The book is a memoir of retired US Air Force colonel, Wolfgang Samuel, who grew up in Germany during WWII. The book begins in 1945 when the author is 10 years old. Along with his mother, grand mother, and younger sister, we follow along as they flee from the advancing Russian army.
As they travel through war torn Germany, from Stratsburg to Berlin, the story is told from his perspective as a boy. We meet Wolfgang on the eve of Russian troops over running his home town. From then on, the gripping story carries you from city to city as Wolfgang and his family tries to stay one step ahead of the Russians and head toward the Americans. Along the way, we meet Hitler youths, die-hard Nazi’s, anti-Nazis, and just average citizens trying to survive the times. Eventually, the Russians would catch up to the Samuel family and the story turns into one of living under occupation of the communist regime. We get a glimpse of what life was like during the last year of the War in Germany. The mosiac of lives creates real characters living in a complex world.
The book is not only an account of a boy’s view of the closing years of the war, but also one about his mother as a single parent, doing whatever she needs to keep her family alive. The family does escape to the American occupied zone. However the suffering does not stop at the end of the war – food shortages and discrimination against refugees continues to make living an everyday struggle. Eventually the family makes it to the United States.
The book is extremely well written. The war is not painted in black and white, everything shifts along different shades of gray. One of the best war time and post war Germany books you can read.