The Dog in the Wood is a fictional story focusing on the Soviet occupation of East Germany beginning in 1945. It was inspired by the life of the author’s father and by her 1989 visit to the village of his birth. She reminds us that not all victims of the German war machine were Jews, and certainly in the aftermath of the war, many German children endured great hardship. This book tells the heartbreaking story of nine-year-old Fritz, a boy who lives with his mother, sister and grandparents on a rural German farm. Fritz’s life is thrown into chaos when the Soviets arrive. His grandfather is a staunch Nazi supporter who commits suicide in the barn when he realizes the Germans have lost the war. Russian soldiers move into the family’s home, steal the cows, and eventually dispossess the family of their farm. The narrative relays the many disappointments Fritz endures as he leaves the home and garden he loves and moves in with relatives. Just when he thinks life can get no worse, the Soviets accuse his mother of breaking the law and they march her away at gunpoint. An author’s note informs the reader that there were ten “special camps” run by the Soviets (some of the same ones used to imprison Jews) where many innocent Germans suffered and died. The unrelenting narrative of sad events may make the book more appropriate for older teens, as only the rare Russian soldier shows any kindness to the family. The reader does come away enlightened about the aftermath of the war and how difficult it was for ordinary Germans to simply survive. This riveting debut novel could serve as an additional read for those already familiar with Holocaust themed literature who would like to learn more about its aftermath. For ages 12 and up.
Lauren Kramer is a Vancouver-based journalist, wife, and mother with a lifelong passion for literature. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she has won awards for her writing and reported from many corners of the world. Read more of her work at www.laurenkramer.net.