing, but a lot of people did not know the extent, you know, they knew that their Jewish neighbors were being moved into ghettos is what they called these terrible, like cities, I guess, or little like areas of the streets, blocked off where they were living in horrific situations. And eventually the camps. So a lot of people didn’t know exactly what was happening until the white rose. you know, or the white rose is kind of what I call them. I don’t know if they called themselves the order, but I like it. It sounds dramatic. but Sophie said once what we wrote and said, is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did. So her brother Hans agreed, and he said, it’s high time that Christians made up their minds to do something. What are we going to show in the way of resistance when all this terror is over? We will be standing empty-handed. We will have no answer when we are asked, what did you do about it? And that just always just gets me. Because again, if we don’t know what’s gonna happen in the future, you know, what are you gonna say if you stood by and watched atrocities and terrible things happen? And another thing they did, which was kind of, you didn’t question the German military, right? They were supposed to be the elite. And they had one pamphlet that just flat out said, Hitler cannot win this war. He’s only going to prolong it. And that was pretty shocking.
Connor: Well, and I mean, yeah, that’s very bold to say directly when you know that, you know, these pamphlets are gonna find their way into the hands of the authorities, right? I mean, they’re gonna find out, what’s being written and what’s being said. And you know, at one point actually, the government was, was worried about this. They were tightly controlling propaganda, of course, and, prohibiting it. They didn’t want any of these opposite narratives getting out that would, you know, almost like this, they saw it at like as like this disease, this, this intellectual virus that it would be contagious, right? And we gotta shut this virus down before anyone else believes that or thinks that because, you know, we want them to think that we’re winning and we’re great. and so at one point, the Gestapo, which was the secret police, you know, they, they really were focusing on finding out who was responsible for distributing these pamphlets. They place spies all over the place trying to get information and figure out who is distributing these pamphlets. Cuz again, I mean, we’re in the middle of like, you know, COVID and have been for a while, and we must do everything we can to, you know, contact tracing and find out who’s spreading it. And, that’s how the Nazis kind of traded these pamphlets, like this intellectual virus, this virus of ideas that they were scared about and they wanted to shut down because they saw these pamphlets as a threat to their power. So, you know, one morning Hans and, Sophie, they brought, I think it was like 2000 pamphlets to their school, just this big stack of papers. And they’re placing them all over this, this university going up the stairs and dropping them in front of classrooms at the foot of the door, you know, and all the other students, they’re in class. So Hans and Sophie were thinking, well, we have less of a chance of, you know, being caught cuz everyone’s in the classroom right now. But as Sophie, she let this stack of pamphlets fly from the second story of the school, kind of pushed them off the edge, hope, you know, wind and air, kind of catch ’em and distribute them more widely all over the place while she was seen by a janitor. And so that led to both this brother and sister being arrested. They were caught, they were interrogated. And, you know, initially, they denied their role. Think of this as pleading not guilty, right? If you’re accused of a crime, it’s, usually the best practice to just say guilty. You make, you make the government try and prove their case and come up with evidence. So they initially denied their role in this, but then they realized that they weren’t gonna get out of this. And, they admitted to what they had done. And, so three members of the white rose were arrested. They refused to rat out any of their friends, you know, they knew that they had to sacrifice themselves in order to save others and expose the truth. And Sophie, she once wrote, how can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually for a righteous cause?
Brittany: All these quotes are just, I know. So like, I get goosebumps, but.
Connor: He was so young to say that too.
Brittany: Right? Ugh. Oh my goodness. So these of the students ended and three of the members of the white rose had to stand trial. And the Germans people’s court, which was basically a rigged game. You were not going to win in that court. And, this part always gets me in the movie, they show this, the siblings were clutching each other’s hands as they awaited the verdict. And both of them were condemned to death. And when Sophie was brought to the execution chamber, her last words were, God, you are my refuge into eternity. And moments later, Hans followed her, and with his last breath and breath, and this one really gets me, the last thing he said was, long live freedom.
Connor: Hmm. You know, as sad as the story is, I feel like at least their deaths were not in vain. In fact, one prison guard even said, they bore themselves with marvelous bravery. Wow. And, thanks to the Scholls and other members of this white rose group, many people were now informed of the truth. could have been and, would’ve been many more, of course, but they made an impact. They, spread this intellectual virus and, you know, perhaps others were inspired to spread the truth. We just don’t know what those stories are, if any. And I feel like, you know, we all like to believe that if something as horrible as the Holocaust happened in America, we would be like the Scholls, right? Sophie and Hans, we would stand up, you know, but standing up to a great evil, like the Nazis is not as easy as it might sound. And sometimes you may even lose your life. But because of their great sacrifice, you know, we can remember them today, the example of bravery they set for all of us. Such a powerful story, for the older kids, and the adults. There’s a great film, reenactment. And so parents you’ll want to maybe preview this first, deeply powerful, recreation of these events. It’s called, Sophie Scholl The Final Days. I believe, we’ll link to that on the show notes page, as well as some, other, resources, the Wikipedia page and others about Sophie sholl the White Rose Society. This is a story worth learning more about. Of course, you can do that in the Tuttle Twins Guide to Courageous Heroes where we feature this story. Bit more information that you guys can dig into there. So head to Tuttletwins.com/products if you want to go find those guidebooks and grab that if you haven’t yet already. Tuttletwins.com/podcast. If you’d like to check out the show notes page for today, learn a little bit more about this very impactful, very inspiring story. great conversation, Brittany. Until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.