One of Sophie Scholl's first recorded acts of resistance came when she defended Heinrich Heine's poetry at an Association of German Girls (Bund Deutsche Maedel) meeting in 1938. Heinrich Heine is famously known for writing (in 1831) "those who burn books will soon burn people." Had Sophie Scholl read this quote? Did Sophie realize that the Nazi book burnings at universities throughout Germany in 1933 were violent acts against freedom of speech?
The Nazi party made BDM meetings mandatory. Only one year earlier, Sophie Scholl actively supported the girls' Hitler Youth. After the Gestapo searched the Scholl household, arrested and imprisoned her oldest brother, Hans, for "subversive acts against the state," Sophie finally gave into their father's arguments against the National Socialists.
Chapter Two: "It is not this or that, it is everything"
Ulm, November 1937 - February 1939
Tonight's meeting was dedicated to German literature. Scharlo, their leader, started to take suggestions from the room full of sixteen year old girls. Who was their favorite? Goethe! Schiller! Moerike! Novalis! Eichendorff! A stream of Romantic poets' names cascaded into the church's manse. Unable to resist the temptation, Sophie stood up and cleared her throat, reciting Heinrich Heine's poem from memory.
The poet's words suspended in the air and then evaporated like soap bubbles. The other girls grew still by the tenderness of the rhyme.
Scharlo ordered Sophie to sit down, screaming, "German girls don't read Jewish poets!"
The girls looked back at Sophie in bewilderment. Heine, Jewish? What was so Jewish about Heine? A wide smile blessed Sophie's face. Instead of sitting back down, she got up and left.
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"Alexandra Lehmann has substantial knowledge of the facts about Munich's student resistance group. More impactful, however, is how Alexandra's powerful narrative brings the facts to life. The story of how Sophie Scholl learned first hand about Nazi atrocities on both fronts from Officer Hartnagel provides not just a vital historical account, but an essential understanding of the German experience during World War, II." - Nicholas von Moltke
Helmuth James Graf von Moltke
Kreisauer Kreis, 7/44 Plot to Kill Hitler
Helmuth von Moltke (far right) was the Chief of Staff of the German Army during WWI and one of Hartnagel's teachers while Fritz was at the Potsdam Military Academy.