Questions for Discussion

While there are many complex reasons Hitler’s rise to power (including Germany’s defeat in World War I and the subsequent reparations demanded by the victorious allies, economic depression and political upheaval), this story and these questions focus on how many young people responded to Hitler’s speeches, promises and the persecution of the Jewish people. Both Hans and Walter see what is happening “through the eyes of a child”.

“Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, thanks largely to the efforts of the Hitler Youth (formed in 1926) which organized propaganda marches throughout Germany, and helped the Nazi Party grow in strength …” Susan Campbell Bartoletti in her book “Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler’s Shadow“ (2005).

Hitler said: “I begin with the young. We older ones are used up. But my magnificent youngsters! Are there finer ones anywhere in the world? Look at all these men and boys! What material! With them I can make a new world.”


  1. Why do you think children/young people responded to Hitler’s words? Is there evidence in the story to support these ideas?
  2. Do you think what people are taught as children can make them who they are as adults? Explain. Give examples.
  3. Hitler believed that youth should be led by youth. What examples of this do you see in the story? Why do you think this was such an important belief?
  4. What do you know about peer pressure? What do you know about prejudice? Have you seen or experienced examples of this in your own life?
  5. Have you ever been part of a group or club? How were members chosen? Was anyone not allowed to join? Why?
  6. Why do people “bully” others? How and why did being in the Hitler Youth encourage such behavior? Give examples from the text.
  7. Have you ever been bullied or seen others be bullied? What did you do? What did other bystanders do? What else could you have done?
  8. Why is the story from Hans’ point of view and not Walter’s?
  9. How did Hans’ love of playing soldier evolve over the time period in the story? Why is this passion an important part of his character?
  10. What did Hans like about being in the Hitler Youth? Why is it important to him?
  11. What didn’t Hans like about being in the Hitler Youth? What are the conflicts he feels? Discuss the meaning of the HJ oath.
  12. Why is Hans glad the Lesses do not know he is in the HJ? Do you think it is true that they do not know? Why or why not?
  13. Why didn’t Hans say anything when the Hitler Youth pushed Wolfgang off the bridge?
  14. What is the importance of Hans’ observation that “no one seemed to notice” Wolfgang’s beating? Did people really not notice?
  15. What is the meaning of Wolfgang’s statement: “No one is safe!”? (Also refer to “First, they came …” by Pastor Martin Niemöller) How many times is this said in the story?
  16. Discuss the character of Karl Heine. Were you surprised, as Hans was, about what happened to him? Why?
  17. Why is Hans glad he is in civilian clothes at the story’s end?
  18. Why did Hans decide to go into the store? What else might he have done? What had he done in the past when he saw such actions carried out by Nazis?
  19. Hans imagines himself as a hero when he tells the story of the white boar to his brothers and sisters. He wants to be a hero after watching the movie about Herbert Norkus. He admires Karl as a hero. Define a hero. Do you think Hans is a hero? Why?
  20. Who is the woman in the red scarf? Why is she an important character? What/who does she symbolize?
  21. What do you think happened to Hans? Explain. Give examples from the text. Why do you think the author chose not to tell you what happened?
  22. If you were to write the next chapters, what choices would you make? Why?
  23. The words “never forget” are repeated in the story and spoken by different characters. Why is this important?
  24. Hans’ gift of an orange is the center of the book. What did you learn about life in Germany in the 1920s?
  25. Why do you think oranges were so special that they were in a window display in December? Now they are in our stores year round. What would be different in the 1920s?
  26. What is the “magic” Frau Less says she will explain to Walter and then later refers to when, years later, Hans gives her an orange?
  27. There is a chapter called “Two Friends, Two Journeys”. Walter and Hans travel on journeys that are both real and symbolic. Describe the journey of each boy.
  28. When Jewish people began to be persecuted, why didn’t they simply leave? Give examples from the text. Why would they have stayed? What obstacles prevented them from leaving?
  29. How does the phrase “wait and see” reflect both German and Jewish viewpoints?
  30. If the Jewish press was reporting what was happening to the Jews, why did people in world governments not help them?
  31. Did everyone agree with what the Nazis were doing? Give examples from the text.
  32. Why do you think the Nazis ordered books to be burned? What does this symbolize? Discuss the German poet Heinrich Heine’s quote (which, in the 1800s, pre-dating the Nazi regime): “Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.”
  33. There was a Hitler Youth banner that stated: “Leaders instruct. We follow. All say: Yes!” What happens when no one is allowed to ask questions or give other ideas? Give examples from the story. Why is free speech so important?
  34. Go back and read the three chapters entitled, “The Present and the Past”. These chapters take place in June of 1936. Does reading them together highlight Hans’ conflict and his decision? Why?
  35. The second “The Present and the Past” talks about Hans being Germany’s hope for the future. The text reads, “He clearly knew what he was expected to do. It was necessary for him to set an example, right here, right now.” What “example” is Hans expected to set? What example does he choose to set? How is he a true “hope for the future”?
  36. What is the symbolism of the book’s title? The third “The Present and the Past” takes place in the summer. Why is this section also titled “An Orange in Winter”?
  37. Does learning about historical world events through the experiences of a small group of characters make it easier for you to understand?
  38. Can you relate the issues personalized by these characters to the events that led to The Holocaust and the killing of six million Jews and five million others throughout the war? Why or why not?
  39. This story describes a particular time in history. What did you learn? What do you want to know more about?
  40. What do you think is the meaning of the saying: “What is right is not always popular; what is popular is not always right?” What about the saying: “Silence means consent?”
  41. Fewer and fewer people are still alive to tell of their experiences in World War II. Victims of The Holocaust have spoken out in many ways over the years, publicly and privately, to make certain we “never forget”. Many individuals and groups have also made that commitment, such as the Geschichtswerkstatt in Lüneburg. How does “An Orange in Winter” reinforce and honor this sense of commitment?


An Orange in Winter Copyright © 2017 by Margaret A. McQuillan and Geschichtswerkstatt Lüneburg e.V.. All Rights Reserved.


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