Inspiring, Interdisciplinary Account of Heroism that Enthralls College Students
December 25, 2010
Jud Newborn's SOPHIE SCHOLL AND THE WHITE ROSE is one of those rare historical accounts that is solid factually, is intellectually and spiritually stimulating - and impossible to put down once you have started reading. The book tells the true story of German students - its two leaders former Hitler Youth fanatics - who made a unique transformation to become the greatest heroes and Christian martyrs of the German anti-Nazi resistance. Students identify strongly with the young members of the White Rose because they are the same age now as the White Rose were when they defied popular opinion and massive peer pressure - as well as the Gestapo and Hitler himself - to stage the only public protest against Nazism ever to occur.
Dr. Newborn offers a highly dramatic and inspiring multimedia lecture program I attended, "SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER: SOPHIE SCHOLL AND THE WHITE ROSE - ROLE MODELS IN THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM TODAY. Here, using music, historical images and suspenseful storytelling, he relates the heroism of the White Rose students to those he calls "White Rosers" today - heroes at home and abroad who stand UP instead of standing BY - risking themselves for freedom and our shared humanity.
His work serves as an antidote to prejudice and bullying - revealing in his lecture program, for example, that Sophie Scholl's brother Hans had been arrested once before by the Gestapo for a teenaged gay affair - the crucial turning point that taught them both to identify not with the oppressors, but with the victims - and to do something about it.
"We will not be silent," the White Rose students wrote in their wartime leaflets, distributed in the thousands to their complicit or apathetic countrymen. "We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!"
The book, which has received widespread critical acclaim, has been adopted in an interdisciplinary manner by many college professors - given how pertinent this historically-contextualized story is to History, German, the Holocaust, Ethics, Political Science, Religion, etc. It is perfect for Honors Seminars - but it also has the power to enthrall and inspire students who might otherwise slog through far less compelling texts while chewing their erasers in class.
As others have reported to me, many students have said this book changed their lives. It did mine, and I'm no spring chicken. What more could one want when trying to awaken students to what really counts in life? I recommend this book strongly for widespread course use. Find a place in your curriculum for it. You may see your students sit up and start caring as they never have before.
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