I have read a lot of books about World War ll from the perspectives of soldiers, prisoners, widows, nurses, Generals, horses, the Japanese invasion of Alaska, internment camps, spies, Nazis and Jews. But this book is different. It is about a group of German women widowed with children, trying to survive together after the resistance plot to assassinate Hitler failed. Some of their husbands were part of that plan.
Marianne has an aristocratic ancestry, is politically savvy and was always included in the men’s conversations while they were planning the assassination. Benita is the beautiful dreamer with a ghastly past, whose husband was also shot after the failed attempt. Ania is the wife of a Nazi, is a Nazi herself, who is practical and knows how to keep her mouth shut, and how to survive. These women and their children make up an unlikely family, living in a crumbling Bavarian castle.
They have occasional help from a German POW who the Americans sent to shop wood for them. They have a kindly neighbour who shares his eggs with them from time to time – until a group of rogue, starving Russians eat the horse.
This makeshift family is filled with secrets and each of the women must come to terms with the choices she has made, and how to go on living.
This was a time in history where decency and ethics had to bend and stretch. Where there was a lot of blurring and things were never just black or white. There was no frame of reference for the Nazi language of “elimination” and “extermination”. So we are back to the old question of how did good people become Nazis?
This is a really good read if you enjoyed “The Nightengale”, “The Alice Network”, “All the Light We Cannot See” or “Sarah’s Key”.
The Hazards of Good Breeding
World War ll fatalities for the Soviet Union from all related causes numbered more than 20 million! The Russian government puts the dead at 26.6 million.