28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 8 October 2009
A brilliant story of danger and survival in Nazi Germany.
Polish orphan Peter is 'Volksdeutscher' - of German blood, and looks the Aryan ideal with his blond hair and blue eyes. He is sent to Berlin, where he is invited to live with the Kaltenbach family. He soon realises that he does not share Professor and Frau Kaltenbach's pro-Nazi ideals. At first he thinks that he is alone in not accepting the Nazi ideology that's all around him, but gradually he realises that he is not alone. He falls in love, and becomes involved with the highly-dangerous anti-Nazi free-thinkers, which includes assisting Jews that have gone underground. He also discovers, on more than one occasion, that you can't always judge someone by first impressions.
The story vividly portrays the dangers of wartime Berlin. Peter appears to be the ideal Hitler-Jugend member; obedient, brave and in good physical health. Underneath, though, he never loses his compassion and generosity of spirit. The story doesn't flinch from giving details of what might (and frequently did) happen to those judged dispensible by the Nazis, but doesn't dwell on the cruelty. This would be a great "background" read for those interested in discovering more about this period of history. It is also ideal for demonstrating that not all Germans were Nazis - a common misconception among the young.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2009
Ths grabs you from the first page. My 13 year old picked it up from the library as it's being reviewed for a teenbook prize. He read it in one sitting, so I thought I'd see what the fuss was about. Thought-provoking, good characterisations, well researched and thoroughly readable to any age.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I'm a big fan of fiction set in and around the Second World War. I don't know what it is that fascinates me, all I know is that it's a particular point of interest, and has been the subject of some of my favourite books. Auslander is a great addition to war fiction, and though it's not up there with The Book Thief or The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, it's most definitely worth a read.
By reading the first page alone, you can tell Dowswell has done his homework. His attention to detail is almost flawless, as is his ability to paint a clear picture of wartime Germany and its surrounding areas. Warsaw in 1941 is a scary place to be, and that's where Peter's story starts. From there, he's sent to a family in Germany, introduced to Nazi propaganda, and deemed an auslander -- a foreigner. He also stumbles across proof of medical experiements being tested on jews, and becomes tangled up in a dangerous web of lies and deceit. It's all for a good cause, but it doesn't do him any favours as a respected member of the Hitler Youth.
I can't even imagine what it must have been like to be a teenager during WWII. Most of their choices were stripped away, and they lived in a constant fear of being bombed or killed because their hair wasn't the right colour. With Auslander, Dowswell tries to show that fear and uncertainty and, for the most part, he manages to. I personally wanted to see more of the Hitler Youth, and how that affected the children and teenagers enlisted. I also would have liked a first person narrative, so I could have read how Peter was feeling, and how everything was really affecting him. Without being in his head, I did have some trouble warming to him, and by the end of the novel, I still wasn't fully convinced.
The Reiter family, who were my favourite characters, reminded me very much of Hans and Rosa Huberman from The Book Thief. Compassionate and selfless, they put others first, even if it meant dying themselves. There's no better message to convey than that of acceptance and equality, and that's what I've taken away from Auslander. The pace could have been faster, and the characters easier to identify with, but in the end, it's all about Peter's story. And what an important story it is.
on 30 December 2012
There are many good books for children and teens about the Second World War from the British point of view, but fewer from the point of view of characters from Germany or other countries in continental Europe. "Ausländer" is a very good book for age 11+ - almost up there with the excellent "The Silver Sword" and certainly more realistic, in my view, than "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas".
It's the story of Piotr/Peter, a teenage boy who may look the spitting image of the perfect Aryan boy on the Hitler Youth poster but whose background, genetics and upbringing are rather more complicated. Peter is "reclaimed" from Poland after losing both parents and is brought up by the family of a doctor working at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for racial study. The story is a realistic portrayal of Berlin during the war and of the questions of identity that the young hero goes through, as well as his reaction to the Nazi regime and its ideology. The author has obviously researched the period thoroughly and I found the 8-year-old Charlotte's knowledge and awareness of the Nazis with her dolls' house ready for a visit from the Führer and the swastika-hung Christmas tree far more realistic than the naive similarly-aged Bruno in "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" - and all the more chilling for that.
I did feel on a couple of occasions as if the author's research was crammed in a little surplus to requirements, rather for the sake of a shock effect, which wasn't necessary in my view. And I felt that the story could have been even better if the point of view could have stayed with Peter/Piotr throughout.
However, these are small points about a generally exciting, gripping and well-written tale. I have given the book to my son, who is is 12 and half German to read. I'll be interested to see what he makes of it, too.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2010
This book tells the story of Peter, a polish orphan who finds himself adopted by the Katlenbach's, a german family. Here he is introduced to the Nazi regime and finds himself questioning all he has been told by his new family. He falls in love with a young girl and starts to help her and her family in their anti Nazi movement.
Paul Dowswell has done a great job in making his characters come to life, this is aided by the attention to detail within the book.
A compelling book with well thought out characters and about an extremely thought provoking subject.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2009
A really thoughtful and well-researched book about World War 2, from an unusual angle - the story of a Polish orphan resettled in Berlin with a Nazi family. At first Peter is pleased to find a new family and be in Germany, but gradually he comes to hate the Nazi regime. But how can he rebel and escape when it could cost him his life? A compelling story with well-drawn characters.
on 27 January 2015
This book has been on my radar for some time. It's always interesting to read about the stories of peoples who were on 'the other side' in world conflicts such as WW1 and WW2. This YA story by Dowswell is a delight, dragging us completely into the life of civilians in Germany, and showing us how much the all-pervasive Nazi party-state influenced things. We're all used to the stories of the battles in WW2, but less is known about what went on in Germany's towns and cities. It's quite frightening how normal utterly crazy things became, and how people rationalised it so that they could cope, and survive. A great read, and one I look forward to reading to my son and daughter, when they are a little older.
Ben Kane, author of the Spartacus and Hannibal novels.
on 5 July 2013
After a starkly dramatic opening scene this book resolves itself into an exciting thriller. In between it really gives the reader an insight into life in Nazi Germany where almost anybody could be a Gestapo informer and telling a joke about Hitler (or hearing a joke about Hitler and laughing) would very likely see you with your head rolling around in a basket. I don't think I truly appreciated the insanity of German society under the Nazi's, and I certainly never understood the mechanics of how a government can control a population, until I read this. I thought 1984 was just a story about a mad society, but this book made me realise how true to life it actually was. Scary stuff. Read it and help to ensure that such a society never comes to pass again!
on 27 November 2012
As a huge fan of the historical lit genre (after being captured by Fatherland, by Robert Harris, and 11:22:63, by Stephen King) I decided to give this a go.
Whilst it might not be completely accurate with all the facts, it is a hugely detailed and well researched text, with believable and utterly captivating characters. The stark realities of not only war, but life under the Nazis and the everyday dangerous faced by those living under diabolical regimes are well developed by Dowswell, and you are totally immersed and connected to Peter.
The only negative for me was the ending felt a little rushed...but that may have something to do with my reluctance to give up on Peter and Anna's story!
on 24 March 2013
I have read most of Paul Dowswell's work and 'Ausländer' is my favourite book of his. The story, characters and events(most based on real events) are so 3D in Ausländer and the same with most of Paul Dowswell's work. You as a reader get to know young Peter Bruck, a Polish orphan sent to Berlin because of his arien and strong nordic features. You get a feel of life under the Swastika and you feel a close relationship with Peter's friends and family, and hatred and distain to his enemies. As a young teenager I loved Ausländer and it's action-packed, descriptive and wonderful book. All of Paul Dowswell's work is a must read, and any fan of Ausländer is sure to love 'Sektion 20'!