Wolfram: The Boy Who Went To War by Giles Milton
|Wolfram: The Boy Who Went To War by Giles Milton|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A book which overturns all the cliches about WWII. Forget that it's a man writing about his father-in-law and absorb what it was like for normal (not Jewish, not the battlefield heroes) Germans in the thirties and forties. Highly recommended. Giles was kind enought to talk to us about the book.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: February 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
I'm used to history being a little on the heavy side and feeling virtuous when I've made the effort required to read it. I'm also used to it being written from 'our' point of view, particularly if 'we' were the victors. I mean, we were obviously in the right and 'they' were in the wrong, no? Well, Wolfram: The Boy Who Went To War doesn't tick either of those boxes and it's a delight to read.
Giles Milton's daughter was set the task of designing an heraldic shield which represented the most important elements of her family's history. Aware that one of her grandparents is German she included the only German symbol which she knew: a Swastika. It was this incident, which was an awkward mixture of funny and disquieting which brought about Wolfram: The Boy Who Went To War. It's the story of Giles' father-in-law, Wolfram Aïchele, who was nine years old when Hitler came to power and who found himself caught up in a situation which was none of his making and didn't accord with his own beliefs. He was a man who wanted to be a sculptor or to paint, but he was forced to become a soldier.
If I'd known the Aïchele family in the nineteen thirties we'd have got on well. They had a strong sense of family and community. They weren't Jewish but didn't like what was happening to the Jews. There was a constant pressure to conform to the requirements of the state and a resistance which stopped just short of being overt. The book is the story of the family in the years before the war and during the hostilities. It's not a tale of battlefield bravery and heroics, but of how normal families survived – or not – and the sufferings along the way.
I'm not going to tell you much more about Wolfram – Giles tells it so much better than I could do and you really ought to read it for yourself. It's more than sixty five years since the end of the war, but I think this is the first time that I've read about the life of normal German people. Even after all this time there are still myths about who had it worst and who showed the most bravery. Read this and judge for yourself. Giles is interested in people who have survived – often in the most appalling circumstances and this really does make a difference to the way that the book is written. Have a look at Giles' website and his blog and you'll see what I mean.
I'd be more than happy to give this book to a pre-teen. It's factual and not overly gory, but it's also a book which is deeply interesting to any adult who needs to know both sides of a story. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For another look at a family with a German history we can recommend The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My SS Grandfather's Secret Past and How Hitler Seduced a Generation by Martin Davidson However, I've recently read and enjoyed the fictional The English German Girl by Jake Wallis Simons. I think you might appreciate it too.
Giles Milton was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Wolfram: The Boy Who Went To War by Giles Milton at Amazon.com.
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