Saturday, March 13, 2010
Book of the Week
One of the most interesting historical time periods to read about, in my opinion, is WWII. There were so many countries, personalities, and issues involved in this war that one could read about it forever and never truly understand all that happened. One of the most intriguing aspects of this time in history is that there were so many ordinary people who risked their lives to help others. The historical fiction novel The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti is one such story.
This story takes place in Hamburg, Germany and is about a real teenager named Helmuth Hübener, who was executed by the Nazis in 1942 for spreading anti-Nazi propaganda. In a series of flashbacks, Helmuth narrates his story from his solitary confinement cell as he's awaiting his execution. He recounts his indoctrination into the Hitler Youth and his subsequent disillusionment with the Nazi Party and their hypocrisy. He grows up in a home where his stepfather is a ranking member of the Nazi Party, but Helmuth is doubtful of the tales of German successes against the Russians and that all Jews are evil. When Helmuth acquires an illegal radio, his knowledge of the actual circumstances of the war and the destruction that's happening opens his eyes and seals his fate. He can never go back and pretend that he agrees with the lies of the Nazis. He begins to print pamphlets that tell others what's really happening around the world, and this eventually leads to his execution. In the end, Helmuth faces the guillotine for his crimes. He was only 17 and was the youngest person to be tried, sentenced to death, and executed by the Volksgerichtshof (The People's Court).
After reading a book such as this, I cannot help but look at my life and wonder what I would do if I were in Helmuth's situation. I also wonder what I can do now to help those who live in oppressive countries or who are oppressed within this country. I admire the courage and wisdom that this young man displayed. His story is inspiring; you cannot help but be moved by it.