Piotr Bruck was born in Poland, but his parents were of German descent. Since their death during the invasion of Poland, he has been living in an orphanage with little food and the very real prospect of starvation lying ahead. His fortunes change when he is selected as a perfect candidate for reclassification as German by the Race and Settlement Office. His Nordic looks and ability to speak fluent German mean he is adopted by a wealthy doctor whose research into genetics is important to the Nazi party.
Peter (as he is renamed) is grateful to the family and eager to be accepted as German. He knows that being an Auslander (foreigner) could find him singled out so he does everything he can to fit in. He joins the Hitler Youth movement, helps with air raid duties and begins dating Anna, the daughter of a highly respected family, but as time goes by he becomes uncomfortable with the Nazi ideals. He sees Polish workers, starving and exhausted, and hears rumours of Jewish death camps.
This is a fascinating and thought-provoking book. Dowswell looks broadly at the Nazi obsession with race, genetics and ethnic cleansing. As well as the killing of Jews and the reclassification of children such as Peter, it also covers the killings of the disabled and mentally ill, the sterilisation of those with ‘tainted’ blood and the medical experiments carried out on humans. The Germans in the novel range from ardent Nazi supporters to passionate dissenters, with most falling somewhere in the middle.
The cover of the novel appears to be designed to appeal to boys, but the story is an engrossing thriller that should appeal to readers of either sex aged about 12+.