The following letters and diary entries provide a rare window into the life of Sophie Scholl, a young member of the White Rose resistance group in Nazi Germany. This article is an excerpt from Plough’s newest book, At the Heart of the White Rose.
The “Sunday outing” to Ulm that Sophie anticipated in her letter of September 13 unexpectedly turned into two weeks’ special leave. On returning to Krauchenwies Camp, Sophie received her next assignment. Starting in October, she was to work at an NSV [National Socialist Public Welfare] kindergarten in Blumberg, a small town southwest of Donaueschingen, only a few miles from the Swiss frontier.
To Lisa Remppis, Blumberg, October 11, 1941
Just a card to let you know my new address. I can hardly write because a tiny kitten sitting in front of me keeps biting my pen, so you’ll have to blame any inkblots on its little paws.
Write to me soon,
Sophie Scholl had kept a diary throughout her early weeks in the Arbeitsdienst. She resumed this practice during her months at Blumberg. Her diary takes the form of a spiritual journal centered on religious meditations: appeals to God in the manner of St. Augustine and Pascal, invocations ranging from inquiry, doubt, and self-reproach to ecstatic professions of faith. Lyrical musings verging on prayer are found alongside dialogues with herself and tactful character sketches of her friends; spontaneous, rapidly composed entries rub shoulders with the precise, artistically formulated litany of her communings with God.
The following passages from Sophie’s diary are not cited en bloc but chronologically interspersed with her letters. They clearly illustrate her capacity for supplementing the letters’ concrete, realistic, addressee-related content with dialogues conducted on a second, metaphysical plane. Overt and covert dialogue, direct speech and secret statement of accounts, correspondence and spiritual journal – all these, as the following alternation of both modes of expression demonstrates, are inseparably conjoined.
Diary, Blumberg, Fall of 1941
… The heart loses its way amid these petty commotions and forgets its great homeward route. Unprepared and given over to futile, abject trifles, it may be caught unawares when the time comes, having squandered the one great joy for the sake of little ones.
I realize that but my heart does not. It dreams on incorrigibly, lulled to sleep by forces that trouble me, torn between desire and melancholy. All that I’m left with is melancholy, incapacity, impotence, and a slender hope.
However stubbornly my heart may cling to its treasures, be it only out of love for the sweetness of life, wrest me away against my will, because I’m too weak to do so myself; turn all my pleasures sour, make me wretched, make me suffer before I dream my salvation away.
Diary, Blumberg, November 1, 1941
I came back yesterday to find a letter and a little book from Professor Muth awaiting me. Yesterday I was delighted, but today I can’t summon up the energy to be delighted anymore. I’m so tired, I’d like nothing better than to go to bed right now and sleep forever.
Now I’m back at the Schüles’ again. I really came so that I could play the organ in the chapel afterward, or simply be in the chapel. I’d so much like to believe in miracles. I’d so much like to believe that I can acquire strength through prayer. I can’t achieve anything by myself.
Muth wrote that we must pray for Otl. I’d never thought of praying for him – he never seemed to need it at all. Who doesn’t, though? Even a saint does.…
I’m so terribly tired, and I’m always prone to such futile, ridiculous mental digressions.
Thou hast created us in Thine image.
I should like, as that Prophet did, to ask for visible evidence of himself. Or has that ceased to be necessary? I should like to spread myself out like a cloth for him to collect his dew in.
I’m all mixed up, I can tell. That’s because I’m tired.
I feel so homesick.
Diary: Draft letters addressed to Professor Carl Muth but probably never sent, undated [October/November 1941]
Many thanks for your letter, which was waiting for me when I got back to camp. I’ve forwarded it to my sister [Inge] right away, because it was meant as much or even more for her as for me. She was the one that came to see you with my brother some time ago, and I was the one that sent you the apples at her suggestion. You thought the recipient of your letter would be my sister.…
Because you took it that the recipient of the letter I found here on my return to camp, for which many thanks, would be my sister, I’ve forwarded it to her right away. I think it’s more her place to acknowledge it and lay claim to the promised book. She’ll be delighted, I’m sure.
I also got the apples at my sister’s suggestion. If you like, I could send you some more.
Otl Aicher’s address is: Officer Candidate 20 597 D.
Perhaps you’ve received it from Otto himself in the meantime.
I should so much have liked to get the apples off to you sooner, but the ban on mailing fruit has made it all far more difficult, especially as I don’t get back to camp till late and my time there isn’t my own. Please accept my apologies.
I was so pleased to receive your letter and the little book. No, getting you the fruit wasn’t enough of a job to merit such a recompense. I could send you more in small batches. …
But is there anything else I could send you?
Diary, Blumberg, November 6, 1941
I’m expected to paint [a cover for] the Christmas issue of Windlicht. If only Otl knew how drained I am and how meaningless such a picture would be. Even if God won’t help me, I’ll have faith just the same. I’ll write and tell Otl I’ll do the cover. Now I’m moving on again. It’s nerve-racking, this perpetual shoving around, this uncertainty.…
To Otl Aicher, Blumberg, November 6, 1941
I’ve just got time for the barest essentials of a reply to your letter before my bucket of water gets hot. I’ll gladly paint something for the Christmas number. I’ll find the time somehow. Myself, I’m feeling absolutely arid and haven’t done much lately except fill my schedule. —The only thing is, I won’t be up to anything more than illustrating. If I can’t manage anything else, I may resort to doing Dieterle’s head on the cover.
At present, I’m all alone in my kindergarten (I sleep in camp). Although I can’t do as I pleased or as I’d imagined, I’m well-off here. I take a long walk every morning and evening, to and from work, all by myself amid the snowy, twilit fields and hills. That’s nice, and it keeps any unpleasant thoughts at bay.
I’ll write to you again in due course. My time’s up now, and I want you to get this as soon as possible.
Diary, Blumberg, November 10, 1941
…I’ve made up my mind to write to Otl sometime. If it were only my own affair, everything would be much easier. Sometimes I feel I can forge a path to God in an instant, purely by yearning to do so – by yielding up my soul entirely. If I beseech him, if I love him far above all else, if my heart aches so badly because I’m apart from him, he ought to take me unto himself. But that entails many steps, many tiny little steps, and the road is a very long one. One mustn’t lose heart. Once, when I’d lost heart because I kept backsliding, I didn’t dare pray anymore. I decided not to ask anything more of God until I could enter his presence again. That in itself was a fundamental yearning for God. But I can always ask him, I know that now.