Have you ever read a book that you both loved and loathed? Much like a horror movie that scares you senseless, scene after scene, and yet, you just can’t stop watching: That was how I felt about the book, Daughter of the Reich, written by Louise Fein. I did not want to keep reading, but I could not put it down.
It is the story of Hetty Heinrich, a young woman striving to be a “perfect” German, at least most of the time. With a father who serves in the Schutzstaffel, a brother who is a high-flyer in the Luftwaffe, and she an active member of the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM), how could Hetty not be? And even if she does not want to tote the party line or behave and believe as she is commanded, what choice does she have? She must be a patriotic German and support the Führer, do or die.
It is what her teachers, parents, and friends think and what she herself has thought until one blond-haired, blue-eyed boy, who saved her from drowning years earlier, captures her heart and changes her mind. His name is Walter, and he looks just like a good Hitlerjugend. There’s only one problem: Walter’s Jewish.
Step by step and day by day, Walter shows Hetty the world from a different perspective, forcing her to see with new eyes, and Hetty does not like what she sees. Hetty soon realizes that wrongs must be righted, but is she strong enough to fight the Reich? Is she willing to risk everything to save the life of the one who had has saved hers, both literally and figuratively?
Inspired by the author’s own family history, Daughter of the Reich is a pain-filled page-turner, a scrupulously researched remembrance of life in Nazi Germany. Often uncomfortable yet consistently compelling, this book shines a spotlight on a dark time in history, that no matter how painful or distasteful, must never, ever be forgotten.