Some­thing Remains

Inge Barth-Grozinger; Anthea Bell, trans.
  • Review
By – December 19, 2011

Erich Levi is a ten-year-old boy who lives in the small town of Ell­wan­gen. After the Nazis gain pow­er, the lives of the few Jews in the town grad­u­al­ly change for the worse. Some of Erich’s teach­ers give him low grades and humil­i­ate him because he’s Jew­ish, the boys in his class bul­ly him, and his friend Karl shuns him entirely. 

A few towns­peo­ple try to ignore or resist the Nazi regime, but by the end of the nov­el, we see how even good peo­ple are forced to acqui­esce. As the Levi fam­i­ly mem­bers lose their pride, hon­or, and liveli­hood, the read­er begins to under­stand the ter­ri­ble price paid by vic­tims and bul­lies alike. Final­ly, Erich’s fam­i­ly is forced to leave Ger­many forever. 

The author takes her time to ful­ly delin­eate both Jew­ish and non-Jew­ish char­ac­ters. We feel their pain and con­fu­sion, sad­ness and fear. How­ev­er, a few sparks of human­i­ty remain, for exam­ple, when the head­mas­ter of the school advis­es every­one to have the courage to be wise.” 

The nar­ra­tive moves along briskly, marred occa­sion­al­ly by too many adjec­tives, awk­ward turns of phrase, and clichéd images. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, sev­er­al errors regard­ing Jew­ish cus­toms are also evident. 

A use­ful dis­cus­sion guide, a note on the Ger­man school sys­tem, author’s note, and end­notes all add verac­i­ty to a com­pelling read. See also David Chotjewitz’s  Daniel Half-Human and the  Good Nazi for its por­tray­al of friend­ship, loy­al­ty and betray­al. Ages 10 – 12

Anne Dublin is the teacher-librar­i­an at Holy Blos­som Tem­ple in Toron­to, Cana­da and an award-win­ning author of books for chil­dren and young adults. Her lat­est book is June Call­wood: A Life of Action (Sec­ond Sto­ry Press, 2006).

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