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

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler Book Poster Image
Heart-stopping true story of students who resisted Nazis.

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Educational Value

For young readers who may just be learning about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, Freedman provides a compelling and accessible but not graphically violent introduction to those times. The White Rose leaflets were printed on a mimeograph machine, which may provide a teachable moment for readers who have never written anything that couldn’t be instantaneously printed out or emailed. There is a bibliography of books and films about the White Rose


Positive Messages

That those who resist evil with non-violence can be as courageous as those who take up arms. The courage and sacrifice of the White Rose members has not been forgotten, their legacy lives on in hundreds of German schools named in their honor and the dozens of books that have been written about them. A square at Munich University has been named for Sophie and Hans Scholl and the German movie “Sophie Scholl – The Final Days” was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2005.


Positive Role Models & Representations

Sophie and Hans Scholl and their friends showed enormous courage in the face of unspeakable evil. When arrested and tried neither Sophie or Hans would betray their friends or repudiate their beliefs.



While violence and the threat of violence is a constant undercurrent in We Will Not Be Silent, author Freedman manages to convey the terror of the times without graphically describing events of those years: the deportation of Jews, forced labor camps, the program to kill people deemed disabled, and the trial, torture, and imprisonment of anyone who dared to oppose the Nazis. Although not written about in detail, the executions of Sophie and Hans by guillotine may be greatly disturbing to some readers.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Russell Freedman’s We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler is the story of a group of university students who wrote and secretly distributed thousands of leaflets urging the German people to resist the Nazi regime. Although it's a short read (only 112 pages), the story is emotionally intense as the White Rose members continually put their lives in danger. Dozens of archival photos may make even reluctant readers want to explore the text and learn more about the story. While violence and the threat of violence is a constant undercurrent, it is never graphically described. But some readers, especially younger ones, may be disturbed that the students they come to know in the book will be arrested and executed by guillotine. Freedman’s awards and honors include the Newberry Medal, three Newberry Honors, the Sibert Medal, and a National Humanities Medal. 

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What's the story?

Between June 1942 and February 1943, a student movement calling itself the White Rose wrote and clandestinely distributed six leaflets urging the German people to resist the tyranny of the Nazi regime. "Offer resistance -- resistance -- wherever you may be ... before it’s too late," said the first White Rose leaflet. Always traveling alone, brother and sister Hans and Sophie Scholl and a small group of friends carried leaflets in backpacks and suitcases, distributing them to groups in other cities or leaving them in telephone booths, on car windshields, or in apartment house lobbies. One of the few civilian resistance groups, the White Rose was the subject of a desperate manhunt by the Gestapo. Sophie and Hans were ultimately arrested at their university and quickly condemned to death. The arrest and execution of many other members of the White Rose followed. But copies of the leaflets found their way to London, and at the end of 1943, British warplanes dropped tens of thousands of White Rose leaflets over German towns.

Is it any good?

A heart-stopping true story and inspiring characters make this a must-read lesson in courage, friendship, and the power of the written word. The wealth of photos in WE WILL NOT BE SILENT -- of Sophie, Hans, their family members, and other White Rose members; the spot at Munich University where Sophie and Hans were arrested; defendants at the Nazi’s infamous People’s Court; and the prison where Sophie and Hans were executed -- give a sense of immediacy to the text. 

Freedman’s easy, accessible prose style makes it an equally compelling read for both younger and teen readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about when it’s right to resist authority. Is there something happening in your community or your school that you think is unjust? What do you think can be done to correct this injustice?

  • The White Rose members had to physically distribute the leaflets, putting them in constant danger. If the Internet had existed in 1942, do you think it would have taken an equal amount of courage to defy the Nazis online?

  • If betraying a friend would save you from being punished, would you do it?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and stories of World War II

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