Sophie Scholl Students Translation

Translation Project 2020-2021

This year the translators of the White Rose Project have been working with the published correspondence between Sophie Scholl and Fritz Hartnagel. The students were once again drawn from across the University of Oxford: Christopher Gothard, Gemma Craig-Sharples, Alexander Fuss, Adam McMeekin, Anna Taira, Sofia Justham Bello, Helena Koch, Timothy Powell, Yannis Baur, George Newton, Kirsten Stewart, Sibylle Bandilla, Tayiba Sulaiman, Stephanie Nourse, Sarah Beaman, and Laura Fearn.

One of the translators, Sofia Justham Bello (Somerville College, Oxford), writes about the impression the texts made on her:

© Sam Osborne.

The letters that my group translated came from the time that Sophie Scholl was working in a Kindergarten. What was striking about these letters were the descriptions of everyday life, and her observations on the children’s development were enjoyable to read. This everyday language was set against the backdrop of War, and this atmosphere does encroach on the letters… It was very interesting to translate documents that are highly personal, yet written by people who are extremely well-known throughout Germany due to their activities in the German resistance. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such sources.

I am particularly proud of the following two examples from our colloborative translation. We translated ‘Ich lauf vollends alles ziemlich im alten Trott durch’ as ‘I’m stuck in more or less the same old rut’, which I think captured the meaning of the original but sounded idiomatic in English. In one of the seminars one of the other group members came up with a good solution to the word ‘Mienenspiel’, which they translated as ‘repertoire’. I think this lexical choice reflects the idea of a ‘Spiel’ captured in the German word.

This year’s seminars were held online, and in fact many of the group have yet to meet in person! They researched the lives of Sophie Scholl and Fritz Hartnagel, and discussed their approaches to translation before working on the texts. The seminars were supervised by Alex Lloyd (Fellow by Special Election in German, St Edmund Hall) and Jenny Lemke (DAAD Lektorin, University of Oxford). Jenny writes:

My first encounter with the White Rose Project was the launch of its display on the resistance leaflets at the Bodleian Library. My first encounter with the White Rose itself had been much earlier, when I was a student back in Germany and those leaflets, together with the film on Sophie Scholl, were part of the curriculum. Alex Lloyd kindly invited me to join in on some translation sessions with the first group of translators 2019-20, and I then jumped at the chance to co-supervise the second group for 2020-21, working on the letters between Sophie Scholl and her fiancé Fritz Hartnagel. It was an amazing experience seeing these letters first come to life in German when they were being read aloud, and then being completely transformed by the student translators. All of them worked exceptionally hard, the commitments of an intense term (not to forget in the middle of a pandemic!) and the evening meeting times notwithstanding, to make a moving portrait of humanity in the face of unimaginable horror accessible to a wider audience. I am enormously proud of what this year’s students have achieved and I can’t wait to see where the Project will go next!  

In this video, Sibylle Bandilla comments on the impression Sophie Scholl’s letters made on her.