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Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005)
On February 22, 1943, Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans Scholl, and their friend Christoph Probst were beheaded for treason by the Nazi regime. Sophie Scholl was 21. They had committed no violence but had secretly written and distributed pamphlets criticizing the regime. In court, Sophie said “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.”
This film focuses on Sophie Scholl’s last five days beginning with her group’s last distribution of tracts during which her and her brother are caught and arrested. Five days later they are given a very brief trial, sentenced and executed the same day. There are a number of striking details for the libertarian that the film brings out. At several stages in the process she is berated for being unthankful to the regime that was providing her (socialist) university education. Evidently, there are strings attached to these state “services”. Notably, they are charged with breaking a law having to do with not “supporting the troops”.
The scene with Judge Roland Freisler, who was also the judge in the trial of the July 20 assassination plotters later on, is really remarkable. Any pretense of a legal system independent from the political rulers is completely gone in this reductio ad absurdum of state “justice”. Freisler rants and raves at the accused, cutting them off and insulting them. The DVD has a short clip of actual footage of Freisler in action as a bonus feature. If not for that clip, I wouldn’t have believed that any “judge” would behave in such a manner.
Finally, though Sophie acquits herself most remarkably before this maniac of a judge, her brother Hans gets in one telling line: “If you and Hitler weren’t afraid of our opinion, we wouldn’t be here.” Despite how small these isolated resistors seem in the face of the regime, Hans is right. The regime is in stark terror of public opinion turning against them.
But over and above all these details is Sophie Scholl herself: courageous, articulate, stubborn. Once it becomes clear that they are truly found out, she does not beg for mercy but instead speaks the truth again and again with inspiring boldness. She is a standing rebuke to those who would keep silent merely to further a career or curry favor with the establishment. In German with English subtitles. Also see The White Rose.