Sophie Scholl and Halle (Saale)

Bust of Sophie Scholl at the Walhalla (source: Wikipedia)

What does the famous resistance fighter from Forchtenberg (Franconia), after whom countless “Geschwister-Scholl-Streets” and schools are named together with her brother Hans and who belonged to the Munich-based group of the “White Rose”, with the Saalestadt to do?

At first glance, nothing. Sophie Scholl has certainly never been here and at least not noticed our city in a way that posterity would have known about it.

Nevertheless, their worldview had a considerable influence on an event that was to save the city from complete destruction in April 1945.

Fate would have it that Sophie had met Fritz Hartnagel in 1937 during a dance event. The year before, he had voluntarily embarked on an officer career. Under the influence of Sophie among others, Hartnagel turned into an opponent of war and violence. He was on duty in Stalingrad, among other places, and was deeply shaken when he heard of the arrest and execution of Sophie, to whom he was engaged at the time. That was in February 1943, and there were only four days between arrest and execution. Fritz Hartnagel remained close to the Scholl family and supported them.

In March 1945 Hartnagel was transferred to Halle (Saale) with the rank of captain. There he headed the Herres and Luftnachrichtenschule based in the city of Saale, which was located west of the Saale and was one of the areas first occupied by the approaching US Army.

Towards the end of World War II, the commanders of those units that had armed troops under their command (police, factory security, e.g. Siebel Flugzeugwerke, etc.) reached a loose agreement not to offer any resistance when the Allies arrived. It is not known whether Hartnagel knew about this; in any case, it was clear to him, given his pacifist sentiments, that the people under his control would not expose the people of the news school to any further senseless danger and issued appropriate orders. This was followed by its determination by the SS, because cowardice in front of the enemy or disobedience to orders were serious crimes that were often punished with death. Hartnagel’s adjudant, Alfred Bauer, then freed the captain by force of arms and was killed himself in the process. Fritz Hartnagel himself survived and in the later years became a staunch opponent of war and armaments.

Conclusion:

If Fritz Hartnagel had given his troops the order to doggedly defend himself in accordance with the Fuehrer’s order, the Americans would certainly have been less willing to find a peaceful solution. As it is, however, they noticed already in the early days of the struggle for Halle that there are forces who have recognized the signs of the times and want peace.

And since Fritz Harnagel had been influenced in a positive way by Sophie Scholl in the past, the latter also had an influence on saving the city from being destroyed by bombs and artillery.

Thank you Sophie Scholl!

Thank you Fritz Hartnagel!


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