Georg Rauch lives with his parents in Vienna, Austria when he is drafted into the German Army at the age of 19 in 1943. He has fully disclosed that his grandmother was Jewish, but that doesn’t seem to matter. He has been helping his mother hide Jews in their building. Now he will be a radio operator — and that begins his journey as an unlikely warrior.
Through a mix of narrative and letters to his mother, Rauch shows himself to be a savvy and erudite teen. He has a sardonic sense of humor that permeates his letters home. At the same time, the combination of narrative styles blends into a side of the story perhaps never before told. There is no glory, as Rauch is forced to participate in a death march and is taken as a Russian prisoner of war. Only by his wits, his skill as a radio operator and a draftsman, and youth is he able to survive.
His own drawings punctuate the text, giving readers visual cues of Rauch’s travails. Although the book is intended for a teen audience, it is clearly solid reading for adults as well. Readers will feel his pain, confusion, doubt, and hope.
Recommended for ages 14 and up.
Barbara Krasner is a doctoral candidate in Holocaust & Genocide Studies at Gratz College and is Director, Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Center at Mercer County Community College. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.