An old-fashioned boys' adventure tale emerges from an almost unrecognizable retelling of a true Holocaust survival story.
Twelve-year-old Anton is a Jewish peasant in the Ukrainian village of Borshchiv. Anton's grandmother (evidently based on real-life heroine Esther Stermer, never named in the author's note) is sure the Nazis can't be trusted. In the dead of night, Anton and his family sneak away to hide in a nearby cave. Evil Gestapo officer Von Duesen is determined to make Borshchiv Judenfrei, completely free of Jews, and he's sure there's a Jewish family hiding around here somewhere. Von Duesen becomes increasingly unhinged throughout the year as Anton outwits him. He makes mean threats when Anton's grandmother spits in his face, and eventually he turns to murder, horrifying other Nazis by shooting some Jews in cold blood: " ‘Mein Gott, Herr Major...Was haben Sie getan?’ What have you done?" His Gestapo superiors even punish him for the murder, because of potential public relations damage. Of the historical and cultural inaccuracies permeating Anton's adventure, the most egregious is this portrayal of Nazis (who by 1943 in the real Borshchiv had shot or buried alive over 3,000 Jews, including one massacre of 1,800 that took three days, just months before Von Duesen's supposed crime).
The world has no need of a Holocaust tale that presents Nazism as relatively benign. (sources, author's note) (Historical fiction. 8-11)