The Plum Tree

History was never my best subject, but I’ve always been fascinated by it.  Ellen Marie Wiseman’s book focuses on WWII, and has more details than any other fiction I’ve read based on the Holocaust.  It’s as haunting as it is lovely.

Christine lives in a small village in Germany, with her grandparents, parents, and three younger siblings.  She has just been told by Isaac, the boy she loves, that he loves her as well.  The next day, she learns she’s forbidden from seeing him anymore– she is Christian, and his family is Jewish.  The two manage secret meetings for awhile, but they quickly realize that it’s too risky, and they break off all ties.

Christine’s family is more fortunate than most.  They have livestock and a garden to provide food, and their house manages to avoid bombs.  When Christine’s father is called to serve the army, her mother must hold their family together.  Although it puts her family at risk, Christine makes a choice, and her worst nightmare comes to fruition– she’s sent to Dachau.

Yet again fortune finds Christine, when she’s given a job as a cook to the camp’s leader.  She must hold on to hope that she will one day see her family and Isaac again, alive and well.

This book is no-holds-barred when it comes to detail.  Ellen Marie Wiseman describes the Holocaust for what it is, leaving no atrocity unaccounted for.  It’s unfathomable and hard to read, but it’s also important.  We’ve all learned about the Holocaust in our schooling at some point, but I don’t know that everyone truly grasps how horrifying it really was.  It’s hard to wrap your mind around.

When I was a sophomore in college, I was fortunate enough to spend a semester abroad in Italy.  During a long weekend, I went with some of the others in my program to Germany, and we were able to visit Dachau.  Even now, decades later, it’s hard not to be impacted by it all.  We were able to walk through the gas chambers and the barracks, and see videos and pictures of what the conditions were like.  It was a truly chilling experience but one I’m glad I had.  It helped me to better understand all of the suffering, and I hope that the memorial keeps us from repeating history.

As with all war stories, there are happy endings for some, but not for all.  This is no different.  I think it’s an important book to read, because although it is fiction, there’s far too much truth in it.

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