DON'T SAY A WORD by Barbara Gehrts
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A fictional reconstruction of the author's teen-age years in Berlin, 1940-1943. Anna's father is a Luftwaffe colonel, yet secretly opposes the Nazis. His two children learn that silence and dissembling are essential; a Jewish friendship must be concealed in the hope of offering help in time of need; and Hannes and Anna must appear to be loyal members of the Hitler Youth. Even so, as the war deepens, tragedy follows tragedy. The Jewish friends commit suicide in the face of threats; Anna's beloved friend Eric is killed on the Russian front; Father is seized by the Gestapo, tried, and, after agonizing months, executed; Hannes dies of complications from an untreated infection. The narration is dramatic but restrained; there are no violent atrocities on stage, just the relentless negation of human dignity by the Nazi powers, who could routinely send an itemized bill to a widow for her husband's execution. The means by which survivors coped, the love and loyalty that made them treasure life, the unexpected details of what life was like--whence the food, how to repair a bombed roof--are movingly realized in this memoir, as is the author's stated intention of making clear the difference between freedom and the tyranny of force.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1986
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Atheneum