BROTHER ENEMY by Elisabeth Mace


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Mace's story of a not-particularly-Jewish German boy's World War II exile has much in common with several autobiographical accounts of recent years. It's projected quite convincingly, and sometimes touchingly, from the child's point of view: For example, when Andreas is sent to England and learns of the death camps from other refugees, he's then sure he'll meet the same fate when the British speak of a refugee camp. In reality, though, he's sent first to a family that gets bombed out and then to a vicarage, where the vicar's wife had asked for a ""nice little girl"" from a threatened area in England and isn't comfortable with this stiff stranger--or, for that matter, with the younger cockney boy and girl she's also housing. For his part, Andreas had wanted to join the Hitler Youth like his friends and was bewildered to find himself a ""second degree Mischling' (through his father), and to find his divorced mother sending him away. He can't play the ""poor Jewish refugee"" for Jewish families in England who want such children, and he's the object of anti-German and/or anti-Jewish feeling in encounters around the vicarage. Mace gives him some touching unspoken friendships with the cockney girl and with the vicar's tippling old gardener-gravedigger Andreas takes to helping at his job; and she makes a good scene of Iris postwar return home to a bombed-out Hamburg, where a visit with his younger, non-Jewish half-brother makes him realize for the first time that his home is now England. She is at times a little heavy-handed compared to others who've set down their own childhood experiences, but the main strike against this respectable account is that it's never more than a paler version of material we've already had at first hand.

Pub Date: June 26th, 1981
Publisher: Beaufort--dist. by Scribners