Review: The Girl from Berlin by Kate Hewitt

Berlin, 1936: From her beautiful new home a young woman named Liesel Scholz barely notices the changes to the city around her. Her life is one of privilege and safety thanks to her father’s job working for the new government.

But soon a chance encounter with Rosa, the daughter of their Jewish housekeeper, leaves Liesel in no doubt that something isn’t right. That this government’s rules are not fair and that others aren’t as safe as she is. When Rosa begs Liesel to help—pressing her grandfather’s gold pocket watch into Liesel’s hand—Liesel recklessly agrees.

She will help hide Rosa and her family—in the dusty, unused rooms at the top of their house—even if it means putting everyone she loves in danger. Even if it means risking her own life.

Frankfurt, 1946: An idealistic American captain, Sam Houghton, arrives in Germany to interrogate prominent Nazis on trial and to help rebuild a battered country. He hires an enigmatic and damaged woman named Anna as his interpreter. But, as sparks fly between them, the question of what happened to Anna in the war raises its head.

Because Anna has secrets—ones that link her to the Nazi party, the darkest days in Europe’s history, and the story of one gold pocket watch and two young women who became friends even when they were told it was impossible…

Review

I have read so many books set around the world wars and especially about the Nazi regime. However, each books gives me something new to think about.

Liesel is a German girl living in Berlin during the rise of the Nazi party. She notices the change around the city as the party grows along with German’s love for Hitler. At first, nothing sinister seems to be going on apart from the blind, fanatical allegiance to a man with a crazy vision. However, that soon changes with the focus on Jews. Over time, things take a turn for the worse and Berlin practically goes up in flames.

This story is narrated through two main POVs. One is set in the 1930s and illustrates Liesel’s experiences in Germany during Hitler’s rule . The second timeline is narrated by Sam Houghton, an American Captain in Germany after the collapse of the Nazi rule. Sam is in Germany to interrogate members of the Nazi party in a bid to seek justice and also help in the restoration of Germany.

This was quite an emotional story. My heart broke so many times when I read about the atrocities committed by the Nazi party. Having a protagonist who is German and at the helm of the Nazi rule gave this a fresh, interesting angle. I could empathize with Liesel and her family and their predicament. I admired her strength to try and stand up against the injustice around her. However, it also broke my heart to see just how bad things got. I still cannot understand how Hitler was able to convince so many people to embrace some crazy notion about white supremacy and antisemitism.

As I already mentioned, this was also a thought-provoking read. We can get angry now and do much more in the face of such atrocities as committed by the Nazi regime. However, what would it have been like to actually exist in that period? The Jews may not have had many choices but how about the Germans? Was it easier to keep quiet, burry your head in the sand and just wait for the storm to pass? Was it easier to pretend not to see the Jews being packed away like their lives were meaningless? I’d like to believe that I’d have stood up against the injustice. At the same time, realistically, I don’t know if there is anything I’d have done apart from helplessly and fearfully remaining silent as a form of self-preservation. Sad, isn’t it?

Poignant, well written with great character development, The Girl from Berlin by Kate Hewitt is an excellent read.