When Easy-company (“Band of Brothers” TV version) drives in to Berchtesgaden, the officers comment that “at least here, noone can deny that they were Nazis”. Because that was the problem when the Allies entered Germany in 1945, everyone denying that they had been Nazis. And yet, the war had been going on for 6 years, thanks to the German people following their leader. It was the Germans that had voted for Hitler’s party to lead the country in 1933 and it was the people who never ousted them from power! It was fine to approve of Hitler as long as everything was going well. And that is what most historians agree on, that Hitler did one good thing and that was getting Germany on its feet again. He created jobs. He got Germany out of the depression. He made people believe in the future.
Unfortunately this book, “The Plum Tree” by American Ellen Marie Wiseman, went in to print. She found a publisher that I guess is a revisionist or that believes that a historical novel does not have to be historically accurate. But if it is not that, what is it then? Pure fiction of course. There is sadly people who do not understand the difference though. And that makes books like this dangerous. When I had read the first 200 pages, gagging along, I decided to read the last page to see if the main characters, Christine and Isaac survived. Then I read the author’s comment. If I had read this before reading the book, I would have returned it to the library right away. First of all she tells us, that her mother and grandmother have told her all these stories from war-time Germany, that they left behind, after the war. So the base or foundation of the book, are their stories. According to them and the aunts and uncles, who the American author visited every summer in beautiful Germany, they were not Nazis. The author can’t believe that a beautiful country, beautiful towns and villages can have behaved so appallingly. To add-on to the stories, to make her own fairy tale, she has read a little bit of history, some fiction but when you look at what she has read, the list is not impressive at all. She could have read Laurence Rees’ books on Nazism, Hitler, Auschwitz. Shirer’s descriptions from inside the third Reich would have been very appropriate. But she’s avoided everything that could really have taught her the truth. She’s not impressed with the truth. That is why she makes Dachau in to an extermination camp, because it fits her story better, according to herself. Is one allowed to tamper that much with facts? The assassination attempt of Hitler takes place in the autumn of 1944 because once again, it fits her story better. Dachau is a new camp in 1938, she writes early on, but then later on she decides to change the date to the correct 1933.
The result becomes the following. The book tells a tale where the people living in this Southern German town, basically have no contact at all with Nazism. They are unemployed in 1938. Poorer than poor. Historically incorrect in other words. Nor have they heard of the Nürnberg Laws. Until this day, that starts the book off. The day when blonde Aryan looking Christine Bölz goes on a walk with handsome Jewish employer’s son, Isaac Bauermann. They kiss and decide to go to a party together. His family will not mind since so many of their friends have emigrated. When Christine comes home, in her coat made out of horse blanket, posters cover the whole street saying that Germans can’t associate with Jews. She and her mother can’t work for the Bauermann’s anymore.
How does the author solve the problem with Christine, 17, and Maria,15, not getting indoctrinated with Nazi propaganda in the Bund Deutscher Mädel (girl organization) which the Nazis had set up? They are not allowed there because their father is an Italian immigrant. Let’s just forget that Dieter Bölz is not an Italian name at all. Let’s just pretend that Italy was not Germany’s ally. Let’s just forget that the only ones not welcome in the Nazi party youth organizations, were Jews. Let us forget totally that all Aryans HAD to be part of the youth organizations even if parents disagreed! A year after the book starts, and Christine and Isaac, having been seeing each other secretly once every month, Dieter Bölz is required to enlist in the Army. No problems there with his Italian heritage! But Christine and Maria are not required to do war work like the rest of the female population, nor their mother. Because of the father’s status! And their brothers Karl and Heinrich do not have to be part of Deutsches Jungfolk/Hitler Jugend, since they are not allowed in, according the Wisemann’s history. In Hitler’s eyes though, these were of course soldiers in the making.
In 1943, Isaac’s family are sent to Dachau. But in 1944, he is one of the men, that are taken to the town, to repair the air field that has been used for a while. Thanks to the Nazis arriving with their soldiers, Wisemann’s view of how things were organised, and using the air field for their bomber planes, the town gets bombed. Day and night, for months on end. She describes something worse than the London Blitz, that these “poor” people had to go through. Those awful Americans and British. Sorry, but the Allies did not waste their bombs night after night, day after day, on the same target, like the Germans did!
Christine manages to smuggle away Isaac from the rest of the concentration camp “workers” marched through town every day, and hides him in their attic. On the day, when her father arrives from the Eastern front, the Nazis find Isaac in the attic and instead of shooting him, like they would with an escaped prisoner, Christine and Isaac are driven to the train station and put in a cattle car, heading with the train to Dachau. Christine is told by Isaac, to tell the selection people that she is not Jewish, which she does, and after getting shaved and tattooed, she is sent to cook for the camp Kommendant. A man who has been sitting in a concentration camp himself, because he protested against Nazi policy. But after his time there, managed to re-join the party to document their atrocities for after the war. Let’s just say, that most of the Kommendants of Dachau were particularly cruel persons, so to create this sort of unbelievable camp Kommendant, makes my stomach turn. She might as well have just said that the Holocaust never happened.
Deep sigh. By this time, you have polished off 300 pages of 450 but still has to suffer through 150 pages of the same sort of garbage. Question is, does one abandon a book after spending two weeks of spare time, on it? Does one abandon a book after 300 pages? Or does one struggle through to see how bad it can get? This is truly one of the worse books I have ever read. And I waited in queue to get to read it, for over two months. It doesn’t even deserve one star!!!