From the Publisher
“Dowswell presents a familiar portrait of Nazi Germany, but it stands out from a crowded field because of its inclusion of less-familiar elements… The characters are rich and nuanced, flawed people caught up in a terrible time; the action is swift and suspenseful; and the juxtaposition of wartime nobility and wartime cruelty is timeless.” The Horn Book Magazine
“What it was like to grow up in war-torn Berlin is the core drama here… this is a strong addition to the WWII curriculum.” Booklist
“This is a different view of Germany during World War II than that usually found in young adult fiction and would provide many discussion points. Highly Recommended.” Library Media Connection
“An unflinching account of a rarely told side of the Holocaust.” Kirkus Reviews
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
This historical novel, a British import, is full of suspense, adventure, and a factual background that should intrigue students of World War II. Its perspective, however, is somewhat different than the normal World War II or Holocaust story. Peter Bruck is a "volksdeutcher," a Polish-raised boy of predominantly German heritage. Orphaned during the Russian invasion of Poland, Peter is plucked from an orphanage and singled out for his stereotypical Aryan looks. Transported to Berlin, he is adopted by the well-placed Kaltenbach family and plunged, almost literally, into the belly of the beast. Dowswell uses Peter's foster family as a device to explain many of the evils of the Third Reich, from human experimentation on "subhuman" Jews, disabled, and foreign prisoners, to the inculcation of Nazi values and loyalty into young German children. As Peter is the ethical center of the book, he becomes torn between his gratitude to his foster family for saving him from peril yet aware that his foster family's values are at odds with humanity. Peter aligns himself with Anna Reiter and her parents, a German family whose subversion of the Reich causes them to become targets of the Gestapo. There is a whole new vocabulary in this book for young readers: U-boats (hidden Jews), swing kids (rebellious young people who dance to American jazz), mischlings (Germans polluted by one grandparent's Jewish blood). Peter and Anna, however, will draw readers' attention as moral, immature young people so confident in their own immortality that they dare to fight back against one of the most powerful forces for evil in the history of the world. Before the pair reaches safety in Sweden, there are many twists and narrow escapes to captivate young readers on an educational yet entertaining journey through another era. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
VOYA - Mark Flowers
Piotr, a Polish orphan, is reclaimed by the Nazis due to his classically Nordic features. Back in Berlin, the Nazis give the newly-christened Peter everything he could want: a new family and friends, exciting activities in the Hitler Youth, and continual praise. Initially grateful for his good fortune, his conscience and connection to a free-thinking girl eventually force Peter to turn his back on his new homeland. The novel's two part structurePeter's troubled indoctrination into the Hitler Youth followed by his experience in the resistanceroughly corresponds to a division in its quality. In the first half, Dowswell acutely portrays Peter's psychological struggle, trying to balance his personal ethics with the attractions of the Hitler Youth. The nonfiction writer in Dowswell tends to lay on factual information in thick slabs, but rather than being obtrusive, the facts serve to reinforce the drama, and the sometimes crude texturing of these passages gives the narrative a strange immediacy. Once Peter resolves his interior struggle by joining the resistance, however, Dowswell seems to lose the thread. Not only is the story more familiar, but the psychological realism and prose both decline in quality. Nevertheless, the first half is strong enough to forgive the more mundane conclusion; it is rare for a writer to confront so forthrightly the very real attractions and humanity of the Nazis, and Dowswell's treatment of this issue is tremendous. Despite its flaws, this novel may well find a place alongside the great World War II YA novels. Reviewer: Mark Flowers
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Orphaned when the Soviets invade Poland in 1941, Piotr finds himself in a lice-infested orphanage in Warsaw. Discovered there by the Nazi Race and Settlement Office, the 13-year-old is introduced to a whole new world of possibilities. His classic Nordic features and German heritage make him a prime candidate for adoption into a German family. However, once settled into his new home in Berlin, Peter, as he is now called, begins to realize that the Nazi party wants much more from him than he is willing to give. The ausländer, the foreigner or outsider, must make his own way. Dowswell takes readers on a thrilling, well-researched adventure through assimilation, resistance, and escape in Nazi Germany, weaving in threads of history that Holocaust literature, to this point, has seldom touched upon. Similar to Susan Campbell Bartoletti's Hitler Youth (2005) and The Boy Who Dared (2008, both Scholastic), The Ausländer provides a German teen perspective and delves into the history of the Nazi scientific research programs, particularly eugenics and the race reclamation program. This novel is a superb addition to all collections, combining action-packed adventure with blood-chilling history.—Sara Saxton, Wasilla Meta-Rose Public Library, Wasilla, AK
When his parents are killed in the 1941 Nazi invasion of Poland, 13-year-old Piotr's life takes an unimaginable turn.
As an ethnic German with Nordic features, he's "racially valuable" to the Nazis, so he is sent by the Race and Settlement Office to Berlin to be raised by a German family. Piotr, renamed Peter, is adopted by a professor whose work with the Genealogical Office of the Reich determines the degree of racial purity of individuals. Peter is required to join the Hitler Youth, where he is as much an outsider as he was at school in Poland. He falls in love with Anna, eventually joining her progressive family's efforts to deliver food to Berlin's remaining Jews. Peter discovers disturbing truths about the Nazi's treatment of children deemed "life unworthy of life" from his sister, just as the professor discovers that his adopted Aryan son had a Jewish grandmother. Fearing forced sterilization, Peter attempts a harrowing escape to Sweden with Anna and her mother. Dowswell's skilled narrative weaves its way through flashbacks and several points of view, building in intensity as Peter grows from a child whose life as an "ausländer," or foreigner, is dictated by chance and circumstance, to a young man whose growing awareness sparks his final, willful act.
An unflinching account of a rarely told side of the Holocaust. (resources, teacher's guide)(Historical fiction. 10–14)