Vinke: Sophie Scholl

Hermann Vinke. Das kurze Leben der Sophie Scholl. Ravensburger Buchverlag Otto Maier GmbH, 1980.

As with the other awful, terrible books about the White Rose, I will limit my comments to the first thirty corrigenda - author's errors. Otherwise, this book review would be longer than the book itself.

  1. Vinke admitted that these are the stories of Inge Aicher-Scholl. He also admitted that Elisabeth Hartnagel-Scholl was still living. When he interviewed both Elisabeth and Fritz Hartnagel, why did he not ask for confirmation of Inge's stories? They would have set him straight. (p. 8)
  2. I seriously doubt recalling these legend-ary "memories" was a painful process for Inge Scholl. Not after Otl Aicher (her husband) and she told multiple colleagues that, "It's been good for us and quite lucky that Hans and Sophie Scholl died." (Barbara Schüler. "Im Geiste der Gemordeten..." page 427.) They made a lot of money off the telling of these "memories" - air quotes on purpose. Note: Not repeating my objections throughout. This comment covers all cases. Vinke delighted in portraying Inge Scholl as a sympathetic figure. She was anything but. (p. 8)
  3. Vinke - following Inge Scholl's narrative - neglected to mention that the outcomes of Inge's three Gestapo detentions were negligible. The first in 1937 had no consequences whatever. The second (1941) likewise, as one of her close friends from BDM/Jungmädel days ensured Inge had time to dispose of evidence she thought could be incriminating. She was not held overnight. The third "arrest" came after the execution of her siblings. Although she spent time in prison, her father's good friend - the head of the Gestapo in Stuttgart - came to their defense. Inge Scholl was acquitted and released. Vinke should have mentioned both the outcome and the connections. (p. 9)
  4. Interesting that Inge/Vinke neglected to mention the sixth child, Mathilde ("Thilde"), who died as a 9-month old baby when Sophie Scholl was five. (p. 12)
  5. Vinke allowed Inge Scholl's mythology about their residences to continue. Vinke made it sound like the Scholl family lived in Forchtenberg at the time the photos were taken (1932). They did not. Before Sophie's birth, the family lived in Ingersheim, where Robert Scholl was provisional mayor. 1919-1929, the family lived in Forchtenberg, where Robert Scholl was Stadtschultheiβ [combination of town mayor and town justice]. Not only did he lose his reelection bid in 1929, the town also sued him for immoral behavior (affairs) and levied a fine against him. The family moved to Ludwigsburg that year, while Robert Scholl worked in Stuttgart. In 1931, Robert Scholl purchased a bookkeeping firm in Ulm, while the family continued to live in Ludwigsburg. They moved to Ulm in 1932. It's doubtful the years in Forchtenberg were pleasant. Susanne Hirzel's mother - also from Forchtenberg - did not like the Scholls and remained fairly hostile to the parents. (pp. 12-15)
  6. According to Elisabeth Hartnagel Scholl and Fritz Hartnagel, Robert Scholl was not a pacifist! He simply hated Hitler. He specifically had not been a pacifist during World War I. (p. 16)
  7. A somewhat positive comment, that also says a lot about Inge Scholl. Vinke's quote of Otl Aicher regarding the personalities of Hans and Sophie Scholl was far more correct than Inge's. Confirmed by mutiple witnesses. (pp. 19-20)
  8. Vinke recorded Inge Scholl's assertions about their residences without questioning her or doing additional research. He failed to note that while they lived in Ludwigsburg, Robert Scholl worked first in Stuttgart, then in Ulm. He was an absentee father for three years. Once they moved to Ulm, they did not move to a large apartment. From 1932-1934, they lived in a modest apartment on the Michelsberg. In 1934, they moved down to Ulm proper, to an apartment on Olgastrasse, where they were the only non-Jewish residents. A few months after Kristallnacht, the Scholls moved into the apartment on Münsterplatz that Inge (and Vinke) referenced here. Inge's omission of the other residences has always puzzled me. (pp. 20-21)
  9. Vinke again followed Inge without bothering to check out her "memories" - Inge spent more time talking about Sophie's feelings towards getting her period than she did accurately describing Sophie's role in Jungmädel. (And of course, no talk whatever about Inge's high rank and duties in BDM/Jungmädel.) Vinke spent 18 pages with sentimental nonsense about Sophie's early teen years, before he took up the touchy subject of her role in Jungmädel. (pp. 25-42)
  10. When Vinke did finally address the touchy Jungmädel question, he once again did so without questioning Inge's stories or verifying the people she mentioned. Above all, Vinke continued the destructive and false philo-Semitic story about Luise Nathan. As Susanne Hirzel would later repeatedly state, Luise Nathan was not blond haired, blue-eyed. She had dark hair and brown eyes. And had to flee Germany in early 1939 after Kristallnacht, something Inge seemed not to know. Further, why did Inge (and Vinke) talk about Luise Nathan and Anneliese Wallersteiner, and not mention Lotte Barth, who had lived in the same house as the Scholls (Olgastrasse), was one year older than Sophie, and whose family suffered greatly during Kristallnacht? Inge never mentioned the Barths. Or the Einstein family, cousins of "that" Einstein! (pp. 43-47)
  11. Vinke repeated Inge Scholl's misinformation about d.j.1.11. and bündische clubs in general. Hans Scholl did not create or join d.j.1.11. as protest or in opposition to Hitler Youth. The d.j.1.11. mystique was incorporated into his Jungvolk platoon with the full blessing and under the direction of Max von Neubeck, Hans Scholl's superior. Yes, as of the summer of 1933 Hitler Youth was the only recognized youth group. But the NSDAP would not forbid the practicing of bündische customs until 1937. Hans Scholl's Jungvolk trip to Sweden (Sicily, really Inge?) was done under the auspices of Hitler Youth. Although the authorities withdrew travel permission at the last minute, Hans' group traveled wearing their Jungvolk uniforms. (pp. 48-52)
  12. Although Inge/Vinke talked a little bit about Hans Scholl's Jungvolk group, they omitted Sophie Scholl's enthusiastic Jungmädel leadership. They could have mentioned at least one example of Sophie's striding into a shop and having one of her group arrested for failure to attend a Jungmädel meeting.
  13. The arrests in 1937 - I wish I knew if even one word of Inge's narrative is true. Because she omitted the primary reason that her brother Hans was arrested and the primary thing the Gestapo questioned her about: Hans Scholl's (and Ernst Reden's) repeated sexual assaults of a pre-teen in his Jungvolk group. To learn about these arrests - the real story about these arrests - check out our White Rose Histories, © 2002. The Stuttgart Gestapo chief as well as Judge Cuhorst (before whom Hans Scholl appeared in June 1938) were both close friends of Robert Scholl. The three men provided mutual Persilscheine for one another after the war. Robert Scholl's friendship with these high-ranking Nazis played a big role in his childrens' release. Note too that Sophie was immediately released. She had been mistaken for a boy. (pp. 53-57)
  14. No, Inge and Sophie did not immediately break with National Socialism after their arrests. In fact, on November 29, 1937, Sophie wrote Fritz Hartnagel, telling him about an upcoming BDM/Jungmädel party that Inge was organizing for December 8. Scharlo - another high-ranking Jungmädel leader and close friend of Inge Scholl, was to be guest of honor. (p. 58)
  15. The Inge/Vinke narrative about Sophie's dancing is pure fiction. Sophie was not a good dancer. Her own letters document that. Also, Inge did not accompany Sophie and Hans (and possibly Werner) to Annelies Kammerer's house for her dance parties. Sophie does not mention Inge's presence even once. Further, Sophie had met Fritz Hartnagel prior to 1937. It was simply a matter that during one of those dance parties at Annelies' house, Fritz noticed Sophie as someone more than Hans and Werner's sister for the first time (he had long been friends with the brothers). (pp. 58-59)
  16. Werner - Inge/Vinke refused to give Werner Scholl the respect he deserved. He was not the first to become more interested in "christendom" as Inge/Vinke related. Rather, Werner was the first Scholl to become interested in resistance. We hear Werner's words in Sophie's letters from 1938-1940. (pp. 65-66)
  17. Vinke continued the falsehoods that plagued White Rose histories that are based on Inge's lies. It sounds like a little example, but it's indicative of the larger problem. Vinke quoted Inge quoting Sophie about the funny jokes that the wind played on the Münsterplatz. This letter excerpt is in a chapter about 1938. However, the Scholls did not live at Münsterplatz 33 until May 1939. (p. 68)
  18. Interesting that Inge failed to mention that one of those trips north was to visit her (Inge), while she worked as a nanny for one of Robert Scholl's friends in Lesum. Trip was in August 1938. (pp. 68-69)
  19. Vinke perpetuated Inge's version of Fritz Hartnagel as Sophie Scholl's lover and boyfriend and unofficial fiance. In the excerpts of letters that Vinke used to buttress this perception, Inge (and Vinke) omitted the disturbing letter from Sophie to Fritz dated August 15, 1938. We really need a strong psychologist or psychiatrist to evaluate the dangerous regression of Sophie Scholl's self-worth and self-esteem from 1938 on. Something bad happened, and whatever it was continues to be blocked by the Scholl family. In this "Leonberg" letter, she not only broke up with Fritz, she also stated: "Before this trip [to Lesum to visit Inge], I was happy, but now everything depresses me." Otl Aicher wrote about Sophie's suicidal ideations that she spoke to him about in 1941. In February 1943, Wilhelm Geyer was concerned she was suicidal. Any story about Sophie that focuses on her as only happy, cheerful, focused, self-assured? Deceives its readers. She went from the highest manic high to the lowest depressive state faster than a rollercoaster. (pp. 69-71)
  20. The famous quote, "Don't say it's for the Fatherland..." First, Sophie was expressing a sentiment her brother Werner had apparently stated when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. Werner's close friend Otl Aicher recorded that statement in his memoirs. Second, Vinke conveniently skipped over November 1938, by lumping Kristallnacht (11/9/1938) and the move to the house at Münsterplatz 33 (May 1939) together with the invasion of Poland (September 1939), thereby almost completely eradicating a year of Sophie's life. There are also lies of omission, and this is prime example. (Why didn't Vinke ask Inge Scholl about Kristallnacht?) (pp. 72-73)
  21. When I read Vinke's interview with Fritz and Elisabeth Hartnagel, I could better understand Fritz Hartnagel's admonition to me as I left their house in April 1995: "Nichts erfinden!" [Don't make up anything.] He and Elisabeth clearly had tired of people inventing stories around Sophie's life. I know that the two of them battled Inge to try to convince her to correct her narrative, and she would not. (pp. 77-80)
  22. Not sure why Vinke said the Kohlermann sanatorium in Bad Dürrheim was for stomach and intestinal issues. It was then, and is now, a place for children who suffer from asthma, bronchitis, and other breathing disorders. Then and now, the approach is a combination of medical, plus the salt water springs that Bad Dürrheim is famous for, plus psychological. Today (but likely not in 1940), the Kohlermanns encourage the "aunties" to hug children and provide them with psychological safety. Vinke followed Inge's narrative by omitting the fact that towards the end of Sophie's tenure in Bad Dürrheim, she came to greatly admire the director who had first appeared too Prussian, mentioning her wisdom in one of many letters. And when her sister Elisabeth showed up to take her place, Sophie did not want to leave. Not sure why this was not in Inge's story. (pp. 81-86)
  23. Sophie and Fritz: While Sophie was in Bad Dürrheim, she wrote Fritz regularly. However, many of her letters to him during those four weeks were extraordinarily harsh. Reading those letters with the safe distance of time, it feels like an emotional rollercoaster. Apparently Fritz thought the same thing. August 1940, he had a brief but meaningful affair with a Yugoslavian woman he met while on duty in Amsterdam. Her name was Luise. At the end of August 1940, he still had not written Sophie about Luise, but he penned these words instead. "This eternal ‘up one minute, down the next’ [himmelhoch jauchzend zu Tode betrübt, or 'cheering with joy as high as the heavens, deeply grieved'] makes one tired. And recently, I have grown very tired." And then Fritz challenged her to finally answer his questions. She had felt free to demean his position as soldier. Yet when he asked specific questions about her objections, she had ignored him, as if she were repeating words she had heard, but that she could not defend. Note: She never responded. -- Inge left all of this out, and Vinke accepted it unquestioningly.
  24. Again it is the omission that is the falsehood. September 17, 1940, Sophie wrote Fritz a brutal letter. He had been planning on taking leave in October to visit her. She said she dreaded seeing him. "My dear Fritz, I very often make things dark for you?” Two days later, before receiving her 9/17/1940 letter, Fritz finally wrote Sophie about Luise. Even before receiving the "Luise" letter, Sophie wrote Fritz again. "Please don't come to Ulm while Hans is here." [There is something important about the friendship between Fritz and Hans that Scholl Archives continues to block. Neither man would ever visit the other, even when they were in the same location for an extended time.]  When Fritz visited in October, Sophie treated him so terribly that even she admitted he had gotten a raw deal. And yet Sophie continued to ask Fritz to send her gifts - clothes, books, food, especially clothes. He acted as her personal supply sergeant.
  25. Between Kohlermann and Krauchenwies, Sophie worked at a kindergarten in Ulm, living at home. Her letters from September 1940-March 1941 show us a depressed, mixed-up young woman who does not like herself, does not like Inge, does not like her family, really really does not like Fritz (unless he is sending her clothes). Fritz erred by visiting her in Ulm in February 1941. He cajoled her with lots of gifts and paid for a ski trip. Where she once again treated him badly. When Fritz told her he still had feelings for Luise, Sophie wanted to know why. What did Luise give him that she had not?
  26. One exchange from March 1941 is troubling. Fritz wrote Sophie about an uprising he witnessed in Amsterdam. Fritz had not seen the violence at its origins. From February 9 to 11, dockworkers in Amsterdam had gone on strike, protesting the increasingly harsh measures taken against the city’s Jewish population. The Germans responded with raids on the Jewish quarter, which only exacerbated matters and provoked Dutch citizens to up the ante. Which the SS met with more violence -- sixty Dutch dockworkers were sent to German concentration camps, and four hundred Dutch-Jewish civilians shipped to Mauthausen, where they were murdered. Fritz wrote Sophie about this, to which Sophie replied, “By the way, I can only say that it is good that one proceeds radically everywhere (as in Amsterdam). It is less disconcerting as it would be if one saw something good here and bad there and did not know what was genuine.” Fritz's son Thomas wrote in 2005: “Sophie Scholl’s espousal of radical proceedings against the Jews has a shocking effect. Obviously, she wished for the Nazi regime to be exposed openly, visibly, and clearly as inhuman. Nevertheless, her remark leaves a bitter aftertaste, if to a certain extent the suffering individual is sacrificed for an overriding cause.”
  27. Is it any wonder then that Inge Scholl / Hermann Vinke skipped from August 1940 to March 1941 without missing a beat? (p. 86 is 8/1940, p. 87 begins, "At the beginning of March 1941..."
  28. The story about Inge visiting Sophie at Krauchenwies continues to evolve. Vinke's book was published in 1980. In Inge's Chronologischer Bericht that formed the basis for her little White Rose book, published in 1952, Inge said that she and Otl Aicher had visited Sophie in Krauchenwies that day. They had arrived in Krauchenwies (so Inge in 1952) Saturday night 6/21/1941 to visit Sophie the next day. So much for the Saturday intrigue she related to Vinke. In 1952, Inge wrote that she and Otl had heard the news about the invasion of the Soviet Union that Sunday morning 6/22/1941 before going to meet up with Sophie at the camp. When they saw Sophie - still the 1952 version - they asked if she had heard the news as well. Sophie replied, "This is the kind of thing that we only hear about in the Reich Labor Service camp three days after it happens." Evolution of memory. (pp. 91-92)
  29. The little chapter about Sophie's visits with Fritz while she was in Blumberg did not reflect the truth. For one thing, Inge's words about Sophie's religious awakening applied more to Inge Scholl after the war (!) than to Sophie in 1941. Contrary to Inge's portrayal, Fritz and Sophie did not always meet in Freiburg. First meeting was in Augsburg (more disastrous than all previous disasters combined) at the end of October 1941. On 11/9/41, Fritz and Sophie met up in Freiburg. Sophie was less mean to him that day, but kept her distance. Fritz wrote her after the 11/9 visit, trying to determine why she was so opposed to having sex. 11/14, again in Freiburg, this time Fritz did not pressure Sophie for sex, but he made the gigantic mistake of telling her he loved her. Augsburg redux. Sophie responded by telling him she didn't even like him. At the end of November, Sophie told him she was going to Ulm the weekend of December 7 and pointedly did not invite him. That letter was even more cruel. Instead of recognizing how her words - "I don't even like you" - could be hurtful, she accused Fritz of hurting her, that he had made her cry, that she was in pain. -- Inge also did not mention that Sophie met up with Otl Aicher twice in Freiburg while she was in Blumberg (he was in France). Once they snuggled under the covers and talked through the night. Not a word about that! -- Fritz and Sophie met up twice more, both times in January 1942, once at the Bodensee (Lake Constance), and the second time either at the Bodensee or Donaueschingen. (pp. 94-97)
  30. Unsurprisingly, Vinke omitted Sophie Scholl's words about events in Blumberg, and apparently did no research whatever into the purpose of that town and Sophie's work there. The NSDAP had re-opened an iron ore mine in that tiny village, which had had a population of around 800 in 1936. Robert Ley (Arbeitsfront) promoted German industry with photo ops in Blumberg, showing the 650 new residences being built for the workers. Not nearly enough to accommodate the 8000 miners anticipated for relocation to Blumberg. Nor did they have enough German men to work the mines. The NSDAP therefore imported Yugoslavian prisoners, housing them in dreadful conditions, to do the work the Germans would not. Some workers lived in unfinished shells of houses. Others (prisoners) were put up in tents. Sophie ate at the Gasthaus zum Kranz, dining on white linen tablecloths with nice hot meals. The prisoners... Her host guarded those prisoners. Where are their faces? Inge Scholl permitted Dr. Inge Jens and Hermann Vinke to read the merest blips of Sophie's thoughts during those months. Everything else is censored. Which is almost everything. (pp. 94-97)

This book review takes you through page 97 of 218 pages. The errors only increase after page 97, since Inge Scholl was not at all a part of Hans and Sophie's life from April 1942 on.

By way of example: There is one simple fact Inge Scholl would not change, despite Fritz and Elisabeth Hartnagel's persistent requests -- Sophie Scholl did not travel from Ulm to Munich on her 21st birthday (5/9/1942), bearing birthday cake and wine. Hans Scholl and Traute Lafrenz did not meet her at the train station. They did not meet up at Hans' room "in Schwabing" with Hans' friends to celebrate her birthday. 

Instead, Sophie arrived in Munich on May 1, 1942. At that time, Hans was living in an attic room on Athenerplatz (not in Schwabing). Sophie stayed temporarily with Carl Muth (she hated her days there, because Hans abandoned her). Fritz Hartnagel visited her at Carl Muth's house on May 2. Sophie handed him a military requisition form for a duplicating machine and asked him to source it for her. When he refused, Sophie asked him for RM 1000 ($8000 in 2023). He gave her RM 200 ($1600) and left for the Russian front. Fritz said when he left Munich that May 2, 1942, he assumed he would never see Sophie again - because he would be killed on the Russian front.

Anyone who cites Vinke's book without questioning his "facts" is not a serious scholar. When I see Vinke in footnotes, I immediately discount that person's research, unless they are contradicting what Vinke wrote.

To know more about the real story of the White Rose, especially about Sophie Scholl's actual life (and the open questions around the censored letters and diaries), read our White Rose Histories, © 2002

Book review © 2023 Denise Heap. Please contact Exclamation! Publishers for permission to quote.