Monday, June 13, 2016

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman

Russell Freedman has written a wonderfully succinct history of the short-lived White Rose resistance movement the formed in Nazi Germany after some friends became disillusioned with the whole National Socialist government and its leader Adolf Hitler.

Freedman highlights the White Rose's history through the lives of siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl.   Hans, once a willing participant in the Hitler Youth and a natural born leader, quickly began to realize that within the youth organization and Germany as a whole, there was no place for anything other than what had been decided by those in power.  Even singing folksongs from other countries around a campfire was met with severe reprimand.

Sophie, three years younger than her brother Hans, was a member of the League of German Girls, a part of the Hitler Youth.  She was also enthusiastic at first, but just like Hans, became disillusioned, especially after seeing some of the treatment the Nazis imposed on people who were not party members, or on Jews.

Disillusionment led to action and soon Hans, now a student at the University of Munich, Sophie and a small group of like-minded student friends were writing and mailing their Leaflets of the White Rose, exposing what they felt was the truth about the Nazi Regime and Adolf Hitler and asking the citizens of Germany to take responsibility and fight them.

The White Rose began distributing their first leaflet in June 1942.  Altogether, six different leaflets were printed and distributed all over Germany by the thousands, so many that the Gestapo began to diligently search for the members of the White Rose.  On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie were arrested carrying a suitcase full of leaflets to be distributed and after a short trial, executed on February 23, 1943.

The story of Han and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose is an inspiring one and Freedman has presented it in a sensitive, thought-provoking manner.  I think its real strength lies in the simplicity with which Freedman tells the story of the White Rose, all the while quietly letting the courage, honor, and principles of these valiant dissenters shine through.  He makes clear that opposing Hitler was a dangerous business and that these young idealists were well aware of the danger they faced and died still believing they had done the right thing.

This is an excellent introduction to resistance in the Third Reich and would pair very nicely with Deborah Hopkinson's Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark and/or The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Petersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose for an interesting unit on Resistance vs. Acceptance (remembering the silence is acceptance).

We Will Not Be Silent includes copious photographs, including copies of the Leaflets of the White Rose, with some translation of their content.  Back matter also includes Source Notes, a Select Bibliography of books and films.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from Edelweiss/Above the Treeline

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