Lambert artfully converts his coming-of-age journals into a thrilling survivor’s story.
In his third-person autobiographical account, Lambert and his twin brother, Ron, were raised in World War II–era Germany, the sons of a British diplomat and an Austrian mother. They led a normal, happy life until Hitler and the Nazi Party consolidated their power. Initially, the twins were intrigued by the idea of joining the Hitler Youth: “Wouldn’t mind getting into that mob,” Ron said. “Did you see the knives they all had on their belts?” Ken responded. All that changed when their private school became militarized and the Lambert twins were forcibly enlisted into the Young Folks, the youngest group involved in Hitler’s plan to create perfect Aryan youth. And they had no idea what happened to their parents. The twins became disillusioned with Nazi brutality, particularly when it came to the persecution of Jews. After seeing a family of Jews forcibly removed from their home, the author told his brother, “They are Jews…poor buggers. What have they done to be treated like this?” The Lamberts attempted to hide within the Nazi infrastructure at their school, but eventually they, along with their best friend, Hans, and their platoon leader, Dieter, decided to escape. “We have to run now,” Lambert said, “before the army call-up gets us.” The quartet lived on the run for the rest of the seemingly endless war, first using their outdoor skills to live in a secluded rural valley, then becoming proficient black marketeers in their hometown of Munich, all while largely eluding the SS and the Gestapo. Lambert skillfully explores the conditions that allowed Hitler to rise to power as well as what it was like to be caught inside the fanaticism. The memoir is stuffed—almost overstuffed—with details of life during wartime; tighter editing would help shorten or eliminate unnecessary anecdotes that sap some of the book’s momentum. Lambert, his brother, and their friends are nevertheless sympathetically drawn characters caught in chaos beyond their control, and the lengthy narrative will have readers rooting for them to survive these most trying of circumstances.
A riveting story that blends World War II history and tales of growing up.