February 27, 2018, New York
Just a few days ago we marked the anniversary of the execution of Sophie and Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst, German heroes. They stood up to Hitler and paid for it with their lives.
Sophia Magdalena Scholl (May 9, 1921 - February 22, 1943)
Who is a hero?
There seems to be some confusion these days.
Is a hero one who accomplishes great things? Perhaps. Does being a hero depend upon one's accomplishments? I say not.
I do not believe the results of one's actions determine who is the hero. I believe the conviction, the goal, and the willingness to pursue it is the heroic act.
Was Sophie Scholl a hero? Without a doubt. Did her actions lead to the end of World War Two? No. But the human spirit that rises up, even when the chances of success are slim to none, is a hero.
One who begins a journey when the end is visibly near, is not a great hero. One who invests in a project that is guaranteed to succeed is not a visionary.
Every great movement must begin with a hopeless visionary. It is a given that someone must be first, someone must be the first to take action, to risk everything. Dr. Binyamin Ze'ev Herzl dreamed of a Jewish state but never lived to see it. Ze'ev Vladimir Jabotinsky dreamed of creating a Jewish army that would liberate the land of Israel, he created a military unit but he did not live to see his dream come true. Even Moses, Moshe, who was our teacher and leader, did not live to see his dreams come true; he died before the Children of Israel entered the promised land.
But none of these men were failures and all later successes were due to them.
A hero stands up when others fear to do so. A hero knows that all struggles involve risk and sacrifice. A hero thinks of others first, he thinks of the collective good, even if he knows that he may not live to see it.
In a society where people just accept things as they are, where each one worries only about his own well being, in such a society he who stands up and shouts for truth and justice is a hero, even if few listen at first. Even if it appears that nothing of value is achieved.
The hero is the first ripple, the one who shatters the silence, the one who challenges the conscious of man, the only who does not allow others to say "I did not know"
As you enter Yad Va Shem in Israel you will see thousands of trees planted in honor or such heroes: It is these people who prevent others from saying "There was nothing we could do".
There is always something you can do. As Anne Frank wrote, the wonderful thing is you do not have to wait, you can begin making the world a better place today.
"Such a fine sunny day, and I have to go" said 21 year old Sophie School before she was guillotined by the Nazis. "But what does my death matter if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?"
Sophie Scholl and her brother were members of a small group of mostly university students known as the White Rose; protesting Nazi Germany from within. They were executed for distributing anti Nazi leaflets.
"Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare say it out loud as we did." (Sophie Scholl)
"Stand up for what you believe in even if you are standing alone. "(Sophie Scholl)
Sophie Scholl was one of about 5,000 German dissenters who were executed by the Nazis for their resistance to Nazi tyranny.