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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Historical Novels about Nazi Propaganda and Torah Odyssey Novel

How Ordinary Germans were Swept up by Nazi Hysteria
Do we need another book about how ordinary Germans were swept up by Nazi hysteria? Yes, because they provide real insight into how ordinary people—like ourselves, our family, our friends and neighbors can easily be caught in a vicious web of deceit and destruction—if we are not vigilant. I recommend three books that tell a compelling story, which reinforces this powerful message.
Children and Fire by Ursula Hegi. This compelling novel makes it clear that ordinary Germans were both complicit in and themselves victims of the Nazi regime. It is the touching story of Thekla, a young teacher with a loving heart and a guilty conscience, during 1930s Germany, and her remorseless struggle to guide the boys under her care while the Nazi propaganda machine keeps forcing her to compromise her moral integrity. At a deeper level, Hegi uses Thekla to ask complex questions of personal courage that all of us are confronted with in times of crises.
Reading Erik Larson’s In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, sent shivers of recognition down my spine. It has been observed that for evil to win all that needs happen is for good men to do nothing. That was what the United States government did, at least officially, for much of the lead-up to World War II. Too often opportunities to speak out and try to stop the atrocities that were engulfing Germany were ignored. Too many times our response to the crisis over there was to do nothing.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusack shows a side of the war that most of us don't often consider: the life of poor Liesel, a German girl growing up in the vicious environment of the German Reich. Liesel lives with foster parents, a normal German family, that does not hate Jews and is trying to scrape by in a country at war. One of the striking things about this novel is that the narrator is Death. Who would think that a story narrated by Death, told in the time of Nazi Germany, would offer so much hope, bravery, and courage?

My Novel, The Nine Inheritors: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Family and their Ancient Torah Scroll, chronicles the effect of the Nazi regime on the Abraham Rosen, the fifth inheritor, and a member of the brilliant team of physicists at Los Alamos that invents the atomic bomb. Here is a short excerpt form the novel:

He [dreamed) that he was the auctioneer standing on a stage, looking down at a crowd, seated, row upon row, in cheap folding chairs, bid paddles cocked at the ready. Pointing to the Torah with a flourish he declared, “This next lot is a magnificent handwritten scroll, not just any Torah but the Rosen family Torah. So how can we assess its worth?” Uncurling the fingers of his right hand one at a time, he went on, “Those in the business use five key indicators: size, condition, rarity, authenticity, and provenance.” He paused to raise the tension in the audience and caught the eye of a man with a mustache that ran like a neat tassel precisely from the outer edge of each nostril to the corner of his upper lip. His limp black hair was slicked and parted exactly to one side. His expression was as stiff and arrogant as a Nazi officer posing for a portrait. A sadness swept over him as he looked down at the room filled with stony-faced strangers—flea market hagglers, garage sale bargain hunters—intent on buying the Torah for the lowest possible price. His eyes locked with those of the man with the black mustache seated to the side of him. There was something unpleasantly familiar about him. Abe knew that he could place the man if he had just a moment to think, but he had to get on with the auction.