Just before Christmas 1941, a single conversation changed everything. We were in Jens's room at the monastery. It was Jens, me, four of my fourth-form Middle A classmates-Eigil, Helge, Mogens Thomsen-son of Aalborg's City Manager-and Mogens Fjellerup, a pale, pointy-faced classmate who rarely spoke but who was known as the outstanding physics student in our class. Two of Jens's classmates were there too: a boy named Sigurd-ranked number one academically in their class-and Preben Ollendorff, a bit of a loudmouth whose dad owned a tobacco factory.
We had just gone out shopping for Christmas presents for our teachers. We were in a great holiday mood . . . laughing about girls, having fun. But as always the conversation snapped back to the German occupation of our country. You couldn't go five minutes back then without returning to the topic on everyone's mind.
The talk turned dead serious. We leaned forward and our voices lowered. We angrily discussed the newspaper articles about the execution of Norwegian citizens and slaughter of Norwegian soldiers who resisted the Nazis. Norwegians were our brothers, we reminded each other, our good neighbors who had the courage to stand up. By contrast our leaders traded with Germany and sought to placate the Nazis.
Here was the discussion I had longed for! I was thrilled to be with Cathedral students who felt as my brother and I did. These were guys who stayed up like us for the nightly radio broadcasts from England. The more we talked the angrier we became. It was absurd: if you accidentally bumped into a German on the street, you were expected to strip the hat from your head, lower your eyes, and apologize profusely for disturbing a soldier of the master race. All of us had listened to them braying their idiotic folk songs in the streets.
All this was outrageous, but would anyone do anything about it? The average Danes hated their occupation and occupiers, but ask them to resist and they would say, "No, it cannot be done . . . We will have to wait . . . We are not strong enough yet . . . It would be useless bloodshed!"
The air was thick with our tobacco smoke by the time we laid the proposition on the table. It was the same vow Jens and I and the others in the RAF Club had made back in Odense: We will act. We will behave as Norwegians. We will clean the mud off the Danish flag. Jens and I opened up and told our classmates of our sabotage activities with the RAF Club in Odense. We left with a bounty on our heads, we told them.
The discussion grew heated. The older boys, Sigurd and Preben, wanted nothing of it. "You're crazy," they said. "The Germans will wipe you out in a day! There'll be nothing left of you!" But we younger boys were determined to give ourselves a country we can be proud of.
Together on that snowy afternoon we Middle A classmates, along with Jens, resolved to form a club to fight the Germans as fiercely as the Norwegians were fighting. We would take the resistance to Aalborg. We would call ourselves the Churchill Club, after the great British leader Winston Churchill. Jens volunteered to research the organization of a resistance cell and give us his recommendations, same time, same place tomorrow. Preben and Sigurd vowed not to leak word of our meeting to anyone. Already transformed from the cheerful holiday shoppers we had been an hour before, the Churchill Club stood adjourned.
Roberta Pressel, Book Designer
Posted by Kirsten Cappy, Curious City on Jan 24, 2018 in Boys Who Challenged Hitler, Moonbird & Rufa Red Knots | 3 comments
“I just learned that Roberta Pressel, the Macmillan designer who designed covers for my books Moonbird and The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, passed away. Roberta put her heart and soul and brilliant eye into all of her work. Her conscience too. I remember she told me that she had been initially uncomfortable the assignment to create a cover for The Boys Who Challenged Hitler because she didn’t want to draw attention to Hitler in any way. But before declining the assignment she gave it a go. The result was spectacular, even by her standards. Roberta was a joy to work with. Young...Read More
Horn Book Summer Reading
Posted by Kirsten Cappy, Curious City on May 23, 2016 in Boys Who Challenged Hitler | 0 comments
Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to summer camp? Horn Book just released their summer reading list. The list includes Phillip Hoose’s The Boys Who Challenged Hitler. “Hoose brilliantly shows how the astonishing bravery of ordinary Danish teens started something extraordinary.” —Horn...Read More
All Gratefulness to Maine Libraries
Posted by phadmin on Apr 7, 2016 in Boys Who Challenged Hitler | 0 comments
Knud Pedersen, the subject of The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and The Churchill Club says in this video that “gratefulness has no distances.” Indeed, Knud, it does not. Phil Hoose, FSG and readers owe you much gratefulness for your bravery, for your ingenuity, for your stubbornness and for all the ways you have preserved this incredible story of valor and loyalty. Thank you. Phillip Hoose, while unable to be in Maine to accept the 2016 Lupine Honor for the book, also proclaims that “gratefulness has no distances.” He send his thanks to Maine...Read More
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor 2016
Posted by phadmin on Jan 11, 2016 in Boys Who Challenged Hitler | 0 comments
Our heartfelt thanks to Elizabeth C. Overmyer, Gratia Banta, Alan Bern, Alexandra Burns, Nick M. Glass, Eric Gomez, Susan Dove Lempke, Grace W. Ruth and Jennifer R. Sommer of the The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal Committee for their hard work and dedication in reviewing 2015’s children’s non-fiction collection for the Sibert. Non-fiction writers are so lucky to have dedicated professionals like you that see the power of informational books to connect and compel young readers to citizenship. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by...Read More
Gratefulness Has No Distances: Knud Pedersen Talks About The Boys That Challenged Hitler
Posted by phadmin on Jan 5, 2016 in Boys Who Challenged Hitler | 1 comment
Knud Pedersen, the subject of The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and The Churchill Club recorded this video in 2014. In the video, he talks about working with author Phillip Hoose and the publishing team at Farrar Straus Giroux on the development of his story. He says that “gratefulness has no distances.” Indeed, Knud, it does not. Phil Hoose, FSG and readers owe you much gratefulness for your bravery, for your ingenuity, for your stubbornness and for all the ways you have preserved this incredible story of valor and loyalty. Thank you. Transcript: “Two years ago,...Read More
The Museum is Closed: Knud Pedersen, the Artist
Posted by phadmin on Dec 17, 2015 in Boys Who Challenged Hitler | 0 comments
In Denmark, Nikolaj Kunsthal has launched a retrospective exhibition that tells the story of Knud Pedersen, the subject of the Boys Who Challenged Hitler, as an artist, event maker, resistance fighter, author, and exhibition arranger. “Knud Pedersen, who died last December, was one of a kind on the Danish art scene. The potential of ideas and thoughts and the notion that art should be for everyone were pivotal points to Knud Pedersen. He aimed for the utopian, rejected authorities, and the range of his imagination seemed to know no bounds…” Read...Read More