The Ada Lovelace day is designed to celebrate women’s achievements in science and technology. Amidst all of the celebrations, there should also be pause for those women who didn’t achieve their potential.
One woman whom I hugely admire is Sophie Scholl, a 21 year old Biology student, who was murdered by Nazis in February 1943. Although she is a legend in her native Germany, it’s not clear that she’s well known outside of Germany. By writing this blog, I hope that she will inspire you as well.
Based on her central Christian conscience, Sophie Scholl made her own peaceful protest against Nazi tyranny and the persecution of Jews. Sophie and her brother Hans were key members of a movement known as the ‘White Rose’, which distributed leaflets in Munich in 1943, which opposed the Nazi regime.
The Scholl family had experience of Gestapo attention in their life, due to punishments received by Hans during his membership of the Hitler Youth movement. Sophie would have been well aware of the risks that she was taking. Whilst distributing the sixth series of leaflets, Sophie was captured and questioned by the Gestapo. This peaceful protest led to Sophie’s conviction for treason against the Nazi state, and her subsequent execution by guillotine, at the age of 21.
Sophie is a heroine of the 20th century; her absolute conviction of her beliefs led her to action. Her faith led her to believe that ‘somebody… had to make a start’ against the Nazi regime. And make a start she did. After her death, the Allied Forces received a smuggled copy of the sixth leaflet, and went on to drop millions of copies of the leaflet all over Germany.
The fact remains that such a young person, living in such a repressing regime as the Nazi regime, really made a difference to the world around her. This contribution wasn’t in science or technology, simply because she was executed before she had the chance to finish her studies. Sophie’s contribution is truly humbling, and her act of sacrifice is probably one of the most significant of the 20th Century.
Amongst all of the shame associated with Germany’s Nazi past, it is important not to forget her sacrifice. And I will leave the last word to Sophie: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”