German Boy: A Refugee's Story

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Univ. Press of Mississippi, Oct 2, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 357 pages

What was the experience of war for a child in bombed and ravaged Germany? In this memoir, the voice of innocence is heard.

"This is great stuff," exclaims Stephen E. Ambrose.

"I love this book."

In this gripping account, a boy and his mother are wrenched from their tranquil lives to forge a path through the storm of war and the rubble of its aftermath. In the past there has been a spectrum of books and films that share other German World War II experiences. However, told from the perspective of a ten-year-old, this book is rare. The boy and his mother must prevail over hunger and despair, or die.

In the Third Reich, young Wolfgang Samuel and his family are content but alone. The father, a Luftwaffe officer, is away fighting the Allies in the West. In 1945 as Berlin and nearby communities crumble, young Wolfgang, his mother Hedy, and little sister Ingrid flee the advancing Russian army. They have no inkling of the chaos ahead. In Strasburg, a small town north of Berlin where they find refuge, Wolfgang begins to comprehend the evils the Nazi regime brought to Germany. As the Reich collapses, mother, son, and daughter flee again just ahead of the Russian charge.

In the chaos of defeat they struggle to find food and shelter. Death stalks the primitive camps that are their temporary havens, and the child becomes the family provider. Under the crushing responsibility, Wolfgang becomes his mother's and sister's mainstay. When they return to Strasburg, the Communists in control are as brutal as the Nazis. In the violent atmosphere of arbitrary arrest, rape, hunger, and fear, the boy and his mother persist. Pursued by Communist police through a fierce blizzard, they escape to the West, but even in the English zone, the constant search for food, warmth, and shelter dominates their lives, and the mother's sacrifices become the boy's nightmares.

Although this is a time of deepest despair, Wolfgang hangs on to the thinnest thread of hope. In June 1948 with the arrival of the Americans flying the Berlin Airlift, Wolfgang begins a new journey.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bandpmom - LibraryThing

This book was one of the best books I've read in a while. Having a personal connection to war-torn Germany during WWII, my expectations were high. This book delivered. I was immersed into the life of ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - TimBazzett - LibraryThing

This is an eloquently told, often nearly heartbreaking story of what a young German boy endured as a refugee in the closing days and the years following WWII. Wolfgang Samuel tells his story with ... Read full review


Chapter 2 Flight from Sagan
Chapter 3 The Train
Chapter 4 161 Schönhauser Allee Berlin
Chapter 5 A Town Called Strasburg
Chapter 6 A Brave German Soldier
Chapter 7 The Face of Death
Chapter 8 Surrender
Chapter 13 A Winter Nightmare
Chapter 14 Summer 1946
Chapter 15 Escape to the West
Chapter 16 The Trauen Barracks
Chapter 17 Refugee Life
Chapter 18 Winter of Despair
Chapter 19 Return of the Americans
Chapter 20 Sergeant Leo Ferguson

Chapter 9 The Americans
Chapter 10 The Russians
Chapter 11 Messenger of Death
Chapter 12 The List
Chapter 21 Bakers Apprentice
Chapter 22 Looking West

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About the author (2009)

Wolfgang W. E. Samuel was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC at the University of Colorado and is a graduate of the National War College. He served in the U.S. Air Force for thirty years until his retirement in 1985 as a colonel. His writing has been published in several military journals, including Parameters, the U.S. Army War College quarterly.

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