Despite the interspersing of armored tank silhouettes between sections, the reader will eventually realize that this is a book about the futility of war as well as the sins of those who perpetrate it. It uses members of a typical family living in Germany during Hitler’s reign to tell the story of World War II.
Each member of the family represents a different facet of the population. As a veteran of World War I, the father, leery of Hitler and all he stands for, recalls how in the first moments of the Armistice, he and a Canadian soldier, both from opposite sides, befriended one another and kept in touch over the years.
With the rise of Hitler, the Canadian has invited him and his family to come to Canada. This offer is considered by him, but his wife, from an upper class family, cannot countenance ever leaving Germany and her extended family. She looks down at her husband’s family, especially his brother, a simple farmer. She, however, with her formerly despised brother-in-law, will later typify the “righteous gentiles” of history.
The family’s eldest son, twenty-year-old Reinhardt, proud of his new uniform, the Nazi pageants and intoxicated by Hitler’s speeches is totally indoctrinated. In the future, he will plead innocent to what the Germans did to the Jews, although they all witnessed Kristallnacht, but he is “shocked” at what he saw in the camps, (described only briefly).
Dieter, who had joined his older brother in war through family loyalty, will escape with their little flute-playing innocent sister who suddenly becomes a tower of strength after her flute is destroyed in a bombing. They flee to escape the oncoming Russians and find that history will repeat itself, that not all Germans are evil, and that a flaming tank once again may signal a new friend. This is an interesting read and will provide much to talk and think about for ages 12 – 16.