Monday, December 28, 2009

auf Wiedersehen

Ocker, Christa Holder. auf Wiedersehen: World War II Through the Eyes of a German Girl. Austin, TX: Plain View Press, 2009. Print.

[Book cover credit:]

Caught in a battle between good and evil, we children of the Nazi generation - children of fathers who sang with zest "Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles" while doing the devil's work, children of mothers who stood by powerless to stop the evil from raging, children ignorant of other children condemned to gas - played and laughed and formed a strong bond. A bond broken the day we said auf Wiedersehen."

This slim memoir chronicles the years between Christa's family's evacuation before the advancing Red Army towards the end of WWII and their immigration to New Jersey. During this time, Christa, her sister, her parents, and, at times, her aunt and cousins, must pick up and move at a moment's notice on multiple occasions. Christa, who is an outgoing 7 year old at the opening of this memoir, makes many friends as she goes along: a horse named Lottie, an American soldier who gives her Hershey bars, the once-cranky owner of the villa where she and her family were placed during the evacuation, and the multitude of children who are also in some state of homelessness like she is. Every time her family moves, she must say goodbye, auf Wiedersehen, to her friends. It is hard enough, even with the help of the Red Cross, to keep track of family members during this upheaval. Christa is under no illusions that she will ever see any of these friends again.

Still, this is an uplifting memoir about how, even in the depths of war, life goes on. Christa and her friends play, put on puppet shows, and generally make do. The horrors of WWII are not kept out of this book, but they are kept out of the children's consciousness. Overheard conversations covering everything from the atrocities of the SS to how Christa's friend Gunter managed to get a little brother even though she wished for one more are present, but not understood by Christa. Readers will know what is going on, how it is affecting the lives of adults, and how much trouble they go to in order to keep the worst of it from their children.

This was published as an adult book, but I could definitely see even young teens reading it as part of a WWII or memoir unit. Content wise, auf Widersehen shows a lot less of the atrocities than current populars for young adults dealing with this subject matter, The Book Thief and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and it is a very un-prohibitive 142 pages short.

Book source: Provided by publisher for review

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