Eleanor’s Story: An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany, by Eleanor Ramrath Garner
I stumbled upon this book while in the library looking for books on Eleanor Roosevelt. Literally just saw it on the shelf and picked it up because of the name “Eleanor” in the title. That’s when the full title grabbed me and I had to check it out and read it.
I literally just put down this book after completing it cover to cover. Its one of those books you cannot put down, it’s so very well written…but not only that…its the kind of book that makes you feel like you’ve changed because of having read it.
Everyone knows about The Diary of Anne Frank. Everyone knows about the horrors the Jews suffered at Hitler’s hands. Never in my life had I ever considered the horrors the German civilians also suffered because of this war and Hitler specifically.
This story is told from the eyes of a little girl who was born in America to German immigrants. When she was just 9yrs old, just prior to WWII, her family moved back to Germany. Apparently (I had never known this before) Hitler had helped to rebuild Germany’s economy after WWI and was enticing German immigrants to come back to the now booming economy with job offers. Eleanor’s father received one of these offers and chose to move his American family back to Germany. Little did they know what was to come.
Prior to leaving the US, Eleanor overheard a conversation between her parents and some friends about Hitler’s actions in Europe and the possibility of him taking over Poland. Eleanor’s father’s opinion was that he would be “crazy” to do that, and he would never do that! Sadly, once on board the ship on its way to Germany, that’s exactly what happened. The ship’s captain announced “Germany has declared war on Poland” to the stunned passengers. The next day he announced “France and England have declared war on Germany.” And the family was stuck on its way to Germany.
It was absolutely unbelievable to me from that point on all the events that take place and all the family (and the entire German civilian population!) has to endure. They tried to immediately turn around and go back to America but they only had Deutschmarks and now no one anywhere would convert them to anything that would allow them to purchase passage back home. They were stuck and it was only going to get much much worse from then on. Especially since the family will settle in Berlin, where the father had been offered a job and where daily bombing will eventually take place for years on end.
The happy ending for this story and the only real joy out of this horrific story is that the entire family…the parents, the 2 children born in America and the 2 little ones born after they arrived in Germany, do make it out of Germany alive in the end. But after years of chaos and hardships beyond belief and horrors that I cannot even comprehend. And these are people that didn’t ever set foot in a concentration camp nor even were aware of what was going on in these camps until after the war!
You seriously need to read this book if you have any interest in history. I am going to purchase a copy and put it on my homeschool book shelves next to a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank, and have my kids read it when they are ready to read about this horrific war. Its particularly of interest to me as I am half German-American. My mother’s parents were both full-blooded German-American, and my mom’s first language was German. She is 2nd or 3rd generation, I believe (I’m not sure if it was my great or my great great grandparents that were immigrants from Germany. Will have to check on that.)
I cannot even explain to you how well this book is written, and all that you will learn and feel from reading it. It is NOT little kid-friendly, I’ll warn you of that. I will be waiting til my children are older to expose them to the sorts of things she talks about witnessing and experiencing in this book. But as an adult, I would highly recommend all adults with an interest in history and specifically in WWII read this book. I got my copy from the Fresno Public Library, so if you’re local to me…my copy will be back at the library this week sometime. 🙂