It is difficult not to give this book, Surviving the Fatherland, by Annette Oppenlander, a five-star rating. Surviving the Fatherland is an historical fiction based on true events, the lives of those who survived World War II, during the war and then in post-war Germany. As one reads this story of survival, told from the perspective of one young girl, her trials and tribulations of eking out an existence in a nation depleted of food and resources, most of them being siphoned off by Hitler’s insane thirst for war and power, we live with her through the daily routines, the suffering, the emotional ups and downs, the sacrifices and the tangible fear of not only the on-going war, but how to survive in its aftermath. This story seems vaguely surreal as one reads it because it is difficult to imagine that just seven decades ago the worst war in human history happened, and the depth of suffering which people endured – if they lived to see it to its end. We look around today and see a world rebuilt, with hardly a vestige of that conflict visible, and yet, in the minds of those who navigated it, who lived on potatoes and onions, if that, who scrambled through the rubble for necessities, who sat in bomb shelters as their world was destroyed around them – and moreover, innocent people who were neither supporters of nor even soldiers in Hitler’s madness, the traumas and memories they carried with them would never disappear. In spite of the time and the ambient war which Lilly and her family must survive, the story is not gruesome, but rather, it is a statement about the depth and strength of the human soul, and ultimately, really, of the love that drives people on in spite of all the reasons not to love. Highly recommended. A book that truly reminds us just how horrible war is, and that the victims of war are far more than just the soldiers who fought it, but in fact, the civilians who emerged from the rubble and had to rebuild the broken world in its aftermath.
Review by author Réal Laplaine