Liam Burns and Rachel Wenstone, National President and Executive Councillor of the National Union of Students, reflect on Sophie Scholl and the power of students to speak out against injustice. To find out more about the incredible story of Sophie and the White Rose movement, read here.
The student movement has an incredible history of fighting oppression, and Sophie’s story is testament to that.
Students are often at the heart of social change, sometimes the very first to raise an injustice issue into society’s consciousness, and often the very last still fighting it. From environmental issues, to hate speech, from child poverty to educational opportunity, students in further and higher education are at the forefront of change.
Just as people aren’t born intrinsically evil, no one is born a hero. At some point, Sophie made an active decision to fight an injustice that she deemed unacceptable. For Sophie this fight was so important, so desperate, she was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice with her life.
Now more than ever, at a time of austerity and uncertainty it is the student movement who once again take real responsibility for the world around them. Continuously at the centre of debates, from EMA and the rise in fees, to those on the Arab Spring and what democracy looks like more fundamentally, students across the world are at the forefront of a movement for change.
What is so important about the student movement is that our action runs far deeper than simply charity. Students are committed to creating justice in our world today. Those who protested against fees did it not for themselves, but for a generation who had not yet had the opportunity to vote. Students in Egypt fought for the human rights of an entire population, not just their own.
It is imperative that we never find ourselves in Sophie’s situation, a situation that culminated in the murder of 11 million people. By creating small changes every day, we help to create a world in which injustices are simply not tolerated. Here at NUS, we have recently launched a campaign to encourage every student to proudly say "I am the change" - with hundreds of changes already registered at www.nus.org.uk/iamthechange, we want to hear how more of our members can be just like Sophie.
On Holocaust Memorial Day 2012, millions of students will rightly speak up and speak out. Our resistance to oppression and our commitment to justice creates a situation where the experiences of Sophie, and those who fought fascism alongside her, are never possible again.