Liberated from the Soviets by the Nazis: Frying pan, meet fire.
When the German army marches into Krystia’s Ukrainian town, everyone greets the soldiers as liberators. Kind Mrs. Segal, ethnically Ukrainian Krystia’s Jewish neighbor, takes a lovely photograph of Krystia flinging a flower into the air as they celebrate their rescuers. The local Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians (considered ethnic groups at the time, not nationalities or religions, as Krystia makes quite clear) are perhaps excessively naïve about the goodwill of the invading Germans, as seen through Krystia’s optimistic eyes. But that hope is soon shattered, as the Nazis, like the Soviets before them, take any property they desire and hold human life cheap. Ukrainians and Poles are wretched subhumans to the Nazis, unfit for schooling or any life but labor—but that’s nothing on how they treat the local Jews. On a trumped-up charge, the Nazi commandant arrests 101 Jewish men and has them shot. Krystia sees her neighbors buried in a mass grave and their meager clothing given to ethnic German interlopers. Shockingly, the situation only deteriorates from there, as the Nazis execute their solution to the “Jewish Question.” The first-person account, based on the real-life Krystia’s memories as told to Skrypuch, reads like a memoir; despite the historically accurate body count, it retains a sense of hope.
An accessible entry in a crowded, vital field, honoring those who risked everything to save others. (historical note) (Historical fiction. 9-11)