Friday, February 10, 2017

2 books - No laughs

I read two books today.

 We Will Not Be Silent: the White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Hitler by Russell Freedman (a god among history writers for young people).

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson. 

Neither of these books were comedies.

Freedman outlines the story of the students who spread anonymous pamphlets all through Germany decrying Hitler's regime and telling the truth about atrocities committed by the German army.  He starts with the story of the Scholl family, - of how the family hosted discussion groups that allowed criticism of the Third Reich, of how the parents encouraged their children to think for themselves, of how the boys, Hans and Werner, gladly joined Hitler Youth but soon chafed at the restrictions in what they were allowed to read or say or even sing!  And he explains how Inge and Sophie grew disillusioned with the German Girls Movement for the same reason.

At University, Hans, and then Sophie, gravitated to like-minded rebels.  And spontaneously, out of their late night debates, the White Rose Movement began.  They spread leaflets countering Nazi propaganda with truths and exhorting German citizens to resist.   They dared to criticize the Nazi regime.

This book is a history of the movement.  Hans and Sophie are the focus. They were part of the movement from the very start.  Their arrest and executions - on the same day - became the stuff of legends.  But they were not the only heroes of this movement.  More than one hundred suspects were "swept up" in the following days.  Many of them were executed.  Their families and friends were also arrested and interrogated.  The entire Scholl family, with the exception of Werner, who was fighting on the Russian front, was arrested.  Herr Scholl was imprisoned.  The women were eventually freed.  Werner died in battle.

Not a happy read, this book was engrossing from the first page.  Freedman moves back and forth in time to give a full and captivating story. 

If only it wasn't true!  If only we could close the book and smile at the old lady who might be Sophie, or watch Christoph Probst arguing with his grandchildren - the ones who never met him.   How much better the world would be.  But, this is a book of NON-fiction, of one of the most frightening periods in modern history, and of the young people who could not be silent.

A cautionary tale.

I think I will save Ms. Bixby's Last Day for another post.  It falls into a category of books I had promised never to read again.  I am so glad I broke THAT promise.

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