When They Made Us Leave by Annette Oppenlander – Review

When They Made Us Leave by Annette Oppenlander
When They Made Us Leave by Annette Oppenlander

“I think about a time when eating your fill and feeling safe was normal. … and the worst I worried about was doing my homework. I long for that time, but as I lay there in Wolfgang’s threadbare blanket, another conviction grows inside me like a terrible sore.

I realize I’m mourning instead because that time will never return.”

Quoted from When They Made Us Leave by Annette Oppenlander

A longing for the past that is never going to return – that’s the aftermath of a war. Annette Oppenlander’s “When They Made Us Leave: A Novel about Hitler’s Mass Evacuation Program for Children” details the brutalities of the Second World War from the perspective of the German youth (and their families) who had to attend the much-loathed KLV program (an evacuation program).

As the frequency of Allied bombings increases in Germany, parents are encouraged, and in some cases forced, to send their children to youth camps where they will supposedly lead a better life. Fourteen-year-old Hilda and her childhood friend and love, Peter, are among them. While Hilda is reluctant to leave her mother, Peter is ecstatic to attend such a camp and spend time on the beaches, as promised by the camp organizers.

However, Peter soon realizes the farce behind such camps which are being run in a military style by dogmatic individuals. Hilda, too, must endure a draconian Abbess in the cloister she is forced to attend.

Oppenlander describes Hilda and Peter’s heart-wrenching journey through a war-stricken Germany back to their ravaged homes and into each other’s hearts in this book.

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