The Boy Who Dared: A Novel Based on the True Story of a Hitler Youth
By Susan Campbell Baroletti
Scholastic Press, 2008. 202 pgs. Middle Grade/Teen fiction
In Nazi Germany, some people recognized Nazi propaganda and violence for what it was--a violation of civil rights and a bunch of lies to cover the truth. Helmuth Hubener, a teenager, was one of those people. Troubled by the Nazis and their beliefs and adhering to his own beliefs (he was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints) he only reluctantly participated in the Hitler Youth (a requirement for all German youth), and, after listening to illegal BBC broadcasts about the war, began writing and distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets. Caught, he was sentenced to death but was at peace with his decision to tell the truth.
Based on the true story of Helmuth Hubener (whose last name actually wasn't Hubener for much of his life), this book is an intriguing look at how those who didn't support the Nazis might struggle with their own conscience--on the one hand, they wanted to protect themselves and their families, but on the other, how could they stand by as the Nazi madness spread? This is an inspiring story, and while occasionally, the writing felt a little simplistic to me, the message is powerful.
(As a very small side quibble...I think it's weird to call the book " A Novel based on the True Story of a Hitler Youth." Um, German youth were required to be Hitler Youth, which means the vast majority of them were Hitler Youth...and I think there's a big difference between Helmuth and those who actually enjoyed being in the Hitler Youth. Bartoletti portrays him as not being that involved in the Hitler Youth; he wasn't some horrible bully who saw the error of his ways and then changed. In this story, he's never one of those kids who thrives on being a part of the Hitler Youth, or who sees that as a huge part of his identity. So, to me, that little addition doesn't quite fit. Perhaps a publisher's attempt at being dramatic? I don't know...but I don't think it's accurate in what it conveys.)