The Boy Who Dared

Susan Camp­bell Bartoletti
  • Review
By – March 9, 2012
Hel­muth Huben­er is a young Mor­mon school­boy when we meet him in 1933 and a mere six­teen years old upon his exe­cu­tion in 1942 at the hands of the Nazis. His alleged crime was dis­trib­ut­ing anti- Nazi leaflets with infor­ma­tion he got from lis­ten­ing to the BBC, ille­gal at the time. When he met his ear­ly demise, young Hel­muth was the leader of a three-per­son resis­tance group with no ties to orga­nized par­ti­sans. Using flash­backs, the author describes Helmuth’s per­son­al evo­lu­tion as a resis­tant and the dev­as­tat­ing grip Hitler assert­ed over the Ger­man cit­i­zen­ry. We are privy to the lives and think­ing of Helmuth’s fam­i­ly and friends and, through them, are wit­ness to the growth of the Nazi state and the pub­lic reac­tion to its harsh edicts. This his­tor­i­cal nov­el calls to mind Sky by Han­neke Ippisch and The Trai­tor by Howard Fast. Helmuth’s rea­soned deci­sions are clear and a reflec­tion of his Mor­mon faith, which extols hon­esty. This is a young man whose ideals moti­vat­ed him to see his neigh­bors’ sit­u­a­tion with clar­i­ty and make a dif­fi­cult, lifechang­ing choice, rather than be one of the silent and rel­a­tive­ly safe majori­ties. Author Susan Camp­bell Bar­to­let­ti encoun­tered this com­pelling sto­ry while writ­ing the New­bery hon­or-win­ning non­fic­tion book, Hitler Youth: Grow­ing Up in Hitler’s Shad­ow. Ages 11 – 14.
Nao­mi Kramer is a retired read­ing con­sul­tant teacher who devel­oped cur­ricu­lum for using lit­er­a­ture to edu­cate chil­dren and adults in the his­to­ry of the Holo­caust. She is a docent and edu­ca­tor at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.

Discussion Questions