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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)
by Hans Peter Richter
Age Range: 12+
Set in Germany in the early 1930s, Friedrich Schneider and his best friend are growing up. It appears at first that Friedrich is the more fortunate of the two. His father is respected and prosperous while the narrator’s father is unemployed until Hitler comes to power in 1933 when everything changes. Friedrich’s father is forced to retire from his job in the civil service; Friedrich is expelled from school; is not allowed to join the Jungvolk; and becomes an orphan when his mother dies and his father is arrested and deported. The final harrowing sequence in the young seventeen-year-old Friedrich’s life during 1945 is when he is denied access to the air-raid shelter in order to seek refuge from the falling bombs. All this because he is Jewish.
First published in 1961 this novel is a compelling, deeply felt, tragic, unforgettable story of persecution before and during the Second World War and how it affected the lives of two families – one non-jewish and one Jewish. Seen from a child’s viewpoint, it is made all the more vivid by the simplicity and candour of the narrative as it follows the destruction of a single Jewish family.
Friedrich won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award in the USA in 1972. Another book by Hans Peter Richter, I Was There explores the many reasons that compelled young people to join the Hitler Youth Movement.