The Boys Who Challenged Hitler
"Lying low was the last thing I wanted. Norwegians were still
fighting and dying, and Danes were still singing folk songs and buying
King's Badges. We were still occuppied. The Germans seemed more at
home in Aalborg by the day. If I had to go down, I wanted to go down
fighting like the hero of my fantasies."
In 2000 Maine's own Phillip Hoose took a bycicle tour of
Denmark. He toured the Museum of Danish Resistance and learned some
interesting information. While most Danes had cooperated during the
invading Germans in the first years of World War II, overwhelmed by
the might of this military Goliath, a small group fought back. They
were ninth grade school boys. A ringleader, Knud Pederson, was still
alive. Hoose contacted him. Much to his disappointment Pederson had
a contract with another writer. That contract fell through. In 2011
Hoose was able to begin the correspondance that led to the publication
of The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pederson And The Churchill Club.
In 1940 Pederson and his family were eating breakfast. A siren
and the sound of planes drew them outside. Leaflets announcing that
Denmark was a protectorate of Germany were being dropped all over.
The next day Denmark's king and prime minister signed permission for
Germany to take over the government. German soldiers began to pour in.
Although the king and prime minister had signed the agreement to
protect their country from "an even worse fate" their acquiescence
bothered young Pederson as did the attitudes of his fellow Danes.
Teachers warned students to not say a thing that might incur the wrath
of Hitler. Many people seemed to accept the occupation, particularly
merchants who made money off the soldiers. Norway, in contrast had
After the invasion Pederson and his older brother and chums,
formerly apolitical, became avid newspaper readers. The stories of
violence against civilians horrified them. They realized that since
their nation's leaders and military had surrendered resistance would
have to be led by civilians. They would be those civilians.
Resistance to an occuppier was not something they could learn in
school or seek advice from adults about. They had to do much of their
work in broad daylight since they still had curfews. They started out
vandalizing German signs and cutting wires. By the time they were
arrested they were destroying vehicles, committing arson, and stealing
military grade weapons.
This very dramatic narrative in which the larger story is
interspersed with Pederson's memories and period photographs gives the
reader the sense of really being there. There is a great deal of
suspense. We know who won the war. But the fate of the young men
undertaking very dangerous tasks, always operating with the knowledge
that they could be shot on sight, is always up in the air.
On a personal note, Orono Arts Cafe was wonderful as always. I read
three poems which were well received. One of my Wilson Center
friends, Dylan, who loves open mic opportunities as much as I do,
performed in the venue for the first time and fit in perfectly.
A great big shout out goes out to my Orono Arts Cafe family.
Sent from my iPod