It’s Remembrance Day in just a couple of days, and I’ve written before about how the perspective from the other side of the trenches is, in many ways, not so different from that of “our” side. War kills. War sucks in innocent people and destroys them.
Lee Strauss has a great book on sale this week (links at the bottom of this post) that tells that very story, the tale of World War II from an angle that most English-speaking people rarely hear. Playing With Matches is the story of Emil Radle, a young German boy in the 1930s, and his experience of the war. The book is fiction as far as the actual characters and exact events go, but it could be absolutely true. The boy in the cover picture, on the far right edge, the one with his blond lock of hair falling over his forehead, could be my uncle, the one who was just the age Emil Radle is in the book. Or, for that matter, my favourite high school teacher, who spent hours regaling us with stories of how he was drafted in the last years of the war, at the age of sixteen, to become cannon fodder; and who said the best moment of the whole thing was when he could drop his gun and raise his hands in surrender to the British armed forces.
That’s Emil’s story in Playing With Matches. It’s well worth the read.
Lest We Forget.
PLAYING WITH MATCHES
Heinz Schultz’s word could send a man to prison. Though only a youth of fifteen, he was strong, tall, and blond. The boys in his Deutsches Jungvolk unit esteemed him and feared him.
And they wanted to be just like him.
A dedicated member of Hitler Youth, Emil was loyal to the Führer before family, a champion for the cause and a fan of the famous Luftwaffe Air force.
Emil’s friends Moritz and Johann discover a shortwave radio and everything changes. Now they listen to the forbidden BBC broadcast of news reports that tell both sides. Now they know the truth.The boys, along with Johann’s sister Katharina, band together to write out the reports and covertly distribute flyers through their city. It’s an act of high treason that could have them arrested–or worse.
As the war progresses, so does Emil’s affection for Katharina. He’d do anything to have a normal life and to stay in Passau by her side. But when Germany’s losses become immense, even their greatest resistance can’t prevent the boys from being sent to the Eastern Front.