Lehmann offers a historical novel based on the true story of young, Christian anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl.
As the German teenager grows into a young adult, her anti-Nazism swells, as does her romantic relationship with Fritz Hartnagel, a reluctant participant in the German army. She’s also an eyewitness to Nazi violence: “The police took fifty Jews out of their homes and ordered them into the empty fountain in front of the synagogue. They set it on fire. The police beat them.” After Nazi officials force her to go to a propaganda camp, she’s allowed to attend a university, where she and her brother help form the White Rose student resistance group and clandestinely distribute anti-Nazi flyers. During these years, Sophie and Fritz explore love, politics, spirituality, and morality through letters and brief visits while Fritz is on leave. His descriptions of the Russian front, camps, and ghettos strengthen Sophie’s anti-Nazi resolve and her understanding of moral complexities. Her Christianity is also a constant; even after she’s arrested and about to be executed on treason charges, “the pastor and Sophie read the psalm’s verses slowly and deliberately. When they finished, they looked at one another with a peace that surpassed all understanding.” Lehmann uses well-researched details and imagery and a variety of narrative voices to create vivid portraits in this novel. Readers witness the lives of both civilians and soldiers that opposed the Nazi regime: “[The soldiers] were confused and everything was uncertain….The cold incessant rain came in sheets now. Followed by black flies, gnawing on their skin.” The story of a young couple in love during wartime also unfolds gracefully: “[Sophie] wanted to take every detail of those hours and put them away in a box which she could always open. A place where the memories of the trees and flowers, the gardener, the birds, wouldn’t fade.”
A poignant story that’s full of historical insight.