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A Devotional: The Courage of Sophie Scholl [WATCH]

Sophie Scholl of The White Rose Movement as portrayed in Sophie Scholl: The Final Days film.

Rev. (Dr.) Arthur Turfa

The following is a wonderfully timed guest post by my friend, Lutheran pastor and educator, Rev. Dr. Arthur Turfa. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, then you know that I’ve been reading Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, starting with Fall of Giants which deals with The Great War a.k.a. World War I as well as the Bolshevik Revolution which segues into the rise of Hitler, Nazi Germany, and World War II in Winter of the World. Similarly, I’m also reading Perry Stone’s Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue and there, find many of the same themes, harbingers if you will, that led up to the two first World Wars. In times like these, the old adage “If we do not learn from our past, we are doomed to repeat it” rings true. Don’t just enjoy, but learn as Arthur takes us through the past of Nazi Germany, making it relevant to us in 2016.

When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12 NRSV)

How often have you read, seen, or heard a situation, where a character does not take a courageous stand in a life-or-death situation and you think, “I would do the right thing in that situation!” Whether fictional or real-life, too often we criticize people when we have never been in that situation ourselves

I am bi-lingual and bi-vocational. Lutheran pastor and high school teacher. Germany is my second home. In my honors German class, I show a powerful 2005 film titled Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (English title, see below). We watch it in German with subtitles. Sophie and her brother, Hans, were members of the White Rose, a courageous group of university students who resisted the Third Reich and were executed in 1943. Everyone in the group was a practicing Christian: Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Russian Orthodox.

During her interrogation by the Gestapo, Sophie is offered an opportunity to save her life. Her interrogator develops a certain sympathy toward her, provided that she admits to her wrongdoing. All she has to say is that her brother influenced her to go along with the group. If she sees the error of her ways, she will only spend some time being re-educated in National Socialism and will live.

To her credit, the brave young woman refuses to accept the offer. With her brother Hans and another White Rose member, they are quickly tried, sentenced, and guillotined. Their trials take less than 10 minutes, and are by no means fair. Later, the rest of the group experienced the same fate.

This movie, along with the 1982 The White Rose, accurately depicts Sophie as a charming, lively, and talented young woman. Her execution is all the more horrifying because of the sympathetic way she is presented.

Certainly Sophie knew Scripture extremely well. She realized what she faced with by resisting Nazism, and what would happened to her when she was captured. The Holy Spirit gave her courage and the words to reject the offer to save her life.

Many schools, streets, and plazas in Germany have been named in memory of Sophie and Hans. They are rightly commemorated as valiant resisters to National Socialism as well as dictatorship, and embody the values in which they were raised.

My initial reaction to such an offer would be to save myself and then watch my enemies lose. I hope and pray I would be receptive to whatever the Holy Spirit spoke to me if I found myself in a situation like Sophie.

Arthur Turfa is a retired Lutheran pastor who still teaches on the secondary and post-secondary level. A retired Army Reservist with veteran status, he lives with his wife, the Rev. Pamela C. Turfa in the Midlands of South Carolina. His first book of poems, Places and Times, was released by eLection Publishing in April. His blog, Some Poetry is at awturfa.blogspot.com.       

If you would like to learn more about Sophie and Hans Scholl, The White Rose movement, and other German reformers, please read one of my favourite books, The Reformation Manifesto by Cindy Jacobs.