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The true story of Germany's most famous anti-Nazi heroine is brought to thrilling life by Julia Jentsch (The Edukators), who gives a luminous performance as the young coed-turned-fearless activist. Armed with long-buried historical records of her incarceration, director Marc Rothemund expertly re-creates the last six days of Sophie Scholl's life: a heart-stopping journey from arrest to interrogation, trial and sentence. Winner of three German Film Awards, including Outstanding Feature Film, the Audience Award for German Film of the Year and Best Actress (Jentsch). Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Lanuage Film.
 

 Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

When I was growing up in Munich, I remember seeing director Michael Verhoeven’s 1982 film The White Rose in school. The movie tells the story of the anti-Nazi group of the same name, and devotes only a few minutes at the end to the arrest, interrogation and execution of White Rose members Sophie and Hans Scholl.

This sparked my interest on the final days of Sophie Scholl and I found out much from researching and reading newspapers from the period. This 21-year-old woman spent four days in Gestapo headquarters and I learned that there were supposed to be actual transcripts—unpublished documents—of her time there.

Fast-forward 20 years. I called screenwriter Fred Breinersdorfer—with whom I had previously collaborated—and asked whether he would be interested in finding out more about the final days of the Scholls. At first he was very reluctant, because he thought that Sophie Scholl and the White Rose were already too well-known in Germany, and that our film would end up being like an educational documentary.

In the end, I was so curious and interested in the emotional journey of this young woman that I not only convinced Fred, but also found producers passionate enough to fund the research and try to acquire these unpublished documents. It was surprisingly easy to get these papers from the “Bundesarchiv” (the national federal archive that keeps all German historical materials), considering they are such rare documents. The Gestapo had, unsurprisingly, destroyed almost all of them.

When I read the first pages of Sophie Scholl’s interrogation report, it created such a strong emotional sensation in me. She was lying expertly, fighting for her life, pretending she was innocent—having nothing to do with the leaflets except for pushing paper from a balcony just for fun. In a separate interrogation, her brother pretended in the same way. Both of them knew it was a matter of life and death.

Although I knew the terrible end of their story, as I was reading how they fought for their own and their friends’ lives, the material became the most touching and exciting thing I had ever read. I also learned about an authentic 14-page letter that was written by Sophie Scholl’s cellmate to describe to Sophie’s parents how their daughter spent her last days in her cell.

Sophie Scholl spent three days in a room being interrogated by a tough 44-year-old Gestapo interrogation officer. Sophie and her brother were so mentally strong that after five hours of intensive interrogations they made the Nazis believe that they were innocent. Unfortunately, Hans Scholl forgot a handwritten note in his pocket that incriminated himself, Sophie and their friend Christoph Probst.

We were extremely gratified to find that not only was it still possible to shoot on original locations such as the University, the Palace of Justice and the Scholl’s original house, but we also found Sophie Scholl’s sister, who told us many intimate details of their family.

Even more amazing was that we found the son of the Gestapo interrogation officer. He was very generous in helping us to get at the character of his father. We also located the sister of executed White Rose member Willi Graf, who was interrogated by the same officer in the same room and on the same chair as Sophie Scholl. Many other White Rose members, all of them in their eighties, helped us tremendously.

Many aspects of Sophie’s story obsessed me. There was the psychological make-up of the Nazi who believed in Hitler but had not murdered anyone personally. There were the executioners—Sophie Scholl’s executioner was an eighth-generation German hangman. He killed 3,000 people, but was quoted as saying that he had never seen people going to their death as free and upright as Sophie Scholl and the other members of the White Rose had done. Then there was the life-affirming, positive-minded Sophie Scholl, an extremely courageous young woman who had to come to terms with her death in a very short time.

As filmmakers we decided to give our main focus to the authentic words of record, and to the great actors Julia Jentsch, Fabian Hinrichs and Alexander Held, who gave those words great life.