Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The Voice From Within: We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose--Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman

On the morning of February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl left their student rooms and set out for the university a few blocks away. Hans was carrying a large suitcase packed with about fifteen hundred leaflets. Sophie carried a briefcase holding a few hundred more. They crossed the University square, and climbed a short flight of stairs to the vast marble entry hall.

Hans and Sophie had planned to reach the campus while students were still in class, behind the closed lecture hall doors. Working separately, Hans and Sophie moved down the empty hallways, depositing batches of leaflets by the doors of lecture halls, on the landings of the great staircase, on window sills, rushing to finish before classes ended. On an impulse, Sophie scooped up the remaining leaflets and flung them into the air and watched as they fluttered down to the empty hall below.

As the leaflets were falling a janitor came into the building, took one look, and then spotted Hans and Sophie three stories above. "Stop! You're under arrest! he called.

Hans and Sophie, both young students, loved their homeland. Raised by loyal but liberal parents, they had joined the Hitler Youth and participated in the patriotic activities willingly, but Hitler's speeches became progressively more ugly. Hans returned from marching with the Hitler Youth at the Nuremberg rallies, totally appalled by Hitler's cruel words and control of the masses. Even Sophie was interrogated for reading a book by a Jewish poet. The teenagers watched Jews taken away to the east, as the Nazi forces invaded Austria, Czechoslovakia, and finally Poland. Hans was drafted into the army, but because he planned to study medicine, he was allowed to split his time between his studies at the university and serving as an army medic on the Russian front. But Hans and a few friends found themselves at odds with the course of the Nazi regime and looked for a way to voice their true beliefs.

The result was the White Rose Leaflets. With duplicating equipment hidden in closets and cellars and a cadre of writers working with Hans, the leaflets began to appear around the university and the city of Munich. The leaflets were mailed to others to be duplicated, and soon there was a network of White Rose cells all over Germany. Their message of resistance became known to many Germans.
"... Hitler is leading the German people into the abyss. He cannot win the war; he can only prolong it. A criminal regime cannot achieve a German victory. "

The word FREEDOM began to appear, graffitied on walls in tarry black paint all over Germany.

Hans and Sophie Scholl knew that their lives were in peril, but they persisted in their dangerous activities until they were captured and summarily beheaded as enemies of the state, certain to the end that their own consciences were at peace.

"Hans could not resist a final act of defiance. Just before his head was positioned on the block, he called out "Long live freedom!"

Revered in their homeland but lesser known elsewhere, the story of the young people of the White Rose is recounted in the award-winning nonfiction writer Russell Freedman's latest historical study, We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler (Houghton Mifflin Clarion, 2016). Celebrated in books and movies, honored with statues and monuments, Sophie and Hans Scholl and their brave comrades are honored in Freedman's new book for a new audience, skillfully portraying the two within the swirl of world events which surrounded them. With grace and taut storytelling, the award-winning author captures the suspense of the young resistance writers' clandestine lives in a country where Hitler had near total social control, and in quotations from their letters, shows their courage and self-sacrifice at its best. "We carry all our standards within ourselves," wrote Sophie.

Ever the solid scholar, Russel Freedman backs up his text with period photos and an appendix of source quotes, bibliography, and index. Says Kirkus Review in its starred review, "Among the wealth of good Holocaust literature available, Freedman's volume stands out for its focus and concision, effectively placing the White Rose in its historical context."

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