I Did­n’t Tell Them Any­thing: The Wartime Secrets of an Amer­i­can Girl

  • From the Publisher
May 19, 2015

When Aleena Rieger was grow­ing up, there were cer­tain things she was­n’t allowed to talk about: where she was born; her fam­i­ly’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing World War II; her moth­er’s ill­ness. Against great odds, the Riegers secured a future in which they and their descen­dants could lead ordi­nary lives. But to do so they had to jet­ti­son the past — and their past selves. Years flew by. Aleena had chil­dren and then grand­chil­dren who want­ed to know about her ori­gins. Her par­ents died, which meant she no longer need­ed to con­ceal what she knew to pro­tect them. But she also could­n’t ask them to fill the gaps in her knowledge.

The book chron­i­cles Aleena’s efforts to uncov­er miss­ing pieces: her par­ents’ flight from Nazi-besieged Poland, forced labor in Siberia, tem­po­rary refuge in Kaza­khstan, and a long jour­ney to Amer­i­ca made pos­si­ble by their refusal to speak of the ordeals they had faced. Describ­ing the unique cir­cum­stances of one immi­grant fam­i­ly, the book cap­tures uni­ver­sal themes of hope, sur­vival, and the tenac­i­ty of the human spirit.

Discussion Questions