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Essay: Why Learning About Sophie Scholl Is Important for Today’s Social Justice & Animal Rights Movement

Growing up in Germany in the 1980s and 90s, our author felt like the history of the Third Reich was hammered into his head throughout his school years. Still, or maybe precisely because of that, it was difficult for him to relate. Sometimes, it needs a couple of years for you to come back to something – and then it really hits you.

October 22, 2020

Words – Eric Mirbach
Painting – Marc Nelson

By accident, I stumbled over this article on The Discerning Brute – possibly the world’s most forward-thinking men’s fashion and lifestyle blog curated by one Joshua Katcher, mastermind behind cruelty-free men’s high fashion label Brave GentleMan.

In it, Author Adam Gnade describes a New Year’s Eve tradition one of his friends had established. This tradition consists of performing a piece of music or reading a poem or a story after supper — a, as he puts it, “throwback Victorian thing”.

In this setting, said friend then chose to read a quote by Sophie Scholl, which was bit odd to me, seeing how I was reading all of this on an American lifestyle blog.

“Their story is powerful enough to transcendent time and space.”

Maybe, in the back of my head, I was kind of suprised that anyone had heard of the Scholl siblings outside of Germany, even though their story, obviously is powerful enough to easily travel across borders and generations.

I Had No Idea How Hard It Would Hit Me

What surprised me even more, though, was how hard said quote hit me.

You see, growing up in Germany in the 80s and 90s, I always felt like the history of the Third Reich was hammered into us throughout school. The German scholar system definitely held up it’s end in the ever-present effort to keep history from repeating and I approached it just the way kids normally do: If it’s black and white and happened before I was born, I wasn’t willing to relate.

And of course, pretty much everything a teacher talks about turns into something utterly uninteresting immediately. It’s like a ground rule.

15 Years Later, I Realize How Close All of This Is

So here I was, some 15 years later and the reality of it all hit me – what had happened to Hans and Sophie Scholl as well as their comrades, the little time that had really passed since then, how close all of it still is, especially in the country I call my home.

And how very real and very brave their fight was.

It’s a very humbling experience, and I’m glad I rediscovered it. The motivation it holds for me personally, it’s uncanny… and I hope it might do the same for you.

Whatever fight you choose.

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’

The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves — or enemies.

Those for whom freedom, honor, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small.

It’s the reductionist approach to life:

If you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you.

But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what?

Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does.

I choose my own way to burn.”

— Sophie Scholl

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