We Will Not Be Silent, by Russell Freedman;
Clarion Books: New York, 2016; $17.99
“They could have chosen to throw bombs.”
Not often in history are peaceful attempts to disrupt political regimes successful. However, Russell Freedman’s We Will Not Be Silent captures one of the past’s greatest peaceful movements, which proved that the pen—or, in Hans and Sophie Scholl’s case, the mimeograph—is mightier than the sword.
During the 1930s, Germany was moving toward a dictatorship and world war. The Scholl siblings—Hans and younger sister Sophie—were typical young Germans. However, not long after joining the Hitler Youth movement, they grew extremely opposed to Hitler’s beliefs. Also, they were not afraid to take risks for their beliefs. Their participation in a banned youth group landed them in jail in 1937 as mere teenagers.
After arriving to university, they took their opposition to a new level and created the White Rose leaflets—anonymous letters targeting Hitler and the Nazis. They were mimeographed in secret and called on Germans to act against the growing Nazi tyranny. Hans Scholl delivered the first set of leaflets in 1942 with a friend. As his sister Sophie and a few others joined the movement, the leaflets gained popularity, yet also drew the attention of the dreaded Gestapo secret police. From then on, they had a huge target on their backs.
The book tells a powerful historical story but also speaks to children and young adults today. Here is an example we have probably all encountered—someone says something mean to you, or hits you, and your instinct is to do the equivalent in response. It is always tempting to fight fire with fire. The Nazis used violence to harm and it might have been appealing to use violence to fight back. However, the Scholls resisted that urge and used the power of their words to resist. They stayed true to their beliefs, which, as the leaflets summarized, promoted peace, instead of creating even more bloodshed. To this day, the Scholls set an example to young people around the world, demonstrating that peaceful activism can be effective.
The Scholls’ bravery at a young age is also an important inspiration about not accepting limits. Have you ever felt as if you can never make a difference or cannot have certain opinions simply because of a certain trait you possess? Because you are young, or a certain gender, or from a certain background? We all do, at times. Despite the fact that they were only students, the Scholl siblings became some of Germany’s most effective Hitler opponents in an age where even educated adults were afraid to speak up. They created an extremely influential operation to express their political viewpoints. And they pursued their beliefs despite the limitations they encountered—Hans rebelled against the Hitler Youth and Sophie pursued her studies, even though girls were only a slim ten percent of the student body. They stood up for their opinions and rights, with a big risk to themselves, and inspire all of us to do the same.
If you are looking for an amazing read, full of historical and inspiring information and intriguing pictures, We Will Not Be Silent is the perfect book for you! I highly recommend this fantastic story. It is truly an inspirational tale of courage and independence, and it speaks to all of us.