Leaflets of the White Rose - LEGO in historical places

Author: Benjamin Franz

 

A memorial to two brave people in an uncouraged time at a special place.

 

It is February 18, 1943 and the siblings Sophie and Hans Scholl distribute leaflets at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich against Hitler, the regime, the mass murders and the war. They are caught doing this and must pay for their civil courage with their lives.

 

Until today there is no greater sign of civil courage than the actions of the White Rose in Germany. It's about time to tell this story with LEGO bricks. So I do it right here.

 

LEGO LMU München Sophie Hans Scholl minifigs

 

The Scholl siblings on 18 February 1943 during their leaflet campaign on the second floor of the main building of the Ludwig-Maximilian University. Photographed at the place of the event. Photographer: Sebastian Gerner.

 

 

The story of the Scholl siblings

lego minifig photography of Sophie and Hans Scholl at the LMU Munich

Sophia Magdalena and Hans Fritz Scholl were part of the resistance group "Die weiße Rose" (eng: The White Rose), which tried to convince people by peaceful means to oppose National Socialism.

 

They printed leaflets, wrote letters and painted walls. On February 18, 1943 they were caught distributing leaflets at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich and arrested by the Gestapo.

 

Only a few days later a show trial against them took place. In which they were both sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out the same day. On February 22, 1943 these two young people experienced their last day on earth, because they dared to speak their minds in a totalitarian and criminal regime. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophie Indiana Goldstein Walker Scholl

 

Sophie Scholl and the model of the 2nd floor of the LMU itself.

 

Those who saw the movie "Sophie Scholl - the final days" (2005), know that the cloths I gave Sophie are inspired by that movie. Why? Because a wide pop cultural portrayal of Sophie and Hans Scholl already existed and that helps the representation with LEGO figures enormously. Of course the presentation of the minifigs is not "historically correct". It's impossible to do You can only transfer into the LEGO medium and with that attributes are going to lose. That's normal. The 'reality' in media must always be shortened and simplified. Just as computer games, films, series (even books) etc. cannot show, "how it really was", so the LEGO medium simply cannot do as well.

 

The LEGO figure Sophie Scholl is a combination of the iconic torso of Indiana Jones, the beautiful legs Queenie Goldsteins from Fantastic Beasts and the hair as well as the head are from her sister Tina. Her scarf is from Jay Walker. He is the selfie guy from the Ninjago minifig series.

 

So we should better call the minfig Sophie Indiana Goldstein Walker Scholl, but that's a silly name. And after all who would have noticed? The minifig fits perfectly in the build and it consits of genuine LEGO parts - except of her skirt - so it's not custom printed or stickered/decaled which is of course also a good idea to portray historical minifigs a little more detailed.  Same goes for her brother he has also been mixed from several different LEGO pieces. Just to mention his head is from Luke Skywalker

 

Let us move from the actors to the scenery in which they act. The model shows the second floor LMU Munich main building. At least a section of it. We can see the place that is in front of the entrance to the Audimax. The ground of the model is built with SNOT-technique, which means that the Studs (are) Not On Top. This gives you the possibility to build a more detailed ground. The wall was built in a quite normal, means vertical way, while I put the light-bluish grey tiles (representing the marble plates) onto it again in a horizontal way.

 

I decided to take a moment - LEGO models, like photos, can only ever show moments in detail - where Hans Scholl gives Sophie more leaflets. So the catastrophe has not happened yet. Some leaflets are already on the marble wall, but not all of them yet. To avoid being caught later, they wanted to get rid of all the leaflets. So they put them all on it and then Sophie accidentally or purposefully dropped some leaflets. After this action they were caught by the janitor Jakob Schmid and he delivered them up to the secretary of the office Albert Scheithammer. He send them to the lawyer of the university which has send them finally to the Gestapo. How that ended, we already know.

 

 

LMU Munich historical place lego presentation Sophie and Hans Scholl Moc

 

Photographed at the site of the event. Does this has an effect on our perception of the model?

 

Historical place = historical build?

 

Not only the LEGO model belongs to the scenery of the whole thing, but also the background, or better said the place where the model was photographed. We must be aware that when we see LEGO models on the Internet, we actually see images of those models, mostly photos and not the model. Photos always show us only a section from a certain perspective, but never the 'reality' itself.

 

Thus the location of the photograph has a certain meaning and an effect on our perception. In this case we actually face the historical location where the event has happened.

 

Only in rare cases we see a LEGO build dedicated to a historical event on the place where that has happened. Many times that place would look today completely different from then. But here the marble still looks quite the same as I imagine how it was looking back then. And that’s it. The historical place makes the whole scene authentic and gives it more of a historical touch. That’s why the movie series Holocaust used the place of the KZ-Mauthausen to show their scenes of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Even though they were and are different locations. 

 

Ruth Klüger, a female Holocaust surviver, defined the term of “Zeitschaft”. It's her equivalent to the term “Ortschaft” (place) [1]. It means that a certain place is only that place in a certain time. The place can never again become the place it was. A concentration camp memorial is luckily no longer a concentration camp. And so the LMU today is a different place than it was in the 1940s. Thus, places are mediators between the past and the present. They are memory media. Means they refer to the invisible past and maintain contact with it.

 

We feel this contact in our bodies. It’s the atmosphere that makes us shiver. That feeling can be created [2]. Photos like these are highly manipulative. You take the model in the photo differently than if it had been taken in front of a cardboard box. No it was photographed on the former historical place. This makes it feel much more authentic. 

 

Even though “[t]he feeling of authenticity that has evolved is neither tied to the subject matter of the historical events or the buildings, nor is it embedded in the place itself. Rather, it is an emotion rooting in an individual’s atmospheric involvement.”  [3].

 

This means nothing more than that our feelings tell us what we perceive as historical.

 

 

LEGO is a sentimental medium

 

Feelings are very important when it comes to LEGO presentations. We have to ask ourselves the question, why are we actually so active in LEGO builds on historical themes? Because we encounter history always and everywhere and it keeps us engaged and we are looking for a medium to be able to deal with our impressions and out feelings. To a certain extent this is true for every single LEGO model. People take their time imagining and creating a scene based on a historical event or aspect because they like have the urge to do that. 

 

And I feel urged to commemorate such a courageous young woman, that Sophie Scholl was, in my #legoherstory series. Seeing her, her brother and more of the courageous members of Die Weiße Rose make me feel that there is something out there that it is worth fighting for. And that it is worth being brave, even if other people aren't.

 

 


Notes:

[1] Assmann, Aleida (2018): Erinnerungsräume. Formen und Wandlungen des kulturellen Gedächtnisses. 1. Ed. in C.H. Beck

Paperback. Munich: C.H.Beck, p. 331.

[2] Böhme, Gernot (2007): Atmosphären wahrnehmen, Atmosphären gestalten, mit Atmosphären leben: Ein neues Konzept ästhetischer Bildung. In: Rainer Goetz und Stefan Graupner (Ed): Atmosphäre(n). Interdisziplinäre Annäherungen an einen unscharfen Begriff. Munich: Kopaed-Verl., p. 31–45, here: 32.

[3] Christina Kerz (2016). Atmospheres and Authenticity. The Example of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

(USA), University of Thessaly, vol. 2, p. 915 - 920, here: 918.