Dreaming in Black and White

Overview

This haunting short novel explores the Holocaust from a rarely told perspective. Following a school history assignment, Hannes, a German boy, is disturbed by dreams that transport him back to the 1930s. There, he is persecuted by fellow students and teachers because Hannes is disabled, and like the Jews and "social misfits," the Nazi regime has labeled him "not worth living." Although his mother rushes to protect him, his father seems intimidated-even swayed-by the Nazi propaganda. Meanwhile, the dreams ...

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Overview

This haunting short novel explores the Holocaust from a rarely told perspective. Following a school history assignment, Hannes, a German boy, is disturbed by dreams that transport him back to the 1930s. There, he is persecuted by fellow students and teachers because Hannes is disabled, and like the Jews and "social misfits," the Nazi regime has labeled him "not worth living." Although his mother rushes to protect him, his father seems intimidated-even swayed-by the Nazi propaganda. Meanwhile, the dreams themselves are becoming all too real and Hannes begins to fear: Will he escape this nightmarish world in time to save himself?

A boy's journey into his country's chilling past that will encourage thought-provoking discussions about the history of the Holocaust and what it means to be "different" in today's world.

Translated by Anthea Bell.

A boy dreams that he is a student during the period of the Nazi Third Reich in Germany, where he is persecuted for being physically handicapped.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in the late author's native Germany, this Holocaust novella draws parallels between Nazi mass murders of the disabled and various possibilities associated with genetic engineering. The narrator, disturbed by his classroom studies of the Nazi regime, visits "back then" in his dreams (in black and white) and plays out a harrowing double life. Both "then" and in his waking life, the boy suffers from an unnamed genetic condition; "then," for example, he can't walk without a crutch and cannot speak clearly. Jung highlights the Nazi plan for "elimination of lives not worth living" and shows how hatred for the weak was bred. In one scene, a Nazi math teacher watches the boy flail in front of the classroom after his crutch falls; the teacher also assigns a word problem (from an actual textbook) to figure how much "mentally ill patients, epileptics, cripples, and so forth" cost the Third Reich. Jung is less successful when his narrator dramatizes the consequences of genetic testing, making leaps that are not entirely convincing: "Genetic testing won't let anyone but perfect human beings through.... Back then I'd probably have been killed. These days I ought not to exist at all." Readers may be more interested in the boy's responses to his parents' attitudes. In both eras, the fathers are ashamed; the narrator's mother, however, is ashamed "because of the horrible way people sympathize with her." Such touches add emotional depth to the schematic approach here. Ages 10-up. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This sparse but effective cautionary tale was originally published in Germany in 1996. Hannes is a disabled young man who can't speak very clearly. When his high school class begins to study the rise of Hitler and subsequent atrocities of Nazi Germany, Hannes begins to be troubled by vivid, black-and-white dreams. In his dreams, Hannes is transported backward five decades, into the midst of the appalling Nazi policy known as Operation T4, which advocated the "elimination of lives not worth living." Others knew it as the department of murder. Hannes' dreams grow more and more terrifying as he eerily experiences what it was like to scrape out an existence "back then." He comes to realize that, with his disability, he would likely have been killed under this system. Operation T4 served as a model for the Holocaust that was responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews. Endnotes include short passages that explain the ideology, laws, and propaganda of Hitler's Nazi Party and background on Operation T4, which took its name from the street address of the building where it was conceived. 2003 (orig. 1996), Phyllis Fogelman Books,
— Christopher Moning
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Hannes Keller has a disability that impedes his speech and causes him to walk with the assistance of a crutch. He is studying the Third Reich in history class and dreams day and night, much to his parents' concern, of 1930s Germany, when people with disabilities were taken to psychiatric institutions and later killed under Operation T4-"elimination of lives not worth living." In these dreams he becomes friendly with a classmate, Hilde Rosenbaum, who does not return to school one day, and hears his father agree to put him in a "home," thus changing their relationship in the present. Many of the sentences are choppy and the paragraphs do not lead into one another-perhaps attempting free association, as in a dream sequence, but the device doesn't work well in this book. It is often difficult to determine whether Hannes is dreaming or not and most of the characters exist primarily in his imagination, which he cannot separate from reality. The final chapters concerning the Third Reich are informative, but come too late.-Delia Fritz, Mercersburg Academy, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hannes, a German boy with disabilities, begins having vivid waking dreams after studying "those terrible times back then," as his parents euphemistically refer to the Nazi era. He dreams that he lived then and that he was targeted for extermination as one of those whose lives the Nazis deemed "not worth living." In his dream, Hannes's own father becomes convinced that everyone would be better off if he were institutionalized and ultimately put to death. Most chilling, though, is that Hannes makes clear that even today, with genetic engineering and the strong preference for perfect children, many people, perhaps even his father, may believe that his life is not worth living. This slim volume packs enough disturbing disussion topics to last a lifetime. Appended by several brief chapters that give the background to the story. (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803728110
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 6/23/2003
  • Series: Phyllis Fogelman Bks.
  • Pages: 112
  • Age range: 10 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Reinhardt Jung was born in Germany in 1949. After working as a journalist and advertising copywriter, he joined an international children's organization, and later became head of children's broadcasting in Stuttgart in 1992. Mr. Jung died in 1999.

Anthea Bell is a well-known translator of German and French.

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