The German Wife

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Modern Age

The German Wife
Author: Rimmer, Kelly
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1930-1950
Geographic Area: Europe, North America
Country: Germany, United States ,
Topics: World War II,Operation Paperclip
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age:Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2022

Content Warning
antisemitism, abuse, xenophobia, war, hate crimes, mental illness, torture

World History > American History > Modern Age > WWII >

Berlin, 1930—When a wave of change sweeps a radical political party to power, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes’s academic husband benefits from the ambitions of its newly elected chancellor. Although Sofie and Jürgen do not share the social views growing popular in Hitler’s Germany, Jürgen’s position with its burgeoning rocket program changes their diminishing fortunes for the better. But as Sofie watches helplessly, her beloved Berlin begins to transform, forcing her to consider what they must sacrifice morally for their young family’s security, and what the price for their neutrality will be.

Twenty years later, Jürgen is one of the many German scientists offered pardons for their part in the war, and taken to America to work for its fledgling space program. For Sofie, this is the chance to exorcise the ghosts that have followed her across the ocean, and make a fresh start in her adopted country. But her neighbors aren’t as welcoming or as understanding as she had hoped. When scandalous rumors about the Rhodes family’s affiliation with Hitler’s regime spreads, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results will tear apart Sofie’s community and her family before the truth is finally revealed.

Emily's Review

This was a challenging book to read because the characters in this story are all faced with impossibly difficult decisions. We are following the perspectives of two women - Lizzie, whose brother Henry is suffering from PTSD after the war, and Sofie a German woman whose husband works in Germany's new rocket program in the 30s and 40s. After the war, Sofie and her husband come to the US under the Operation Paperclip program, in which the US government recruited Nazi scientists to work for our space program. The government might want these German ex-Nazis to work in the US, but does everyone?

What I loved about this book was that we were given the opportunity to explore what it was like to be a German in the 1930s and 40s. We often ask ourselves what we would do if we were there, and it's easy to say we would oppose the Nazis from our comfortable lives. We see through Sofie's eyes, the way things were quickly going from uncomfortable to dangerous. Do I agree with her choices? No, in fact I think that while they might have had good intentions, they still made bad choices. But I also can see why they made those bad choices. I don't sympathize with them, but I can understand.

I think the author did a fantastic job of conveying that your average German did, in fact, know what the Nazis were doing. That the children were being brainwashed with Nazi propaganda. That the Germans didn't try to hide what they were doing at all.

I think Sofie's story was more interesting to read than Lizzies, but I appreciated both of their perspectives. I thought Lizzie's brother's story was extremely sad - we've never done a very good job of taking care of our veterans, and what he went through was tragic. But overall, I just don't know that Lizzie's backstory was necessary to the plot.

I found this story to be compelling, yet also infuriating. Because it's based on a true story, it is an important book, but one needs to be in the right mindset to read it.

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