Unlike­ly War­rior: A Jew­ish Sol­dier in Hitler’s Army

Georg Rauch, Phyl­lis Rauch, trans.
  • Review
By – December 10, 2015

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 the author of many books across gen­res, includ­ing fic­tion, poet­ry, cre­ative non­fic­tion, and chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. Her recent titles include 37 Days at Sea: Aboard the M.S. St. Louis, 1939, Civil­ian Casu­al­ties in War and Ethel’s Song: Ethel Rosen­berg’s Life in Poems. Her book Goldie Takes a Stand! Gol­da Meir’s First Cru­sade was a recip­i­ent of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Hon­or Award. She holds a Ph.D. in Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies from Gratz Col­lege, teach­es in the Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies pro­gram at the Col­lege of New Jer­sey, and serves as direc­tor of the Mer­cer Coun­ty Holo­caust, Geno­cide, and Human Rights Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter. She also holds an MFA in writ­ing for chil­dren and young adults from the Ver­mont Col­lege of Fine Arts.

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