I had spotted this book (Auslander) in a few Historical Fiction book lists for older kids (11 years and older) so I was pleased when we saw it at our local library.
I had already read a few reviews about it so I knew that the book mentioned some of the medical ideas that were around Nazi Germany, including experiments done on people and how disabled people where simply killed, so with that in mind I thought it would be best if I read it first.
I will say that that it portrays a somewhat scary image (which from what I have read is very realistic) of life in Nazi Germany and it does not shy away from some of the more brutal side of thing so for that reason I do think the age suggestion of 11+ is accurate and for some kids it may be better if they are around 13 or so.
The story centers around Peter. Peter is a German boy who was living in Poland with his family when Germany invaded and after his parents are killed, Peter end up in an orphanage. However Peter is the image of a perfect Aryan boy so he gets picked from the orphanage and sent back to Germany as part of their “reclaimed” project. Here he gets to live with a German family. Now you start to see some of the very unsettling side-effects of the “brain-washed” German life. The way Peter views things verses the way some of the other German family view things. There are a few eye-opening scenes, one which I found very interesting was when he discovered that the doctor he was living with, was involved with the medical experiments that were being carried out.
While you follow the character of Peter living his life in Berlin you get a good understanding of what life was like. There is a scene with the Polish kids who are starving and being made to work physical jobs, a scene where Peter and his friends just want to go and dance to music but it is banned so they have to sneak out, how Peter tried to help by delivering packages of food to Jews in hiding, how his family turn against him and even say he must be sterilized and finally how he is forced to escape or be shot.
Although it is a historical fiction book and the characters are fictional I felt like it painted a realistic image of life in Nazi Germany and I think this is something that is often overlooked. When we cover this period of History we often deal with the British angle and the Holocaust and we don’t often look at life in Germany, what living in that dictatorship must have been like.
There are lots of brilliant Historical Fiction stories on World War II (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Waiting for Anya and When Hitler Stole Pink rabbit – are three others that we recommend), but I think World War II, is such a big topic, it effected so many people in so many ways that really it is good to read a number of different books that touch on these different angles and how it effected different people. And for me Auslander is one of those books, it can be difficult to read at times, to understand what some of the policies meant for ordinary humans but for older kids I do think it is a worthwhile read.
I will be recommending this book to both of my kids to read (aged 12 and 14)
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