Walk the Dark Streets

Edith Baer, Author Frances Foster Books $18 (279p) ISBN 978-0-374-38229-2
With this haunting, painful sequel to her elegiac autobiographical novel A Frost in the Night (see Fiction Reprints below), Baer ushers her heroine, the German Jewish girl Eva Bentheim, through the rise of the Reich, from 1933 to 1940. Eva's age is not given: even as she is a distinct, lifelike character, she represents an innocence lost to her elders and to her country. As the novel begins, she emerges from a lengthy illness at the same time that Germany succumbs to Hitler. The climate steadily darkens: first some of her classmates show up in Hitler Youth uniforms; Social Democrat and Catholic teachers are fired; a friend's father, a journalist, is severely beaten. Restrictions multiply, but are lifted just as the 1936 Olympics invite the world's attention. Friends and relatives make plans to leave, at increasingly desperate costs (one of Eva's aunts, for example, marries a virtual stranger, because he is Dutch and can offer her a home in Holland). Eva's father can see what lies in store, but he is too ill to escape--although he is offered sponsorship by an American citizen, he knows he will fail the physical at the consulate, and he and Eva's mother decide that Eva must leave by herself. Baer shows how the network of fear slowly tightens--how apparently innocent acts, like walking down the street with a longtime friend, can suddenly become fatally dangerous. Readers who know the history will find the tension almost unbearable, especially in such passages as those describing the days before Kristallnacht. But virtually no reader will be able to turn away from this implacably paced, resoundingly authentic study in tragedy. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
Genre: Children's
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