AN INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
Featured in Entertainment Weekly, People, The Millions, and USA TODAY
“An unforgettable and resplendent novel which will take its place among the great historical fiction written about World War II.” —Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker's Wife
A young girl flees Nazi-occupied Germany with her family and best friend, only to discover that the overseas refuge they had been promised is an illusion in this “engrossing and heartbreaking” (Library Journal, starred review) debut novel, perfect for fans of The Nightingale, Lilac Girls, and We Were the Lucky Ones.
Berlin, 1939. Before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. But now the streets of Berlin are draped in ominous flags; her family’s fine possessions are hauled away; and they are no longer welcome in the places they once considered home. A glimmer of hope appears in the shape of the St. Louis, a transatlantic ocean liner promising Jews safe passage to Cuba. At first, the liner feels like a luxury, but as they travel, the circumstances of war change, and the ship that was to be their salvation seems likely to become their doom.
New York, 2014. On her twelfth birthday, Anna Rosen receives a mysterious package from an unknown relative in Cuba, her great-aunt Hannah. Its contents inspire Anna and her mother to travel to Havana to learn the truth about their family’s mysterious and tragic past.
Weaving dual time frames, and based on a true story, The German Girl is a beautifully written and deeply poignant story about generations of exiles seeking a place to call home.
|Publisher:||Washington Square Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Armando Lucas Correa is an award-winning journalist, editor, author, and the recipient of several awards from the National Association of Hispanic Publications and the Society of Professional Journalism. He is the author of the international bestseller The German Girl, which is now being published in thirteen languages. He lives in New York City with his partner and their three children. Visit ArmandoLucasCorrea.com.
Read an Excerpt
The German Girl
I was almost twelve years old when I decided to kill my parents.
I had made up my mind. I’d go to bed and wait until they fell asleep. That was always easy to tell because Papa would lock the big, heavy double windows and close the thick greenish-bronze curtains. He’d repeat the same things he said every night after supper, which in those days had become little more than a steaming bowl of tasteless soup.
“There’s nothing to be done. It’s all over. We have to leave.”
Then Mama would start shouting, her voice cracking as she blamed him. She’d pace the whole apartment—her fortress at the heart of a sinking city; the only space she’d known for more than four months—until she wore herself out. Then she’d embrace Papa, and her feeble moans would finally cease.
I’d wait a couple of hours. They wouldn’t put up any resistance. I knew Papa had already given up and was willing to go. Mama would be more difficult, but she took so many sleeping pills, she’d be fast asleep, steeped in her jasmine and geranium essences. Although she had gradually increased the dose, she still awakened during the night crying. I would rush to see what had happened, but all I could make out through the half-open door was Mama inconsolable in Papa’s arms, like a little girl recovering from a terrible nightmare. Except that, for her, the nightmare was being awake.
Nobody heard my cries anymore; nobody bothered about them. Papa told me I was strong. I would survive whatever happened. But not Mama. The pain was gnawing away at her. She was the child in a house where daylight was no longer allowed. For four months, she had been sobbing each night, ever since the city was covered in broken glass and filled with the constant stench of gunpowder, metal, and smoke. That was when they started planning our escape. They decided we’d abandon the house where I was born, and forbade me to go to school, where nobody liked me anymore. Then Papa gave me my second camera.
“So that you can leave a trail out of the labyrinth like Ariadne,” he whispered.
I dared to think it would be best to be rid of them.
I thought about diluting aspirin in Papa’s food or stealing Mama’s sleeping pills—she wouldn’t last a week without them. The only problem was, first of all, my doubts. How many aspirin would he have to swallow to give him a lethal ulcer, internal bleeding? How long could Mama really survive without sleep? Anything bloody was out of the question, because I couldn’t bear the sight of blood. So the best thing would be for them to die of suffocation. To smother them with a huge feather pillow. Mama made it clear that her dream had always been for death to take her by surprise while she slept. “I can’t bear farewells,” she would say, staring straight at me—or, if I wasn’t listening, she would grab me by the arm and squeeze it with the little strength she had left.
One night I woke up during the night in tears, thinking my crime had already been committed. I could see my parents’ lifeless bodies but was unable to shed a single tear. I felt free. Now there would be no one to force me to move to a filthy neighborhood, to leave behind my books, my photographs, my cameras, to live with the terror of being poisoned by your own father and mother.
I started to tremble. I called out “Papa!” But no one came to my rescue. “Mama!” There was no going back. What had I turned into? How did I end up so low? What would I do with their bodies? How long would it take for them to decompose?
Everyone would think it was suicide. No one would question it. My parents had been suffering constantly for four months by then. Others would see me as an orphan; I’d see myself as a murderer. My crime existed in the dictionary. I looked it up. What a dreadful word. Just saying it gave me the shivers. Parricide. I tried to repeat it and couldn’t. I was a murderer.
It was so easy to identify my crime, my guilt, my agony. What about my parents, who were planning to get rid of me? What was the name for someone who killed their children? Was that such a terrible crime there wasn’t even a word for it in the dictionary? That meant they could get away with it. Whereas I had to bear the weight of death and a nauseating word. You could kill your parents, your brothers and sisters. But not your children.
I prowled through the rooms, which to me seemed increasingly small and dark, in a house that would soon no longer be ours. I looked up at the unreachable ceiling, walked down hallways lined with the images of a family that was disappearing little by little. Light from the lamp with the snowy-white shade in Papa’s library filtered out into the corridor where I stood disoriented, unable to move. I watched as my pale hands turned golden.
I opened my eyes and was in the same bedroom, surrounded by well-worn books and dolls I had never played with, nor ever would. I closed my eyes and sensed it wouldn’t be long before we fled without a set destination on a huge ocean liner from a port in this country where we had never belonged.
In the end, I didn’t kill my parents. I didn’t have to. Papa and Mama were the guilty ones. They forced me to throw myself into the abyss alongside them.
The apartment’s smell had become intolerable. I didn’t understand how Mama could live between those walls lined with moss-green silk that swallowed what little daylight there was at that time of year. It was the smell of enclosure.
We had less time to live. I knew it; I felt it. We wouldn’t be spending the summer there in Berlin. Mama had put mothballs in the closets to preserve her world, and the pungent odor filled the apartment. I had no idea what she was trying to protect, since we were going to lose everything regardless.
“You smell like the old ladies on Grosse Hamburger Strasse,” Leo taunted me. Leo was my only friend; the one person who dared look me in the face without wanting to spit on me.
Spring in Berlin was cold and rainy, but Papa often left without taking his coat. Whenever he went out in those days, he wouldn’t wait for the elevator but took the stairs, which creaked as he trod on them. I wasn’t allowed to use the stairs, though. He didn’t walk down because he was in a hurry but because he didn’t want to bump into anyone else from the building. The five families living on the floors beneath ours were all waiting for us to leave. Those who were once our friends were no longer friendly. Those who used to thank Papa or who tried to ingratiate themselves with Mama and her friends—who praised her good taste or asked for advice on how to make a brightly colored handbag match their fashionable shoes—now looked down their noses at us and could denounce us at any moment.
Mama spent yet another day without going out. Every morning when she got up, she would fasten her ruby earrings and smooth back her beautiful, thick hair—which was the envy of her friends whenever she appeared in the tearoom of the Hotel Adlon. Papa called her the Goddess, because she was so fascinated by the cinema, which was her only contact with the outside world. She would never miss the first night of any film starring the real screen goddess, “La Divine” Greta Garbo, at the Palast.
“She’s more German than anyone,” she would insist whenever she mentioned the divine Garbo, who was, in fact, Swedish. But back then motion pictures were silent, and no one cared where the star had been born.
We discovered her. We always knew she would be worshipped. We appreciated her before anybody else; that’s why Hollywood noticed her. And in her first talkie she said in perfect German: “Whisky—aber nicht zu knapp!”
Sometimes when they came back from the cinema, Mama was still in tears. “I love sad endings—in movies,” she explained. “Comedies weren’t meant for me.”
She would swoon in Papa’s arms, raise a hand to her brow, the other holding up the silk train of a cascading dress, toss back her head, and start talking in French.
“Armand, Armand . . .” she would repeat languidly and with a strong accent, like La Divine herself.
And Papa would call her “my Camille.”
“Espère, mon ami, et sois bien certain d’une chose, c’est que, quoi qu’il arrive, ta Marguerite te restera,” she would reply, laughing hysterically. “Dumas sounds ghastly in German, doesn’t he?”
But Mama no longer went anywhere.
“Too many smashed windows” had been her excuse ever since the previous November’s terrible pogrom, when Papa had lost his job. He had been arrested at his university office and taken to the station on Grolmanstrasse, kept incommunicado for an offense we never understood. He shared a windowless cell with Leo’s father, Herr Martin. After they were released, the two would get together daily—and that worried Mama even more, as if they were planning an escape she was not prepared for yet. Fear was what prevented her from leaving her fortress. She lived in a state of constant agitation. Before, she used to go to the elegant salon at the Hotel Kaiserhof, just a few blocks away, but eventually it was full of the people who hated us: the ones who thought they were pure, whom Leo called Ogres.
In the past, she would boast about Berlin. If she went on a shopping spree to Paris, she always stayed at the Ritz; and if she accompanied Papa to a lecture or concert in Vienna, at the Imperial:
“But we have the Adlon, our Grand Hotel on the Unter den Linden. La Divine stayed there, and immortalized it on screen.”
During those days, she would peer out the window, trying to find a reason for what was happening. What had become of her happy years? What had she been sentenced to, and why? She felt she was paying for the offenses of others: her parents, grandparents—every one of her ancestors throughout the centuries.
“I’m German, Hannah. I am a Strauss. Alma Strauss. Isn’t that enough, Hannah?” she said to me in German, and then in Spanish, and in English, and finally in French. As if someone were listening to her; as if to make her message entirely clear in each of the four languages she spoke fluently.
I had agreed to meet Leo that day to go take photographs. We would see each other every afternoon at Frau Falkenhorst’s café near Hackescher Markt. Whenever she spotted us, the owner would smile and call us “bandits.” We liked that. If either of us was later than expected, the first to arrive had to order a hot chocolate. Sometimes we’d arrange to meet at the café near the Alexanderplatz Station exit, which had shelves filled with sweets wrapped in silver paper. When he needed to see me urgently, Leo would wait for me at the newspaper kiosk near my home, allowing us to avoid running into any of our neighbors, who, despite also being our tenants, always shunned us.
In order not to disobey the adults, I bypassed the carpeted stairs, which were increasingly dusty, and took the elevator. It stopped at the third floor.
“Hello, Frau Hofmeister,” I said, smiling at her daughter, Gretel, who used to be my playmate. Gretel was sad, because not long before, she had lost her beautiful white puppy. I felt so sorry for her.
We were the same age, but I was much taller. She looked down, and Frau Hofmeister had the nerve to say to her, “Let’s take the stairs. When are they going to leave? They’re putting us all in such a difficult situation . . .”
As if I wasn’t listening, as if it was only my shadow standing inside the elevator. As if I didn’t exist. That’s what she wanted: for me not to exist.
The Ditmars, Hartmanns, Brauers, and Schultzes lived in our building. We rented them their apartments. The building had belonged to Mama’s family since before she was born. They were the ones who should leave. They were not from here. We were. We were more German than they were.
The elevator door closed, it started to go down, and I could still see Gretel’s feet.
“Dirty people,” I heard.
Had I heard it right? What have we done for me to have to endure that? What crime had we committed? I was not dirty. I didn’t want people to think of me as dirty. I came out of the elevator and hid under the stairs so I wouldn’t meet them again. I saw them leave the building. Gretel’s head was still bowed. She glanced backward, looking for me, perhaps wanting to apologize, but her mother pushed her on.
“What are you staring at?” she shouted.
I ran back up the stairs noisily, in tears. Yes, crying with rage and impotence because I could not tell Frau Hofmeister that she was dirtier than I was. If we bothered her, she could leave the building; it was our building. I wanted to hit the walls, smash the valuable camera my father had given me. I entered our apartment, and Mama could not understand why I was so furious.
“Hannah! Hannah!” she called out to me, but I chose to ignore her.
I went into the cold bathroom, slammed the door, and turned on the shower. I was still crying; or rather, I wanted to stop crying but found it impossible. Fully clothed and wearing my shoes, I climbed into the perfectly white bathtub. Mama kept on calling to me and then finally left me in peace. All I could hear was the sound of the scalding water cascading onto me. I let it flow into my eyes until they burned; into my ears, my nose, my mouth.
I started to take off my clothes and shoes, which were heavier because of the water and my dirtiness. I soaped myself, smeared on Mama’s bath salts that irritated my skin, and rubbed myself with a white towel to get rid of every last trace of impurity. My skin was red, as red as if it was going to peel. I turned the water even hotter, until I couldn’t take it anymore. When I came out of the shower, I collapsed on the cold black-and-white tiles.
Fortunately, I had run out of tears. I dried myself, scrubbing hard at this skin I didn’t want and which, God willing, would start to slough off after all the heat I’d subjected it to. I examined every pore in front of the steamed-up mirror: face, hands, feet, ears—everything—to see if there was any trace of impurity left. I wanted to know who was the dirty one now.
I cowered in a corner, trembling, shrinking, feeling like a slab of meat and bone. This was my only hiding place. In the end, I knew that however much I washed, burned my skin, cut my hair, gouged out my eyes, turned deaf, however much I dressed or talked differently, or took on a different name, they would always see me as impure.
It might not have been a bad idea to knock at the distinguished Frau Hofmeister’s door to ask her to check that I didn’t have any tiny stain on my skin, that she didn’t have to keep Gretel away from me, that I wasn’t a bad influence on her child, who was as blond, perfect, and immaculate as me.
I went to my room and dressed all in white and pink, the purest colors I could find in my wardrobe. I went looking for Mama and hugged her, because I knew she understood me; even though she chose to stay at home and so didn’t have to face anyone. She had built a fortress in her room, which in turn was protected by the apartment’s thick columns, in a building made up of enormous stone blocks and double windows.
I had to be quick. Leo must have already been at the station, darting all over the place, trying to stay out of the way of people running to catch their trains.
At least I knew that he thought of me as being clean.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The German Girl includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Hannah Rosenthal woke up one morning in the spring of 1939 to find that her charmed life had been completely shattered. Germany was on the brink of war, and all she and her best friend, Leo, could do was depend on each other.
Hope appeared in the form of the SS St. Louis, a transatlantic liner offering Jews safe passage out of Germany. But soon ominous rumors from Cuba undermined the passengers’ fragile sense of safety. From one day to the next, the ship that once was their salvation seemed likely to become their doom.
Seven decades later in New York City, twelve-year-old Anna Rosen received a strange package, which would lead her and her mother on a journey to Havana to learn the truth about their family’s mysterious and tragic past, and to help her finally understand her place and her purpose in the world.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. “I was almost twelve years old when I decided to kill my parents.” The book opens on a pretty dark scene in which Hannah believes death is the best way out of her current situation. Why do you think she feels this way? How does this set the tone for the rest of the book?
2. Consider Hannah’s reaction to being called “dirty” and then her reaction to being confused for an Aryan and ending up on the cover of Das Deutsche Mädel.
3. When Alma boards the St. Louis, she is wearing her best outfit and jewelry. Why is it so important for her to dress well as she leaves Germany? What message is she trying to send?
4. People praised The German Girl as “a timely must-read.” There are telegraphs and various news headlines interspersed throughout Hannah’s journey on the St. Louis, broadcasting the political climate and crises of the time. How do these compare to today’s headlines and crises?
5. Had you heard of the tragedy of the St. Louis prior to reading this book? How would those refugees have benefited from today’s social media exposure versus the newspaper coverage of the time?
6. Why does Hannah’s family feel betrayed by her brother’s involvement in the Cuban Revolution? How is it similar to their experience in Berlin prior to leaving Germany for Cuba?
7. There are many parallels in The German Girl. Among them are Alma’s and Ida’s reactions to grief, forcing their daughters to assume more responsibilities at a young age. What do you think of their insistence upon wanting to erase the past to make the present more bearable? Does this coping mechanism ever really help?
8. Compare and contrast Hannah and Anna and their reactions to loss. How have the tragedies experienced by the Rosenthals bound them together and affected the other?
9. The 907 passengers who were not allowed to disembark in Cuba—and were later also rejected by the United States and Canada—found refuge in Great Britain (288), the Netherlands (181), Belgium (214), and France (224), before all but those taken in by Great Britain were claimed by the war. What do you think happened to the passengers in the moments before they disembarked in those countries? How do you think the locals reacted to their arrival?
10. Hannah keeps the little blue box all those years without ever opening it. Why do you think she kept her promise? What did you expect Hannah to find in the little blue box?
11. What does Anna represent for the Rosen family? Why was it important for Anna to meet Hannah and finally bring closure to their family history?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. The German Girl has been compared to The Nightingale, Schindler’s List, and All the Light We Cannot See. Read those titles with your book club and compare it to The German Girl. Are there any similar themes that occur? In what ways do you think that the books are alike?
2. Through Hannah and Anna, the author ties together the events of World War II (1939–1945), the Cuban Revolution (1959), and the September 11 attacks (2001). Research these three time periods and events. Have you ever considered how these events would be connected in other ways? What are the differences and similarities between these moments in history and the conflicts that inspired them or that they inspired?
3. To learn more about Armando Lucas Correa, read reviews of The German Girl and find him on tour, visit his official site at www.armandolucascorrea.com and the book’s official site at http://thegermangirl.squarespace.com/.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A wonderful book I could not put down, based on a shameful event in American history told from the perspective of two 12 year old girls, one in 2014, the other in 1939. Beautifully written passages filled with emotion, describing scenes and people in Germany, Cuba and New York City.
I have read many stories of the holocaust and Nazi Germany, and this one will forever stand out in my mind. The story was so vividly written, and helps to depict the various types of horror experienced by Jews at the hands of Hitler and his thugs. I did not know that the United States and Canada would not accept the se Jewish refugees.
Started AND finished this book in one day. Beautifully written. Highly highly recommend it
Hopefully, the writing will improve Its just sentences. The story isnt flowing.
This is a novel about a shamful moment in world history. That Cuba, the US and Canada refused to allow a ship load of Jewish refugees from Nazi to land. This is a look at the mind of survivors.
Thankyou , this book brought back the memories my grandfather and father and siblings told about their life. I am 72 and this book was a very good read.
The Author put a lot of research into this book, I've read many books on the Holocaust but nevr had I read a novel written through the eyes of a 12 year old girl, the story reminds me of what is happening in our World today with the migrants from South America, sad what human beings are capable of doing to their fellow man. I recommend this book.
EXCELLENT HISTORICAL NOVEL. WRITTEN IN A BEAUTIFUL, DESCRIPTIVE STYLE.
Wow! What an evocative, emotional read. It looks into an event that not many people may know about, which took place during WWII. The parallel's between Hannah and Ana are beautifully written. It shows that no matter which generation you may come from, we can all experience similar emotions such as love, loss, etc. For anyone interested in reading something different in the historical fiction genre, then I definitely recommend you pick this book up. I think all readers can enjoy this novel. It combines so many different cultures seamlessly. I loved it.
This debut novel by Armando Lucas Correa is a wonderfully written historical fiction book about a little known event in the late 1930s. The Nazi’s already controlled Berlin and had begun their ethnic cleansing. This book tells the story of what happened to one wealthy, aristocratic Jewish family at the time and throughout several decades following the event. The story is told in two alternating narrations that flow seamlessly together. The first is Hannah Rosenthal who is living in Berlin in 1939. She is happy and loves spending time with her friend Leo. She is documenting the changes in the city using her trusty camera as she and Leo sneak around. Hannah, who has blue eyes and blonde hair, is able to travel around much easier than Leo as she looks pure. When the Rosenthals are finally stripped of the apartment house that they own and Max is arrested, they realize it is time to leave and find a safe place to live. Because of their wealth, they are able to secure passage on the St. Louis, a luxury liner, that will take them to Cuba where they have been promised a new life after buying papers from the government that they are told will grant them asylum in Havana. The plan is to move to the United States after that. The Rosenthals, Martins (Leo and his father) and many other families are looking forward to a new life. When they finally arrive in the port of Havana they are told that their papers are no longer valid. Only 28 of the 937 passengers are allowed to stay in Havana, Hannah and her mother Alma are two of them. Her father and Leo and his father are turned away. The second narrator is Anna Rosen, a young girl whose father was killed in the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers while her mother was pregnant with her. Anna’s mother has been extremely depressed and Anna is pretty much caring for herself and her mother when a letter appears one day from an aunt of her father, still living in Cuba. The letter also contains unprocessed photo film that appears to be from her father's grandparents. Anna shows her mother and this seems to rouse her. They begin to investigate and head off to Cuba to meet this mysterious and unknown to them relative. I really enjoyed this story. I listened to part of it on audiobook and read the rest. The writing was beautiful. It was easy to read and listen to and drew you into the story. It flowed smoothly and there was no problem following who was telling the story. The even was one that I had not heard of before and it was very sad to find out about as well as to learn the part Canada and the United States played in this horrible event. The voices of Hannah and Leo, were particularly well written. This friendship and their stories were a part I looked forward to reading about. The other characters from both the present and past are well described and touched me in many ways. The despair of Alma was palpable and Hannah's sorrow was so real. Make sure you read the author's note as it gives some more facts about this terrible event. I'm hoping books such as this one can help us remember the injustices done in our world history so we do not repeat them. This is a must read for anyone interested in the history surrounding this WWII time-frame as well as anyone who loves historical fiction.
This was a story of a twelve-year-old girl’s harrowing experience fleeing Nazi-occupied Germany with her family and best friend, only to discover that the overseas asylum they had been promised is an illusion. In 1939 before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. As Hannah and her friend, Leo’s families desperately begin to search for a means of escape. The Rosenthals and the Martins depart from Hamburg on the luxurious passenger liner bound for Havana. Then governments of Cuba, the United States, and Canada are denying the passengers of the St. Louis admittance to their countries, forcing them to return to Europe as it descends into the Second World War. The ship that had seemed their salvation seems likely to become their death sentence. After four days anchored at bay, only a handful of passengers are allowed to disembark onto Cuban soil, and Hannah and Leo must face the grim reality that they could be torn apart. Their future is unknown, and their only choice will have an impact in generations to come. Decades later in New York City on her eleventh birthday, Anna Rosen receives a mysterious envelope from Hannah, a great-aunt she has never met but who raised her deceased father. In an attempt to piece together her father’s mysterious past, Anna and her mother travel to Havana to meet Hannah, who is turning eighty-seven years old. Hannah reveals old family ties, recounts her journey aboard the Saint Louis and, for the first time, reveals what happened to her father and Leo. Bringing together the pain of the past with the mysteries of the present, Hannah gives young Anna a sense of their shared histories, forever intertwining their lives, honoring those they loved and cruelly lost. This was a long, slow book. I really did want to like it since I am drawn to books about the war. Certainly I learned something about the war that I had no inkling about. Never before had I heard of Jews leaving Germany via ship to arrive in Cuba or Khuba as it was called in the book. Hannah and her family were quite wealthy and that provided them opportunities that most did not have during that time in history. But the book was so dismal as it centered around Hannah and her family and how they dealt or in most cases did not deal with the loss in their family and country. The taking to bed and refusal to move on began to get old after a while. I wanted to shake some of the characters and say, for goodness sakes, life is tough. You are alive. Maybe you aren’t still living in Germany but you have no money issues and you have opportunities. You have a home and you have choices. True, Cuba has had its share of turmoil over the 75 years which was given good coverage by the book. But I will have to give lots of thought to Hannah’s reasons for not leaving there which were laid out in the book. Still they underlying reasons were not all that clear to me. The author did a good job of developing the character, even the peripheral characters. But I admit that I neither loved or hated any of them--even Gustavo, who was somewhat disreputable. And if she cared for Julian and he for her, why did she not leave for New York. It was as if she Cuba was a prison cell that she could not break out of. I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you Armando Correa for this story of survival under the worst of circumstances. The research for this book was outstanding and knowing some of the history of SS ST LOUIS, I stunned by the accuracy and thrilled with more information. As a Holocaust educator, I never understood "why" America refused this ship??? I have interviewed a survivor of the last ship accepted by Cuba, who watched SS ST LOUIS leave Havana. Perhaps, readers should start with the "notes" at the end of the book before beginning Hannah's story.
Okay, if you were to be told that a family went through leaving Germany to go to Cuba, only for some to be turned back to reside in Paris then sent to a concentration camp. Then one family member dies during the World Trade Center attack and another dies during the Cuban revolution, you would think, there is no way one family can be that unlucky. Well, it does happen in this book. However, the way the author writes it, it's believable. I thought nothing about while reading the book. I was really into reading this book. Because of the family being moved, separated from each other and just losing touch, it was such a sentimental journey to read. It was such an emotional tale to hear Hannah tell the story of her family and all that had happened. The writer did a great job with the back and forth of Ana in present day and Hannah during WWII. I would definitely read more books by this author. Thanks to Atria Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest and in my unprovoked words review.
Writing this novel must have taken study, thought and soul. The historical correctness and vivid descriptions of the characters involved is crisp, shocking and compassionate. The atrocities committed during World War II must be written and constantly in our memories and “The German Girl” serves that purpose well. This book sheds light from an angle I was familiar with, but studied in detail as I read each chapter. The plight of the passengers of the St. Louis and the fate of each group that was split between Cuba, Great Britain, Belgium, Netherlands and France is additional sadness and shame that must never be forgotten. Hannah and her pregnant mother are able to disembark in Cuba, strictly a temporary stay per Mrs. Rosenthal, now Rosen (“Hannah, forget your name!”). Cuba was a hotbed of dirty politics and revolt. As time progressed, the effects of the Holocaust continued to have a devastating ripple effect on the family. The Rosens bore witness as Cuba forced “dissidents” out of their homes and country with nothing, then gave these homes to those loyal to the current regime. Imagine being ostracized and escaping certain death by chance to land in a new country that is treating others the very same way. I salute and honor the memory of the families that endured the Holocaust and continue to be affected to this day. This book pays tribute to a few and helps us respect and never forget the others. (I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for making it available.)