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    a white rose

    Sophie Scholl’s Love Letters

    “My dearest wish is that you should survive the war and these times without becoming a product of them.”

    By Sophie Scholl

    February 16, 2022

    From At the Heart of the White Rose

    Sophie Scholl met Fritz Hartnagel, to whom these letters are written, at the home of a classmate in 1937. Four years her senior, Fritz was a budding army officer. In 1938, after graduating from the military academy at Potsdam, he received his lieutenant’s commission and was assigned to Augsburg. In the course of time, he and Sophie developed a friendship that meant a great deal to them both. These letters are a selection from At the Heart of the White Rose, translated by J. Maxwell Brownjohn and edited by Inge Jens.

    To Fritz Hartnagel, Ulm, April 1940

    My dear Fritz,

    When you open this parcel, pretend I’m with you. No, then there’d be no need for a parcel. I’d make some tea and sandwiches, and we’d be really cozy. You’d have to sit opposite me like a good boy, so you wouldn’t spill your tea, and afterward we’d sit on your sofa (or don’t you have one?) and look at one another, and suddenly the magazine or book would fall to the floor, and we’d let it lie there. Childish, aren’t I?

    If you weren’t so far away, I’d send you some scillas, anemones, coltsfoot, butterfly orchids, and violets, but they’d only wither. Pick yourself some. I don’t intend to write much today, and I’m not going to write about what everyone’s talking about (in very different ways) [that is, the invasion]. I’d sooner tell you some springtime stories. Make some up yourself. About the woods, the fields, the water, and the two of us.

    And whatever you do, don’t turn into an arrogant, uncaring lieutenant. (Forgive me!) It’s so easy to become callous, and I think that would be a shame.

    All the best and lots of love,

    Sophie’s life was soon overshadowed by the German invasion of Holland, Belgium, and France. Fritz Hartnagel’s unit was one of those sent into action, invading the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, when the Blitzkrieg began.

    To Fritz Hartnagel, Ulm, May 16, 1940

    My dear Fritz,

    I was nineteen a week ago today. Remember how we rounded off the day? What’s been happening to you since then? Everything went so very quickly, including our good-byes at the station.

    I’m on tenterhooks for news of you. Do write as soon as you have the time and the permission, because a letter would be doubly welcome now that everything’s so uncertain. … We notice the war, even here, because scarcely a minute passes without the ears being assailed by the sound of airplanes.

    Pentecost was really glorious, though, and it’s wonderful how nothing throws nature off course. We lay in the grass with the pale green birch twigs overhead silhouetted against a sky coated with white cobwebs, and the beauty of it scarcely left room for the war and our worries. Campions suffused the grass beside the stream with red, and the dandelions were splendidly big and lush.

    But there were hundreds more kinds of flowers and herbs growing in the fields and woods. A bird was singing in the tree above us, and another one answered from the woods with the same lovely melody. I’d been given a harmonica for my birthday, so we were able to play and sing as we walked.

    I’ve another nice thing to tell you. A little bird has nested and is hatching four little off-white eggs in the blackberry hedge in the garden (it caught the frost, unfortunately, and doesn’t have a single leaf left). I’m glad the hedge is so prickly, or the joiner’s apprentices across the way wouldn’t leave it in peace. …


    Photograph by Ernily

    Your narcissi have withered. I liked them so much I didn’t want to throw them away. I’ve pressed one. Have you seen any nice flowers yet in Holland? It’s the place for them, after all. I hope the innocent little things haven’t all been destroyed. How are you? Are you stationed on the frontier? Do write to me soon.

    It’s a shame we couldn’t look at your birthday present [his to Sophie] together. It’s lovely, and far too good for me. There are things I’d have liked to say and tell you that I can’t put down on paper. Our ideas are so different, I sometimes wonder if it’s really so unimportant, when it ought to be the basis of any relationship. But all this must be shelved for now. It really is unimportant at present, because what you and I need now is love, not friendship and companionship. We’ll keep things between us that way till we can be by ourselves again.

    Spare a thought for something other than your work sometimes. Do you ever get a chance to read? My dearest wish is that you should survive the war and these times without becoming a product of them. All of us have standards inside ourselves, but we don’t go looking for them often enough. Maybe it’s because they’re the toughest standards of all.

    Think of me sometimes, but don’t dream of me. I’m often with you in spirit, wishing you well and loving you.


    To Fritz Hartnagel, Ulm, May 29, 1940

    My dear Fritz,

    We’re having some really glorious early summer weather. If I had the time, I’d stretch out beside the Iller, swim, laze, and try to think of nothing but the beauty around me. It isn’t easy to banish all thoughts of the war. Although I don’t know much about politics and have no ambition to do so, I do have some idea of right and wrong, because that has nothing to do with politics and nationality. And I could weep at how mean people are, in high-level politics as well, and how they betray their fellow creatures, perhaps for the sake of personal advantage. Isn’t it enough to make a person lose heart sometimes? Often my one desire is to live on a Robinson Crusoe island. I’m sometimes tempted to regard mankind as a terrestrial skin disease. But only sometimes, when I’m very tired, and people who are worse than beasts loom large in my mind’s eye. But all that matters fundamentally is whether we come through, whether we manage to hold our own among the majority, whose sole concern is self-interest – those who approve of any means to their own ends. It’s so overwhelming, that majority, you have to be bad to survive at all. Only one person has ever managed to go straight to God, probably, but who still looks for him nowadays?

    Dear Fritz, this whole letter will probably strike you as odd in the extreme. I expect you’ve so much to see and do that you that you never have time to think about yourself anymore. That scares me a little. You do sometimes think of me at night, don’t you? If so, you must sometimes dream of our vacation. Don’t just think of me as I am, though – think of me also as I’d like to be. We’ll only be completely at one if you still like me as much then. We don’t know one another anything like well enough, and I’m a lot to blame. I always felt that, but I was too comfortable to change things. You mustn’t think it stands between us, because I try hard to be with you and support you in spirit. But don’t think, either, that this is unimportant in wartime. Grave events are no justification for letting oneself go. My dear, don’t misunderstand me, just forgive anything in this letter that strikes you as clumsy. If much of what I say seems silly, hurtful, and unnecessary, remember that I judge things from my own standpoint, and that I may be crediting you with many of my own characteristics.

    Fondest love,

    Contributed By Sophie Scholl Sophie Scholl

    Sophie Scholl was a German student and anti-Nazi political activist, active within the White Rose resistance group in Nazi Germany.

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