Review: When We Were Brave by Karla M. Jay

we were braveWHEN WE WERE BRAVE, we find a conflicted SS officer, Wilhelm Falk, who risks everything to escape the Wehrmacht and get out the message about the death camps. Izaak is a young Jewish boy whose positive outlook is challenged daily as each new perilous situation comes along. American citizens, Herbert Müller, and his family are sent back to the hellish landscape of Germany because of the DNA coursing through their veins. In the panorama of World War II, these are the high-stakes plots and endearing characters whose braided fates we pray will work out in the end.


History has a way of reminding us that humans can very heartless. Think about slavery, colonization, and the holocaust.  This book took me back to a time when men were truly monsters.

In this story, Wilhem Falk is a former SS Officer who is trying to get the word out about the death camps. He has witnessed the despicable inhumanity of the German soldiers and wants the world to know. He hopes that creating awareness will put a stop to the madness. However, being an SS ‘traitor’ is a death sentence. In addition, nobody trusts him. Izaak is only 8 years old. He is Jewish. OMG his innocence was heartbreaking.  Herbert’s story is new to me. He is an American with German Origin. His family is all settled in America, they are hardworking citizens with no links to Germany but that still doesn’t spare him from being profiled by FBI. In the process, he is deported to Germany. He doesn’t even know people there. Crazy!

This was a heartbreaking read. It is also the kind of read that makes you angry. I am so mad at Hitler and all his cronies with their dumb ‘Aryan Nation’. It breaks my heart that so many people had to suffer and lose their lives because of a lunatic. The story was intense as I kept wondering if the characters would survive. I wanted the war to end so badly. Little Izaak had my heart in my mouth a couple of times. He was just a young boy, so innocent even in the face of cruelty. He didn’t fully grasp what was going on and managed to get his family in trouble a couple of times.

This story was quite well written. Most of the characters were based on real people and this made the story even more heart-wrenching. I also thought the story was quite informative. I learned so many new things like the story of German immigrants living in other countries. I also learned the bizarre story of German women who were considered as being ‘racially pure’ and their contribution to the war was to have sex with SS Officers in an effort to procreate Aryan Children. This was the Lebensborn programme.  I was surprised by this but a little research on Google brought me stories of these women. They volunteered and were honored to play this part for the Fuhrer.

When We Were Brave by Karla M. Jay is a well-written, captivating, informative story about love, loss, courage and pain. It is also a story about the best and worst of humanity. The research that went into the story made it more than just a great read. It ended up being the kind of story that offered me a lot of lessons.  Definitely recommended.

17 thoughts on “Review: When We Were Brave by Karla M. Jay

  1. From the title on, we can feel it’s an intense, heart-wrenching, and powerful read. You wrote a brilliant review. I still can’t read WW2 novels, but I really enjoyed your post and should I pick historical fiction books, this one would be on the list 🙂 x

    1. Thank you Meggy ❤ I know what you mean about not being able to read WW2. I have to take breaks in between reads. This one was so heartbreaking. There are no happy endings with these kind of books but you still find yourself hoping that things would turn out differently.

  2. This one sounds so good, but so heartbreaking. I think it’s interesting that it is in an SS officer’s POV. I haven’t read one of those before. Great review!

    1. Thank you Deanna. Yeah, the story is told in 3 unique POVs, one is the SS Soldier’s. The other two are by a Jewish boy in concentration camps and an American-German family in the US. All 3 POVs were compelling and quite informative.

      1. For some reason, it makes me think of Lilac Girls. That one was a girl in the concentration camp, a SS doctor, and an American who was trying to help women who were in camps.

    1. Thanks Norrie. It really is. I am glad that I wasn’t around during that time period. Too much suffering and inhumanity around the world.

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