By Günter Lucks, with Harald Stutte as co-author
The content of this book is saddening and heart-wrenching, yet at times whimsical and amorous. The story unfolds itself right in the midst of World War II, in the year 1945, when the author, Günter, was only 12 years of age. He revealed how growing up in a socialist-oriented family had, ironically, strengthened his belief in communism, and how he trooped to the front line at the age of 16 with nothing but a patriotic divination to champion the rule of the proletariat. The five-year long journey as a child soldier and mostly as a war prisoner took him to places faraway from his fatherland – Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Russia (the Soviet Union back then) and Poland – before he was granted permission to return to Germany in 1950. It was this first-hand experience of war and the subsequent defeat of the communist rule that gradually got him critiquing his own convictions for communism.
The author prides his story for being a non-idiosyncratic WWII novel; instead of directly describing the conditions and events of the war, he illuminates them through the mundane yet unpredictable life of a child who was suddenly sent to camp without a choice. I recall many heartfelt moments while reading this book when I had to bite my lips to continue flipping the pages. Even in times of war, when the environment was harsh and unforgiving, the author was still lucky enough to be able to encounter kind deeds of humanity and sincere acts of true friendship, not to mention the fervour of love. Life did not just go on for these war veterans; every single moment was spent trying to find meaning and entertainment in every single thing they did so that life could move on.
It is this uniquely mundane nature of the plot that makes the story of Günter Lucks stand out from among the pile of war novels that are available on the bookshelves. This book is definitely worth a read if you hope to go beyond a commonplace discussion and commentary about the war itself, to comprehend history from the perspective of one unsung hero.