Publisher's Note:  

A Newbery Honor Book author has written a powerful and gripping novel about a youth in Nazi Germany who tells the truth about Hitler

Bartoletti has taken one episode from her Newbery Honor Book, HITLER YOUTH, and fleshed it out into thought-provoking novel. When 16-year-old Helmut Hubner listens to the BBC news on an illegal short-wave radio, he quickly discovers Germany is lying to the people. But when he tries to expose the truth with leaflets, he's tried for treason. Sentenced to death and waiting in a jail cell, Helmut's story emerges in a series of flashbacks that show his growth from a naive child caught up in the patriotism of the times , to a sensitive and mature young man who thinks for himself.

The Boy Who Dared

by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Review Date:

Recommended Age:

Overall Rating:

Profanity / Language Rating:

Violence / Gore Rating:

Sex / Nudity Rating:

Overall Review:  

Helmuth Huebener, a teenage boy in Nazi Germany, was one of the youngest resistance workers executed by the Nazis. His crime: listening to a foreign radio station and writing and disseminating pamphlets that told the truth about the war.


Author Susan Campbell Bartoletti has done extensive research on Huebener and written a novel based on the facts of his life.


Helmuth was eight when Hitler first came to power, and Helmuth liked hearing Hitler’s commanding voice on the radio, but as events continue, Helmuth comes to see Hitler for what he is. As Helmuth secretly listens to BBC radio broadcasts and secretly reads the essays of the novelist Heinrich Mann, his idealism and commitment to the truth convince he must take action against Hitler’s lies.


Helmuth enlists the help of two friends, Rudi Wobbe and Karl Schnibbe, who, like Helmuth are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church). Helmuth writes pamphlets that point out the lies the Nazis are disseminating, and Rudi, Karl and Helmuth secretly post the pamphlets, put them in coat pockets in cloak rooms, and leave them in phone booths. Later Helmuth also recruits a co-worker, Duewer, to help them.


Serving as foils to Helmuth and his idealism are Helmuth’s mother’s boyfriend (and later her husband), Hugo Huebener, a non-commissioned officer in the SS and an unthinking believer in Hitler’s world view and his greatness. There’s Gerhard, Helmuth’s older half-brother, who disapproves of Hitler but believes it’s not possible to stop him and that he must fight for his country.


In telling Helmuth’s story, Bartoletti also recounts much of the history or Hitler’s rise to power and of the events of the war through Helmuth’s death in 1942. A timeline at the end of the book gives a brief outline of events beginning with the end of World War I through Germany’s unconditional surrender in 1945 at the end of World War II.


The book opens at a gripping moment—Helmuth in prison on death row, uncertain whether he'll be executed that day or not. The rest of the story is told in flashbacks with occasional returns to Helmuth in prison. This device gives the story excitement, but there are parts that drag a bit. However, the pace picks up as Helmuth begins writing pamphlets and getting his friends involved in his resistance work, and the pace continues strong through Helmuth's arrest, torture, trial, and finally his execution, which is not depicted. The book raises interesting questions about how a person should behave in the face of oppression by an immoral government.

Reading Level: 7.2, range 5.2-8.8.

Of interest to boys.

This review has been acquired and adapted from

Content Analysis:  

This review was acquired from on May 15, 2014 and was not completed using Compass Book Ratings’ standardized checklist.  Nevertheless, it contains useful content information which is included here.  The overall number ratings have been approximated based on this information.




Helmuth on death row in prison, knows "executioner works on Tuesdays," doesn’t know date he’ll be executed; as a child, Helmuth played with lead soldiers, representing the French and Germans in World War I, imagined artillery, grenades, shrapnel, soldiers attacking; grandparents and others believe if Hitler gains power, there will be war; Hitler Youth carry "daggers inscribed with the words Blood and Honor"; Reichstag fire (burning of the parliament building) mentioned; mention that arsonist sentenced to death; mention of German Jew who fought in German army, wounded in World War I; teacher shouts at Jewish student, pushes him into chair at front of class; Jewish shop owner attacked by four soldiers, hit and kicked, leaving store owner "motionless on the sidewalk"; Helmuth hears guards coming for someone else to be guillotined, hears crying, prisoner being hit with truncheon, kicked, handcuffed; students told that it’s "greatest honor" for someone to die for their country; Rudi "roughed up" by his Hitler Youth squad; Karl "beat up his zealous platoon leader"; mention that people often disappear after being visited by Gestapo; mention of murder, a stabbing; Rudi slapped by Gestapo; mention of Gestapo torture; Jew in France shots Nazi, Nazi later dies; during Kristallnacht, "synagogues burned down . . . . Jewish shops, stores, businesses, and private homes ransacked and destroyed," Jews are arrested and taken away—in retaliation against death of Nazi in France; Helmuth sees evidence of Kristallnacht, ruined buildings, looters, weeping women; Helmuth "loathes" those who took part in Kristallnacht; Polish soldiers are claimed to have fire at German soldiers camped at Polish border, Germans return fire; war is declared on Poland; Poland bombed, attacked with tanks, infantry; Great Britain and France declare war on Germany; mention of "massacres, miseries, and privations of war"; mention of "low-flying planes . . . shooting at women and children" in Poland, "German soldiers . . . machine-gunning Poles and Jews over mass graves"; mention of "Nazi atrocities"; Hitler attacks France; British planes bomb Hamburg, mostly "U-boat pens and refineries," but also hit "tenement, blowing away the top floors"; France falls to Nazis; Germany takes control of "Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands"; Gerhard mentions possibility of his dying to Helmuth; mention of "merchant vessels" destroyed by Germans; mention of Nazis "overrunning Greece and Yugoslavia"; mention of concentration camp, "brutal guards," forced labor; Karl notes, "[Nazis] crush dissent"; announcement that Germany’s attacking Russia, bombing planes, has declared war; Helmuth wonders "how many more people will have to die"; German radio announces how many Russians killed or captured, Helmuth hears on BBC about German losses of planes, ships, and lives; description of battle in Russia, attacks with "grenades and machine guns," bayonets, "twenty-five hundred Germans dead and wounded"; Helmuth writes about "several hundred thousand . . . civilians" being killed by bombings, blames "Luftwaffe [for] murdering defenseless women and children, cripples, and old men"; Luftwaffe begins bombing England; one leaflet titled "Hitler the Murderer"; mention of Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor, Germany declaring war on America; church member in concentration camp "was stripped naked, forced to stand outside, knee deep in snow, . . . guards poured water on his hands, let them freeze, and then hit his hands with a club," breaking all his fingers; Helmuth told that because of torture Gestapo uses, "[people will] admit to anything just to get the pain to stop"; Nazi interrogator punches Helmuth in face, knocking him down, kicks him in stomach, ribs; Helmuth in holding cell hears "screams, sobs"; guard hits Helmuth with truncheon; prisoners forced to "stand at attention, noses one inch from the . . . wall, never moving"; Helmuth tortured to tell who his accomplices are; he’s cuffed spread-eagled on his bed; Helmuth wishes he could die, wants to kill himself for giving names of his friends; Rudi sentenced to ten years in prison, Karl to five, Duewer to four; Helmuth taken to place of execution, execution not described; Author’s Note: mention of "nearly 2,200 other men and women" executed in Ploetzensee prison; Gerhard arrested and interrogated because of Helmuth’s arrest; Helmuth’s mother learned of his death in newspaper; Helmuth’s mother and grandparents killed in "massive bombing attacks on Hamburg that killed an estimated 43,000 people"; one Hitler Youth official "argued for [Helmuth’s] execution"; photograph of poster announcing Helmuth’s death; Third Reich Time Line: mention of Reichtag being burned, arsonist executed; description of deaths, disappearances, destruction of property on Kristallnacht; declarations of war recapped; recap of radio law, deportation of Jews to concentration camps; mention of bombing raids, mention of countries conquered by Germany; mention of "mass murder of 33,000 Jews . . . in . . . Russia"; mention of "final solution of the Jewish problem"; mention of attacks, defeats, invasions; mention of writer executed by Nazis; mention of Hitler’s suicide.


Mention twice that Helmuth’s mother didn’t marry Helmuth’s father; mention of Helmuth’s mother’s boyfriend sometimes there in the mornings when Helmuth wakes up, later is there every morning, eventually moves in; mention of streetwalker being murdered.

Mature Subject Matter:  

World War II, persecuation of Jews

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Mention of room smelling of cigarette smoke; mention of two drunk Nazi soldiers; mention of "drunken storm troopers."

Reviewed By CleanTeenReads
No image available