Russell Freedman covers the White Rose student movement, a German anti-Nazi protest during World War II, with an emphasis on the organizers’ Christian faith.
We Will Not Be Silent: the White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Hitler by Russell Freedman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, 104 pages including index
Reading Level: Teen, ages 12-15
Recommended for: ages 12-16
When virtue is turned on its head, who speaks up? A handful of students at Munich University, 1942, knew the risks but they also knew right from wrong, and what happened to Germany since 1932 was wrong. The “White Rose Society” was their attempt to do what they could with what they had: a typewriter, a mimeograph machine, and a passionate pen. The story of Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, their friends Alexander Schmorel and Christoph Probst is well known in Germany but should be better known here. Born into a respect Bavarian family, Hans and Sophie went through a flirtation with Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls, but were quickly disillusioned. When war was declared they did their patriotic duty, Hans and Alexander even serving on the Russian front. But as the war dragged on and more grim indicators leaked out, these clean-cut college students decided they must speak out. They had to do it in print, not out loud, but through their efforts thousands of anti-Hitler leaflets and broadsides were scattered throughout Germany until the young people, all in their early twenties, were caught, tried, and beheaded.
Russell Freedman, a master of nonfiction for young readers, covers their story capably and without sensationalism. He also gives full credit to the Scholl’s Christian faith as the prime motivator for their actions, as well as Bishop Clemens A. Graf von Galen’s sermons against the Nazi euthanasia program. “There is a higher law before which we all must stand!”—so the Scholls were taught, and so they lived.
(Note: Christian readers should be aware that when Hans Scholl first came under suspicion for his anti-Hitler views, he was accused of a sexual relationship with another boy during his Hitler Youth days. The author assumes the accusation was true, and Hans himself admitted to “a relationship,” but no details are known. In any case, Hans had a serious girlfriend when he was executed.)
Cautions: Sexuality (see note above)
Overall Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 5
- Artistic value: 4.5