Reading Sophie Scholl

Elba Slamecka, one of the student members of the White Rose Project, reflects on reading from the letters and diaries of Sophie Scholl at our concert with SANSARA on 22 February 2020.

Before joining the White Rose Project, I had only briefly studied Sophie and Hans Scholl at school. I knew vaguely of some university students who distributed pamphlets, but had never read any of these or investigated this further. I certainly did not expect that in such a short period of time I would become so engrossed in these people’s lives, particularly that of Sophie Scholl, whose letters and diaries I had the privilege of reading.

When reading a stranger’s personal writings, one usually still feels quite remote from them, especially if they are important historical figures whose reality was worlds away from our own. However, knowing that members of the White Rose were university students around my own age really allowed me to empathise with them, and to imagine what it would be like if my life were transposed to Germany in the 1940s.

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Elba Slamecka reads from Sophie Scholl’s letters | © Stuart Bebb

Having never read translations of the diaries and letters, and not speaking German, I was impressed by how lucid and alive the translations felt, and I felt extremely lucky to be working alongside Dr Lloyd and the students who helped to bring these texts to life. The writing itself is so eloquent, and more than bringing me to a closer understanding of Sophie and her peers it also struck me how calmly and with what resolution they wrote, even when faced with the prospect of imminent death.

Our performance on February 22nd coincided with the trials and executions of Christoph Probst and Hans and Sophie Scholl exactly seventy-seven years previously, and in our rehearsals during the week leading up to the performance we all got a sense of just how quickly the situation would have escalated for them. There was a real feeling of gravity in reading out the texts, as even the lighter ones are tinged by the tragic fate we now know awaited their writers. Nevertheless, I felt like I was honouring their efforts, and reminding people of an unfortunately often overlooked part of history, as many still believe that there was no opposition to the Nazi regime within Germany. Especially when reading the pamphlets, there was a sense of rekindling the flame of resistance, of the fight for something better, which then as now is important for all society and deserves to burn bright inside all of us. It felt transcendent, like touching the invisible string of history that connects us all to the past.

Listen to Elba reading from Sophie Scholl’s letters in English here.