UNLIKELY WARRIOR: A JEWISH SOLDIER IN HITLER’S ARMY by George Rauch is a fascinating memoir tracing a teen’s experience as a soldier and prisoner-of-war during World War II.
As a young adult in Nazi-occupied Austria, Georg was forced to serve in the German army. Hitler needed able-bodied soldiers to fight his war, so Georg was drafted despite his Jewish ancestry and opposition to the war. As a radio operator in the infantry, Georg was determined to stay alive while facing gunfire, starvation, illness, and often brutal weather conditions.
Organized into three sections, the book explores his life in the trenches, as a prisoner-of-war, and as a refugee heading home. The compelling story moves quickly containing enough action to keep young adults at the edge of their seats. Without getting deep into the social and political aspects of the war, the memoir does a masterful job helping young readers understand the fear and frustrations Georg experienced while being caught between countries and cultures.
The story is told through a combination of the author’s recollections along with the many carefully archived letters he sent to his mother. This use of primary source documents will be particularly appeal to history teachers. Personal photographs, a map and timeline also provide useful information to readers.
Intended for youth ages 12 and up, this first-person account will be popular with students interested in learning more about war from a non-traditional perspective.
Librarians will find this young adult memoir to be an excellent addition to the library collection. Consider working with English and History teachers to build the book into literature circles related to World War II.
Published by Farrar, Stauss & Giroux on February 24, 2015. A publisher ARC was used for the review.