This compelling memoir of a German girl’s bitter, frightening life reveals the horrors visited upon an average family caught between two of the most cruel dictators in history.
Amidst the copious histories of Hitler and Stalin, historians have often neglected the horrific tales of innocent girls like Schulze, who early in World War II survived Nazi occupation, then was forced to hide in a secret attic for months at war’s end to escape sexual attacks from the invading rampages of the Russians. The Russian soldiers pillaged her tiny village of Doelitz, where women scrubbed their faces with ashes and dirt to make themselves unappealing to the Red Army’s serial rapists. With professional writer Collier’s help, Schulze tells a ground-level story that is at once haunting and shocking in its narration of ordinary, peaceful lives shattered forever by war. The small, poignant touches are riveting–the family’s favorite horse being dragged away to haul artillery; their argument about whether to follow Nazi orders to display Hitler’s portrait. Her inspiring story concludes with the long, harrowing struggle to escape to West Germany, followed by a months-long wait for a berth on a ship bound for America. Her first tastes of ice cream and pineapple aboard the ship are a fitting climax to a tale of never-ending stress and fear–and ultimately, redemption.
Schulze’s courageous story fills a major gap in the story of the world’s greatest conflict, and she deserves a wide audience of all ages.