Kindertransport by Jennifer Childers
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Snapdragon
Nurse Erika Lehmier cares for the children housed at Grafeneck Castle as though they were her own. When the SS confiscates Grafeneck, Erika discovers plans to turn the castle into a treatment center that will end the lives of children with disabilities.
One of her children, Heidi, has no visible handicap, and thereby has a small chance to escape the Nazi destruction, but for the rest, Erika must find a way to escape—or face the heartbreaking decision to give them a peaceful death by her own hand.
Will she find a way out? Can she trust Rickard, when he wears an SS uniform?
Jennifer Childers’ World War II novel Kindertransport dramatically emphasizes feelings of the heart in the historic time immediately preceding the outbreak of World War II, and into the actual war years. The story’s backdrop features individuals who took part in the desperate efforts by several European nations to accept and safeguard children (sometimes called the refugee child movement.)
Written in the first person, Kindertransport is gripping from its first dramatic lines. Our heroine, Fraulein Erika, saves babies. Or she tries to saves babies. In the worst imaginable circumstances she carries on, facing her own fears and ethical dilemmas almost on a case-by-case basis.
The story is more than Erika‘s. Father Julian reminds us of the importance of prayer and the importance of truth. His efforts to carry on in a land becoming more and more hostile to Catholicism emphasizes the dangers to everyone trapped under the regime. One can hardly guess the difference between warnings and threats. We feel all too closely the heart wrenching struggles of Erika and those around her. She is after all, a German, and a nurse. She wants to help her people, while being appalled at the changes within Germany during the late 1930s. She does not know who to trust. Her reliance on her own morals, as well as her firm belief in God and a grand design, both guide and reassure her.
Still, her terror at seeing her Jewish friend Gretchen led away by the brown-shirted Gestapo is palpable. It motivates her to seek help, and brings her the knowledge of the Kindertransport agreement. It also brings about a chance meeting, which seems not altogether a good thing. It brings Herr Rickard Sankt(Rick) into her world, and perhaps into her life. She fears him, and well she should; he is a stranger in a time when even those well-known to one another doubted and mistrusted. He may work in a placid-sounding department, but as such appropriations involved other nations, Erika seems right to doubt him.
Secondary characters, like Erika’s parents, are as wonderfully deep and believable as the main ones. Their concerns and worries about her future (come join us in the bakery!) are simply classic, and Erika’s frustration adds a touch of humor.
This would not be described as fast-paced, but the story flows smoothly from beginning to end and is continually gripping. We feel sweaty palms and wonder, like her, if she can remain safe through this nightmare. Doubts about others and the need to protect some is paramount. As our main character fears, “Nazis seeped into every pore of German life.” And Erika recognizes certain truths about people that she wished never to know.
Amazingly, against a backdrop of hate and fear, Childers brings to life a group motivated by caring, decency, and love. Kindertransport is a reminder that there were people individually struggling against the evils of the times. Although not classed as an inspirational, I feel the story will appeal to fans of inspirational romance, as well.
It has a wider appeal than that though. The story is entertaining and exceptionally readable and engaging, and more. Childers has contributed a tale that goes beyond heartwarming entertainment to a class that is something more... more important and more exceptional.