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The last photos of the Scholl siblings

Exhaustion is written all over their faces - and hopelessness.

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The last photos of the Scholl siblings

Exhaustion is written all over their faces - and hopelessness. Exactly 80 years after the execution of the Scholl siblings, only one published and then forgotten photo of Hans and Sophie on the day of their death has apparently been rediscovered, taken a few hours before the execution. The two are obviously seated and wearing their own civilian clothes, she a dark coat, he a light-colored jacket and tie. Signs hang on both of them, the inscription of which cannot be deciphered due to the poor quality of the original.

The Hamburg psychotherapist and theologian Martin Kalusche found the photos. Since spring 2021 he has been working on a ten-year private edition project on the Internet, which is intended to scientifically and critically include all sources that can be accessed in any way on the White Rose. The testimonies, sorted by the day, for the decisive days from February 17 to 22, 1943, i.e. from the evening before the siblings were arrested in the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich until their execution in the Stadelheim prison, have already been largely completed.

During his research, Kalusche (born 1960) came across a 1953 commemorative article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) about the six executed members of the groups, along with Hans and Sophie, their friends Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf, and the LMU professor Kurt Huber, who wrote the text of the sixth and last leaflet that was distributed. The SZ editor at the time, Erich Kuby, wrote the full-page text.

What is certain is that Kuby received prints of the two photos in early 1953 from Robert Scholl, the father of the executed siblings. According to the Munich daily newspaper, these only known originals seem to have been lost; In any case, Kalusche could not find any trace in any archive - neither in the estate of Inge Aicher-Scholl, the chronicler of the White Rose, nor at the Institute for Contemporary History, nor in the city archive or the state archive in Munich, nor in the federal archive in Berlin.

These are not the identification photos that are usual in all police departments around the world, because these were also taken by Hans and Sophie Scholl and are known, although relatively rarely seen. The recordings that have now been rediscovered must have been made in a different context.

Robert Scholl was already certain that these must be the very last pictures of his elder son and youngest daughter - he said so to Erich Kuby, and the journalist captioned the print accordingly: "Sophie and Hans Scholl on the day of death, already sentenced".

The retired Munich contemporary historian Hans Günter Hockerts, who has been researching the White Rose intensively for a long time, has a hypothesis about the genesis of the photos. The basic "Order of Mercy" of February 6, 1935 determined in the second paragraph of paragraph 13: "As soon as a final death sentence has been issued, the pardon authority must report with extreme speed, without waiting for the submission of a petition for clemency. In order to ensure this, the necessary statements should be obtained and the otherwise necessary investigations should be carried out before the judgment becomes final. A recent photograph of the convicted person must also be included in the files.”

A circular issued by the Reich Minister of Justice in 1937 supplemented this instruction in more detail: "The illustrations submitted so far show the convicts partly in middle-class clothing, partly in prison clothing. Since only illustrations of the first type convey a real picture of the convict, I would ask that in future only such images be used if possible Bringing photographs, two of each, to the files”. This was still common administrative practice in early 1943, much more often than in the 1930s because of the sharp rise in the number of death sentences during the war.

There is much to suggest that the rediscovered photos are the ones required by the "Order of Mercy": Hans and Sophie are wearing their private clothes. The cards are likely to be labeled with the numbers from the Stadelheim prisoner book, but this is only an assumption due to the poor quality of the recordings that have survived.

Hockert immediately adds that he is "surprised" that "the photos cannot be found in the clemency booklet of the Oberreichsanwalt", which has survived in the Aicher-Scholl estate. This can probably not be clarified - perhaps it was simply due to the haste in carrying out this judicial murder: only about three hours elapsed between the arrival of the convicts in Stadelheim and their death on the guillotine there.

How Robert Scholl got hold of these last recordings of his children is completely open. He was arrested in Ulm on February 27, 1943, together with his wife Magdalena and their two other daughters, Elisabeth and Inge. The younger brother Werner Scholl, who happened to be present at the trial while on leave, had to go back to the front. Elisabeth Scholl was released in April 1943 due to her health. Robert, Magdalena and Inge Scholl, on the other hand, were accused of illegally listening to foreign "enemy stations" - a "rubber clause" in the Nazi regime.

At the end of July 1943, Magdalena and Inge Scholl were provisionally released from prison and on September 25 they were acquitted of the charge of "broadcasting crimes"; Surprisingly, there were also such judgments in the unlawful state of Hitler Germany. Father Robert, on the other hand, was imprisoned for 18 months and was only released on November 24, 1944 in poor health.

The Internet edition by Martin Kalusche and Hockerts' research show how many important details can still be found with meticulous care, even with a supposedly unexplored topic like the White Rose. For more than 70 years, the bestseller “The White Rose” by Inge Aicher-Scholl has dominated the image of the German public. The volume, which has been revised several times, has been printed almost a million times in German alone and translated into nine languages. Nevertheless, it is of course hopelessly outdated.

For the 80th anniversary, the theologian Robert M. Zoske, who published a biography about Hans Scholl in 2018 and a book about Sophie Scholl in 2021, has compiled a volume in the commendable series C. H. Beck Knowledge (128 pages, 12 euros). The fluently written text reflects the current state of research, although of course not the very latest results, and is suitable as an introduction to the thinking of the White Rose. You can then read on in the sources that Martin Kalusche has prepared in an exemplary manner.

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