Ask any American who Anne Frank is and they will undoubtedly know. Ask any
American who Sophie Scholl is and you will undoubtedly get a blank stare. This unfortunate
disparity is why the book Sophie School and the White Rose by Annette Dumbach and Jud
Newborn is incredibly important. The example that Sophie and the members of The White Rose
set should be witnessed by everyone, everywhere.
The primary action of the story takes place from May 1942 to August 1943, the active
years of the White Rose, though the story is often illuminated with the details of their formative
years. The Nazi Party at this time was at its most severe, and all forms of resistance within
Germany had been brutally stamped out. It was in this atmosphere that University of Munich
students Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans, along with several of their friends and one of their
professors, formed a secret Nazi resistance group. Fueled by anger and caffeine pills they
worked diligently for two years to distribute anti-Nazi leaflets throughout Germany. On
February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were arrested while distributing leaflets at the
University of Munich. They were taken into custody along with another member of The White
Rose, interrogated mercilessly, and on February 22 were found guilty and executed on the same
day. Throughout their interrogation, trial and executions, they showed composure and courage
beyond their years. Following their executions, the Nazis ferreted out and arrested nearly
everyone involved with The White Rose, including their families. In total, seven members of
The White Rose were executed, twelve in connection with the group were given harsh sentences,
and many of their family and friends were given punishments as well.
The book is fiercely faithful to their story and is meticulously supplemented with
photos, documents, maps, and dialog taken directly from existing letters and transcripts. Dr.
Jud Newborn is a veritable expert on the subject and Annette Dumbach has taken the copious
information provided by Dr. Newborn and presented the account in a literary manner, a la
Lauren Hillenbrand of Seabiscuit acclaim. However, it is a story that needs little embellishment
and is made more powerful with the knowledge that the proceedings are reproduced verbatim.
Each of the core members of The White Rose are fleshed out with passages about their
upbringing and how they came to be disillusioned with the National Socialist Party. Hans and
Sophie were former members of the Hitler Youth, Alex Schmorell was half Russian, Willie Graf
was devoutly Catholic. It seems inevitable that these people would stand for their principles
til the end, driven by a fever pitch devotion to their beliefs that is common to the young and
The Diary of Anne Frank is taught in schools all over America because it is a story that
should not be forgotten, and because the stalwart hope Anne displays in spite of the direness of
her situation is inspiring. While hers is a story of victimization and admirable optimism, Sophie’s
story is one of courage and sacrifice for what is right, qualities that are equally important to teach
to children. So rarely in schools are they taught to think for themselves. They are taught how to
function in the system and to jump through the hoops that will lead them to security and success,
which they are taught should be their primary goal. Logic, philosophy, and ethics are not taught
in schools, yet are vitally important for the development of responsible citizenship. What
happened in Germany in the first half of the 20th century had many causes, but it continued
because the majority of German citizens allowed themselves to be brainwashed by charisma,
and kept their heads in the sand when the brutality of the regime came bubbling to the surface.
Sophie and The White Rose worshipped Gothe and Mann. They quoted Lao-Tsu in their leaflets.
They were strongly influenced by their parents and teachers, who instilled in them individualism
and a sense of duty to their principles, so that when no one was willing to speak out, they felt
it imperative to do so. This book should be taught in schools as an example of the pinnacle of
human spirit.