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For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy's sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy's sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald. Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother's life. Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.


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For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy's sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy's sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald. Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother's life. Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.

30 review for Those Who Save Us

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenna Blum

    This was the best debut novel I ever wrote!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lorna

    Ugh. What a terrible and yet compelling book. It's the oddest thing. I swung back and forth between giving it one star and giving it four. I chose one because overall it was terribly clunky and awkward. I felt as though the story was in the hands of an amateur who botched up too much to make the overall experience enjoyable. Or, as if the struggle to write was too obvious: here are only a few of my complaints: * Mixed metaphors "The arctic are is like shards of glass in the lungs; it shakes Trudy Ugh. What a terrible and yet compelling book. It's the oddest thing. I swung back and forth between giving it one star and giving it four. I chose one because overall it was terribly clunky and awkward. I felt as though the story was in the hands of an amateur who botched up too much to make the overall experience enjoyable. Or, as if the struggle to write was too obvious: here are only a few of my complaints: * Mixed metaphors "The arctic are is like shards of glass in the lungs; it shakes Trudy to the bones until they threaten to snap." p.2 There were many of these inarticulate descriptions of things I could tell would have been beautiful in the hands of a more adept writer. * Unrealistic and cliched behavior You know how in bad movies the main character will be talking to someone and then will suddenly stop, mid-sentence, and stare out into space because he is so overcome with his own internal emotional trauma that something he has just said or seen or heard or thought has triggered an inner storm that renders him paralyzed and it's not for at least a minute until the person the main character is with taps him on the shoulder and says, "Hey. Are you all right?" And the main character shakes his head and blinks his eyes several times and stutters, "Oh. Oh no. I'm fine. Thanks. Sorry."? And you know how this is so un-compelling because this never happens in real life? Well, the author employed that kind of "stock behavior" over and over. *Unconvincing, clunky, amateurish similes "A sad afternoon, somehow; abashed, as if the weather is aware that it is acting improperly but lacks the conviction to change seasons." Ugh. *Predictable character and plot development I knew exactly how and when characters were going to change, because the circumstances were so obviously created for one purpose - to drive forward the development that had to happen. (This is one of those books where the ending is the beginning and the "joy" of reading the book is to find out how it all comes together.) Also, the author was over-obvious in identifying a particular experience as THE LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE of that character's life. Truly great writers understand that character development occurs subtly, as the result of what might even seem an insignificant experience. Tolstoy is a master at this. Virginia Woolf is another. Blum is not. Consequently I felt banged over the head with the message, "Here it is people! The moment where she becomes a cold hard bitch! See?! Right here!" So that was the "ugh" part. There were compelling aspects of the book. It was definitely a page turner. The simple story, without the awkward handling by Blum, is poignant, evocative and heart-wrenching. I have never felt more intimate, empathic outrage for characters than for those in this book, (A Thousand Splendid Suns running a very close second in this respect). And there were some unique, compelling and beautiful sentences: - "As they pass through the windbreak of pines, fingers of sun pierce the clouds, transforming the spindrift in the fields into glittering sheets and highlighting the outbuildings in what seems to Trudy a shamelessly dramatic, ecclesiastical way." (p.4) - "...again and again she will stare at his portrait of what could be a family with longing and horror and a species of awe." (p. 394) And there were many instance of great vocabulary. Words like "rucked," "mullioned," "cloying," "tureen." I'm a sucker for a perfectly executed word But overall? A disappointing, frustrating read with just enough appeal to keep me reading, night after night, wishing for many reasons that the novel would end.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sammy

    This is one of those books that make you go, "Wow." And I did go, "Wow," when I put it down. Blum takes an enormous risk writing from the German perspective of the Holocaust, but it's a much needed risk. It's amazing how people still frown down on all Germans involved in the Holocaust, how persecuted and hated they became once WWII was over. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not defending the actions of the German's who openly participated in this senseless genocide. And there is of course that even This is one of those books that make you go, "Wow." And I did go, "Wow," when I put it down. Blum takes an enormous risk writing from the German perspective of the Holocaust, but it's a much needed risk. It's amazing how people still frown down on all Germans involved in the Holocaust, how persecuted and hated they became once WWII was over. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not defending the actions of the German's who openly participated in this senseless genocide. And there is of course that even if you're not directly involved, not doing anything to stop it still makes you a part of the problem. But this book sheds a tiny light on the German's who stood back and did nothing, or only did a little, or did what they could. It shows us why many people didn't do anything to stop those doing wrong. The book starts a little slow, and at first I wasn't too partial to the jumping back and forth between Trudy in present day America to Anna back in war torn Germany, but after the first few chapters/sections of it, I grew used to it and actually preferred it. It also took a little getting used to the way dialogue was written out, I haven't read too many books that cut out quotation marks all together. But again, once you get used to it, it takes on a natural flow. Anna and Trudy are both very different and intriguing characters that really hold the whole story together, especially Anna. We have the privilege of seeing her young life in WWII and then seeing how it affects her as an older woman, allowing us a glimpse of other German's who came out of Germany after the war from a more personal perspective. When reading this book keep an eye out for the name Pfeffer, it will allow the interesting, I guess you could call it a twist, at the end to be even more "shocking." For me the name sounded familiar, but it was only a name in passing that I will have to probably go back and read again. One thing that tied me personally to the book was when Anna finally came to America and the sort of treatment she received. On my father's side of the family his own dad's family immigrated to the U.S. circa 1920s. When WWII came around, the family was treated with hate and disdain, even the kids (like my grandfather) who were born in the U.S. I think it was one thing that I appreciated about this book, is that while it's not condoning anything the German's did in the war, it's gently saying that hating all German's is wrong. There are still German's out there racked with guilt even though, as the book tells us, there really wasn't much they could do. This is a touching novel, that while it does have a positive ending, doesn't turn into a sappy mother-daughter bonding book. It stays true to it's characters and style, and I definitely applaud Blum for taking a bold step and putting this amazing novel out there.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Teri

    I found all the characters in this book to be tiresome and two-dimensional, often behaving unrealistically. Like Trudy, the woman who dresses as if she's in mourning for 50 years because she thinks she has a Nazi father. Or Max, the kindest and quietest soul, except when with no warning he pounces on the 19 year old Anna for rough sex without seeking consent, impregnating her with no regard to how her tyrannical Nazi father will react. And then Anna all but forgets about Max once she begins seeing I found all the characters in this book to be tiresome and two-dimensional, often behaving unrealistically. Like Trudy, the woman who dresses as if she's in mourning for 50 years because she thinks she has a Nazi father. Or Max, the kindest and quietest soul, except when with no warning he pounces on the 19 year old Anna for rough sex without seeking consent, impregnating her with no regard to how her tyrannical Nazi father will react. And then Anna all but forgets about Max once she begins seeing the Officer. This whole portion of the book could have been interesting if it explored Anna's conflicting feelings and how they develop during the affair, but instead it just describes all the episodes of 'creative' Nazi sex. The whole "I did it for my daughter" would have been more compelling if the book showed a real relationship between Anna and the infant, but the only time they interact is when the officer visits and Anna tells her to stay out of the way. In fact the officer's relationship with Trudy is much more convincing. I found the writing to be very awkward - lacking in subtleties. Like when Max tells Anna that their age difference is the least of their problems [preventing them from having a relationship]. And then the narrator goes on to state that what Max meant by this was that a German in this time period could not have a relationship with a Jew. Thanks. I think we got that. And I won't even get started on the ridiculous ending. Overall, I thought the storyline had potential - I did finish the book after all - but was poorly executed. People who liked this book should try "The Book Thief", which also portrays Germans during WWII but is infinitely better written.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    How good was this book? So good I want to tell everyone about it, which in turn caused me to remember I joined this site but never posted on it because I hadn't been motivated until now. Anna is a young woman living in 1940s Germany who becomes involved in a relationship with a Jewish doctor -- you can guess without me having to say anything the far-reaching consequences this will have, and it sets into motion all that follows. Fifty years later her daughter Trudy, a professor of German history at How good was this book? So good I want to tell everyone about it, which in turn caused me to remember I joined this site but never posted on it because I hadn't been motivated until now. Anna is a young woman living in 1940s Germany who becomes involved in a relationship with a Jewish doctor -- you can guess without me having to say anything the far-reaching consequences this will have, and it sets into motion all that follows. Fifty years later her daughter Trudy, a professor of German history at a Minnesota college, sets about unearthing the details of her mother's old life and the accompanying impact it has had on her own. "Those Who Save Us" bounces back and forth between the past and the present, allowing deep insights into both character's lives, how they have been shaped by the atrocities of war and the Holocaust, the will to survive and the guilt that comes with remembering. "Those Who Save Us" had me riveted until the very end -- finely written, it could have been a rather depressing read given the topic, but Blum never allows it to go down that path. She keeps the reader from dwelling too much on the ugliness of the past by balancing it with the hopeful tone of the present as well as the mystery surrounding Trudy's search for the truth. The question of how Blum will tie up the loose ends -- if she will -- keeps the pages turning. Put simply, "Those Who Save Us" is first-rate historical fiction in novel form.

  6. 5 out of 5

    MaryTank

    Well written, fast read. I have often wondered how and why the German people accepted what was happening during WWII? This book describes how many, if not most, were just trying to survive during difficult times. However others truly believed in what was happening which is called patriotism regardless the right or wrong of it. Contrary to my book club I do not believe Anna fell in love with the Oberstrumfuhrer. I believe she was a victim of the trauma caused by her dependency on him for survival Well written, fast read. I have often wondered how and why the German people accepted what was happening during WWII? This book describes how many, if not most, were just trying to survive during difficult times. However others truly believed in what was happening which is called patriotism regardless the right or wrong of it. Contrary to my book club I do not believe Anna fell in love with the Oberstrumfuhrer. I believe she was a victim of the trauma caused by her dependency on him for survival for her daughter Trudie and herself. I believe the torture she suffered from the sadistic bully Oberstrumfuhrer, who used her body and her desperation to control and hold onto her, created an unnatural union from which she did not believe she would escape and may have given up hope. The Oberstrumfuhrer was like her father in many ways, selfish, egotistical and corrupt. Her bravery and strength of character allowed her to be as nurturing a parent as she was capable and a good spounse to her American husband Jack Swenson despite the years she suffered as slave to the whims of both her father and the Oberstrmfuhrer. I think the ending was a bit too nicely tied up in a pretty pink bow, was it the editor's decision???

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    The contemporary story was as compelling as the historical narrative which is set in Nazi Germany and focuses on the reaction of the German people to the brutality and horror of that war. I felt myself reflected as a lover of history to empathize with Trudy's passionate zeal to uncover the truths so long hidden from her. In contrast, I felt myself equally sympathizing and understanding why Anna was compelled to keep her own war secrets hidden. One of my favorite parts of the book is Anna telling The contemporary story was as compelling as the historical narrative which is set in Nazi Germany and focuses on the reaction of the German people to the brutality and horror of that war. I felt myself reflected as a lover of history to empathize with Trudy's passionate zeal to uncover the truths so long hidden from her. In contrast, I felt myself equally sympathizing and understanding why Anna was compelled to keep her own war secrets hidden. One of my favorite parts of the book is Anna telling Trudy that some pain from that time period cannot be shared with one another. I applaud Jenna Blum for taking the time to also remind us of the civilian casualties that suffered their own private hell during the war. At times, the third person narrative made me feel as if I was watching all of these events from the other side of the window. However, this shifted when the story focused more on Anna and her pain just seemed to drip from the pages. Jenna Blum is an outstanding storyteller and this book is a must read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    While visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, one encounters many horrifying exhibits. There is an huge atrium, with a ceiling which seems endlessly tall. Around this room, covering all of the wall surfaces, there are photographs. There are happy families posing for group photos, babies with their toothless grins, little girls with pigtails, boys flying kites, sober individual shots for graduations, little men at their Bar Mitzvahs,loving couples gazing into eachother's eyes - all peopl While visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, one encounters many horrifying exhibits. There is an huge atrium, with a ceiling which seems endlessly tall. Around this room, covering all of the wall surfaces, there are photographs. There are happy families posing for group photos, babies with their toothless grins, little girls with pigtails, boys flying kites, sober individual shots for graduations, little men at their Bar Mitzvahs,loving couples gazing into eachother's eyes - all people doing normal things, living their lives. These were all Jewish Holocaust victims. It is impossible to view these mementos without tears. Further along and in many spots, there are videos of a variety of related incedents. One vivid scene was that of American soldiers escorting the townspeople to Buchenwald to observe the horrifying remnants of the Nazi atrocities. How could these people have not known of their activities? What could they have done? Jenna Blum has approached this topic in an innovative, heart-rending novel. Because of the Holocaust, many of us have lost family, or our friends have, or they are survivors. Rarely does one think of the cost to the German citizens during the war. Certainly, there were many sympathizers of the Reich, but many brave individuals did what they could to help their Jewish neighbors and friends. "Those Who Save Us" is a powerful, emotional view of one woman's struggles to maintain her dignity, sanity and her integrity. Confronted with starvation, cold and fears of death for herself and her child, she must engage in actions which she would have heretofore considered unthinkable and intolerable. Toward the end of the book she tells her daughter,"Anything I ever did, it was all for you". The effects of her shame, horror and sadness are vividly spelled out in her daughter's constricted behaviors. Blum has clearly conveyed the frustrations and pain of her characters. ********************************************************** ADDENDUM For another view of the hopelessness of life for German citizens read:The Plum Tree.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeanie

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Quite engrossing. A definite page turner and one that I felt I couldn't put down & would stay up to the wee-hours reading. :-) The imagery was unreal as well. Everything that was described, I could picture/envision. This book was a difficult topic, but the style of writing was easy to comprehend. So many WWII books deal with stories and tragedies of the Jews (as they should); however, this book, told the story of the sacrifices and occurrences of what everyday I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Quite engrossing. A definite page turner and one that I felt I couldn't put down & would stay up to the wee-hours reading. :-) The imagery was unreal as well. Everything that was described, I could picture/envision. This book was a difficult topic, but the style of writing was easy to comprehend. So many WWII books deal with stories and tragedies of the Jews (as they should); however, this book, told the story of the sacrifices and occurrences of what everyday Germans went through. Not the upper class or members of the party & Reich or SS, but normal citizens. Even though they may not have gone to the camps, rations were few & far between, and the cruelty that they had to endure all for the Motherland was overwhelming. It still boggles my mind as to the things that these officers did. And to ask if they're human is quite reasonable, b/c "following orders" or doing what they did is beyond comprehension. This book tells the story of one German mother and what she must endure in order to protect her daughter. Some heroic & some shameful. This book also helped me better understand certain German characteristics and ways of life. The other part of the book deals with the daughter of this German mother and how she must live with the silence and the not knowing about her true heritage, who's her father, who were all these people she remembers, etc. What defines a hero? Sometimes heroes are not who you think they are and what they do may not seem courageous to some, but for others, it's the world.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    No way was this an enjoyable book! It was excruciatingly difficult....but the end was beautiful, and that saved the book for me. Before choosing this book I read through reviews. One friend says in her review that the main character, Anna, a gentile German, was both naïve and uninformed when the story opens. I certainly agree. This detracts. Putting it another way, several of the characters behave unconvincingly. Their actions are construed. Three examples follow in the spoiler. (view spoiler)[I No way was this an enjoyable book! It was excruciatingly difficult....but the end was beautiful, and that saved the book for me. Before choosing this book I read through reviews. One friend says in her review that the main character, Anna, a gentile German, was both naïve and uninformed when the story opens. I certainly agree. This detracts. Putting it another way, several of the characters behave unconvincingly. Their actions are construed. Three examples follow in the spoiler. (view spoiler)[I never even felt love grow between Anna and Max. Another example: Matilda too quickly gave in to Anna's request to take part in the resistance. She says, “No, no, I cannot not tell you about that. It is too dangerous….” and a few moments later she explains all! Anna supposedly remained the Nazi officer's whore to save the life of her child, Trudy. This would have felt much more convincing if the mother-daughter relationship was strongly portrayed. Instead Trudy's relationship with the officer was emphasized. These are just three examples of very many. (hide spoiler)] I have no complaints with the narration of the audiobook by Suzanne Toren. The vocal tones reflected the words spoken by the characters. When a child whines, it sounds very whiny. When a character is begging forgiveness, you hear that too. Perhaps the emotions become too magnified when you listen rather than read the lines. Or is it that when you listen to a book you more easily catch the incongruities? Ann Patchett reads aloud all her books before she completes them. She believes that in this manner you spot the lines that ring false. (See This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage.) The theme of the book is worthy. It is about the war experiences of the gentile Germans, particularly the women. It is about deciding how to behave. Do you help the Jews? Do you resist? Who do you save? Yourself, your family, your children? And it is about guilt. In all the years following the war, if you survive, how do you deal with those choices? And it is very much about how people judge one another on the basis of inconclusive evidence. It is about how you deal with guilt – do you throw it in a closet and lock the door? Do you say the past is the past; leave it, it is over and done with? And is there only one way of dealing with it? Is there a right way and a wrong way? I began by stating that the book was very disturbing. It is important you know this before you approach the book. It is not for those readers who shun sexual violence. Forcing sex on another without real consent is and should be disturbing. Did the author push it too far? I felt the author was trying to make me upset, in a very unpleasant way. Was it meant to titillate the audience?! That is inexcusable. Maybe I overreact! For me, the real facts are themselves horrible enough. Yes, I think the subject, the behavior of gentile Germans during the war, is a worthy theme but I do not like the execution of the story! The metaphors were deplorable. I think there are better books about the travails of the Germans. Two, with similar themes, which I can recommend are: The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust My review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood My review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... I gave both four stars. Blum’s book rated only two stars until the concluding chapters where I moved it to three. Should some books be excruciatingly difficult to read? Do you read a book for its ending? No, I will only give it two, although it feels criminal to not award more stars as it at least attempts to tackle a difficult subject – the whores of the Nazis.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Without giving too much away, this book is a bit grittier than I think some people are used to, even with books that tell a story about the Holocaust/WWII. People tend to think of all Germans as the bad guys, period. And while I agree that a lot of them knew more about what was going on than then let on... it's not so simple as to say, "They were all the enemy." Some of them did very distasteful things to keep themselves and their families alive. You know that saying, "Politics make strange bedf Without giving too much away, this book is a bit grittier than I think some people are used to, even with books that tell a story about the Holocaust/WWII. People tend to think of all Germans as the bad guys, period. And while I agree that a lot of them knew more about what was going on than then let on... it's not so simple as to say, "They were all the enemy." Some of them did very distasteful things to keep themselves and their families alive. You know that saying, "Politics make strange bedfellows"? Well, never is that more apparent than when a war is going on. And this book is - in part - about that. Not every story is supposed to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Not every book is supposed to be comfortable to read. This is a brilliant story about crossing the line of what you see as right and wrong to keep yourself alive. I highly recommend this book to those of you ready and willing to step outside your comfort zone for 479 pages. You can do it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    Wow! This book kept me up at night, thinking about the topics it explores. While on the surface it is about German people's experiences during WWII, it is about so much more, including the psychological effects of abuse and humiliation. My favorite line comes near the end when Anna's husband asks her if she loved the SS officer. She recognizes how we "come to love those who save us, or rather those who shame us." That's a pretty intense concept. My only complaint is that the character of Trudy is Wow! This book kept me up at night, thinking about the topics it explores. While on the surface it is about German people's experiences during WWII, it is about so much more, including the psychological effects of abuse and humiliation. My favorite line comes near the end when Anna's husband asks her if she loved the SS officer. She recognizes how we "come to love those who save us, or rather those who shame us." That's a pretty intense concept. My only complaint is that the character of Trudy is not very well developed, and the parts that take place in the present aren't nearly as gripping or well written as the parts about Anna during WWII.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This was a very well written book about Nazi Germany told from the perspective of non-Jews who survived the war. I had never really considered what was happening to the non-Jews in Germany during that time, so in this regard I found it to be very educational. The book is told from the points of view of Anna, a mother, and Trudy, her very young daughter who both endured more than is imaginable a the hands of the Nazis. Anna's story is revealed in flashbacks while Trudy's is told in the present da This was a very well written book about Nazi Germany told from the perspective of non-Jews who survived the war. I had never really considered what was happening to the non-Jews in Germany during that time, so in this regard I found it to be very educational. The book is told from the points of view of Anna, a mother, and Trudy, her very young daughter who both endured more than is imaginable a the hands of the Nazis. Anna's story is revealed in flashbacks while Trudy's is told in the present day from America. I was very immersed in Anna's tale but couldn't connect as well with Trudy. As a whole, I found the story to be highly readable, thought-provoking and moving. But it was an emotionally draining book as it recounts many horrific events and atrocities against Jews and non-Jews alike. This is no feel-good, curl-up-with-a-good-book-at-night kind of book. I felt tense throughout most of the story and it made me incredibly sad. I'd say Those Who Save Us is well worth reading, but only when you feel like you can manage the emotions and horror it elicits. I can't help but feel that reading this book was akin to watching Schindler's List. It took me years to finally decide that I was ready to watch that movie - I was glad I did, but it left an ache in my heart.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    I would not have kept reading this had it not been my Book Club selection for this month. It is another Holocaust memoir type story but this time I am not sure exactly the point of the whole thing. It wore me down and I became weary of Anna and the Commandant's sex life! It just never ended and didn't seem to have a point after awhile. I think the story was way too long; it may have been a much more poignant short story. There just was too much repetitious detail that served no purpose as far as I would not have kept reading this had it not been my Book Club selection for this month. It is another Holocaust memoir type story but this time I am not sure exactly the point of the whole thing. It wore me down and I became weary of Anna and the Commandant's sex life! It just never ended and didn't seem to have a point after awhile. I think the story was way too long; it may have been a much more poignant short story. There just was too much repetitious detail that served no purpose as far as I could tell. As with all Holocaust novels, one does get overwhelmed by man's inhumanity to man. How people ever lived through it is amazing. I know too that we will never know how we would react to such horror...I am not judging Anna and her actions; just the author's long, tedious way of telling her story. The juxtaposition of Trudy's story running through the book made it more readable and I think there should have been more focus on that character. I certainly found it hard to relate to anyone in this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    Those Who Save Us, written by Jenna Blum, is an historical fiction novel set in Germany during World War II. Anna is an eighteen year old girl who falls in love with a Jewish doctor and finds the courage to finally stand up to her domineering father, a Nazi sympathizer and altogether unkind man, and hide her lover in her own home. When her father turns him over to the Gestapo, Anna leaves and lives and works with a woman who works with the Resistance Movement. Anna, pregnant and alone, is ultima Those Who Save Us, written by Jenna Blum, is an historical fiction novel set in Germany during World War II. Anna is an eighteen year old girl who falls in love with a Jewish doctor and finds the courage to finally stand up to her domineering father, a Nazi sympathizer and altogether unkind man, and hide her lover in her own home. When her father turns him over to the Gestapo, Anna leaves and lives and works with a woman who works with the Resistance Movement. Anna, pregnant and alone, is ultimately left with her own resources and determination to survive and protect her infant daughter. She does this by becoming the mistress of an SS officer after the woman she lives with and works for is executed for being a traitor. My favorite thing about this was the recurring weaving of the title/theme throughout the many different story lines. The young daughter and her father. The Aryan and the Jew. The resistence worker and a pregnant woman. The SS and his mistress. The mother and her daughter. The Germans and the Americans. The daughter and her step father and ultimately her own adult lover, a Jew. What is the price of survival? What are the faces of those that save us? Our parents, our friends, our lovers, our enemies? This is a complicated story about the difficult and sometimes ugly choices a woman makes to survive, and the shame she endures for her choices.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pam Jenoff

    A heart-wrenching story of one mother's unfathomable choices and sacrifices in order protect her child. More than a decade after publication, this book remains the gold standard for novels set during the Second World War. If you have not read it, you must.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sonja Yoerg

    On the crowded shelf of WWII novels, Those Who Save Us stands out. Blum's achievement is singular; she writes with power and the story is fresh and utterly credible. I'm in awe.

  18. 5 out of 5

    AriAnne

    This book was phenomenal. I couldn't put it down! It is an amazing blend of the German/Jewish experience during WWII, at least from an outsider's point of view, which is how the book is set up. Trudy, the main character, is a peripheral part of the experience in that she was only 3 when she left Germany, and yet she is so integral to the telling of her mother's story, which is also her story. She grew up thinking she was something other that who she is and her mother is trying to protect her and This book was phenomenal. I couldn't put it down! It is an amazing blend of the German/Jewish experience during WWII, at least from an outsider's point of view, which is how the book is set up. Trudy, the main character, is a peripheral part of the experience in that she was only 3 when she left Germany, and yet she is so integral to the telling of her mother's story, which is also her story. She grew up thinking she was something other that who she is and her mother is trying to protect her and remains silent. It is a book that should be dedicated to those who make the best possible decisions at the time, with the information they have available, and live for the rest of their lives with the consequences of those decisions. An absolutely well-written book!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    Dr Trudy Swenson is a professor of history at the Univ of Minnesota. After she goes home for her father’s funeral she begins to question her history, and her mother’s silence. She has always know that Jack wasn’t her real father – that he had married Anna and brought her and her daughter from Weimar Germany to the USA after WW2. But the questions about her past will not be silenced, and a research project to record interviews with German survivors of the war forces Trudy to confront her past. The Dr Trudy Swenson is a professor of history at the Univ of Minnesota. After she goes home for her father’s funeral she begins to question her history, and her mother’s silence. She has always know that Jack wasn’t her real father – that he had married Anna and brought her and her daughter from Weimar Germany to the USA after WW2. But the questions about her past will not be silenced, and a research project to record interviews with German survivors of the war forces Trudy to confront her past. The novel is told in dual timelines: the adult Trudy in 1990s Minnesota, and her mother, Anna, as a young woman in war-torn Germany (1941-1944). The reader is all too aware of Trudy’s past, while watching Trudy struggle to make sense of her dreams, her vague recollections, and the one clue she has found among her mother’s belongings. I was not expecting much from this “book-club favorite;” I’ve been disappointed by so many books that were popular with book clubs. But I’m certainly glad I put my pre-conceived notions aside and read it. I found complex issues, well-developed characters, and a compelling narrative. Are we doomed to love “Those who save us,” despite their otherwise reprehensible behavior? I was nearly as frustrated by Anna’s obstinate silence as Trudy was. Learning her story, what she felt forced to do to save her child (and herself) gave me some understanding into her character, her motives, her fears, and her reluctance to examine the past. However, my sympathies lie more with Trudy, whose life and potential for happiness is so damaged by the secret Anna refuses to reveal. And I am left wondering whether Jack ever made peace with Anna’s past … and if so, how?

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I found this book to be extremely fascinating making it easy to get through fairly quickly despite the number of pages. The German Project especially was incredibly interesting to read about as Trudy (Anna's daughter) interviews Germans about their perspectives and involvement during the war. The story flips between Anna's story during WWII and her daughter's story as a modern professor of German history. Throughout the entire book I wondered whether Anna would ever tell her daughter who her fath I found this book to be extremely fascinating making it easy to get through fairly quickly despite the number of pages. The German Project especially was incredibly interesting to read about as Trudy (Anna's daughter) interviews Germans about their perspectives and involvement during the war. The story flips between Anna's story during WWII and her daughter's story as a modern professor of German history. Throughout the entire book I wondered whether Anna would ever tell her daughter who her father was and why she allowed her to go on thinking it was the Nazi officer. I realize everyone deals with horrific events differently, but I found myself frustrated with Anna's silence because it seemed to only serve to further hurt her daughter. The book did redeem itself when Trudy found out through an interview about what had really happened and who her father truly was, but still did nothing to mend the rift of silence and misunderstanding with her mother which was quite disappointing. I was glad the author at least included what had happened to Max at the very end of the book. While I do realize the author wanted to focus on the German women's perspective and role in the war, I wish the story had touched a little more on Max's story throughout the book. Despite having such a little part in the story, I was still quite saddened to learn his fate for Trudy's sake. Overall, I felt this book was pretty good. I wasn't expecting the amount of sexual content as it seemed that every part of the story revolved around it at times, but the story as a whole was certainly a unique perspective from a German woman's point of view.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    I'm only about 50 pages into this book, and already I have mixed feelings about it--not because of the subject matter, but because of the writing. We'll see... ...So far the writing includes forced metaphors, awkward dialogue, and a preoccupation with bodily functions and related substances. Ahem. 12/18: Hate to say it, but I'm looking forward to finishing this book so that I can move on to something better. As I believe other reviewers have noted, this seems to be a great idea for a book in the h I'm only about 50 pages into this book, and already I have mixed feelings about it--not because of the subject matter, but because of the writing. We'll see... ...So far the writing includes forced metaphors, awkward dialogue, and a preoccupation with bodily functions and related substances. Ahem. 12/18: Hate to say it, but I'm looking forward to finishing this book so that I can move on to something better. As I believe other reviewers have noted, this seems to be a great idea for a book in the hands of a writer who's just not up to it. Sorry, Ms. Blum. It has improved, I'll give it that. Final review: Good topic, but this book is just awful. The character development is poor, the dialogue is weak. There's enough gratuitous sex--even without the scenes between Anna and the Nazi officer, which perhaps you could argue are necessary to the story--for a cheap romance novel. This is a sadly inelegant book that, given the subject matter, could have been a whole lot better.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*

    For some reason I keep stumbling on movies and books about Nazis or the World War. All of them are serious and of course distressing – Those Who Save Us tells a different viewpoint. The point of view for those in the towns who weren’t Jewish, who were Germans who had to do what they could to survive the times. The story is told between two time periods – between modern times in Minnesota and the years of WWII in Weimar, Germany. Half of the book is told through the POV of the mother, Anna, where For some reason I keep stumbling on movies and books about Nazis or the World War. All of them are serious and of course distressing – Those Who Save Us tells a different viewpoint. The point of view for those in the towns who weren’t Jewish, who were Germans who had to do what they could to survive the times. The story is told between two time periods – between modern times in Minnesota and the years of WWII in Weimar, Germany. Half of the book is told through the POV of the mother, Anna, where the book flashes back often to her as a young woman enduring all sorts of horrors. The modern day story is told only through the POV of her daughter, Trudy, who is in America and makes her living as a professor of history. The daughter is frustrated with her mother and never had a close relationship with the woman. She’s convinced her father was a WWII soldier who worked in the camps and feels a sense of guilt about this. Her mother will never discuss with her the picture where she, as a small child, is with the man in his uniform and her mother. The mother is silent about all and refuses to speak the truth. The book is through the daughter asking questions for a study she’s doing – from people who lived during these times. The stories are dreadfully disturbing and all different. How terrible of a time! Most of these stories I won’t be forgetting. Really, this is a book that’s hard to forget, even if part of me would like to with details. The mother fascinated me. I find it interesting I didn’t like Trudy OR Anna much when they came on stage. Anna before the war was bitter toward her father, for a good reason (the horrible man), but kept trying to kill off her father’s dog because she disliked him. To me she seems cold at first but later I warmed up her as she went through her trials. What she had to do to survive for her and her daughter was unique because of her looks, those who rescued her, and her own personal upbringing/status before the war began. Trudy also wasn’t likeable at first – I thought she was far too eager and accepting of putting her mother in a home and not wanting to deal with her. She seems lifeless to me. Slowly, through stories of others and finally seeing all her flaws, I started liking her and seeing what she was made of. By the end of the story I did like Anna and Trudy both. Strange how that works. It’s a slow, seeping story that’s filled with horror and despair – obviously this never lets up considering the content. The ending is on a peaceful enough note. Some called it a little unrealistic and perhaps it was, but I dug it because of it tying with her finally being acknowledged for her risk and sacrifice. Also finding out who killed a certain person was a slap in the face as the reader knows the mother will never find it out. It was the author’s debut novel; overall I think she did an admirable job, but I do think she struggled a bit with some awkward phrasing and especially strange similes. Dialogue was strange because no quotations were ever used, which took a long while to get used to. The book takes a while to get into because of the strange dialogue and the slow pace – also the unwilling move between one time period and the next. Thankfully the story starts picking up and by the second half I was completely hooked. I become misty-eyed on several occasions. There’s some unique sexual issues in this book as well with flashbacks during a particularly disturbing relationship that actually stands as the more interesting relationship in the book. Some argue if she really loved him or not – I don’t think she was “in love” with him, that’s not possible with the power difference, control and fear. I think she loathed him. But she said we love those who save us, so perhaps a small part of her… I don’t know. The book isn’t black and white with characters or their actions. Overall it’s an excellent, moving book that is different for wanting to show viewpoints that aren’t always considered for this war.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Belinda

    5 stars - Nederlandse paperback - what happened to the people who did not believe in Jews are bad and the German war machine in Germany itself? Read this book for the second time. Did read all day long. Dit also read a totaly different book at the same time because this titel is so heavy! 🌸🌼🌹🥀 -pfff wat een rit met dit boek. Vandaag echt alleen maar gelezen. Maar graag, en dan ook twee zulk verschillende boeken. Een oorlogsroman die de andere Duitse kant belicht en een boek met mystiek, magie en 5 stars - Nederlandse paperback - what happened to the people who did not believe in Jews are bad and the German war machine in Germany itself? Read this book for the second time. Did read all day long. Dit also read a totaly different book at the same time because this titel is so heavy! 🌸🌼🌹🥀 -pfff wat een rit met dit boek. Vandaag echt alleen maar gelezen. Maar graag, en dan ook twee zulk verschillende boeken. Een oorlogsroman die de andere Duitse kant belicht en een boek met mystiek, magie en levende doden. 🥀🌹🥀🌹

  24. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Anna was a young woman in Germany during World War II. She struggled to provide for her young daughter as the danger increased and food grew scarcer. Faced with horriffic choices, she becomes the mistress of an SS officer as a means of survival. Fifty years later and a continent away, her daughter, Trudy, now a professor of German history, struggles with the vague memories she has of that time and the true nature of her background. Who is her father? Does the stain of guilt she feels stem from a Anna was a young woman in Germany during World War II. She struggled to provide for her young daughter as the danger increased and food grew scarcer. Faced with horriffic choices, she becomes the mistress of an SS officer as a means of survival. Fifty years later and a continent away, her daughter, Trudy, now a professor of German history, struggles with the vague memories she has of that time and the true nature of her background. Who is her father? Does the stain of guilt she feels stem from actual memories, or is it by association? Anna refuses to speak of those years, so Trudy embarks on an interview project, interviewing Germans who lived through the war in an effort to come to grips with a past that she barely remembers. Through her interviews, she will come to discover far more than she anticipated. Historical fiction from the WWII years is one of my favorite genres, so I headed into this book with high hopes. All in all, I think the author did a thorough job of researching the time and painting a picture of what it must have been like for those 'on the other side.' I was a bit unprepared for some of the more graphic scenes, and there were points where the story started to plod along for me, but the final third or so I was reluctant to put it down.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    This book gives an entirely different perspective on WWII in Germany. Unlike so many of the books that are written about Germans who took great risk to help many Jews, this book focus on a woman who took some risk, but was probably more the norm: Someone who did what she had to do to survive. It also explores the aftermath of the holocaust from a German survivor perspective rather than a Jewish perspective while remaining conscious that the Jewish and other minorities were the ultimate victims. I This book gives an entirely different perspective on WWII in Germany. Unlike so many of the books that are written about Germans who took great risk to help many Jews, this book focus on a woman who took some risk, but was probably more the norm: Someone who did what she had to do to survive. It also explores the aftermath of the holocaust from a German survivor perspective rather than a Jewish perspective while remaining conscious that the Jewish and other minorities were the ultimate victims. In general I enjoy any book that gives me a fresh perspective on how life is (or was) in a time or culture completely foriegn to my own.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    Oh my. This was so good. I am not one for books about the Holocaust or for going back in forth in time. However, the writing, the characters, the story line and it's progression was spot on. What Anna went through to live and protect her daughter was remarkable. The author wove both the mother's and daughter 's experiences into an exquisite tapestry. The impact on each life is deep. Wow. This book is one of the best I've read on a while. Highly recommend.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fred Shaw

    This is a story about survival, love and loss during WWII in Weimar, Germany, near the Buchenwald concentration camp. It is told in a unique way, different from other historical fiction I have read in the past. The story begins before the war as the protagonist, Anna Brandt, a young Aryan woman and daughter, is destined to cater to her widowed father’s whims until he finds a suitor for her. In the meantime, Anna befriends a Jewish veterinarian, Max Stern, and spends her free time at his clinic, This is a story about survival, love and loss during WWII in Weimar, Germany, near the Buchenwald concentration camp. It is told in a unique way, different from other historical fiction I have read in the past. The story begins before the war as the protagonist, Anna Brandt, a young Aryan woman and daughter, is destined to cater to her widowed father’s whims until he finds a suitor for her. In the meantime, Anna befriends a Jewish veterinarian, Max Stern, and spends her free time at his clinic, after hours, sharing a meal and playing chess. They succumb to their feelings and become lovers. After the war and the Jewish roundup begins, she hides Max in a concealed space in her father’s home. He is discovered and turned in to the Nazis never to be heard from again. Anna runs from home, pregnant with Max’s child, and is taken in by a local baker, Mathilde Staudt, a woman who bakes bread for the Nazi officers’ mess. She is also part of the underground resistance and sneaks bread in the middle of the night to the prisoners of Buchenwald. She assists with the birth of Trudy, Anna’s and Max’s child. The author cleverly divides the storyline into the war years and 1997, in Minneapolis, MN, where Anna and Trudy live after the war. Trudy is now a professor of German history, and conducts interviews with German women of her mother’s age, about how they deal with what they did during the war. Trudy discovers her past, and suppressed memories return. The novel, Those Who Save Us, title and story, describes what was done by Anna to survive terror, cold and hunger. For me the book started a little slow, but as I kept reading, it became more and more captivating. The author’s descriptive talents made me feel the desperation, cold and hunger of the background and characters. Highly recommended.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kellie

    Wow! This book will stay with me for a long time. The story angle is unique and the writing was beautiful. There have been many books written about the Holocaust, but I don’t think that many have been written from the viewpoint of a German woman who lived through WWII as the enemy. Not as a Nazi, but as a German citizen who had to cope with the knowledge, or lack of knowledge, of all that was happening around her. The author takes you back and forth between Anna’s story during the war and Trudy’ Wow! This book will stay with me for a long time. The story angle is unique and the writing was beautiful. There have been many books written about the Holocaust, but I don’t think that many have been written from the viewpoint of a German woman who lived through WWII as the enemy. Not as a Nazi, but as a German citizen who had to cope with the knowledge, or lack of knowledge, of all that was happening around her. The author takes you back and forth between Anna’s story during the war and Trudy’s, her daughter, all grown up and trying to figure out why Anna has not revealed her secret past and who Trudy’s father is. The writing style of this novel is exquisite. I thought the author did a fantastic job linking the two eras and stories together. It made this book so much more remarkable. I highly recommend this wonderful book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    “…we come to love those who save us. For although Anna does believe it is true, the word that stuck in her throat was not save but shame.” When I read the jacket for this book I could never have guessed the outcome that awaited me at the end of this book. From the very first page I was intrigued and spellbound. I was drawn into the historic reality of that some people must have endured these exact traumatic experiences in Germany during WWII. I praise the author for her ability to bring such deta “…we come to love those who save us. For although Anna does believe it is true, the word that stuck in her throat was not save but shame.” When I read the jacket for this book I could never have guessed the outcome that awaited me at the end of this book. From the very first page I was intrigued and spellbound. I was drawn into the historic reality of that some people must have endured these exact traumatic experiences in Germany during WWII. I praise the author for her ability to bring such detail and complexity into these characters. Those who save us/shame us really could be a header for each of the complex relationships we live vicariously through the characters in this book. As a fiction addict, I love the art of a good, perfectly delivered character study. I commend Ms Blum, this book was filled to bursting. I would recommend this book to everyone! I loved it!

  30. 5 out of 5

    nettebuecherkiste

    Die Mittfünzigerin Trudy ist Geschichtsprofessorin in Minneapolis. Nach dem Tod ihres Stiefvaters muss sie sich um ihre Mutter Anna kümmern, die nicht mehr ganz zurechnungsfähig scheint. Im Farmhaus der Eltern findet sie ein altes Foto aus der Zeit, bevor Anna in die USA auswanderte. Darauf: Trudy als kleines Mädchen, ihre junge Mutter und – ein Nazioffizier. Trudys Erinnerung ist dunkel, doch sie hält diesen Mann für ihren Vater. Ihre Mutter verweigert jedes Wort zu ihrer Vergangenheit. Dass si Die Mittfünzigerin Trudy ist Geschichtsprofessorin in Minneapolis. Nach dem Tod ihres Stiefvaters muss sie sich um ihre Mutter Anna kümmern, die nicht mehr ganz zurechnungsfähig scheint. Im Farmhaus der Eltern findet sie ein altes Foto aus der Zeit, bevor Anna in die USA auswanderte. Darauf: Trudy als kleines Mädchen, ihre junge Mutter und – ein Nazioffizier. Trudys Erinnerung ist dunkel, doch sie hält diesen Mann für ihren Vater. Ihre Mutter verweigert jedes Wort zu ihrer Vergangenheit. Dass sie das Kind eines Nazis ist, hat Trudy ihr Leben lang gequält und sie kann nicht verstehen, wie ihre Mutter sich mit ihm einlassen konnte. Kann sie doch mehr herausfinden? So beginnt Jenna Blums Roman, der inzwischen wohl sogar verfilmt wird. Blum bedient sich einer Erzählstruktur, die sich momentan häufig findet: dem Wechsel zwischen (Fast-)Gegenwart und Vergangenheit. Denn nun geht es per Zeitsprung zurück in die späten Dreißigerjahre, nach Weimar, wo Anna Max, den jüdischen tatsächlichen Vater ihrer Tochter kennenlernt. Es gibt jedoch einen entscheidenden Unterschied zwischen diesem Roman und manchen ähnlichen Werken über den zweiten Weltkrieg: Dieser ist wirklich vielschichtig und tiefgründig und er hat glaubhafte Hauptpersonen. Trudy beschäftigt ihre Vergangenheit unterbewusst viel mehr, als ihr selbst klar ist, und sie ruft ein Forschungsprojekt ins Leben: Sie interviewt Deutsche in ihrer Region, die den Krieg miterlebt haben und später ausgewandert sind. Mit diesem geschickten Handlungselement schafft Jenna Blum es, die Deutschen sowie ihre Schuld oder Unschuld zu beleuchten und – vor allem, denn das ist zentrale Thema des Buchs – ihr Handeln zu Kriegszeiten zu erklären. Gleich das erste Interview ist eine Katastrophe, denn die Gesprächspartnerin beteuert zwar, keine Wahl gehabt zu haben, dass sie im Grunde jedoch selbst antisemitische Ansichten hat und im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen keine Skrupel hatte, jüdische Mitbürger, wenn auch aus Not, zu verraten, ist offensichtlich. Trudy spielt mit dem Gedanken, das Projekt abzubrechen. Doch weitere Interviews zeigen andere Seiten, wie auch die Geschichte ihrer Mutter Anna, die ein Paradebeispiel für die Interviewreihe wäre, jedoch beharrlich schweigt. Ein gelungenes Buch, das einen wichtigen Beitrag zur Diskussion um die Schuld der Deutschen leistet. Es hat ein paar Längen, etwa die kleine eingebaute Liebesgeschichte, die eigentlich überflüssig ist. Andererseits ist es doch schön, dass es auch mal eine nicht mehr junge Protagonistin gibt und auch dieser eine Liebesgeschichte zugestanden wird. Ich bin gespannt auf die Verfilmung! Zum Hörbuch: Suzanne Toren hatte mich schon als Sprecherin bei “The Romance Reader” von Pearl Abraham überzeugt. Nicht nur kriegt sie die Aussprache der vielen deutschen Wörter gut hin, sie lebt dieses Buch! Wenn sie die kindliche Trudy spricht, nervt es geradezu und wirkt richtig lebensecht, so sehr versetzt sie sich in das Kind hinein. Eine sehr gute Hörbuchsprecherin!

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