The Dog in the Wood

Moni­ka Schroder
  • Review
By – September 19, 2011
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​.lau​renkramer​.net.

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