Summer of my German Soldier / Bette Greene
Summer of my German Soldier
Can there be such a thing as a good Nazi in the eyes of Jew? After going through something terrible like the Holocaust, people would have trouble believing that there is still kindness in their oppressors. Summer of my German Soldier by Bette Greene tries to make a distinction between an ideology and an individual, a subject not often dealt with by writers of books for young adults.
Patty and Anton
Summer of my German Soldier is set in West Memphis, Arkansas during World War II. In the story, Patty is the daughter of a well-respected Jewish family in a small peaceful community. When a train of Nazi convicts takes the soldiers to the prison in her town, Patty pretends to be disgusted like everyone else. Secretly, she falls in love with one of the captives, Anton. Throughout the book, Patty and Anton's relationship strengthens as Patty hides him in her home. After several weeks in hiding, Anton understands he must leave since the entire town is looking for him and he is putting Patty's family in danger. Following Anton's departure, Patty is miserable, only later discovering that he has been gunned down while trying to escape. Patty is then put on trial for harboring an enemy and considered a traitor by the surrounding community. While everyone considers her as a traitor, Patty struggles to move on, comforted by her only gift from Anton, a beautiful gold ring.
Style and Narrative
The story is written in first person, with Patty as the narrator. She tends to use long flowing sentences about her thoughts and emotions. When she speaks, the dialogue is much shorter and simpler. The vocabulary is not too difficult to understand, but is combined with quite a few complicated words. The tone of the book is solemn.
Summer of my German Soldier
Justice and injustice are portrayed in the book as well as the benevolence in people no matter what they've gone through. No matter if you're white, black, German or Jewish; there is still righteousness in you. In the story we see many examples of prejudice. Patty's cook is a black woman whom everyone assumes is worthless. Just for being black, this woman, Ruth had to go through much more than most. After her mother saved up enough money for her to go to college, a white man stole it all. This erased all hope for Ruth's dreams of becoming something important. Instead she became a cook. Similarly, Patty's Jewish family cannot even begin to imagine that any Nazi could possess any human qualities since, in their eyes, they are all equally cold-blooded killers. I argue that this type of thinking is too stereotypical, but many at this time period in the story would probably disagree with me. The author's goal in writing was to break through certain stereotypes and show that your enemy can also be human.
The Portrayal of Anton
From Summer of my German Soldier I learned about war and the effects it has on society. The author had a very unusual idea in this book, but I'm not entirely sure I agree with her. The whole situation was portrayed in a simplistic way. I found it too naÃ¯ve that Patty's father was characterized as the oppressor and Anton as the hero. Even though Anton didn't believe in the Nazi ways and followed them out of fear, this doesn't make him an innocent person. He is still a killer, and though he learns to become a better person during the book he shouldn't have been portrayed so flawlessly. While reading I thought that if the author had made Anton a little more realistic, then the book would have been more compelling to read. The story didn't tell us at all what Anton did as a Nazi soldier. This made me feel that Anton was innocent, which is possible but I found it curious. Anton seemed like an intriguing character to come up with but from what I know he does not seem like the "classic" German soldier.
Summer of my German Soldier was a challenging book to read and question. I've never read a book that portrayed a Nazi in this light but it was an original idea to do so. The broad idea in this story was to show that for better or for worse war can change who you are. After reading this story I feel that I more deeply understand the importance of standing up for what I believe in. I recognize that as well as corruption there is virtue in everyone, and if we just open our eyes we will be able to see both sides.