Right now, millions of patriotic Americans are apprehensive about the sea change in our federal government. Many regard with dismay the proposals to open borders, to include more indoctrination in our schools, for higher taxes, for continued closures and restrictions to fight the pandemic, and for more politically correct measures, to name a few. Many of us fear greater restrictions on our constitutional liberties, like free speech, religious freedom, and gun ownership.
We’re facing some tough times.
And those times mean that we have to be tough as well. The “summer soldiers and the sunshine patriots,” described long ago by Thomas Paine, will retreat into their homes, muttering complaints but otherwise unwilling to stand up and defend their principles. Others want to resist oppression and to celebrate liberty with joy, but are looking for the inspiration to do so.
Which brings us to “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.”
The White Rose
In this award-winning 2005 German film, directed by Marc Rothemund and written by Fred Breinersdorfer, Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch), her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs), and friend Christoph Probst (Florian Stetter) are members of the White Rose, a nonviolent group of students opposed to the Nazis.
When Sophie and Hans distribute anti-Hitler leaflets at their university, they are caught, and along with Christoph are arrested for treason. Throughout the rest of the film, we follow Sophie as she meets with a Nazi interrogator, faces trial in a kangaroo court, and is then summarily executed by the guillotine.
Based on a true story, this movie offers inspiration to all who value their natural rights, their liberty, and their religious faith. From it, we can learn the importance of protest against injustice, the courage needed to make that protest, and the faith that can sustain us in our quest for truth and justice.
“Woke,” meaning to become more socially and politically aware, is a popular word with the left these past couple of years.
But that definition is broad. In “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days,” woke readily applies to her resistance to the Nazis. Once a member of a Nazi girls’ organization, Sophie and the others now see and understand that they live in a country of lies and oppression.
Today, many Americans are similarly awakened, having opened their eyes to the fact that Big Tech and many of our political elites are corrupt. That act of awakening is the necessary first step in tackling this mess.
Law, Conscience, Morality
Shortly after Sophie’s arrest, her interrogator Robert Mohr (Alexander Held) points to a book and explains that it contains the laws of the Reich regarding treason. Later, when Sophie tells him that decency, morality, conscience, and God are her compass in life, Mohr reacts with scorn, denying the existence of any higher power.
When Mohr tells Sophie that her parents and perhaps even the schools have failed to educate her properly, she answers him in this way:
“Do you realize how shocked I felt that the Nazis used gas and poison to dispose of mentally ill children? My mother’s friends told us. Trucks came to pick up children at the mental hospital. The other children asked where they were going. ‘They’re going to heaven,’ said the nurses. So the children got on the truck singing.
“You think I wasn’t raised right, because I feel pity for them?”
To which Mohr responds: “These are unworthy lives.”
A few lines later, Sophie tells him, “Every life is precious.”
For decades, we have seen manmade law in conflict with natural law. Given the possibility that this conflict may grow even more intense, we must, like Sophie, hold to our principles and remember that, as Sophie’s father says in the movie, “There is a higher justice!”
The Evils of Bureaucracy
From the moment of her arrest, Sophie finds herself caught up in a machine run by petty officials. The man with the Adolph Hitler copycat haircut, who marches Sophie from room to room, is the worst of this lot: a fanatic delighted that the state has arrested students who dared to write and issue literature denouncing the regime.
Other bureaucrats may show a more human face—the stenographer who gives Sophie a fleeting glance of pity, the female guard who slips her a cigarette and allows her to say goodbye to her brother and Christoph, and even Mohr, who attempts to convince Sophie to save herself by betraying her friends. If accused of abetting evil, however, all of these people would likely reply, “I was just doing my job.”
Here, the film should raise questions among its viewers. Can we ourselves risk speaking truth to power? Are we willing to be canceled on social media, be shunned by family and friends, or even lose our jobs for standing up for what we believe? As many know by now, some through firsthand experience, the powers that be no longer need concentration camps to erase their opponents from public dialogue. They simply “cancel” them, removing unwanted voices from the public forum.
These are tough questions with no real easy answers.
Education as Indoctrination
At one point, Mohr faults the education system as having failed to teach Sophie that “a new age” has dawned. When he asks why as a teenager she had joined a Nazi girls’ organization, she says: “I heard that Hitler would lead our country to greatness and prosperity and ensure everyone had work and food and was free and happy.”
For a century, tyrants have made these same promises in Russia, China, Cuba, and dozens of other countries around the world. And power-hungry politicians are now making them in the United States of America.
We must teach our young people the truth.
Several times during the movie, Sophie subtly reminds viewers of her love and appreciation for the beautiful. At one point, writing a letter to a friend, she remarks of Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet: “In Schubert’s piece, you can feel and smell the breezes, hear the birds crying out for joy. The piano repeats the motif like cold, sparkling water.”
Later, when her female cellmate asks about her fiancé, Sophie describes a vacation with him on the shores of the North Sea: “Take a fishing boat out at dawn—just the sea, the sky, and our dreams.”
Throughout the movie, Sophie gathers strength and solace from the sun, turning her head to the sky when being marched from place to place or basking in the sunlight by the window in her cell.
As it does for Sophie, beauty can sustain us when we feel battered by horrible events.
Like her parents, Sophie is a devout Christian. A Lutheran pastor visits her before her execution and prays with her. Several times, Sophie offers her own prayers, seeking consolation in the presence of God.
At one point in her despair, she whispers these tender words: “Dear God, all I can do is stammer to you. I can do nothing but hold out my heart to you. You created us in your likeness. Our hearts are uneasy until they find peace in you. Amen.”
Time to Stand Up
In the coming months, we may face a storm of legislation the likes of which we’ve never seen. We’ll need to gather our strength and our wits, find comrades as did Sophie and Hans, and push back against those who would “reset” our country. We must love our country and our freedoms more fiercely than ever, and speak up when others try to take them away from us.
And we must always hold on to hope. As her executioners escort her through the door to the guillotine, Sophie turns to Hans and Christoph, and says, “The sun’s still shining.”
Let’s keep those words in mind this winter.
‘Sophie Scholl: The Final Days’ is available free of charge on YouTube.
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust On Their Wings,” and two works of non-fiction, “Learning As I Go” and “Movies Make The Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va. See JeffMinick.com to follow his blog.