Thursday, March 16, 2017

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

My interest in World War II youth resistance groups started when I read, "The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club" by Phillip Hoose. I can add this to another terrific children's book on a little-known topic. Or at least, little-known to me. Hans and Sophie Scholl were members of the Hitler Youth organization before they became disillusioned with the anti-Semitism and rigid group's ways. They organized a resistance group at the University of Munich and decided to protest totalitarianism through nonviolent means. They handed out leaflets encouraging the masses to rise up and condemn Nazism. When they were caught the two received admiration from the Nazi guards with how they handled themselves. The guards broke protocol to let them speak with family and each other before their executions. This inspirational story will have you doing more historical research on your own.

The nonfiction elements are well-documented and the story is a quick read of over one hundred pages. It is inspirational and combats the stereotype of a Hitler Youth movement where all German youths willingly joined and brainlessly spouted Nazi slogans. The brave students could not remain silent as the war progressed and they consciously resisted National Socialism for cultural and differing ideological reasons. A good historical book makes the reader want to find out more information on the topic and Russell Freedman did just that for me. The language is simple and nothing graphic; however, the gruesome execution of the youths is disturbing and might require discussion with younger readers.

Daniel Horn wrote an interesting article that overviews German youth resistance during WWII (I reference it below if you are interested in the article on JSTOR). Horn lumps German youth resistance into three groups from various economic and social backgrounds but fighting for basically the same thing: freedom of choice, dissatisfaction with a regimented Nazi youth system, and self-fulfillment. The working class and bourgeoisie youth resistance members formed different groups from the asocial gangs such as the Edelweiss and Kittelsbach Pirates with violent aims to overthrow the Nazi government, to the politically opposed groups such as the Munich and Hamburg White Rose students that used print to express their displeasure with National Socialism, and the liberal-oriented individuals of Swing youths who wanted self-expression and individualism rather than the regimentation and repression of culture such as dancing and Jazz music.

Youth Resistance in the Third Reich: A Social Portrait Author(s): Daniel Horn Source: Journal of Social History, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Autumn, 1973), pp. 26-50 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL:

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