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.