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The 16-year-olds who stood up to Hitler

The 16-year-olds who stood up to Hitler

We Will Not Be Silent: How the White Rose Student Resistance Movement Defied Adolf Hitler
By Russell Freedman
112 pages
Clarion Books, pub. date May 3

For all that we have read about the horrors of Adolf Hitler's 12-year reign, it is striking how little gets written about the people who gave their lives to fight Hitler inside Germany. I'm especially surprised that the White Rose Movement, made up of young people, has been overlooked by a generation of children's books.

Fortunately, the great Russell Freedman has brought the words of Thomas Mann to life: “You will not be forgotten,” Mann said from exile in a message to the White Rose students who gave their lives to the resistance. Freedman’s We Will Not Be Silent tells the story of brother and sister Hans and Sophie Scholl and the movement they started, one that was not based on violent resistance but on spreading anti-Nazi leaflets and graffiti — actions that were sure to result in the Scholls’ eventual arrest and execution.

“What we have said and what we have written is what so many people believe, only they don’t dare speak up,” said Sophie Scholl at her trial. The Scholls and their friends show how powerful young voices can be, and what an impact they can have.

I was annoyed that such a big book could not find room to reproduce one of the White Rose leaflets in full. I also thought more photos of Hans, Sophie, and other members of the resistance would have helped. Perhaps because of their short lives there are not many images of them. In any case, readers today will very easily be able to relate to these young university students, who were trying to positively change their world — “these brave idealists who felt compelled to resist when so many others chose to conform or simply look away,” writes Freedman.

I only hope that Hans Scholl’s last-breath cry of “Long live freedom!” still rings true for this book’s audience today. Freedman quoted a sixteen-year-old from Pennsylvania who visited the White Rose Museum in Munich: “It makes me wonder whether people would stand up for something they feel is right in our generation.”

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—Brianna Westervelt

 

 

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