Title: auf Wiedersehen
Subtitle: World War II Through The Eyes Of A German Girl
Author: Christa Holder Ocker
Website of Publisher: http://www.plainviewpress.net/
Publication date: Dec 2009
ISBN -13: 978-1-9355-1427-5
Length: 143 pages
Reviewer: Clayton Bye
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It’s 1945, and the Russians are well into their occupation of Eastern Germany. The Americans and the British are making similar advances in the west. Christa is a young woman, soon to be 13. As the story opens she, her sister and her Mother are catching a train to a town where the danger is less imminent. They are only allowed a few bags for belongings. Food is scarce, and they are to stay in a single room of a grand old home who’s owner has been forced to accept them as (nonpaying) boarders.
auf Wiedersehen will disappoint if you are expecting a war story. Most of the action that takes place is in Christa’s head. No, what this book represents most is a memoir, the remembrances of a young woman who has very little understanding of the adult world: her life is full of friends (many of them boys, as she falls in and out of love as each new face appears) and puppet shows and playing dress-up with an aunt. Her tragedies are the losing of many sets of these friends as her family comes back together in the aftermath of the war and begins a slow journey west and eventually on to America. There are other small losses of the non-people variety, but what they all have in common is that Christa has no control: all she can do is say auf Wiedersehen.
I don't have a problem with this. auf Wiedersehen holds many surprises... It’s a well written, compact and life affirming story. That the adult Christa is able to reach back into her memories and recreate a younger but believable self is amazing. And the fact that she keeps the war on the periphery of her story, with a few sharp insertions, lends to the effectiveness of the tale, for this is exactly what a young person would remember. A quick nod to the difficulties of the day, then off to the garden to work on the puppet show the children are planning for all the sad-eyed adults.
There are enough hints of what the German people are going through as they lose the war to make us realize that there is much shame and fear, yet Christa (as author) weaves a tale of small kindnesses and community in spite of what is happening to their country. I can say with surety that I’ve never read another war era book like it.
Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye
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