Sunday, October 04, 2020

Trapped in Hitler's Web

Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk. Trapped in Hitler's Web 
October 6th 2020 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After the events of Don't Tell the Nazis, Maria decides it is best for her mother and sister Krystia if she applies for a work card and gets a job working for the Nazis. Her main reason for doing this is to help her Jewish friend, Nathan, escape. He takes the identity of Bohdan Sawchuk, a Christian who was killed. They are both assigned to work at a metalworks factory, but a sympathetic typist can see how young they are (not even 12) and changes their assignment to a farm. The two end up on a train with many people who were stolen by the Nazis, and as they progress towards Innsbruck, soldiers pull people off the train to do other jobs. Maria thinks their papers will keep them safe, but Nathan is taken off at Salzburg to help build a bridge. Maria arrives at the farm of Frau Huber, but there are supposed to be eight others with her. The farm is providing food for the Nazis, and there is a hierarchy of workers-- Aryan Germans get to sleep inside and get decent food, but Poles, workers from the East, and others sleep in the barn and are only allowed 600 calories a day. Frau Huber tries to help her workers as much as she can, and allows them to carefully sneak potatoes from the field, but her farm could be taken away if she were caught being kind to them. The fact that her daughter is in the Hitler Youth makes her life even more precarious. Maria learns the ropes from Bianka, and is glad to be relatively safe with food to eat. She is worried about Nathan, and makes plans to try to get to Salzburg to visit him. She is eventually able to go with Frau Huber, but it is a treacherous time, since Poles (and Ukranians like Maria are also labeled with the "P" as well) are considered subhuman by the Germans). She manages to find Nathan and convey to him that he should try to get out of the country. Eventually, even the farm in the Alps come closer to the fighting than everyone would like, and when her sister Krystia shows up bearing bad news, the two decide to strike out on their own.
Strengths: I love that Skrypuch's stories start with someone that she has known; this time, the experiences of her father-in-law were a jumping off point. There were certainly many citizens like Frau Huber and her parents who didn't agree with the Nazis but saw no benefit to themselves of those they were able to help to cross them. The mistreatment wasn't their choice, and it was good to see Frau Huber portrayed as trying to help as much as she could. The details of the living arrangements and the treatment by the Nazis are oddly enthralling; I still don't quite understand why WWII isso interesting to middle school readers, but it definitely is! This could be read without reading Don't Tell the Nazis; it would only be a little confusing right at the beginning and the end of the book.
Weaknesses: Now I really, really want a book about Nathan's experience working in Salzburg!
What I really think: This is a bit like Matas' In My Enemy's House (1999) and just another fantastic book by Skrypuch. Definitely purchasing for the Holocaust/WWII unit our 8th grade covers, but these are also good stories for readers who like survival tales.
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the lovely review of Trapped in Hitler's Web!!