This is a very compelling book about World War II, told from an entirely different perspective. It is told not from the point of view of the war and the soldiers or the camps, but rather the innocent citizens caught up in the turmoil and terror.
The main character, Cyrla, is a mischling, which is what Germans called a person of mixed heritage, one not totally Aryan. She is young, barely 19, and often because of her pride she is careless and foolish. Her mistakes endanger others. She might even be considered promiscuous but the circumstances of the times called for extreme behavior in order to survive.
Told from a point of view of the Holocaust which encompasses the German perspective, it casts a different light on the event. There were many who embraced the hate and horror of Hitler’s design for the world but there were also many who quietly tried to do everything in their limited power to prevent it. Often, they were arrested and discarded in the same way as the Jews, criminals and others they thought defective. They too, were murdered and tortured.
Cyrla enters a Lebensborn, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/Lebensborn.html a place for unwed mothers who, in exchange for food and care, produce future Aryan soldiers for the Reich. Some women enter the program and are impregnated by German soldiers deliberately. When too few babies are born, they expand the program to include other women from other countries deemed worthy. The children who are products of rape, by German soldiers, are adopted unless the soldier decides to enter the picture and take the child or marry the woman. As there proved to be a shortage of future soldiers, non Aryan babies from other countries were kidnapped and given to "good" Germans to adopt and raise.
Cyrla enters in the identity of her cousin whom she resembles and who had been carefully screened, as an Aryan, for the program. The women in these homes are bearing children who will become Germany's future, soldiers for the Reich. Of course, Cyrla is not an Aryan, and the book is about her effort to survive and also those who help her. It is also about those who are evil and do their best not to help but to hinder her and further the cause of the Reich. It is presented fairly and honestly, not overdone.
How she endures the trials life hands her make for a very interesting tale which opened my eyes to a different side of some Germans. Not all were Nazis, but all were hiding that fact for fear of their own lives. Those that risked their lives in an effort to defeat or confront the Nazis, often died or were tortured and punished. The effects of Hitler's madness were often subtle and insidious, discovered too late to stop him from his heinous plans.
Although the pages almost turn themselves, the plot seems unrealistic, yet we know it happened in some form. The book opens a window onto a program in Germany, for German girls, that few know about and it does explore it well.
I think many of the characters are very well developed so that you do get a real sense of who they are and how they suffer with the burden of the war, regardless of background or heritage.