Some days ago, I saw a very interesting theater play: “Sophie and me”, written by the Austrian author Ursula Kohlerts. The story is about a fictional friendship between the two German women Sophie School and Traudl Junge. Both of them have lived under the Nazi regime, but had never met each other in reality. The play brings them together to ask the audience the important question: What would you do?
The women get to know each other as young girls at a “Bund deutscher Mädchen” (League of the German girls) camp and become best friends. The following scenes show how both characters will develop in very different ways.
As a young girl, Traudl wants to become a singer and perform on many stages around the world. But after the war breaks out, she is not allowed to pursue her dream. Instead, she becomes a secretary for the NSDAP. Later on, she will become Hitler’s youngest secretary and type his last letter before his suicide in 1945. She survives WWII, and keeps on working as a secretary in West Germany. When asked about her time working as a secretary for Hitler, Traudl answered:
I was 22 and I didn’t know anything about politics; it didn’t interest me.
I admit, I was fascinated by Adolf Hitler. He was a pleasant boss and a fatherly friend. I deliberately ignored all the warning voices inside me and enjoyed the time by his side, almost until the bitter end. It wasn’t what he said, but the way he said things and how he did things.
As a young girl, Sophie Scholl was already fed up with the strict rules of the Nazi regime. She was much more interested in art, music, philosophy and politics. For years, she exchanged love letters with her boyfriend Fritz Hartnagel, who served as a pilot for Hitler’s army. Fritz told her about German war crimes on the Eastern front.
Together with her brother Hans, Sophie distributed leaflets of his activist group, the White Rose. Their aim was to create a resistance movement against the Nazi regime. However, Sophie and her brother were arrested and sentenced to death. In front of the court, Sophie was recorded as saying these words:
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.
Today, we face many difficulties and crimes in all parts of the globe. People and parties get elected who spread messages of hate and disgust. Violent acts are committed by people who think that they are superior.
Activists like Sophie Scholl can guide, empower and inspire us. While most Germans followed the Nazi regime, she remained conscious and did her best to fight for a better world.
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, honour, 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.
- The memoir of Traudl Junge:
Until the Final Hour: Hitler’s Last Secretary, written by Traudl Junge, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003.
- The love story of Sophie Scholl and Fritz Hartnagel:
With you there is light, written by Alexandra Lehmann, L&L Media, 2016.