On The Run In Nazi Berlin

January 1, 2013

A riv­et­ing and unusu­al Holo­caust mem­oir that plays out like a Hol­ly­wood action film. Nev­er in a con­cen­tra­tion camp, young Dagob­ert Lewin sur­vives the entire war on the run in Nazi Berlin. Fifty years lat­er, he redis­cov­ers his buried past. Dagob­ert is eigh­teen years old when the Gestapo deport his par­ents and enslave Dagob­ert at a machine gun fac­to­ry in Berlin. Mirac­u­lous­ly, tipped off the morn­ing the Nazis arrest all Jew­ish fac­to­ry work­ers, he goes under­ground. Dagob­ert lives in bombed out build­ings, pos­es as a mem­ber of the Waf­fen-SS, and steals a Gestapo car and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card. His charm and skills prompt a diverse crop of Ger­mans to help him, rang­ing from a blind com­mu­nist to Hitler’s favorite cam­era­man. When the Gestapo even­tu­al­ly cap­ture Dagob­ert, they mis­take him for a British spy and tor­ture him in a Berlin dun­geon prison. There are breath­tak­ing escapes, romance, and a wife and baby Dagob­ert would for­get for decades. 

Metic­u­lous­ly researched, this jaw-drop­ping true sto­ry illu­mi­nates exhil­a­rat­ing sur­vival in the heart of Nazi Germany.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Bev Saltz­man Lewyn

  1. What was your ini­tial reac­tion to the book? Did it hook you quick­ly? Had you ever read a book where the Holo­caust sur­vivor was in Berlin the whole time and was nev­er in a con­cen­tra­tion camp?

  2. What sur­prised you the most about Dagobert’s story?

  3. Do you think it was hard­er or eas­i­er to sur­vive on the run than it would have been in a con­cen­tra­tion camp?

  4. Could you have mar­ried for the rea­sons Dagob­ert did?

  5. What were the themes of Dagobert’s strat­e­gy to sur­vive when he was a U‑Boat? Could you do what Dagob­ert did?

  6. Do you believe they were mir­a­cles or luck: Was it a mir­a­cle that he was tipped off not to go to work the morn­ing of the Fabrikaktion/​Factory Action? Was it a mir­a­cle that he escaped the Gestapo prison by mak­ing a key? Was it a mir­a­cle that the Russ­ian sol­dier was Jew­ish and knew of Dagobert’s uncle?

  7. Can you imag­ine for­get­ting that you had a wife and son? How would you have felt dis­cov­er­ing this again years later?

  8. How would you have felt to be Ilse and to learn Dagob­ert large­ly for­got you? Would you have con­tact­ed Dagobert/​Bert if you saw he was search­ing for you?

  9. Do you think it was a good thing that Bert for­got about Ilse and Gad?

  10. Gun­ther didn’t tell his kids that he had changed his name. They didn’t dis­cov­er about his past until after he had died. How would you sug­gest they inter­pret that?

  11. Was On the Run in Nazi Berlin ulti­mate­ly a hope­ful story?