1938: Journalist Hannah Vogel is sent by her Swiss newspaper to cover the Saint Martin’s Day Festival held in Poznan, Poland. This was Europe’s largest parade to celebrate the saint known for his kindness to the poor. Hannah hears about the deportations of Polish Jews from Germany to Poland. She travels, along with her son Anton, to Zbasyn to see for herself the dreadful conditions where the refugees are being detained in stables and flour mills.
Hannah sees the pregnant Miriam Keller, married to her longtime friend Paul, who has a Christian father, and is told about Ruth her two year old left in a cupboard in Berlin during the deportations. When Hannah returns from getting a doctor to treat the refugees Miriam and her unborn child are dead.
Hannah is then kidnapped by the Gestapo and taken across the border into Germany, where she is rescued by Anton and her former lover Lars Lang [from A Game of Lies]. Hannah is injured and the three go on to Berlin, where they are stuck in the build up to Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, a series of state sanctioned attacks against Jews. Stuck in Berlin can Hannah trust Lars? Will they be able to find Paul and rescue little Ruth? Also who has been sending threatening letters to Hannah’s Swiss newspaper?
Rebecca Cantrell in this the fourth book in the Hannah Vogel series has once again written an exciting first person narrative tale about a German female journalist who hates the Nazis. She cleverly uses the format of the old fashioned adventure story to impart lots of information about the treatment of Jews, the Nuremberg Anti-Semitic Laws, the classification of “mischlings” of the first and second degree based on the number Jewish grandparents, the blood libel, the wild west novels of Karl May and lots more. This series is very well researched and it is the details that give the reader the atmosphere of the 1930s, when the world was on the brink of a great tragedy.
It seemed appropriate to read this book at the same time as the English football team at the Euro 2012 Championships were visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, and the problem of racism and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe was being discussed in the media.