Escape from Berlin
The omnibus edition of Watts’s three novels about the Kindertransport – the rescue program that transported 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Germany and surrounding countries to safety in England in the months before the outbreak of World War II – is a tour de force of history and page-turning narrative. Beginning with Good-Bye Marianne, we see the world of 1938 Berlin through the eyes of 11-year-old Marianne, who is half Jewish. Her beloved father is on the run from the Gestapo, and she and her Aryan mother live in an ever-smaller world, as they are banished from public spaces, schools, and shops. Marianne doesn’t understand her mother’s sudden, but wrenching, decision to put her on the first Kindertransport train; her feelings of confusion, pain, and loss over the following months are well-wrought in Remember Me.
This second story follows Marianne as she adjusts to a new life, language, and culture. Then, once again, she must deal with being seen as the enemy when she’s evacuated, along with the rest of her English school, to Wales, when war breaks out. Only her hopes for being reunited with her beloved parents sustain her.
The third story, Finding Sophie, follows another young girl Marianne met on the Kindertransport, whose experience as an evacuee was much different. Sophie was taken in by a friend of her parents, and after seven years in this loving environment, she struggles from guilt at not wanting to return “home” after the war is over, as she barely remembers her parents and life in Germany. These intertwining tales lay bare the hardships and racism on both sides of the war, coupled with the pains of adolescence. Although aimed at a young adult audience, this edition is also recommended for adults; the stories in it, and the writing, deserve a wide readership.