Making Notes on Sophie

Reflections of the movie “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
(The Indonesian translation of this article was published in Pillar bulletin)

The best stories inspire us to see ourselves and the world differently, and live our lives differently. Sophie’s did. When the movie was over, I asked, will I sit back and live my life as I usually do? Can I do things differently? How? This was the struggle that I have to wage myself, to not again go under to creatures of mere comforts and easy philistine, apathetic to the world around.
They showed pictures of the real young Sophie at the end credits, there she was a girl with a finely modelled, rather sensitive face, thoughtful at times, or else laughing with sheer and guileless joy. Just another school girl, I thought. Right at the beginning, I too almost smiled at her, who was nonchalantly singing along to the radio, and then when she was expressing her pleasure in a letter to Lisa on Schubert’s Trout Quintet. I came eager to see a female political revolutionary. And the foretaste appeared rather an ordinary callow girl. I have no excuse being a young woman, I reminded myself.
Sophie’s choice was to convince with words. The White Rose fought with words. “We won’t be silent. We would be your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!” There was not a word written that was not clear and passionate, with an uncompromising tone of urgency in its pleading and scathing in its criticism of every-day Germans who did nothing to combat Hitler and the Third Reich. One could not measure how desperation and moral passion can be passed on by words and italics and exclamation marks. A friend remarked when I asked about the movie, ‘I just feel I have to write more’.
It is hard to stand up for a commendable cause when one risks one’s life on one’s own and in isolation. And to differ from one we love in the hour of affliction is perhaps the most supreme test for a woman’s heart and conscience. “He is loyal to his oath to Hitler.” Sophie said of Fritz Hartnagel, one who’s most dear to her. I think it just had to be crucial for Sophie that Fritz, above all people, should have been one in spirit with her on the essential moral issue of Nazi aggression. At this, considering my own life, I cannot imagine really, how can two live together with differing in their views on ideologies or politics, visions of life? What’s more if it is about faith and God? It is also audacious and demanding for one, to resist what everyone believed to be national good, and say in the midst of war, ‘I am against this. Our own country, Germany, must lose this war’. As much as one loves one’s own, one should love justice, above all. What is right, must take precedence over every other.

The interrogation with Mohr was something of a riveting dialogue. Sophie changed from one who listened and answered tactfully the questions fired, never batting an eyelash, to one who spoke to and confronted boldly one’s conscience. “What would happen if everyone separately decided what is right and wrong?” “No one regardless the circumstances can pass the divine judgment.” When accused she was ignorant of reality, Sophie defied, “It has everything to do with reality: With decency, with morals, and God.” It was self-evident to Mohr that his principles were the right thinking, realistic, patriotic stance, as he tried to impress upon Sophie the acknowledgement that Germany’s honor and everything in it was made possible by Hitler and his Nationalist Socialist movement. But Sophie was not wavered, “It is you, not I who hold the wrong world view.” It is the same with every life. One gets deluded, and sees the familiarity of this fallen world as reality, without really asking and looking for what reality is. Taking Christianity for granted as the only truth, this world and its philosophies and ideas often get too distressing and overpowering that one thinks one has to just carry along in order to survive at all. Sin is the enemy and the way of life is already set before us, but too rarely we search for this now, too often we deny, thinking that they are the most impossible standards to live up to, and submit to world and its ways instead.

On trial at the court, the maniacal rants of Judge Roland Freisler were insulting even to the most unperceptive viewer. On the surface it seemed brute power could deter and win, but spirit is more than charisma. Sophie’s and Hans’ speech tremble the hearts of everyone there, and it was a display of grace under fire. Death penalty was read but – “Today you may hang us, but you’ll be hanged tomorrow.” “You’ll soon be standing where we stand now.” “There is higher Justice” – these exclamations gave starkest relief. The world seems to be ruthlessly governed by the stronger over the weak, the more prosperous over the poor, people are under constant threat from other people. Sophie believed there’s victory of the stronger, but the stronger, more fervent in spirit. This victory may seem to have less ‘force’ in our limited temporary world here and now, but that does not make it any less worth striving after.

The interludes of Sophie praying to God were most deeply moving moments throughout the movie. Beneath her calm bravery lies inner struggle to gain personal sense of God and helplessness to depend on Him. “All I can do is to stammer to You. I beseech You, You are my salvation. Do not turn Your face away from me, dear God, my glorious Father.”

Sophie and the White Rose had worked day and night. The operation was done under continuous moment-by-moment fear of discovery. And it was with realization of the consequences, “after all an end in terror is preferable to terror without end.” Only the conviction that what they were trying to communicate to fellow Germans had to be said had sustained them. Only the conviction of future freedom enabled her to march courageously even to death, the conviction that her death was not a needless death. How else such a gifted, confident, life-revering young woman came to terms that she had to face death?

One has to live what one has known. I have known the truth, to see that there is really no freedom offered by this world. This world has no solution. Suffering of creation has to be endured, the battle is here and the fighting has to be done, and to be delivered into the glorious liberty as the children of God. I remembered Sophie’s mother said, “Remember, Sophie, Jesus.” They knew the truth that sets free. I think it was this that grounded Sophie’s firm last testimony, “The sun still shines.”


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