Imagine--the Battle of Stalingrad lasted five months, one week, and three days. That long. During that madness, the city suffered innumerable air raids that pummeled it into ruins. Much of the fighting was the worst--hand-to-hand in the horror. When it was over and the bloodied remnant of Hitler's army finally laid down arms, losses reached somewhere close, if not beyond, two million human beings captured, wounded, killed.
That was the Battle of Stalingrad, a level of horror beyond imagination, as it must have been for Hitler's Reich, whose news police did their best to keep the truth under wraps.
But some returned from Russia, early on. Some returned, later. When they did, if they told anyone what they'd seen, the story opened. Eventually, recruits told they were being sent to "the Eastern front" considered it a death sentence.
Merely to tell the truth about Stalingrad became a crime, not simply because of the massive losses, but also because Stalingrad documented in bloody detail that Himmler's propaganda machine was pumping out fake news. Stalingrad gave the Reich a nose so long no one could miss the lies, Hitler simply could not afford to tell the story.
In Munich, Sophie Scholl, her brother, and a few other students, wanted the truth out. They called themselves "the White Rose," and did what they could to let Germany know something about the Eastern Front. They were anti-Hitler at a time when hundreds of thousands of people were already being executed in death camps. They were the Resistance, even though they knew their own deaths, should they be arrested, were almost assured.
Sophie Scholl: the Final Days (2005), the film chosen by Vox this weekend as its "movie of the week," tells her story in unrelenting, stark detail made possible by the release of the actual transcripts of her hearing and trial. It's powerful and riveting, as so much holocaust literature is. The dynamic is as unimaginable as Stalingrad's death tolls: a girl, a student, asking for a principle, regardless of her life.
Sophie Scholl is a national hero in Germany, for good reason. She walked to her own death--she was beheaded--as if she were royalty, not without tears or regrets, but with the triumph her hearty belief that what she did--attempt to tell people about Stalingrad--was not a crime. It was the truth.
She's sustained throughout by her brother, who was also executed when she was, and her parents, who tearfully supported their children's resistance.
Her trial, conducted by a madman Nazi judge, clearly proves her to be the only sane person in the room. When she's sentenced, she lets the courtroom know the truth. The crowd is composed entirely of Nazi men in full military regalia. Her own parents were not permitted to enter. But when she says that everyone in that room knows what happened at Stalingrad, when she opens up about the truth, what those Nazis hear is something they already know--but it shakes them to hear it out loud.
They don't rise up. They don't protest her sentence. They don't even murmer. But something dies. They look down or to their sides uncomfortably. At that moment, although the death sentence doesn't change, Sophie Scholl wins the courtroom battle.
Not many movies offer us death as triumph. Sophie Scholl does. Her resolve arises from a number of sources, one of which is anguished, trusting prayer.
Here's how Vox described its choice this week:
Every weekend, we pick a movie you can stream that dovetails with current events. Old, new, blockbuster, arthouse: They’re all fair game. What you can count on is a weekend watch that sheds new light on the week that was. The movie of the week for February 25 through March 3 is Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005), which is available to digitally rent on Amazon.Trust me--Sophie Scholl has nothing to do with LaLa Land. Whether or not it has relevancy to anything else going on around us is something you'll have to determine for yourself.