Tuesday, October 20, 2009

“Ceremony of Innocence,” by James Forman

About the Author:
Finding any kind of information on James Forman is virtually impossible, however I did stumble upon a short list of books that he authored. Other than “Ceremony of Innocence,” Forman wrote “Code Name Valkyrie,” which is a fictional dramatization on Count von Stauffenberg’s July 20th assassination attempt on Hitler. Then there is “My Enemy, My Brother,” a story of a young Jewish man who survives the holocaust only to face opposition when he makes a new life Israel. All three books, including “Ceremony of Innocence” are geared toward the young adult audience.

Book Synopsis:“Ceremony of Innocence” is a fictional account of the life and last days of Hans Scholl, one of the members in the resistance group The White Rose, in the darkened world of the Third Reich. The first chapter opens with the arrest of Hans and his younger sister Sophie following the distribution of the sixth leaflet at the University of Munich. They are immediately taken into Gestapo custody and for four days, Hans is interrogated and on the fifth day, he along with his sister and Christoph Probst, they are executed. Flashbacks are interweaved throughout the story, revealing Hans’ transition from a Hitler supporter into an opponent of Hitler and the development of The White Rose.

My Thoughts:
As a White Rose enthusiast, I was surprised that a bio-fic on Hans Scholl existed. With Sophie being the only female in the core group, the majority of the spotlight is on her, so its refreshing to read something from Hans’ POV. With that being said, I was a little disappointed with “Ceremony of Innocence.” The book was written in the 1970’s prior to most of the biographies written on the Scholl siblings and the White Rose group and it does not include the newly released and detailed interrogation minutes. Therefore the interrogation of Hans in this book is fictional. Also, I found the portrayal of Hans wanting; from what I’ve read about him, he appears confident and strong. In “Ceremony of Innocence” he comes across weak and unimpressive. Sophie is out of character too. Instead of the strong, intelligent and playful young woman who comes alive on screen in “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days,” this Sophie is flirtatious and silly, and she plays the martyr willingly and almost looks forward to death. This contradicts the attitude of the real Sophie Scholl who loved and embraced life. Profanity is sprinkled through out the dialogue, nothing too offensive and nothing you won’t hear in a PG movie.
God is esteemed and not just a belief but a fact, especially with Sophie, the devout Christian of the novel. In this story Hans is having a crisis of faith. However, according to the sources I have read, Hans did not fall away from Christ. In fact one account claimed that he accepted Catholic baptism and converted to Catholicism before the execution.

I don’t regret reading “Ceremony of Innocence” but the reader must keep in mind that it is dated and that this book is fiction loosely based on fact.


  1. Interesting! I think 'll read this - thanks for your insightful comments -
    Just started ""The Shame of Survival - Working Through a Nazi Childhood" by Ursula Mahlendorf - a compelling read.

  2. Thanks for stopping by. That book sounds good too. I'll have to check it out.