To celebrate LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari is publishing a daily series of LGBT Heroes, selected by the magazine’s team of writers and special contributors.
Hans & Sophie Scholl
Co-Founders of Nazi Resistance Movement, The White Rose
by Christopher Bryant
To mark the theme of 2013’s UK LGBT History Month – Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths – the Polari Magazine LGBT Heroes feature opened with the mathematician, codebreaker, and father of computer science, Alan Turing. As the month draws to a close, and preparations get underway to celebrate the 2014 theme, Music, the series returns to the era of the Second World War, and to a brother and sister who, like Turing, worked to bring about an end to the Nazi regime.
LGBT History Month is about reclaiming stories that have been lost to history. One such story is that of Hans Scholl. With his sister Sophie, Hans co-founded the movement The White Rose. Starting in June 1942, the organisation distributed leaflets detailing Nazi atrocities and encouraging resistance to the regime. Their work was discovered in February 1943. Hans and Sophie were promptly executed.
Scholl’s homosexuality, and the part it played in the evolution of his political consciousness, was not revealed until the 2006 essay ‘Solving Mysteries: The Secret of The White Rose’ by Jud Newborn. The question of Scholl’s sexuality was then explored in greater detail by Frank McDonough in his 2009 biography Sophie Scholl: The Woman Who Defied Hitler. McDonough revealed that when the Gestapo tortured the pair in February 1943, Sophie cited Hans’ trial for homosexual activity in 1938 as “the most important reason” for her dissident politics.
Hans Scholl was born in 1918, and his sister Sophie in 1921. In 1933, Hans joined the Hitler Youth. He believed that the National Socialists would lead the German people back to greatness, and because of his enthusiasm for the cause quickly became a Squad Leader. He was soon disillusioned, however, and the sheer hypocrisy of the Nazi regime created a dissident. In 1935 he was ordered to look into the dissident group d.j.1.11, and consequently became influenced by subversive youth groups that were on to the dishonesty of the Nazi propaganda. The question “What is an Aryan?” would be asked at the campfire, to which came the reply, “Blond like Hitler. Tall like Goebbels. Slim like Goering.” Touché.
Hans was arrested in November 1937, and in June 1938 tried under under section 175a of the German Criminal Code. Paragraph 175 criminalised homosexuality, and 175a determined how those under 21 should be treated. Hans faced expulsion from the Army, and banishment to a concentration camp to wear a pink triangle. The judge, Hermann Cuhorst, concluded that Hans’ suffered a “youthful failing”, and on the back of the highly favourable report on his career in Hitler Youth, he was acquitted. Hans was, nevertheless, traumatised deeply by the interrogation in the lead-up to the trial. It sealed his disillusionment with the National Socialists, and started a chain of events that would end with his death as well as that of his sister.
Hans and Sophie Scholl are revered figures in German history. A public poll in Germany in 2003, in fact, listed the pair the fourth most popular Germans, and put them ahead of Einstein, Mozart and Bach. There is no denying that their dissident politics were founded on Hans’ homosexuality. That fact, once hidden and now visible, is a powerful reminder of the importance of History Month as a tool that can enable people to take a stand against prejudice and the oppression to which it so often leads.
I’d like to thank Richard Smith, from whom I first learned of Hans Scholl. Click here to read Richard’s superb, irreverent blog Fagburn.