A historical novel focuses on Christian opposition to the Nazis in Germany during World War II.
As the book opens in June 1943, two 17-year-olds set out for Berlin. One is Marek Menkowicz; his parents (a Jewish mother and Roman Catholic father) are missing, so he’s departing Warsaw to stay with an uncle in the German capital. Marek learned to bake and operate a printing press at the monastery led by Father Maximilian Kolbe, later killed at Auschwitz. Meanwhile, history buff Liddy Mittendorf leaves her grandmother’s Munich home to return to the family bakery in Berlin. Her father, Klaus, works nights as a prison guard and delivers secret letters for Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, arrested for plotting to kill Hitler. Impressed by Marek’s marble rye loaf, the Mittendorfs hire him to work mornings at the bakery; in his remaining time, he supports the Resistance by printing fake identification papers. The Mittendorfs don’t know he’s part-Jewish, and Liddy only later learns of his Resistance involvement. With Conrad Keppler of the Nazi police a frequent bakery visitor, the teens must be vigilant. Cornelius (Good News—I Failed, a Story of Inventing in Minnesota, 2011) weaves in the cameos from historical figures nicely and avoids stereotyping Nazis as heartless villains. For instance, Keppler, a former music professor, teaches 8-year-old Willy Mittendorf to play the piano, and the simple message of God’s unconditional love helps the Nazi overcome his bitterness about his brother’s death. Marek and Liddy are gutsy, relatable characters in a budding romance; their adventures should be inspirational for readers of Christian YA fiction. And Bonhoeffer’s words are as poignant as ever: “judging others makes us blind,” and “silence in the face of evil is evil itself.” But the redemption of an apparently evil character like Keppler, though touching, forms a bitter contrast with what happens to Marek and makes the sudden conclusion feel falsely positive. Everything’s coming up roses for the Mittendorfs, it seems, while the Jewish genocide only really appears via a concentration camp scene in a dream.
A stirring story of Berlin teens’ contributions to the Resistance, but a slightly blinkered view of the Holocaust limits the tale’s authenticity.