Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the book

When I was in oh, 12-14, sometime in there, I read this book. (Ha! Imagine, me reading a book. What a revelation! I'd bet you never imagined me reading...) Anyway, I didn't write down the title, and I usually did. But, for years I've been remembering bits and pieces and I've been trying to find this book. Only problem, I couldn't remember the title or the author.

Here's what I remembered.

The girl in the book grew up in a Christian home in Germany. Her mother made sauerkraut. The girl became a leader in the Hitler Youth movement. She met a boy, he name was something. I thought the girls name was Maria. After the war, she and the boy met again and got married and later they immigrated to the US. At a church service, the congregation started singing a hymn, but the music was also that of the Nazi's anthem, which the former Hitler youth couple found hilarious.

When I was an early teenager, I read lots of testimony type of books. During the 1970's, many Christian writers of European heritage were writing about their experiences during World War II, their experiences with the Holocaust, and even their experiences behind the Iron Curtain. Both the Nazi regime and the Soviet block suppressed Christianity, and by the 1970's, many Christian survivors were sharing their stories.

Because I had read so many of these type of books, it's understandable that I was having trouble remembering the title of this one. I finally found this book though, and read it again last night. (Interlibrary Loan is my friend.)

The title of my lost book is Hansi: the girl who loved the Swastika by Maria Anne Hirschmann. I had remembered most of the above points correctly. But they weren't necessarily points that were important to the plot. For instance, the sauerkraut...it was talked about on page 2, and never again. So, why did the homemade sauerkraut stick in my memory? And the hymn, that was also a small point on one page. So, why did that stick? Who knows.

Sometimes I've been disappointed re-reading a book that really made an impact on me as a young person. My adult perspective is very different than it was when I was a teenager and some of the books I loved then. For example, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

I read it at about the same age I read Hansi. I remember thinking how cool Francie's life was and how neat her father was, and how loving. I enjoyed her adventures, and I remember reading about her attack by a bad man in the stairs, but I really didn't understand what was so awfully bad about it. As an adult, I was more aware of the poverty, the drunkenness, and the attempted rape. As an adult, I picked up more on the reality of life of Francie's poor Irish family and her desire to achieve more. As a child, I romanticized much of this book. As an adult, I was horrified to think about all the terrible experiences Francie dealt with as a child. (But, it's still a good book.)

I was afraid that my perspective of Hansi might be similar. But it wasn't. I remembered it all pretty well and accurately. It's a nice testament of a woman's journey in faith. I'm glad I found it again.

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