James D(ouglas) Forman Kirkus Reviews - Essay

Kirkus Reviews

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In Ceremony of Innocence] Hans Scholl is in a Munich prison, caught with his sister Sophie distributing the anti-Nazi pamphlets that constituted the White Rose conspiracy: will he seize a chance to save himself, can he face death? The first is historical fact …, the second Mr. Forman's projection, as is an indeterminable portion of the memories that flood back upon Hans—in a chronological confusion that makes the propriety of putting a known person in an unknowable moral bind academic. The moral bind is however the chief thrust, and in the scrambled course of events from Hans' childhood attraction/repulsion to the Nazis through his medical service in France and Russia … to the final defiant daylight distribution, it is the sole thread: early on, the mutual commitment of Hans and Sophie and light-hearted Alex looms large, subsequently confrontation with Franz Bittner (the one fictional principal), a puny youngster puffed up as a Nazi officer, dominates the narrative. But one returns always to Hans and his dilemma (a side question: why does he confide it to his Nazi interrogators?), and, relatedly, to Mr. Forman's persistent weakness, characterization. Hans has no existence apart from his fateful choice so that his eventual triumphant "I Can!" is simply a relief and a contribution to the world-pool of courage more than a personal victory.

"'Ceremony of Innocence'," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1970 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XXXVIII, No. 15, August 1, 1970, p. 805.