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As World War I draws to a close in 1918, German citizens are starving and suffering under a repressive regime. Sixteen-year-old Moritz is torn. His father died in the war and his older brother still risks his life in the trenches, but his mother does not support the patriotic cause and attends subversive socialist meetings. While his mother participates in the revolution to sweep away the monarchy, Moritz falls in love with a Jewish girl who also is a socialist. When Moritz’s brother returns home a bitter, maimed...
As World War I draws to a close in 1918, German citizens are starving and suffering under a repressive regime. Sixteen-year-old Moritz is torn. His father died in the war and his older brother still risks his life in the trenches, but his mother does not support the patriotic cause and attends subversive socialist meetings. While his mother participates in the revolution to sweep away the monarchy, Moritz falls in love with a Jewish girl who also is a socialist. When Moritz’s brother returns home a bitter, maimed war veteran, ready to blame Germany’s defeat on everything but the old order, Moritz must choose between his allegiance to his dangerously radicalized brother and those who usher in the new democracy.
“A good choice for sharing across the curriculum, this is a novel readers will want to discuss.” —Booklist
"In this nuanced and realistic work of historical fiction, Schröder (Saraswati’s Way) immerses readers in her setting with meticulous details and dynamic characters that contribute to a palpable sense of tension. Moritz’s intimate narration captures the conflicts, divided loyalties, and everyday horrors of the period." —Publishers Weekly
" 'War gives meaning to some men's lives. For other men, the experience of war extinguishes all meaning in life,' says a man who becomes Moritz's mentor; Schröder makes this sad and ever-timely lesson all too clear."—Kirkus Reviews
“The sorrow and the pity of World War I haunt every page of this unsparing coming-of-age story set in Berlin during the war’s final days. Monika Schröder skillfully sketches in the fractured political background of a disintegrating imperial Germany. She doesn’t miss a beat in her fast-paced first-person narrative as sixteen-year-old Moritz copes with his family’s misfortunes, finds his calling, and discovers love. I found the innocence of the meetings between Moritz and Rebecca particularly affecting, and because she happens to be Jewish, the story ends on a note of foreboding. This is a memorable and instructive novel.”—Russell Freedman, Newbery-award winning author of The War to End All Wars: World War I
Set in Berlin as World War I is nearing the ultimate, shameful defeat of Germany, the story 16-year-old Moritznarratesreveals the causes of the next great war.
By 1918, conditions in Germany, especially for civilians, were brutal: starvation, lack of essential goods, war-wounded on every street, dead soldiers from every family. Working-class Moritz is an apprentice printer taking the place of his father, who was killed at the front. His older brother, Hans,lost part of an arm and an eye fighting for his homeland and has become a morphine addict and street bully. In him, readers see the incipient Nazi as he and others attack an old Jewish man and he adopts of the creed of German vengeance. The slow unfolding of conditions and characters forces readers to see a full portrait of the then present and the soon future.Moritz meets Rebecca, daughter of a Jewish bookseller, and through her and her companions becomes involved in the politics of the Social Democrats. Here the book becomes somewhat preachy, as various political philosophies are presented. An author's note at the end of the book fills in historical details and names; it would be wise to read this before starting this gripping, active novel.
"War gives meaning to some men's lives. For other men, the experience of war extinguishes all meaning in life," says a man who becomes Moritz's mentor; Schröder makes this sad and ever-timely lesson all too clear. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
Excerpted from My Brother's Shadow by Monika Schroder Copyright © 2011 by Monika Schroder. Excerpted by permission.
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"ere are names and terms in the story with which
readers are unlikely to be familiar. Have students
use print and electronic resources to research the
following: abdication, armistice, Bolshevik, Hugo
Haase, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Karl Liebknecht, Rosa
Luxemburg, Reichstag, Social Democratic Party,
Spartacus Group, and Weimar Republic.
Ask students what facts they know about World
War I. Fill in whatever gaps they have in their
knowledge in order to have a basic understanding
of the who, when, where, why, and how of the
Locate maps of Europe before and after the war
and compare and contrast them with contemporary
maps of the continent.
How has the British blockade of German harbors
affected civilians like Moritz and his family?
What has become of Moritz’s father? Where is his
Why does Moritz want to win the patriotic poem
How did the war affect Moritz’s career plans?
What secret does Moritz keep from Herr
How does Moritz’s view of the war contrast with
those of his mother and Hedwig?
How does Moritz feel about stealing food with
Robert and Otto?
What is Moritz’s response when Herr Goldmann
says he believes Germany will lose the war? Do you
think it’s cowardly or unpatriotic for Herr
Goldmann to speak that way? Why do you think
it’s so difficult for Moritz to accept the possibility
of Germany’s defeat?
What happened to Herr Goldmann’s brother in the
war? What might be a contemporary diagnosis for
the “nerve condition” doctors say Herr Goldmann’s
Why is Moritz’s mother accused of treason? Do
you think her actions are treasonous?
Do you agree with Moritz when he tells his mother
she is “betraying Hans and Papa by not believing in
our victory”? (p. 45)
What do Moritz, Otto, and Robert find when they
break into the villa? What does Otto observe about
How does what Moritz sees on the food line and
at the Food Administration office affect his view of
What is Moritz’s response to Herr Goldmann’s
comment that he should be proud of his mother?
What is the reaction of Mortiz’s mother and aunt
to his buying back the sewing machine? What do
their reactions make Moritz realize about himself?
On the train to Metz when Moritz and Rebecca
are talking about Karl May’s books, Moritz says he
doesn’t “want to read anything right now that takes
place in America.” (p. 92) Why does he
immediately regret saying that to Rebecca?
In what condition does Moritz find Hans at the
What do Otto and Robert want Moritz to do for
them? Why does Moritz choose not to help them?
Why does Moritz warn Rebecca about Otto’s
threat? How is this an example of how he has
Why is Moritz embarrassed at what Herr
Goldmann says about his mother?
How is Hans’s homecoming different from how
Moritz imagined it would be?
Who does Hans say are responsible for the
downfall of Germany?
Why does Hans accuse Moritz of betraying him?
What does Hans say about the conditions of the
armistice? Do you agree with him?
What prompts Moritz’s outburst at Hans?
What does Moritz see Hans doing in the street
with the major he met at the hospital?
When Moritz sees Hans plastering posters, why do
you think he chooses not to acknowledge him?
What do you think will become of Moritz and
Rebecca? What do you think will become of Hans?
What are some examples in the story of how the
German government was oppressive to its citizens?
"ere are several discussions of what constitutes
patriotism and treason in the story. Do you think
it’s unpatriotic to not support a war your country
is fighting? What do you think are actions a person
would have to do to be considered treasonous to
his or her country?
Discuss the meaning of the book’s title.
In the story, mention is made of two weapons
never before used in warfare: flame throwers
and tanks. "e First World War is known for the
first use of barbed wire and many new weapons,
including airplanes, dirigibles, long range artillery,
grenades, machine guns, and poison gas. In pairs
or small groups, use online and print resources to
research and report who invented these weapons,
how they were developed, and how they were used
in World War I.
Many historians believe the harsh terms against
Germany in the Treaty of Versailles directly led
to the rise of Adolf Hitler and World War II. In
pairs or small groups, have students research what
conditions Germany had to meet in the treaty and
decide whether or not they were unfair.
Before becoming dictator of Germany in 1933,
Adolf Hitler served in the German Army during
World War I. Ask readers to research what Hitler
did in the war and what his reaction was to signing
of the Treaty of Versailles. An excellent source on
Hitler’s life is James Cross Giblin’s !e Life and
Death of Adolf Hitler (Clarion, 2002).
When Hans returns home, he makes many
disparaging remarks about Jews. Aunt Martha
remarks that “the Jews are now scapegoats for
everything.” (p. 183) In pairs or small groups, have
students research how Adolf Hitler and the Nazi
Party used anti-Semitism in their rise to power
and how it eventually led to the Holocaust during
World War II.
"e Great War inspired writers of all generations
and classes, most notably among combatants.
Particularly memorable is the poetry written by
soldiers who served in the war. John McCrae’s In
Flanders Fields is perhaps the best known example
of World War I poetry, but other poets such as
Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and Siegfried
Sassoon are notable. World War I poetry is
included in many literature anthologies. Two good
anthologies are The Penguin Book of World
War I Poetry and First World War Poems (Faber
& Faber). Another anthology that includes World
War I poetry is Neil Philip’s War and the Pity of
War (Clarion, 1998).
Online sources of World War I poems include
Ask readers to research these sources, select a
poem that resonates with them, and share it with
Web Sites on World War I
First World War.com: A Multimedia History of
World War I
World War I
World War I Document Archive
Reading on World War I
Breslin, "eresa. Remembrance. Delacorte, 2002.
Frost, Helen. Crossing Stones. Frances Foster
Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009.
Lawrence, Iain. Lord of the Nutcracker Men.
Morpurgo, Michael. Private Peaceful. Scholastic,
Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western
Front. Little, Brown, 1929.
Slade, Arthur. Megiddo’s Shadow. Wendy Lamb/
Random House, 2006.
Spillbeen, Geert. Kipling’s Choice. Trans. Terese
Edelstein. Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
Spillbeen, Geert. Age 14. Trans. Terese Edelstein.
Houghton Mifflin, 2009.
Trumbo, Dalton. Johnny Got His Gun.
J.B. Lippincott, 1939.
Adams, Simon. World War I (Eyewitness Books)
Bausum, Ann. Unraveling Freedom: !e Battle for
Democracy on the Home Front
During World War I. National Geographic, 2010.
Brocklehurst, Ruth. Usborne Introduction to the
First World War. Usborne, 2007.
Freedman, Russell. !e War to End All Wars:
World War I. Clarion, 2010.
Granfield, Linda. In Flanders Fields: !e Story of
the Poem by John McCrae. Illus. Janet
Wilson. Doubleday, 1996.
Granfield, Linda. Where Poppies Grow: A World
War I Companion. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2001.
Murphy, Jim. Truce: !e Day the Soldiers Stopped
Fighting. Scholastic, 2009.
Myers, Walter Dean and Bill Miles. !e Harlem
Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage. Amistad/
Harper Collins, 2005.
Philip, Neil, ed. War and the Pity of War. Illus.
Michael McCurdy. Clarion, 1998.