White Rose by Kip Wilson, 368pp, RL 5
White Rose by Kip Wilson
Review Copy from Versify
With White Rose, Kip Wilson gives readers an intense, vivid look into the short life of Sophie Scholl, a German student who gave her life to see the end of the Nazis and Hitler's regime. Along with her older brother, Scholl was an anti-Nazi political activist and part of a non-violent resistance group known as the White Rose. She was convicted of high treason for distributing anti-war pamphlets at the University of Munich and was executed on February 22, 1943. Dividing her book into sections titled, The End, Before and Day Zero, Wilson begins Scholl's story with The End. , and two poems that find Scholl at Gestapo Headquarters in an interrogation room. With these poems, Wilson lets readers know immediately what kind of young woman Scholl was - calm, bold and prepared to fight for her life, for her beliefs and for the opportunity to inspire and give others courage to rise up and fight for justice.
Readers get a glimpse into Sophie's family, her childhood in Ulm and her passion for learning. One of five, she and her siblings are close knit, appreciative and adoring of their mother, respectful of their father and his beliefs, which, from early on, are against Hitler and the Nazis. Over the course of the book, Wilson's poems create a vivid picture of life during the Hitler's rule. While Sophie speaks of the increasing injustices and violence toward the Jews in Ulm, as well as the horror she feels when she learns of the concentration camps where they - and Germans - are dying, she also lets readers experience how the lives of Germans were affected during this time. Mandatory National Labor Service keeps Sophie from starting university until she is almost twenty-one and also has her working in a munitions factory, forced to make arms for a war she does not believe in. Through the voice of Sophie, Wilson also lets readers know that, while many Germans were scared to speak up against injustice for fear of losing their life, others were willing participants in all aspects of Hitler's rule.
Through Sophie's first love and on-again, off-again boyfriend Fritz, readers learn what life on the warfront for a German soldier was like. The voice of the Gestapo interrogator, the judge in her trial and the custodian at the University of Munich who witnessed Hans and Sophie's crime and brought them to his administrator, who called the Gestapo, give readers an idea of what life in a totalitarian state, where fear of being punished was so great citizens turned on each other, rather than turning a blind eye. These perspectives add to the powerful voice and spirit of Sophie herself and give added meaning to her decisions in the final year of her life that brought about her death, and that of her brother Hans. Wilson chooses to save poems about Sophie and Hans's younger days as a cheerful participants in Hitler Youth organizations, including their father taking down Hans's portrait of Hitler every night and Hans tacking it back up on the wall every morning. While important, it was hard to understand the purpose of keeping this detail for the end of the story, rather than presenting it early on, making the choices of Sophie and her brother even more important.
What was jarring for me, and hopefully will be shocking for young readers new to this era in history is the idea that Sophie, her brother Hans and others were executed for distributing pamphlets speaking out against Hitler. In an era where anyone can say almost anything, and claim truth to be a lie and lies to be true, it's almost impossible to think that less than eighty years ago people were sentenced to death for writing their beliefs on paper. However, as the war against journalism, here and abroad, continues, it seems like the pendulum may swing that way once more.
Wilson provides excellent back matter, from an Author's Note to Dramatis Personae, a glossary and sources.