Sarah Cohen-Scali; Pen­ny Hue­ston, trans.
  • Review
By – May 9, 2017

In chap­ter one of Max, we are intro­duced to a male fetus cre­at­ed through the Nazi Lebens­born pro­gram. Through the protagonist’s care­ful­ly curat­ed blue eyes, we learn how the pro­gram breeds chil­dren to embody traits of the ide­al Aryan race — I must be blond. I must have blue eyes. I must be sharp. Lean. Hard. Tough. Made of Krupp Steel” — and quick­ly takes them from their birth moth­ers’ arms to be raised by the Reich.

Max ris­es to the head of his lit­ter in phys­i­cal per­fec­tion and Draufgänger­tum, the desired qual­i­ty of a go-get­ter, dare­dev­il.” As he grows, Max is found to be sin­gu­lar­ly excep­tion­al at help­ing var­i­ous tem­po­rary care­tak­ers — doc­tors, sis­ters, SS offi­cers — lure fair-haired, blue eyed, Pol­ish chil­dren from their fam­i­lies to be Ger­man­ized to bring more chil­dren into the Aryan race. Max rev­els in his role help­ing the Führer, and he wants for noth­ing more. When at six he meets Lukas, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jew, who is afraid of noth­ing, their friend­ship throws every­thing Max has believed into question.

Like so many sto­ries to which we are asked to bear wit­ness, this is not always a pleas­ant tale. It depicts child­hoods filled to the brim with war, and spares no hor­rif­ic detail. While the descrip­tions of teens plot­ting mur­ders and girls forced at the hands of sol­diers may not be for all, the bru­tal­i­ty of hear­ing this sto­ry through the first-per­son nar­ra­tion of a child high­lights the task we are asked to per­form as lis­ten­ers. As a res­cue work­er encour­ages Max when the war is done but the deeds are still fresh: here the chil­dren are not pun­ished for the sins of the father.” Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 15 and up.

Shi­ra Schin­del is the Direc­tor of Busi­ness Devel­op­ment & Author Engage­ment at Litographs and for­mer­ly the head of Con­tent and Acqui­si­tions at Qlovi, an edu­ca­tion tech­nol­o­gy start­up accel­er­at­ing lit­er­a­cy in K‑12 class­rooms. Before that she worked in the lit­er­ary depart­ment at ICM Part­ners, and stud­ied Cre­ative Writ­ing at Colum­bia University.

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