“The whole campus will ignite.”
Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch), a University of Munich student and her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) were members of the non-violent White Rose group opposed to Hitler and the ideals of Nazi Germany. The group mostly mimeographed flyers denouncing the actions of Hitler, and in 1943, the group mimeographed a stack of documents to be posted to various citizens. The decision is made, however, to circulate the leaflets at the university instead. It was a fatal mistake, and the members of White Rose paid for this with their lives.
The film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (Sophie Scholl: Der Letzten Tage) directed by Marc Rothemund wisely concentrates, as the title suggests, on the final phase of Scholl’s life. The leaflets are distributed, the Scholls are rapidly arrested, and then begins an interrogation procedure leading up to the speedy trial and execution.
Based on recently unearthed East German documents covering the transcripts of the interrogation and various eyewitness accounts, the film relates the grueling interrogation Sophie faced. We know how the story will end, and yet in spite of this, there are moments when one actually hopes that Sophie will walk free against the odds–against history.
But there is no happy ending here, and the film at times is excruciatingly painful to watch as elements of Sophie’s alibi are stripped away–layer upon layer. What remains, however, is the fact that Sophie, her brother and other members of the White Rose were correct when they asserted that Nazi Germany was doomed to fail, and indeed it’s this truth that seems to irk the interrogators, the prosecutors and the judge. In 1943, post Stalingrad, Nazi Germany was still wrapped in its cocoon of self-deception, and White Rose had the audacity to challenge that ideology. Similarly, however, and tragically, Sophie is also delusional when she imagines that the campus will rise up in rebellion at the news of her arrest. The film does an excellent job of illustrating exactly how deeply Nazi ideology was entrenched in society–it’s the university janitor who arrests the Scholls and hands them over to their captors. And it’s moments like these that stress the hopeless cause of the idealistic, young members of White Rose while showing the absolute inevitable cessation of their brave solitary voices. In German with English subtitles. From director Marc Rothemund.