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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

"What does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?" - Sophie Scholl

Sophia Scholl
Sophia Scholl
Sophia Magdalena Scholl (9 May 1921 – 22 February 1943) was a German student and anti-Nazi political activist, active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany.

She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich (LMU) with her brother Hans. As a result, they were both executed by guillotine.

Since the 1970s, Scholl has been extensively commemorated for her anti-Nazi resistance work.

Early life


In 1932, Scholl started attending a secondary school for girls. At the age of twelve, she chose to join the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls), as did most of her classmates. 

Her initial enthusiasm gradually gave way to criticism. She was aware of the dissenting political views of her father, friends, and some teachers. Even her own brother Hans, who once eagerly participated in the Hitler Youth Program, became entirely disillusioned with the Nazi Party.

Political attitude had become an essential criterion in her choice of friends. The arrest of her brothers and friends in 1937 for participating in the German Youth Movement left a strong impression on her.

She had a talent for drawing and painting and for the first time came into contact with a few so-called "degenerate" artists. An avid reader, she developed a growing interest in philosophy and theology.

In spring 1940, she graduated from secondary school, where the subject of her essay was "The Hand that Moved the Cradle, Moved the World." 

Scholl nearly did not graduate, having lost any desire to participate in the classes which had largely become Nazi indoctrination. 

Being fond of children, she became a kindergarten teacher at the Fröbel Institute in Ulm-Söflingen. She also had chosen this kindergarten job hoping that it would be recognized as an alternative service to Reichsarbeitsdienst (National Labor Service), a prerequisite to be admitted to the university. 

This was not the case, though, and in spring 1941 she began a six-month stint in the auxiliary war service as a nursery teacher in Blumberg. The military-like regimen of the Labor Service caused her to think very hard about the political situation as well as to begin practicing passive resistance.

After her six months in the National Labor Service, in May 1942, she enrolled at the University of Munich as a student of biology and philosophy. 

Her brother Hans, who was studying medicine there, introduced her to his friends. Although this group of friends eventually was known for their political views, they initially were drawn together by a shared love of art, music, literature, philosophy, and theology. 

Hiking in the mountains, skiing, and swimming were also of importance to them. They often attended concerts, plays, and lectures together.

In Munich, Scholl met a number of artists, writers, and philosophers, particularly Carl Muth and Theodor Haecker, who were important contacts for her. The question they pondered the most was how the individual must act under a dictatorship. 

During the summer vacation in 1942, Scholl had to do war service in a metallurgical plant in Ulm. At the same time, her father was serving time in prison for having made a critical remark to an employee about Hitler.

Origins of the White Rose


Based upon letters between Scholl and her boyfriend, Fritz Hartnagel (reported and analyzed by Gunter Biemer and Jakob Knab in the journal Newman Studien), she had given two volumes of Cardinal John Henry Newman's sermons to Hartnagel when he was deployed to the eastern front in May 1942. 

This discovery by Jakob Knab shows the importance of religion in Scholl's life and was highlighted in an article in the Catholic Herald in the UK.

Scholl learned of the White Rose pamphlet when she found one at her university. Realizing her brother helped author the pamphlet, Scholl herself began to work on the White Rose.

The group of authors had been horrified by Hartnagel's reports of German war crimes on the Eastern Front where Hartnagel witnessed Soviet POWs being shot in a mass grave and learned of mass killings of Jews. 

Her correspondence with Hartnagel deeply discussed the "theology of conscience" developed in Newman's writings. This is seen as her primary defense in her transcribed interrogations leading to her "trial" and execution. Those transcripts became the basis for a 2005 film treatment, Sophie Scholl – The Final Days.

With six core members, three more White Rose pamphlets were created and circulated over the summer of 1942.

The core members initially included Hans Scholl (Sophie's brother), Willi Graf, and Christoph Probst. Initially her brother had been keen to keep her unaware of their activities, but once she discovered them, she joined him and proved valuable to the group because, as a woman, her chances of being randomly stopped by the SS were much smaller. 

Calling themselves the White Rose, they instructed Germans to passively resist the Nazi government. The pamphlet used both Biblical and philosophical support for an intellectual argument of resistance. In addition to authorship and protection, Scholl helped copy, distribute, and mail pamphlets while also managing the group's finances.

The end


She and the rest of the White Rose were arrested for distributing the sixth leaflet at the University of Munich on 18 February 1943. In the People's Court before Judge Roland Freisler on 22 February 1943, Scholl was recorded as saying these words:

Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare express themselves as we did.

There was no testimony allowed for the defendants; this was their only defense.

On 22 February 1943, Scholl, her brother Hans, and their friend Christoph Probst were found guilty of treason and condemned to death. 

They were all beheaded by a guillotine by executioner Johann Reichhart in Munich's Stadelheim Prison only a few hours later, at 17:00 hrs. The execution was supervised by Walter Roemer, the enforcement chief of the Munich district court. Prison officials, in later describing the scene, emphasized the courage with which she walked to her execution. Her last words were:

How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?

Following her death, a copy of the sixth leaflet was smuggled out of Germany through Scandinavia to the UK by German jurist Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, where it was used by the Allied Forces. 

In mid-1943, they dropped over Germany millions of propaganda copies of the tract, now retitled The Manifesto of the Students of Munich.

Source: Wikipedia, February 24, 2017

➽ Recommended content:
  • Every Man Dies Alone, a novel by Hans Fallada, 1947. Every Man Dies Alone is based on the true story of a working class husband and wife who, acting alone, became part of the German Resistance.
  • Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, (2005). A dramatization of the final days of Sophie Scholl, one of the most famous members of the German World War II anti-Nazi resistance movement, The White Rose. A film directed by Marc Rothemund, written by Fred Breinersdorfer, starring Julia Jentsch, Fabian Hinrichs, Alexander Held.





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