Sonnenwald: Letters from Lisa Remppis to Hans and Sophie Scholl
Kerstin Sonnenwald. “Mit aller Liebe: Die Beziehungen der Lisa Remppis zu Sophie und Hans Scholl.” In Nonne, Magd oder Ratsfrau – Frauenleben in Leonberg aus vier Jahrhunderten. Leonberg: Stadtarchiv Leonberg, 1998.
I applaud Sonnenwald for attempting to tackle these letters. The ones she was allowed to read were not controlled by Inge Aicher-Scholl, rather by Lisa Remppis' husband August Schlehe. Since Lisa had nothing to do with White Rose, the letters provide a personal glimpse into a long-standing friendship that existed completely outside the circle of friends in Munich.
Sonnenwald correctly noted that Sophie and Lisa had been childhood friends. The short paragraph about the origins of the friendship only draw huge red circles around the gaps in "authorized" Scholl story-telling. As a young girl, Sophie often visited her Aunt Elisabeth in Backnang; Elisabeth was sister of Sophie's mother Magdalena, of whom we know precious little. Remppis family lived in the same building, so the Scholl and Remppis children became good friends.
And yet even here, Scholl censorship rears its ugly head. August Schlehe seemingly did not hold back anything, but Sonnenwald noted that she had access to relatively few letters between Hans and Lisa, written by Hans. Her focus - despite the promise of the essay - ended up being the correspondence between Sophie and Lisa, as well as Lisa's letters to Hans.
Since access to most of Hans Scholl's letters has been impeded, many of the thoughts and feelings that he entrusted to his girlfriend remain obscured for now. Yes, Ms. Sonnenwald, I feel your pain.
Sonnenwald quoted Lisa's father unquestioningly when Rudolf Remppis stated that Lisa and Hans had been engaged. The 'I know you know I know you know' is a bit painful, since if anything, Lisa would have been one of Hans' many beards. Lisa did match the usual profile: Friend first and foremost of Sophie, unattainable (Lisa was 14 when Hans was 19), smart, yet submissive. Only Traute Lafrenz would stand outside that description. Traute also paid with more emotional abuse from Hans than the other women would. But I will give Sonnenwald a pass. She wrote her essay in 1998, before the indictments and interrogations related to the bündische trials had been researched and published by Puls.
Lisa and Hans corresponded for five years. We know - but clearly Lisa did not - that he had other beards between 1937-1942. It almost hurts to read Lisa's love letters. She "had so little, except him." Or, "All you have to do is make a wish, and I will fulfill it!" Lisa tried to be Sophie, with her narratives about nature, about flowers and birds, just like Sophie. Like Sophie, Lisa told Hans about concerts she enjoyed.
Hans and Lisa did have 'arguments,' sort of. Lisa held to pantheistic beliefs, while Hans apparently sought absolution in religious words, fromm, nicht gläubig [pious, not believing].
Still clearly unaware of Hans Scholl's other "interests," Lisa wrote him, begging him for clarity. She said it was as if he knew what he wanted, but he would not share that with her. "I cannot bear this uncertainty, nor do I wish to any longer." She was puzzled that he kept writing to her. Lisa did nail one thing. She noted that Hans behaved "passively" towards her.
When Lisa wrote August Schlehe, her actual fiance, in autumn of 1942 that "the letter to Hans still has not been written," it is almost a relief. It took her five years to break free from a man who did not know how to love, but when she did, it was final. No more. Period.
Sonnenwald noted that while Lisa and Hans corresponded, Sophie and Lisa appeared to become distant. When Lisa called everything off with Hans, only then was her friendship with Sophie rekindled. Sonnenwald noted that this appeared to be the case from the letters she could see. As with anything related to Scholl, it's likely that many documents were held back - not by August Schlehe, but by Scholl.
It is impossible to say that Sophie and Lisa did not correspond, or that their friendship was not strong while Lisa and Hans were supposedly an item, because Sophie mentioned Lisa frequently in letters to others. They went on bike rides, just the two of them. Lisa traveled with the Scholls several times on long vacations - without Hans. Sophie urged Lisa to visit Hans in Ostpommern, just as war broke out (September 1939). Sonnenwald did not mention all of the above, but it's clear she's unconvinced she saw everything.
In a bittersweet irony: As Lisa's relationship with August Schlehe became more serious, she withdrew from the Scholls, including from Sophie. Sonnenwald said there were multiple letters where Sophie urged Lisa to write more frequently. Sonnenwald noted that it appeared that August Schlehe had become Sophie's "competition," pointing out that Sophie, Lisa, and August never met up together, although there had been ample opportunity to do so.
Sonnenwald also examined the political ideologies of Scholl, Remppis, and Schlehe. She said that not only the earliest letters where Lisa was only fourteen, but also the letters after Hans and Sophie Scholl dove into White Rose work, represented a political vacuum. As far as could be determined, Lisa Remppis and her fiance shared Hans and Sophie's anti-Nazi sentiments. Lisa did not share their conviction to 'do something.'
Of importance: Sonnenwald was able to determine that Sophie asked Lisa to mail leaflets in Stuttgart, apparently before Sophie asked Susanne Hirzel to do so. Lisa said no, and her fiance insisted she decline. Sonnenwald admitted this was not documented in their correspondence, that her assertion came from August Schlehe's statements.
Sonnenwald related Schlehe's statements regarding his wife's knowledge of White Rose activities, but it is clear she did not believe everything he told her. Not only did Schlehe claim Lisa knew what White Rose friends were doing. He also claimed that he and Lisa had hidden a Jewish woman in their home. August Schlehe offered as proof the Persilschein the Jewish woman - Maria Sara Wieck - had ostensibly written on their behalf during the denazification process. Sonnenwald was unable to locate the document and Wieck denied she had said such a thing.
Sonnenwald credited Lisa Remppis with the intelligence and fortitude not to have used Nazi language when that would have been easy. Her correspondence may have taken place in a political vacuum, but she did not speak of race, or use antisemitic phrases, nor did she write of Lebensraum, all catch-phrases that were sprinkled liberally through most correspondence of that era.
Lisa Remppis and August Schlehe married on April 3, 1943. Over the next twelve years, they had three children: Hermann, Albrecht, and Judith. She and August stayed in Leonberg, where they raised their family.
Lisa Schlehe nee Remppis died in 1971 of cancer, a few weeks after her 48th birthday.
Kerstin Sonnenwald granted us a brief glimpse into the life of a young woman whose name we know from the Scholl letters, but who remains a mystery. Despite this 13-page essay, Lisa's connection to Hans and Sophie Scholl, indeed to the Scholl family, persists to be cloaked in the secrecy of Scholl Archives. There must be more to her than we are "allowed" to read.
I hope that one day, Kerstein Sonnenwald (adjunct instructor for linguistics in Stuttgart) will write her PhD on Lisa Remppis.
(c) 2023 Denise Heap. Please contact us with questions or for permission to quote.