Friday, September 06, 2013

Munich 1943, Sophia Scholl

Dear Readers,

Sophia Scholl, was born in 1921, died in 1943, a young German girl. She was executed in the guillotine. What did she do to have been condemned to this dreadful punishment?

In Germany, you'll see her name on the street, on many educational institutions. Her marble bust is in a large hall at the University of Munich, where she was caught while distributing leaflets there.

Her name is in top-10 lists of public opinion surveys in recent years conducted in Germany for "the most influencial person in German history". If you search in YouTube for her name, you will find a German-made film depicting about the life of Sophie Schöll in full video recording with English subtitles.

Munich in 1942, with the city and the date, you must have given some preliminary information. We are talking about the wartime Nazi Germany. Sophia, was the youngest daughter of a German family with many children. She follows the popular culture, sings the songs of the period same as every young girl listening to the radio, watching the popular culture of the day, as a young German girl wearing the appropriate fashion. She was studying Biology at the University of Munich. Due to the state censorship and propaganda, they were not aware of a terrible conditions of WW2.

Her big/ elder brother Hans, was in Faculty of Medicine, University of Munich. Medical school students were to serve summer internship at hospitals during the summer. They were sent to war front via train, with the German soldiers sent to the front of Stalingrad. Medical students were not aware of the hard realities of current war at a time they did not know then finding themselves in a terrible war zone conditions.

Summer ends, the internship ends, the students come back to Munich. Battle of Stalingrad was too far away. However, all student interns returning from the war front were in shock. They start to tell the conditions to family members and trusted close friends. They desire to do something heard. They jointly draft a written notice explaining the situation in war zone. They multiply one page announcement with simple mimeograph, and start to distribute to college rooms, handing out under the door without being seen.

Sophia was working in all of these things. She made editing, copying, duplicating- multiplying the papers, and helped for proper distribution. Number of similar papers reached to 6th version. They were caught in the university hall by collage janitor, and delivered to Gestapo. Gestapo had a brief interrogation then driven to the court.

The Court begun in the morning, continued in the afternoon and ended on the same day. They were found guilty of treason and condemned to death.

Wikipedia says,
Sophia Magdalena Scholl[1][2] (9 May 1921 – 22 February 1943) was a German student and revolutionary, active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany. She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich with her brother Hans. As a result, they were both executed by guillotine. Since the 1970s, Scholl has been celebrated as one of the great German heroes who actively opposed the Third Reich during the Second World War.

Prison officials emphasized the courage with which she walked to her execution.
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?"

Then what happens? Allied secret services duplicated the 6th manifesto, and distributed millions of them by aircrafts over German sky. Reading and keeping this document meant treason to Germany during last days of WW2.

Today, in Germany as well as in other western democracies, the political initiative to criticize the current political power is the most natural political right. Freedom of speech, Freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of criticism are the constitutional rights, to practice at all times for any wrongdoing of the elected political power.

* * *

Monarchy, absolute ruling, absolutism are rules of the past. We no longer live in those conditions. We shall not return to those former times. However we inevitably think of those people who reacted to similar arbitrary initiatives, establishing parallels with the recent public uprisings in the MiddleEast. For those who lost their lives, their eyes, detained, beaten citizens, we question "Why did they deserve all these?"

What is wrong with defending green parks, react to new shopping malls? How do we find the truth if we do not scrutinize or make proper criticism? The average education level of the voters of this land is around 5th grade. With that level of education, how shall we trust to vital decisions taken by the elected representations without any scrutinize? To whom those elected few work for? To their voters only? Or to the entire nation?

We are the people of business life. We wish our government to take right decisions on our behalf. We want our government to be successful. Our government has no luxury of making incorrect decisions. If government fails then country fails and we all fail.

In his latest important book, titled "How nations fail?", our world famous economist Daron Acemoglu points out that democratic institutions, freedom of speech, freedom of expression are must-have key items for development and well- being of the society.

We all live in a global village. Everyone knows everyone on everything. We get increasing number of repeated warnings from the US Congress, from the WhiteHouse, from the European Parliament, from heads of states of Western Democracies on importance of "freedom of expression" of ordinary citizens of this land. In democratic systems, it is important to have Independent courts, free press, devolved powers, pluralistic constitution to protect minorities.

We are afraid to face long-term risks of exclusion from international meetings of democratic countries. There is high risk of expulsion from international community. There is also high risk for inability to access to western commercial financing sources. It is not "precious solitude", but it is purely diplomatic wording for exclusion- expulsion or better to say "isolation" from the international community. These are serious conditions that will certainly affect our development and well- being of our society in the long term.

Clash between disproportional brutality vs. disproportional intelligence may lead to unexpected nasty consequences. We applaud correct measures, similarly we criticize mistakes in order to get better decisions which would work for benefit of all. We have the right to ask for the best of our society. The correct measures and the interests of politicians are not always the same thing. We should make remedies with freedom of speech, freedom of expression of all.

Kindest regards. Prinkipo, August 24, 2013

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of ODTÜ Alumni and Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

HalukDireskeneli at gmail dot com, Istanbul, Turkey
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