German Boy, A Child in War by Wolfgang W. E. Samuel
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Paperback edition published in 2001 by Broadway Books--A Division of Random House
Biographical/Historical, 448 pages
Foreword by Stephen E. Ambrose
This book was purchased by me for the purpose of reading/reviewing
Wolfgang Samuel is a boy of nearly 10 and he is living with his mother Hedy and younger sister Ingrid in Sagan, Germany. Sagan at this time is a town in far eastern Germany, the town is now known as Zagan and located in far western Poland. It is early 1945 and the Soviet army is approaching Germany. Wolfgang's father is Willi and he is an officer in the German Luftwaffe. Wolfgang and his mother and sister leave Sagan and travel to Berlin to stay with the parents of a friend. They have become fluchtlinge--refugee's. There would be as many as 12-14 million German nationals and ethnic German's leaving the area's of eastern Europe, where the Soviet's then controlled. Eventually Wolfgang, Ingrid and their mother traveled on to Strasburg to live with his maternal grandparents. Wolfgang's father is away in the war and they do not know where he is. It becomes Wolfgang's job to scavenge and beg for food for them. They live day to day, and sometimes moment to moment. They live under fear of being bombed, sickened by diseases, starvation, and rape. They travel farther west trying to flee the approaching Soviet army, eventually returning to Strasburg. The book follows Wolfgang from early 1945 when he is about to turn 10, until the year he is 15 in 1950.
Wolfgang's memory is sharp and descriptive. His story is powerful and heavy laden with despondency and endurance. I could not put the book down, I carried it with me everywhere I went, staying up until late at night to read it. This is a book that speaks to my soul and I'll never forget this boy that endured and sacrificed so much. This book is packed full of historical information from a civilian's perspective. He wrote of the bombings, the propaganda of what the Reich would release (that the war was being won by them, until the bitter end). The inability to receive a valid education, then when they could go to school they were taught by communist teachers that wanted incremenating information on the parents of the school children. He wrote of having nothing to eat and having to beg or scavenge for food from anyone. He wrote of only having one change of clothes and he was wearing them, his shoes were clogs or made of plastic.
He writes of what his mother sacrificed for her children.
In trying to write this review I am overwhelmed by what I've read, and it is difficult to write in one post the impact this book has had on me. I've read World War II books from the perspective of those that were in the American military, nurses and those that survived the Holocaust. This book speaks of what the civilians endured, especially the children.
Wolfgang W. E. Samuel has written another book entitled The War of our Childhood: Memories of World War II. The book tells the stories of 27 survivors that at the time of the war were ages 3 to 12.
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