Sophie Scholl’s Show Trial
"What we wrote and said is what you all think too! Only you don't have the courage to say it out loud!"
The below excerpt from "With You There Is Light" is a dramatic interpretation of the Scholl siblings' and Christoph Probst trial. Because the notes from it no longer exist, the author took the liberty of taking and adapting actual passages recorded from the 7/1944 trial in Berlin where the same presiding Judge sentenced members of the Valkyrie Plot. The author conjectures that Judge Freisler would have used the same macabre and terrifying tactics in both trials.
Excerpt from Chapter Thirteen:
The small, wood-paneled courtroom with wall-to-wall windows was packed with prosecuting attorneys, defense lawyers, stenographers, mandated German Army officers, and onlookers, sitting in scared silence.
The notorious President of the People’s Court, Judge Roland Freisler, would be arriving in any minute. A morning sun streamed into the room but Freisler’s imminent appearance cast an ominous spell. Everyone knew what kind of a man he was. As crazy as Hitler himself.
Sophie was led to the defendants’ bench and seated next to two policemen.
Christoph and Hans sat to her left. If only she could see them, then she might be able to gain some strength. Suddenly the door burst open. The red-robed Freisler followed into the courtroom with six other judges also wearing red fez hats. Freisler stopped at his chair in the middle of the room and cleared his skinny throat. He scanned the packed courtroom, abruptly stopping his crazed eyes on the defendants’ bench.
“The federal prosecutor of the Great German Empire…,” Freisler started speaking almost incoherently and, then, in the habit of not completing sentences, pointed at a nondescript older man dressed in wilted civilian clothing, “has just informed us that the State is indicting these three… these three grievous, disgusting transgressors.”
Freisler’s voice choked with rage. He sneered, revealing brown and rotted teeth, and sat back down, impatiently tapping bony fingers on the long judge’s bench. Elderly and wounded young officers in decorated grey military uniforms shifted in their chairs. Eight jurists dressed in dark suits sat at a rectangular table, forming a wall in front of the judges. Not a single person had the courage to speak.
Sophie sat perfectly still. Her body stiffened at the sound of his voice and her heart pounded. She began to sweat. Rumor had it Freisler picked out court members randomly and threw them in prison if they didn’t respond quickly to his demands. Two guards helped her stand, steadied her, and held her up. Her pulse quickened and for a moment she lost her balance. She focused on the pitcher of water on the table in front of her. She couldn’t look at her accusers.
“You are Sophia Magdalena Scholl?” The chief prosecutor took over now, speaking as if playing a role in a movie he no longer wanted a part in.
Barely audible, he read out loud from his notes. “When and where were you born?”
“May 9, 1921,” Sophie responded quietly. “Forchtenburg.”
This procedure only bored Freisler.
“Stop, stop, stop!” he shouted, flailing bony arms hysterically in the air, motioning to the timid attorney.
Freisler’s red robe hung on his skeletal frame, and his fez cap tilted off to the side. Hitler himself had created this judicial branch and appointed Freisler its president. It was widely known the People’s Court had nothing to do with fairness, innocence or guilt, or the kind of justice that had been administered during the Republic or even in monarchical times.
Sophie summoned the courage to look over at the pale and meek judges flanking the rail-thin Freisler. They were like ghosts. He had gone off on an almost undecipherable rant, growing incoherent with rage, clenching his fists and shaking uncontrollably as if possessed by an unseen force. His left eye, much larger than the right eye, rolled around wildly without focus. The angrier he got the more confused the left eye became, like a pin ball ricocheting around in a giant eye socket. The dead right eye looked out into nothing.
Suddenly a calm came over the frenzied man. He was coaching himself into composure. He began to speak in an exaggerated, modulated voice.
“I will now read the following official command from Herr Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Headquarters in Berlin.” Then, changing his mind again, he shook his head and laying it aside, spoke officiously, “We must proceed as expeditiously as possible. We must act quickly to rid Germany of this sickness.”
Sophie felt like she could pass out.
He turned to the chief prosecutor.
“Enough with procedure,” Freisler continued, shouting again.
Taking part in the Wannsee Conference a year ago was his career’s greatest achievement, but he wasn’t allowed to publicly mention the plans implemented there. This irritated him. The Final Solution was confidential.
Freisler rested in the knowledge that the Führer trusted him to deal with all sorts of traitors. This fueled him with confidence. Nothing in his past, his experience as an attorney, could compare with the glory he felt administering National Socialist justice. He had already sentenced over 1,800 Germans to death for not believing in Hitler and everyone in this courtroom knew it.
“Being accused of treason is the worst possible allegation in the history of the German people. The chief prosecutor,” Freisler pointed to the attorney sitting in the first row of chairs, “claims to have evidence that you three have attempted one of the worst treasonous actions that our German people have ever known. Our mission today is to determine what you have done and then according to German law, find a sentence appropriate for these crimes.”
Sophie’s whole body collapsed. She closed her eyes, thought of Fritz. He had survived hell. She knew Stalingrad must have been beyond earthly description. Perhaps nothing would make sense to him ever again.
She asked God one more time for help.
The above quote - the author believes - may or may not have been attributed to Sophie Scholl. The author is convinced that Judge Freisler was so terrifying that Sophie may not have been able to stand up to him.