Sunday 27 September 2015

Sophie Scholl

Sophia Scholl was born on 9 may 1921 and died on 22 February 1943.  She was executed by guillotine because of her involvement in the White Rose movement.
Her activities included distributing anti-war leaflets with her brother Hans at the University of Munich.      
Sophie was brought up as a Lutheran and enjoyed a happy, carefree childhood. When she was twelve, she joined the Jungmädel, the junior version of the Bund Deutscher Mädel. Their parents were not so enthusiastic. Their father, Robert Scholl, told his children that Hitler and the Nazis were leading Germany down a road of destruction. Later, in 1942, he would serve time in a Nazi prison for telling his secretary: “The war! It is already lost. This Hitler is God's scourge on mankind, and if the war doesn't end soon the Russians will be sitting in Berlin.” Gradually, Hans and Sophie began realizing that their father was right. They concluded that, in the name of freedom and the greater good of the German nation, Hitler and the Nazis were enslaving and destroying the German people.
Sophie had a talent for and loved painting and drawing. She also had a very firm Christian belief, which led her to believe in every human being’s basic dignity. This in turn led her to resist the Nazi ideology.
She loved children, so worked as Kindergarten teacher. She hoped that this might count for her Reichsarbeitsdienst. She had to do this before she could go to university and unfortunately her work as a Kindergarten teacher was not recognised. In Spring 1941 therefore she had to do similar work in Blumberg. She found the military-like regime distasteful and she began to think about passive resistance.
After her RAD was complete she enrolled at the University of Munich to study biology and philosophy. She made friends there with a group of people who joined in student life to the full but who eventually became politically active. They wanted to end the Nazi time and World War II.
The group designed, printed and distributed leaflets encouraging people to end the war and resist the Nazi regime. On 22 February Sophie, her brother Hans and their friend Christoph Probst were beheaded.
 Her last words were:
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?
A film has been made of her story: SophieScholl – The Final Days, 2005, screen play by Fred Breinersdorfer and directed by Marc Rothermund.    

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Nicholas Winton

Nicholas Winton was born on 19 May 1909. He helped to rescue 669 children, most of whom were Jewish, from Czechoslovakia. He did this through what came to be known as the Czech Kindertransport. He founded homes for the children in Britain as well as helping then to get there. The UK press has sometimes referred to him as the British Schindler. 
His parents were German Jews who moved to Hampstead. London in 1909.     
Winton's parents were of German-Jewish origin, originally called Wertheim. In 1907, they moved from Germany to Hampstead, London where they also changed their name.
Just before Christmas in 1936, Winton, by now a stockbroker, gave up a skiing holiday in order to help a friend in Prague, Martin Blake, who was working with Jewish refugees. He decided to set about organizing help for the children of Jewish families who were at risk form the Nazi regime. His office was a dining table in his hotel.
He found places for 669 children on a special Kindertransport. The last group of 250 left Prague on 1 September 1939.  Unfortunately this last group was sent back because the Nazis invaded Poland. Most of them did not survive the Holocaust. 250 people waited for them in vain at London Liverpool Street station. Of the 669 who did get to Britain, most never saw their parents again. 
Winton registered as a conscientious objector and worked first for the Red Cross and then in Administrative and Special duties for the Royal Air Force during World War II.  
He kept quiet about all the rescue work he had done until his wife Grete found a scrapbook in their loft in 1988. It contained lists of children, including their family details. 80 children who had been saved were contacted and appeared with Winton on a special edition of Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life broadcast that year.   
In 2010, Winton was named a British Hero of the Holocaust by the Britsh Government. A statue in his honour was erected at Maidenhead Station in September 2010. There is another statue exists at Prague railway station.
On 1 September 2009, a special "Winton train" set off from the Prague Main railway station. The train, consisting of an original locomotive and carriages used in the 1930s, headed to London via the original Kindertransport route. On board the train were several surviving "Winton children" and their descendants, who were to be welcomed by Winton in London. The occasion marked the 70th anniversary of the intended last Kindertransport, which was due to set off on 3 September 1939 but never did because of the outbreak of the Second World War.