Discover ‚Üí Historical Fiction

When We Were Brave

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Loved it! ūüėć

At a minimum, this should be mandatory reading for every high schooler across the world!!

Synopsis

Aug. 2019 Silver medal winner in Reader's Favorite Contest for historical fiction.
Nov. 2019 New York City Big Book Award¬ģ Distinguished Favorites

In WHEN WE WERE BRAVE, we find a conflicted SS officer, Wilhelm Falk, who risks everything to escape the Wehrmacht and get out the message about the death camps. Izaak is a young Jewish boy whose positive outlook is challenged daily as each new perilous situation comes along. American citizens, Herbert M√ľller, and his family are sent back to the hellish landscape of Germany because of the DNA coursing through their veins. In the panorama of World War II, these are the high-stakes plots and endearing characters whose braided fates we pray will work out in the end.

When We Were Brave by Karla M. Jay weaves three narratives together, revealing how individual lives were affected by the Nazis during WWII. An SS officer risks his life as well as his families to expose Hitler’s atrocities. A German family confronts hostility from their American neighbors. An eight-year-old Jewish boy imprisoned within the war camps.


Personally, I am not a fan of perspective jumping. This style of writing, for me, at least, prevents the immersive reading experience that provides a deeper connection with the main character or characters. However, for educational purposes, the content is exceptional and should be mandatory reading for every high school across the world. Jay provides discussion questions along with authentic connections with her characters. It is easy to read ‚Äėfacts‚Äô from history books but is incomparable to the tragedies and emotions experienced through the eyes of those affected. The naivety of the eight-year-old Jewish boy is the most palpable. His innocence clings to a family reunion despite the horrors he faces each day. Jay portrays, with remarkable precision, the psychological and physical turmoil experienced by the characters, giving the reader a glimpse into a reality endured over seventy years ago.


Without revealing any plot details, I did have an issue with one aspect of the story. The SS officer risks everything to expose the truth and is frustrated when his actions, or rather inactions, are questioned by the American government resulting in thousands of more deaths each passing day his claims are investigated. But when he is offered the opportunity to bring forth information upon his surrender, he keeps silent for months. It was hard to reconcile this behavior with his character’s purpose, and the impact of his story is weakened. Despite this minor flaw, I would definitely recommend this book for all historical fiction readers.

Reviewed by

I currently review books for ENVIE, previously known as The Writing Community Newsletter (enviemagazine.com). I am a pharmacist by trade, but my passion for books spans over forty + years (not telling actual age ūüėČ). I have an eye for detail but seek the emotional connection with a books characters.

Synopsis

Aug. 2019 Silver medal winner in Reader's Favorite Contest for historical fiction.
Nov. 2019 New York City Big Book Award¬ģ Distinguished Favorites

In WHEN WE WERE BRAVE, we find a conflicted SS officer, Wilhelm Falk, who risks everything to escape the Wehrmacht and get out the message about the death camps. Izaak is a young Jewish boy whose positive outlook is challenged daily as each new perilous situation comes along. American citizens, Herbert M√ľller, and his family are sent back to the hellish landscape of Germany because of the DNA coursing through their veins. In the panorama of World War II, these are the high-stakes plots and endearing characters whose braided fates we pray will work out in the end.



The opposite of bravery is not cowardice but conformity.

~ Robert Anthony



One does evil enough when one does nothing good.

~ German Proverb




-1 -

WILHELM FALK

Avellino, Italy - November 11, 1943




SS¬†ofÔ¨Ācer, Sturmbannf√ľhrer Wilhelm Falk kicked away the broken glass crunching under his boots in the shoemaker‚Äôs second-story apartment, the shards making faint clinking sounds as they struck the Ô¨Āre- place bricks. He studied the three dead German soldiers who‚Äôd never re- turn home. The place Hitler claimed they fought to protect. Not Ô¨Āghting to defend the ‚ÄúFatherland,‚ÄĚ a vague term that didn‚Äôt motivate troops. The F√ľhrer, known to be more masterful and cunning, instilled fear on a per- sonal level. He targeted the soldier‚Äôs family‚ÄĒthe potential violation of hiswife, the death of his children.

Early on, Falk believed that call to¬†duty.¬†But that was before he expe- rienced the death camps. Nothing he saw there was even remotely con- nected to protecting his wife and children. He tried to bury the visions of skeletal, fellow human beings no more than a whisper away from death, of the beatings, and of chimneys pumping out foul smoke, but the memo- ries always clawed their way to the forefront of his mind. Despair had Ô¨Ālled his days and ghosts haunted his sleep until Falk knew he must do something or die¬†trying.

The family who owned the cobbler‚Äôs shop must have Ô¨āed before the Germans¬†took¬†over¬†the¬†town.¬†Depletedfurnishings¬†suggested¬†the¬†wood¬†fu- eled¬†the¬†large¬†Ô¨Āreplace¬†through¬†two¬†bitter¬†winters.¬†Bookshelves¬†lay¬†broken apart. A few unburned books were spewed into dark corners. A lopsided antique¬†dollhouse¬†sat¬†under¬†the¬†table,¬†its¬†small¬†porcelaindoll¬†family¬†strewn across the Ô¨āoor as fragmented as the rest of Hitler‚Äôs¬†empire.




Falk breathed a sigh of relief he’d found no other bodies in the attached rooms. He shook away an all-too-recent memory from inside a house near Warsaw. A man and woman were deceased in the kitchen, shot in the head, but thescent of death also emanated from the dining area. Two young boys were found dead, locked inside the center compartment of a hutch. What the parents must have hoped would keep their children safe resulted in an agonizing death. The bloody marks on the inside of the cupboard revealed the boys had tried to escape. The gruesome scene struck him in the gut as he thought of his two young sons.

Now by the look of this home, the three German soldiers had been taken by surprise by the British.¬†Two¬†shot dead at the dining table, their congealed meal still in front of them, while the third sat slumped against a wall, a broken coffee cup next to him. This soldier was shot while stand- ing, and the blood-smeared wallpaper behind him marked his slide to the¬†Ô¨āoor.¬†Falk moved closer to the man, and with a squinted eye, studied him. A sculpted nose on a chiseled face, thick blond hair, and he seemed close to¬†Falk‚Äôs 5‚Äô10‚Äô‚Äô¬†height. Hard to be sure in that hunched position. But the soldier was the closest to what he‚Äôd been looking for in the last hour as he combed¬†through¬†buildings,¬†turning¬†over¬†dozens¬†of¬†Wehrmachtcorpses¬†shot¬†by the British when they reclaimed the Italian¬†city.

Falk¬†had¬†nearly¬†run¬†out¬†of¬†time¬†in¬†his¬†search¬†and¬†his¬†head¬†pounded¬†from worrying he might fail. Although the loud thunder of the British bombers had¬†stopped,¬†the¬†second¬†wave¬†of¬†ground¬†troops¬†would¬†soon¬†arrive¬†to¬†check the buildings for any Germans they may have missed a few hours earlier. When the generals heard of the loss of another military line, they would be furious, but he no longer cared about the¬†Wehrmacht‚Äôs¬†feelings as¬†he¬†wrestled¬†with¬†his¬†own.¬†The¬†horriÔ¨Ācthings¬†he‚Äôd¬†seen.¬†The¬†things¬†he‚Äôd¬†done. But mostly the guilt from the things he hadn‚Äôt¬†done.

He reached for the stiff soldier‚Äôs shirt and began unbuttoning and removing his uniform. Then he removed the soldier‚Äôs identiÔ¨Ācation pa- pers and set them aside. The pulling and pushing on the corpse‚Äôs rigid limbs to undress him soon had him breathing hard. His shaky Ô¨Āngers fumbled with the buttons on his own long coat as he shed his ofÔ¨Ācer‚Äôs uniform. The mix of exertion and fear slowed him down, chewing away




at the¬†precious minutes¬†he had¬†left. Falk¬†set¬†aside¬†his¬†weapon belt¬†and¬†quickly dressed¬†in the¬†infantry soldier‚Äôs pants, shirt,¬†and¬†boots. Then¬†he¬†knelt¬†and¬†strained once again¬†to¬†outÔ¨Āt¬†the¬†dead¬†man in his SS major‚Äôs¬†uniform. When Ô¨Ānished,¬†he¬†glanced¬†at the¬†soldier¬†and a¬†shock¬†zipped¬†through him.¬†The¬†soldier‚Äôs build¬†and¬†facial features were more¬†similar¬†¬†to his own¬†than¬†he¬†expected,¬†and it was as if he¬†were looking¬†at a¬†dead¬†version¬†of¬†himself.

Which would be sooner rather than later if he were caught there.

Falk¬†took¬†off¬†his¬†signet¬†ring¬†and¬†carefully¬†removed¬†the¬†cyanide¬†pill¬†hid- den¬†inside.¬†He¬†pocketed¬†the¬†small¬†tablet‚ÄĒinsurance¬†in¬†case¬†his¬†plan¬†failed. He reached for the soldier‚Äôs cold hand and broke the rigor-curled Ô¨Ānger, the snap resonating through his own hand before he slid on the ring. He removed his own gold Swiss watch and paused, turning it over to read the engraved inscription:¬†Wilhelm, My Love, My Life, My¬†Hero.¬†Ilse.¬†His chest tightened.¬†Would¬†his wife have the same sentiment today if she learned what he was doing? His sons.¬†Would¬†they be ashamed he was about to de- fect,¬†or¬†would¬†they¬†understand¬†his¬†sacriÔ¨Āce?¬†He¬†strapped¬†the¬†watch¬†onto¬†the dead¬†man‚Äôs¬†hairy wrist and then stood and buttoned the enlisted infantry-¬†man‚Äôs¬†uniform. It was made of inferior quality wool and the original olive color faded to a greenish khaki. But it Ô¨Āt, and the blood on the chest of the jacket would be easy enough to explain. What soldier hadn‚Äôt dragged a bleeding companion to¬†safety?

He reached for his gun belt and unclipped his¬†Walther¬†P38, the aged leather¬†crackling¬†as¬†he¬†pulled¬†out¬†the¬†weapon.His¬†hand¬†shook¬†slightly¬†with the knowledge there would be no turning back once he¬†killed¬†himself. SS- Sturmbannf√ľhrer Wilhelm Falk would no longer exist, the only option left to him. Until a week ago, he managed to keep secrets from his fellow SS ofÔ¨Ācers, secrets that would have gotten him shot. Then, at an undisclosed postbox¬†in¬†Brussels,¬†he¬†was¬†caughtchecking¬†his¬†mail,¬†and¬†on¬†that¬†day,¬†he‚Äôd talked his way out of it. No big deal. Many ofÔ¨Ācers claimed a mistress,¬†¬†¬†so he fabricated one with blonde curls and a Ô¨āirty walk. The SS ofÔ¨Ācer laughed¬†and¬†patted¬†him¬†on¬†the¬†back.¬†But¬†suspicionswirled¬†like¬†thick¬†smoke among the highest-ranking ofÔ¨Ācers and Falk hadn‚Äôt missed the hard glint of¬†distrust¬†behind¬†thehearty¬†laughter,¬†and¬†he‚Äôd¬†been¬†right.¬†Soon¬†after,¬†he was ordered to arrive in Berlin at his earliest convenience. With his new plan, OfÔ¨Ācer Falk would be ‚Äútoo dead‚ÄĚ to report to Goering or the rest of Hitler‚Äôs favorites.

He listened for footsteps from the hastily abandoned street below. Although he believed he was now alone in this part of the city, he wasn’t a hundred percent sure. No other sounds reached him except for a loose wire scratching against the outside wall and the faint hiss of radio static in the distance.

Turning back to the dead soldier, he leveled the gun at the¬†man‚Äôs¬†face and¬†pulled¬†the¬†trigger.¬†He¬†felt¬†the¬†blast‚Äôsreverberation¬†in¬†his¬†back¬†teeth¬†and cringed¬†as¬†the¬†sound¬†echoed¬†off¬†the¬†walls.¬†The¬†bullet¬†hit¬†its¬†mark,¬†obliterat- ing the corpse‚Äôs ashen-colored skin, leaving a mess for the burial corps‚ÄĒ the ‚Äúcold meat¬†specialists.‚ÄĚ

His gun felt heavier than usual as he set it next to the soldier‚Äôs hand. But¬†more¬†weight¬†had¬†not¬†been¬†added¬†to¬†the¬†gun.The¬†heaviness¬†was¬†mental. Desperation and remorse had drained the strength from him for months.¬†With¬†his¬†nervesstrung¬†tight¬†like¬†old¬†piano¬†wires,¬†ready¬†to¬†snap¬†with¬†any¬†ad- ditional tension, he hadn‚Äôt slept more than a few hours a night. He needed the brutalities he witnessed over the last Ô¨Āfteen months to stop playing through his mind. If his plan failed, the cyanide pill would put a prompt end to his nightmares.

Through the broken¬†window,¬†he gazed in the direction of the building across the street and then focused on one pair of work trousers hanging from the clothesline. A pant leg pinned by a wooden clip to the line while the¬†other¬†leg¬†Ô¨āappedagainst¬†the¬†wrought-iron¬†balcony.¬†If¬†ever¬†there¬†was¬†an image of abandonment, this would be¬†it.

The last glass shard in the window threw a spotlight on the scene at¬†Falk‚Äôs¬†feet‚ÄĒan impeccably dressed SS ofÔ¨Ācer with no face. At that mo- ment,¬†he¬†spotted¬†the¬†dead¬†man‚Äôs¬†soldbuch¬†on¬†the¬†Ô¨āoor,¬†identiÔ¨Ācation¬†papers he needed or risk being¬†shot.

He opened the leather-bound packet. He just became Klaus Stern, a low-ranking soldier. If he chased down Klaus’s10th Army Division in time, he’d be captured by the unrelenting British 8th Army that had the Germans pinned down. Hisnew identity sheered two years off his thirty-two. Ironic. What he wouldn’t give to erase the last two years of his life, knowing what he knew now.

Again, he listened for noises outside. The distant stipple of gunÔ¨Āre conÔ¨Ārmed the¬†Wehrmacht¬†soldiers still held the subterranean complexes beneath¬†the¬†medieval¬†walls.¬†The¬†stone¬†fortiÔ¨Ācations¬†were¬†the¬†last¬†bastion¬†of defense to hold the¬†Volturno¬†Line before Hitler grudgingly moved another pushpin northward on the map of¬†Italy.

Set high on a butte, the walled village of Avellino overlooked valleys in three directions. Unless the weary Germans found the resolve to climb over the soaring Partenio Mountains at their backs, they were trapped. Falk imagined the disillusionment the soldiers must be feeling.¬†Hitler¬†declared their Ô¨Āghting force remained as unbreakable as Krupp steel.¬†But¬†the harsh reality was that American and British troops had been cutting through their steel for six months in Africa and now Italy, slicing away at the dream of promised world domination. In the beginning, he believed there was a need to Ô¨Āght to save his country from Russian rule as wit- nessed in the Great¬†War.¬†But rage consumed him knowing Hitler created a secret war within this Ô¨Āght to ‚Äúpurify‚ÄĚ the country and the entire con- tinent, of different races. As a shocked observer at the death camps, Falk did nothing to stop the killings. One dead SS ofÔ¨Ācer would have changed nothing. His inaction caused deep-seated guilt and nearly drove him to suicide several times, but that pain was ultimately the catalyst for defect- ing. He had a plan of action, a reason to live‚ÄĒto try to put a permanent stop to the¬†exterminations.

The British 8th Army and American 5th Army had powered through¬†Avellino¬†earlier that morning, their growling vehicles cutting a wide¬†swath through the cobblestone streets. Falk should have been on a train to Berlin as ordered but instead arrived without suspicion to ‚Äúsupervise‚ÄĚ the war ef- fort in¬†Italy,¬†a bonus his rank afforded him. He‚Äôd chosen¬†Avellino¬†because it appeared to be the next to fall to the Allies as they streamed through¬†¬†the central part of¬†Italy,¬†taking German POWs faster than they could ship them off continent. Earlier this¬†day,¬†he hid in the stone rubble of a 14th- century church, its majestic clock tower gutted, while he waited for the Allied¬†forces¬†to¬†leave¬†town.¬†The¬†clock‚Äôs mechanisms¬†hung¬†upside¬†down and continued to orchestrate time but in the wrong direction. The months and years ahead for the town‚Äôs citizens were going to be hell. How would the ragged townspeople rearrange their broken village from piles of rocks and wooden beams into the shapes of buildings, into some semblance of life before the war?

It wouldn’t be long before the bomb shelter doors creaked open and the residents stumbled into the daylight, praying for the best, expecting the worst. Falk studied the destruction in the shoe shop. Would this fam- ily return, start over, feel as if they were lucky? Perhaps if all the family members survived.

Falk¬†drew¬†in¬†a¬†deep¬†breath,¬†hoping¬†to¬†energize¬†the¬†Ô¨Āst-sized¬†exhaustion coursing through him. The war had ground him down until sharp rage¬†was the¬†only¬†motivation¬†prodding¬†him¬†from¬†one¬†day¬†to¬†the¬†next.¬†He¬†reached¬†for that anger now as he slid the soldier‚Äôs Luger into the holster on his own waist, and picked up a small backpack beside the man. He crossed to the door where only the top hinge held it in place, the splintered frame evi- dence the¬†Tommies¬†had not been invited in for a glass of local¬†wine.

Falk slowly crept down the stairwell and stepped into the street, as- suming his new role as a foot soldier, somewhat road-weary and rumpled. He walked over bits of wood and stone scattered atop the cobblestones. Everything about the scene suggested the village occupants left in haste.¬†A scarf¬†Ô¨āuttering¬†where¬†it¬†hooked¬†on¬†a¬†fence¬†post.¬†A¬†wooden¬†tobaccopipe¬†on the sidewalk near an overturned green metal table. A child‚Äôs leather shoe lying in the¬†gutter.

The residents hid in bunkers or cemetery crypts. When they emerged, the city dignitaries‚Äô Ô¨Ārst job would be to catalog the deceased civilians while the British dealt with noting the dead soldiers on both sides of the war. SS OfÔ¨Ācer Falk would be on the list sent to the Wehrmacht.

The sky boiled with battleship-grey clouds. The cold wind carried smoke and he wrinkled his nose at the odor of something burning that shouldn‚Äôt be on Ô¨Āre. He hoped it would rain, not to put out the Ô¨āames, but to give him a measure of cover as he chased down Stern‚Äôs division.

As he peered down a trash-strewn alley, a sound caught his¬†atten-¬†tion.¬†A¬†dog¬†urinated¬†against¬†the¬†wall.¬†Themangy¬†animal¬†sniffed¬†the¬†air in Falk‚Äôs direction and then, deciding Falk wasn‚Äôt a threat, turned its thin body and trotted away down a wrecked path between crooked buildings. The streets were empty as Falk crept along block by block. A¬†wooden¬†sign declared the small stone building to his right as the post ofÔ¨Āce,¬†and¬†his hands itched for a moment to enter the intact structure and jot down¬†¬†¬†¬†a quick letter to Ilse and his two boys. At ages eleven and nine, they¬†¬†¬†were already asking questions about this war, and trading Heil¬†Hitler¬†salutes with their friends. The last time he‚Äôd written to them was¬†two¬†weeks ago while in Ferrazzano. The peace of that steepled town, which overlooked broad rows of plush vineyards, had been crushed in one¬†af-¬†ternoon marked by explosions and gunÔ¨Āre. In his letter to Ilse, he told¬†her¬†it was time to take the boys and get on the next train to her sister‚Äôs in¬†the¬†Netherlands as they‚Äôd discussed. Once he Ô¨Ānished delivering information to the Americans, something Ilse knew nothing about, he‚Äôd meet them in Holland. He‚Äôd fold his wife in his arms, shake his boys‚Äô hands, and make new family memories, although doing any of those things seemed¬†far¬†away at the¬†moment.

His thoughts spun back through the years to when Hans and Dietrich were roly-poly fat.¬†Now,¬†¬†at ages eleven and nine, they stood lean and¬†¬†¬†tall when he embraced them. It was late summer when he last saw them. Both showed musical talent like Ilse, but wished to be soldiers like him. They‚Äôd¬†clomped¬†about¬†in¬†his¬†jackboots¬†on¬†the¬†patio¬†behindtheir¬†home¬†near¬†D√ľsseldorf, dressed in short pants and button-down shirts, pretending to give orders.¬†Talking¬†with deep voices and trying to sound¬†serious.

‚ÄúI don‚Äôt sound like that, do I?‚ÄĚ

She ignored him, lost in the pleasure of a cigarette he brought home. They sat at the edge of their sloping lawn as summer’s heat hung onto the countryside.

He asked again.

When she replied, her voice was lazy and content.¬†‚ÄúYou¬†have a¬†serious side, Wilhelm.¬†It‚Äôs¬†why you‚Äôre in a topposition.‚ÄĚ

She meant her words to compliment, but they cut through him. Men in his top position were acting as if they‚Äôd made a pact with the devil. The fairytales¬†this¬†war¬†espoused¬†were¬†that¬†the¬†SS¬†were¬†the¬†elite,¬†the¬†chosen, the righteous. Nearly every month since signing up, he wanted to commit an act of irrational bravery, like hunting down Hitler and putting a bullet through¬†his¬†immoral¬†heart.¬†But¬†it¬†seemed¬†a¬†futile¬†dream.¬†While¬†dozens¬†had already tried, the F√ľhrer‚Äôs protection squad numbered close to a thousand, and none succeeded. Falk kept his wife sheltered from the truths of what he‚Äôd¬†seen¬†but¬†secretly¬†seethed¬†and¬†wept¬†more¬†times¬†as¬†a¬†grown¬†man¬†than¬†as a knobby-kneed child.

‚ÄúI suppose I‚Äôve changed.‚ÄĚ

Wilhelm studied his property. Late summer was his favorite season at home. Fat grapes hung heavy on the arbor, and the garden was a tangle of vines cradling squash and pumpkins. The aroma of Ô¨āowers mingled with the earthy green threads from the nearby forest, creating a scent that un- wound his tangled nerves. If only he didn‚Äôt have to leave.

He hadn’t shared any of the horrors with Ilse. The images of Jews who’d become haunted-eyed skeletons. The burial pits layered twenty feet deep with bodies and dirt. Gleeful soldiers, trading necklaces and wallets mined from the stacksof luggage left near the trains. The piles and piles of empty shoes.

There were no words for such atrocities and to speak too openly about them would mean death or imprisonment for himself and his family. He’d been spun into a web he hadn’t recognized until he was wrapped, layer upon layer, within its deadly circle.

Hans ran past their chairs,¬†bang-banging¬†a wooden gun at his brother. He wore his father‚Äôs Ô¨Āeld-grey uniform coat, a garment crafted to make onlookers shudder with fear for their lives.

Falk took a long pull from his mug of Schwarzbier, welcoming the sharp bitter taste after months of watered-down beer. The boys wheeled around the yard, their arms outstretched, pretending to be airplanes on attack, and his chest tightened. What would happen to his children, his wife, if he never came back? Or worse, what if Hitler’s henchmen came for them?

He¬†leaned¬†in¬†closer,¬†memorizing¬†her¬†scent¬†while¬†meeting¬†her¬†light-blue eyes with his own. ‚ÄúPromise me that if the day comes when I ask you to take the boys to Eindhoven, you will leave¬†immediately.‚ÄĚ

Her eyebrows rose then drew together. ‚ÄúBut the Netherlands is in no better shape than Germany, Wilhelm.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúIlse. This most likely won‚Äôt happen. But, if I ask, I must know that you¬†are¬†there¬†with¬†your¬†relatives,¬†not¬†here.‚ÄĚGrowing¬†up,¬†Ilse‚Äôs¬†family¬†sum- mered in the Netherlands just across the German¬†border.

She was silent for a moment then spoke. “Of course, darling. We’ll go.

But I hope it doesn‚Äôt come to that.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúMe, too.‚ÄĚ He relaxed, but a worry tugged at him. ‚ÄúAnd don‚Äôt believe everything you read.‚ÄĚ He spoke those words louder than intended.

Tears¬†welled in her eyes as if she understood what he meant her to¬†know.¬†Had¬†she?¬†Right¬†away,¬†he¬†regretted¬†theÔ¨Ārmness¬†in¬†his¬†tone.¬†Her¬†voice trembled. ‚ÄúWhat is going on,¬†Wilhelm?‚ÄĚ

He¬†slowly¬†shook¬†his¬†head,¬†Ô¨Āghting¬†the¬†words¬†on¬†his¬†lips¬†and¬†the¬†tremble¬†in¬†his¬†chest.¬†Should¬†he¬†tell¬†her¬†everything?The¬†ghastly¬†secrets¬†kept¬†behind barbed wire,¬†the¬†camps with¬†so¬†many unspeakable crimes?¬†Forcing¬†himself¬†not¬†to¬†lookaway,¬†he‚Äôd¬†memorized¬†every¬†last¬†detail¬†in¬†order¬†to¬†report¬†them¬†later.¬†He had¬†protected¬†her¬†from¬†the¬†horrors he‚Äôd seen,¬†and she¬†seemed¬†con- tent¬†to¬†have¬†him¬†home¬†every¬†two¬†months,¬†more¬†when¬†he¬†was¬†in¬†the¬†area. Their marriage¬†was¬†built¬†on¬†honesty,¬†but the¬†danger¬†of her¬†slipping¬†and¬†tell-¬†ing¬†a¬†friend¬†what¬†he‚Äôd¬†learned¬†about¬†the¬†extermination¬†program¬†would¬†put¬†her¬†in¬†immediate¬†danger,¬†and¬†she‚Äôd¬†be¬†questioned.¬†It¬†was¬†better¬†that¬†she¬†never learned¬†any¬†details¬†concerning¬†his¬†plans.‚ÄúThere‚Äôs¬†something¬†I¬†have¬†to¬†do. People¬†may¬†question¬†my¬†loyalty¬†for¬†a¬†short¬†time¬†.¬†.¬†.¬†until¬†the¬†truth¬†comes¬†out.¬†You¬†are¬†anintelligent¬†woman¬†.¬†.¬†.¬†please¬†recognize¬†the¬†truth¬†when¬†you¬†hear¬†it.‚ÄĚ

Doves wheeled from¬†Avellino‚Äôs¬†cathedral roof, startling him back to the present. He didn‚Äôt want to leave the images of his family behind just yet, but the babble of voices reached him‚ÄĒtownspeople returning¬†from¬†safe havens to assess their new reality. That prompted him to get moving. Getting hacked to death by angry citizens wasn‚Äôt his plan. He needed to Ô¨Ānd¬†the¬†ragtag¬†Wehrmacht¬†10th¬†Army¬†and¬†surrender¬†with¬†them.¬†He¬†stuck¬†to the alleys and small streets and headed toward the Ô¨Ānal battles at the edge of the city in order to slip into Klaus¬†Stern‚Äôs¬†unit.

Becoming a POW and getting to the United States was his last hope to tell the world about the death camps.




He‚Äôd used his position as an SS inspection ofÔ¨Ācer to travel and mail letters‚ÄĒwhile¬†in¬†each¬†new¬†city‚ÄĒto¬†Europeanclergy¬†and¬†Danish¬†and¬†Swiss political resistance groups, notifying them about the hidden truths of¬†the¬†‚Äúwork camps.‚ÄĚ He prayed someone would rise up and stop Hitler‚Äôs ‚Äúacts of cleansing.‚ÄĚ

No one had.

His plan to surrender with the Wehrmacht soldiers could leave him in a hopeless situation with no option for escape. But with evil at his back and the possibility of disaster dead ahead, he chose the future.


About the author

Raised in Western New York and Pennsylvania, Karla M. Jay has worked as a speech pathologist since 1982. When she is not home in Utah gardening or writing, she is traveling, trying to see as many countries as possible--in particular, those with good coffee, ancient history, and great beaches. view profile

Published on April 15, 2019

130000 words

Contains explicit content ‚ö†ÔłŹ

Genre: Historical Fiction

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