Book Review: The German House by Annette Hess
The German House
Author: Annette Hess
Published: December 3, 2019
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 2 stars
Set against the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials of 1963, Annette Hess’s international bestseller is a harrowing yet ultimately uplifting coming-of-age story about a young female translator—caught between societal and familial expectations and her unique ability to speak truth to power—as she fights to expose the dark truths of her nation’s past.
If everything your family told you was a lie, how far would you go to uncover the truth?
For twenty-four-year-old Eva Bruhns, World War II is a foggy childhood memory. At the war’s end, Frankfurt was a smoldering ruin, severely damaged by the Allied bombings. But that was two decades ago. Now it is 1963, and the city’s streets, once cratered are smooth and paved. Shiny new stores replace scorched rubble. Eager for her wealthy suitor, Jürgen Schoormann, to propose, Eva dreams of starting a new life away from her parents and sister. But Eva’s plans are turned upside down when a fiery investigator, David Miller, hires her as a translator for a war crimes trial.
As she becomes more deeply involved in the Frankfurt Trials, Eva begins to question her family’s silence on the war and her future. Why do her parents refuse to talk about what happened? What are they hiding? Does she really love Jürgen and will she be happy as a housewife? Though it means going against the wishes of her family and her lover, Eva, propelled by her own conscience , joins a team of fiery prosecutors determined to bring the Nazis to justice—a decision that will help change the present and the past of her nation.
It really hurts my heart that I have to give such a low rating to a book that centers around the Holocaust. The idea was an interesting one but the execution was not good at all. The twist was ok; it was kind of obvious by the time you got there. The characters were bland and not really likable. It seems that Eva and her fiancé are the only ones who don’t realize that they don’t belong together. David Miller, for all his passion, did nothing but hinder the legal fight against the Nazis. And the ending … ugh. There was no resolution. It literally just stopped. It was frustrating and it left a sour taste in my mouth. I really can’t recommend this book to anyone.
The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender
Author: Ruth Minsky Sender
Published: August 1, 1997
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: June 23- July 2, 2019
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
After Mama is taken away by the Nazis, Riva and her younger brothers cling to their mother’s brave words to help them endure life in the Lodz ghetto. Then the family is rounded up, deported to Auschwitz, and separated. Now Riva is alone.
At Auschwitz, and later in the work camps at Mittlesteine and Grafenort, Riva vows to live, and to hope – for Mama, for her brothers, for the millions of other victims of the nightmare of the Holocaust. And through determination and courage, and unexpected small acts of kindness, she does live – to write the unforgettable memoir that is a testament to the strength of the human spirit.
“As long as there is life, there is hope”.
This is a powerful memoir of the author’s experience in WWII and the concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Riva loses her mother in a raid and begins to raise her younger brothers. They face many unbelievable hardships and you wonder how much more they must go through. Will they all survive? There are also some unexpected kindnesses by some Nazi captors. At times it is hard to believe that this is a memoir. We humans can be so inhumane to each other for no reason.
This is written for the younger audience and would be appropriate for at least ages 12 and up. I listened to the Scholastic audiobook which is meant to be listened to as you read the book. There is a ‘narrator’ to help with understanding the novel.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Author: Heather Morris
Published: January 27, 2018
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.
I have had my eye on this book for quite a while, so when I found it at Sam’s Club for cheap, I grabbed it! Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the hype. I love Holocaust literature and I am a huge supporter of Holocaust education. I’m not going to say that this is a bad book, because it isn’t. However, it is not my favorite Holocaust book. And to be clear, it is a work of fiction. Jessica sent me an article from the Auschwitz Memorial Museum and they pointed out that there’s too much vagueness and even straight up inaccuracies in Tattooist for them to recommend it as “valuable reading for people who want to learn and understand the history of Auschwitz.” I knew it was fiction when I picked it up so that doesn’t really surprise me nor does it change my feelings.
There are two reasons I’m giving it 3 stars:
The first does go along with what the Memorial said, that it wasn’t completely accurate, even in its general portrayal of Auschwitz. I’m a historian and I’ve studied the Holocaust so I have a standard already set in my head when it comes to the concentration camps and Tattooist doesn’t really meet it. Auschwitz sounded too livable in this book. It lacked a sense of horror that other accounts convey. I had to fill in what I already knew about Auschwitz to get that dread and terror that normally comes when reading about the Holocaust. That did bother me some.
The second reason is Lale himself. Far be it from me to criticize a Holocaust survivor and I completely acknowledge that our modern society influenced me in this case: Lale was a little pervy. He admitted to learning how to flirt with his mother, that his romantic expectations were set by his mother . . . and I just kept waiting for it to come out that he was actually a serial killer! I know that’s such a horrible thought, but it’s truly what I was expecting every time he brought up his mother and their relationship! I get that boys can learn how to treat women from their mothers, and I know that’s what was going on, but it still got a kinda cringey the more he talked about it. Too many times, I thought, “ok TMI! Didn’t want to know that! Keep that crap to yourself!”
I really wanted to love this book and it was ok, but I wouldn’t recommend this to too many people. Obviously if you like historical fiction, you’ll probably enjoy this book, but I would not recommend this to teens or as educational material.