Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Something Remains

Something Remains

Inge Barth-grozinger
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Hyperion, 2006   ISBN: 978-0786838806

Erich Levi can feel that things are changing in his town. Everyone is talking about Adolf Hitler and wondering what he is going to do next. Erich’s father Julius thinks that the National Socialist Party, the Nazi Party, will never gain a foothold in their staunchly catholic town but Erich is not so sure. Every day there are more banners and more marches. There are more military displays and more speeches about the “Fatherland” and about how great the German race is.

Though Erich finds all this unsettling it does not affect him too much until the anti-Jewish rhetoric begins. There are only a few Jewish children in his school – three in fact – and they soon begin to feel very uncomfortable in their classes. Erich’s teacher singles Erich out for cruel personal remarks. He gives Erich bad marks even though Erich’s work is good. Then Erich gets beaten up by members of the Hilter Youth group.

Things get steadily worse as Erich’s friends, some of whom have known him for years, drop him just because he is Jewish. His father loses customers who won’t buy from a Jewish businessman and the family have to let their beloved maid go because they cannot afford to keep her any more. Everywhere Erich goes he feels angry eyes watching him. How is it possible that he and his family are suddenly hated like this? How is it that his town has suddenly turned against him?

Bit by bit everything that Erich holds dear is taken away from him by the rules and cruelty of the Nazis. Even though there are still a few people who are willing to risk being seen with them, the Levi’s come to the point where they are not willing to let their friends incur the wrath of the mob upon themselves just because they are seen in the company of the Jews. Should they leave Germany altogether and build a new life for themselves elsewhere?

Many books have been written about what happened to the Jews during World War Two. This is the story of what it was like to live through the years leading up to that conflict, what it was like for the Jews to suffer having their freedoms whittled away one by one until they were left with none at all. Through the eyes of Erich we get a sense of how humiliating it was, how embarrassing and soul destroying it must have felt. We can imagine how conflicted Jewish children must have felt because on the one hand they were Jews, and yet on the other they were German. They had always been German. And yet here were people telling them that they were not German at all.

This superbly written book is incredibly powerful and thought-provoking and at the end readers will discover that it is all based on the true story of a real German town and a real Jewish family. Thanks to the author’s meticulous research and her absorbing writing style, this book serves as a wonderful tribute to the courage of the Levi family and to those who refused to give in to Nazi pressure and who continued to support the family no matter what.