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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Don't Say a Word
by Barbara Gehrts
Age Range: 12+
Anna and her family live in the Berlin suburb of Lichtenrade. During the early days of the war it is only the shortage of food and general wartime stresses that concern them. Except that Anna’s family is different, her father is one of a small minority who is unalterably opposed to Hitler and the Third Reich. As a high ranking officer in the Luftwaffe he is privy to confidential information and is engaged in subversive activities that undermine the war effort.
‘Don’t say a word about it’ Anna’s brother Hannes insists after she tells him that their father is leaving his office at the RLM (Reich Air Ministry) and not returning home until late. Anna knows she has to keep silent about everything that transpires in her home because she realises intuitively that her father is critical of the regime. Soon their fears become reality, when Anna’s Jewish friend Ruth and her family commit suicide, her friend Erik dies on the Russian front and her father is arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned.
This is an autobiographical story of the author’s early life during the war. Her father, Erwin Gehrts was part of the Red Orchestra movement who were opposed to Hitler. Although the reader never finds out what resistance work Anna’s father is engaged in, the novel conveys the bravery of those who were prepared to oppose Hitler within a constant climate of fear, and at great risk to themselves their families.