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German Boy: A Child in War Paperback – October 16, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1945 Samuel, then 10 years old, fled his home in Sagan, Germany, with his mother and younger sister, escaping just ahead of the Russian army's arrival. The author's memoir vividly depicts what it was like to be a child refugee (confused and frightened) in postwar Germany, constantly searching for food and a haven. Since Hedy, the author's mother, had been planning to divorce his father (a Luftwaffe officer), she refused to join him, but instead took Samuel and his sister to stay with her parents in the small town of Strasburg, which shortly became a Russian-occupied zone. Although the author had earlier viewed his mother as self-centered and unloving, he describes how his image of her changed during their years on the run, when he saw her make heroic efforts to keep her children alive. Attractive to men and clever, Hedy used her wits and charm, exchanging sex for food for her children. Their situation improved after the author's father found them and managed their transportation to a barracks in the American zone. Samuel's parents divorced and, in 1950, Hedy married a U.S. Army sergeant. The author moved with them to the U.S., where he completed his education and began a 30-year career in the air force. He has produced an engrossing and powerful narrative. Maps. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Samuel was 10 years old when he, his mother, and younger sister fled the advancing Russian army in Germany in the final days of World War II. Describing the events many years later, Samuel still vividly remembers the disorientation, terror, hunger, and desperation that dogged their lives until 1951 when they arrived in the United States. The voice of a little boy develops into that of a young man as he writes of his mother's indomitable spirit and the degrading extremes she went to in order to obtain food and shelter for her children. The boy is ill-prepared to assume the crushing responsibility for keeping his family together and alive after the war years when he finds himself a refugee and outcast in his own country. There is a thread of hope, an appreciation for random kindness, and an ability to look beyond the depravity of humankind that pervades this brave and poignant memoir of a man who went on to serve 30 years in the U.S. Air Force and retired as a colonel.

Cynthia J. Rieben, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (October 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767908244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767908245
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (178 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Wolfgang W. E. Samuel was born in Germany in 1935, immigrated to the United States at age 16, and finished high school in Denver, Colorado, two years later. He graduated from the University of Colorado in 1960 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. Wolfgang served 30 years in the U.S. Air Force, flew strategic reconnaissance against the Soviet Union in the Cold War years and combat against North Vietnam; being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross three times and numerous Air Medals. He obtained an MBA from Arizona State University and graduated from the National War College at Ft McNair, Wash DC. After retirement from the Air Force in the rank of colonel, he worked for a defense contractor in the Washington area, then retired once again to write German Boy, his first book, which was introduced by Stephen Ambrose and very favorably reviewed by the New York Times. German Boy is Wolfgang's story of survival in WWII Germany and the immediate postwar years. Other books followed.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Thomas B. Gross VINE VOICE on October 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I knew a man once who had served as a Sergeant in the British occupation forces in Germany after World War II. As one who majored for a time in German Literature and studied in Munich in the mid-Seventies, I had imagined this would have been an interesting time to be in Germany and was surprised when he spoke of it as a very depressing experience for him personally. After reading "German Boy" I understand why he felt that way. Until I read this book I never really understood what immediate post-war Germany was like for the natives.
Before reading "German Boy" my images of post-war Germany were mostly formed from reading Heinrich Boell novels and watching German film productions such as "Heimat" and "Wir Wunderkinder". I had imagined somehow that as soon as even the Russians and certainly the British and Americans came to liberate the German people, the war was over for them, and prosperity followed rapidly. Samuels shows in detail why for him and many people like him, the war did not end until really the Berlin Airlift and currency reform in 1949 brought a relative prosperity to at least his area of Germany. For example, for about three years, from age 9 to 12, he basically wore the same clothes. During this time he did not wear underwear until his Mother's future husband, an American GI, gave him a pair in 1949.
This is a very adult book written from the point-of-view of a pre-teen. One of the major themes of the story is how his mother was forced to sell her body to feed her family. He tells the story from the point of view of a boy who does not really understand exactly what sex is. That understood, I think this would be an inspirational book for any 12-year-old boy, and I am going to encourage my own son to read it next.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Harold Hendler on October 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Review: German Boy is a beautifully written and moving story about life in Germany during the period 1945-1949. From the very beginning, I felt like I waa part of the ten year old German boy's world. His photographic memory retained the details of events and conversations which he relates in a pleasing and exciting manner. There is a universal message to be learned from the way the author saw the war, dictatorship and the goodness and badness in people. We are reminded that all human beings have the same hopes and fears. The reader will be surprised to discover how the author was influenced in 1948 by the United States humanitarian effort, - "The Berlin Airlift". I highly recommend this book, and predict that it will one of the top ten this year. A must Read Book
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Erik Gfesser VINE VOICE on November 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
Very well written page-turner memoir that reads like a novel about a German refugee from East Germany making his way with his mother to West Germany and finally the United States. Innumerable books have been written against Germans since World War II, which unfortunately have equated Germans with supporters of the political establishment during the war. This account shows that many Germans living in Germany (especially East Germany) suffered during the war and did not support the government at that time. The horrid living conditions, lack of food, and the falling of Wolfgang's mother into periodic prostitution to save her family, combined with the author's gradual realization that God had a part in his survival, can bring tears to even the most stoic readers. Another memoir, by Elizabeth Walter called "Barefoot in the Rubble", although not as well written, presents and even more moving account of displaced Germans living in Yugoslavia following World War II.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Bill Hensler VINE VOICE on April 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Five Stars. Bottom line up front, dear buyer, this book is worth every penny.

This book reenforces a fact this reviewer already knew in life. The jerks who cause a war are not the people who pay the price. It is often the little children and women who do the post war suffering.

For a child a war is the worst of times. Your very world is crumbling. Your parents may die. Your home can be destroyed. Finding food can be a day to day struggle. Starving is actually worse than death.

Author Samuel's book can be broken down into four parts. The first part is the losing of the war. His true memories don't start until the war is post-1943. While most Germans thought they could win the war most Germans didn't think they would win the war in the post Stalingrad era. That reality hits the children most hard. The second part of the book about Soviet occupation. For this reviewer it was very difficult to read. I did not like Samuel's grim reality of his mother having to sleep with a Soviet officer for a milk can full of salty soup nor for Samuel's grandfather losing his life over keeping Soviet prisoners in early 1945 from a bin of potatos. The third part of the book deals with escape from East Germany and life in the West until 1949. The forth part of the book is the rebirth of (West) Germany. Samuel's mother meets a G.I. enlisted man and his life then continues to advance. Note, in Germany all Samuel's could be was a baker. When Samuel is about 14 years old he is adopted by his G.I. father and moves with the family to the U.S.A. Samuel's escaping the drudgery of working in a bakery is nearly as joyful as escaping from East Germany, though far less dangerous.
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