Summary and book reviews of Witnesses At War by Nicholas Stargardt

Witnesses At War

Children's Lives Under the Nazis

by Nicholas Stargardt

Witnesses At War by Nicholas Stargardt X
Witnesses At War by Nicholas Stargardt
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2006, 512 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2007, 528 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Drawing on an untouched wealth of original material – school assignments; juvenile diaries; letters from evacuation camps, reformatories and asylums; letters to fathers at the front lines; even accounts of children's games — Nicholas Stargardt breaks stereotypes of victimhood and trauma to give us the gripping individual stories of the generation Hitler made.

Already hailed as "magnificent . . . some of the best historical writing about the aftermath of the war I have ever read . . . stunning" (The Guardian), Witnesses of War breaks new ground in its exploration of the lives and the fate of children of all nationalities under the Nazi regime.

Children were at the center of Nazi ideology; now we have their history of those years. Their stories open a world we have never seen before. War came home to children as a set of events without precedent, spectacular and terrifying by turns. As the Nazis overran Europe, children were saved or damned according to their race. Precious few remained unscathed during the war, and most suffered a moment that overturned their lives. For some, it was the evacuation to become junior colonists in the East; for others, it was the onset of heavy bombing, the separation of families or learning to keep their parents alive by smuggling food, creating black markets and devising their own escape networks. Some herded women waiting to be shot. Girls manned flak batteries; boys confronted Soviet tanks.

Drawing on an untouched wealth of original material – school assignments; juvenile diaries; letters from evacuation camps, reformatories and asylums; letters to fathers at the front lines; even accounts of children's games — Nicholas Stargardt breaks stereotypes of victimhood and trauma to give us the gripping individual stories of the generation Hitler made.

Chapter 1
The Home Front

Germans at war

Janina came out of the privy at the bottom of her grandparents' garden on the morning of 1 September 1939 to see two planes circling overhead. The sound of their machine guns opening up brought her parents, grandparents and brothers running out of the house to join her. Then they all rushed back inside again to listen to the radio. They just caught the announcement of the German attack on Poland, which had begun at daybreak, then the voice faded away as the batteries died. "Grandpa turned the switch off and looked at our anguished faces," ten-year-old Janina noted in her diary at the end of that long day. "He knelt in front of the picture of Jesus Christ and started to pray aloud." They joined him in the Lord's Prayer. Janina had been expecting to return with her ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The positive note from this book is elegantly summed up by Ruth Kluger, writing in The Washington Post, who says "Reading about these years, one can only marvel that Europe recovered so thoroughly. The war children who survived to see a more prosperous world did not become a social burden (as many seem to have feared at the time) but became productive and responsible citizens. Their wounds were real enough, but they coped -- and cope -- with them privately, and with dignity. If there is any hopeful message to be gotten from this harrowing book, it is the wonder of human resilience."

Perhaps this can give us hope for the countless children affected by wars today, including the estimated 300,000 child soldiers fighting in more than 85 countries (according to Amnesty International, 2006).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review (638 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

The Washington Post - Ruth Kluger
The child witnesses here are both boys and girls, "Aryans" and Jews. The author, who teaches history at Oxford and is himself the son of a German-Jewish refugee, recreates everyday life in the Nazi Reich with multilayered quotes that provide a sense of intimacy unmatched by any other narrative I know. At the same time, the reader never loses sight of the larger historical framework.

The Sunday Times - John Carey
The 21st century promises to be as full of wars as the 20th, which is why we need books like Stargardt's that remind us and our leaders what war really means.

The Guardian - David Cesarani
Magnificent new book .. His concluding chapter contains some of the best historical writing about the aftermath of the war I have ever read ... stunning.

Library Journal - Maria Bagshaw
Owing to the subject, the content of this book is frequently disturbing to read. Therefore specialists on this topic may be best prepared for it. The book is recommended for academic and large public libraries.

Booklist - George Cohen
Starred Review. Stargardt's riveting account draws on original material from children's schoolwork, juvenile diaries, letters from evacuation camps, letters to fathers at the front, letters from reformatories and psychiatric asylums, children's artwork in the Jewish ghetto of Theresienstadt and German villages in the Black Forest, as well as adult accounts of children's games.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Perhaps most unusual is Stargardt's illumination of how the Nazi regime affected German children, from those sent away to be "re-educated" to the idealized Hitler Youth sent to die in battle; it's a sharp and taut account of misery.

Kirkus Reviews
Fascinating and often unsettling; an illuminating companion to firsthand accounts such as Irmgard Hunt's On Hitler's Mountain and The Diary of Anne Frank.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

About the author: Nicholas Stargardt is the son of a German-Jewish father and Australian mother. Born in Melbourne, he has lived in Australia, Japan, England and Germany. He studied at King's College, Cambridge, and is a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he teaches modern European history. Witnesses of War is his second book; his first, The German Idea of Militarism: Radical and Socialist Critics, 1866-1914 was published in 1994. He has written widely on the history of modern Germany, political and social thought and the Holocaust. He has two sons and is married to the historian Lyndal Roper.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Witnesses At War, try these:

  • City of Women jacket

    City of Women

    by David R. Gillham

    Published 2013

    About this book

    It is 1943 - the height of the Second World War - and Berlin has essentially become a city of women. In this page-turning novel, David Gillham explores what happens to ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times, and how the choices they make can be the difference between life and death.

  • Stalin's Children jacket

    Stalin's Children

    by Owen Matthews

    Published 2009

    About this book

    More books by this author

    An indelible portrait of Russia over seven decades and an unforgettable memoir about how we struggle to define ourselves in opposition to our ancestry only to find ourselves aligning with it.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Fake Like Me
    Fake Like Me
    by Barbara Bourland
    After years of trying to make it as a painter in New York City, the unnamed narrator of Fake Like Me...
  • Book Jacket: Hungry
    Hungry
    by Jeff Gordinier
    Noma, René Redzepi's restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, has widely been considered among the ...
  • Book Jacket: With the Fire on High
    With the Fire on High
    by Elizabeth Acevedo
    From Like Water for Chocolate to Ratatouille, writers have recognized the power ...
  • Book Jacket: Lanny
    Lanny
    by Max Porter
    At once beautifully poignant and hauntingly grotesque, Max Porter's Lanny is like an unexpected ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Beirut Hellfire Society
    by Rawi Hage

    A searing and visionary novel set in 1970s Beirut that asks what it means to live through war.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
The Guest Book
by Sarah Blake

"An American epic in the truest sense…"
Entertainment Weekly

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win In the Full Light of the Sun

New from Clare Clark!

"Evocative prose and excellent pacing make this fine historical a must-read for art history buffs."
- Publishers Weekly

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A A A Day K T D A

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.