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Rebellious Teens Against the Nazis: Flowers In The Gutter by K. R. Gaddy


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Suppose you were born in Cologne, Germany in 1927.  

 

Your parents are not Nazis, but rather Socialists, Communists or another minority party.

 

In 1937, at 10 years you do everything you can to avoid joining the Hitler Youth.  They are boring and bossy, and do nothing but give orders and march around.  Meanwhile your father has been roughed up by Nazis in the street, and your uncle has served time in a work camp for speaking against the regime.

 

You prefer joining your friends in "wandering" the hills and forests near the city.  Your friends all sing songs, enjoy the campfires and wear colorful clothing.  

 

You are already viewed with suspicion at school.

 

In 1941, your friends and your group are banned from meeting in private.  Your movements are observed by the Hitler Youth patrols.  You get questioned more and more when you are out alone.  You still manage to escape to the woods on weekends, but you now have do so in secret.

People who will turn you in are everywhere.

 

The Jewish kids in your neighborhood that you went to school with have long been missing.

 

The RAF bombs your city at night.

 

Your friends are listening to the BBC, write down stories from the broadcasts, and distribute them in leaflets throughout the city. 

 

In 1944, you are 17.  You and your mother barely have enough to eat.  You are working up to 10 hours a day in a defense plant.  When you can, you bring food and clothing to your father who is incarcerated in a work camp.  You no longer believe the stories that the government tells of ultimate victory.  

 

You commit minor sabotage by throwing much needed repair parts into the Rhine river.  Your friends have been beaten and imprisoned by the Gestapo.  Other friends have fled to avoid arrest.  You will soon be old enough to be drafted into the Army.  

 

You decide you are going to find a way to resist, even if it costs you your life.

Wandervogel.jpg

Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

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This is the world described in the recently published Flowers in the Gutter:  The True Story of the Edelweiss Pirates, Teenagers Who Resisted the Nazis, by K. R. Gaddy.

 

It is written as a Young Adult book, a library classification meaning that the reading level is suitable for Junior High and High School students.  Such books tend to be very straight forward, which is a good thing if you are learning about a new subject.  

 

In this case, it actually fills an overlooked niche in the history of the Third Reich.  From what I can see from the books bibliography, very little has been written in English about this subject.  In fact the story of these teens was pretty much ignored in Germany until the 1990's:

 

Good Reads describes it as follows:

 

"Photo-illustrated nonfiction, the story of the Edelweiss Pirates, a group of working-class teens who not only survived but resisted the Nazis by whatever means they could, even when they knew it could cost them their lives.

Flowers in the Gutter is told from the points of view Gertrude, Fritz, and Jean, three young people from working-class neighborhoods in Cologne, beginning with their pre-school years at the dawn of the Third Reich in the 1930s. Gaddy shows how political activism was always a part of their lives and how they witnessed first-hand the toll it took on their parents--and how they still carried the torch for justice when it was their turn.


Once the war began, Gertrude, Fritz, and Jean and their friends survived and even resisted in one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany. Gaddy includes tense accounts of fights with Hitler Youth and the Gestapo, of disseminating anti-Nazi pamphlets, of helping POWs and forced laborers, and even of sabotaging Nazi factories.


Ultimately, the war ended tragically for several young pirates, and Gaddy shows how post-war politics and prejudices led to these young men and women being branded criminals for decades after the war."

 

 

Flowers.jpg

Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

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It is an easy read, and it has a number of details to make it interesting for an adult reader, and even one who is familiar with the period.

 

Above all, the absolute brutality that the Gestapo inflicted on these teens, often for minor infractions was horrific.

 

I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the period.

 

PS:  This is one book where you want to ignore the cover.  It is horribly inaccurate, showing the Luftwaffe bombing Cologne.  That task was generally left to the RAF.  Don't let that deter you from the book, it is worth the read.)

 

 

Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks Lars.  It's a fascinating topic.  Aside from the stories about the military, I find books about the everyday lives of German civilians under the Nazi regime to be interesting.  It had to be a nightmare existence.  

Gil Burket
Omaha, NE
Specializing in Fakes and Reproductions
of the Vietnam War

burkcats@hotmail.com

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

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