Review Detail

Merciless Revenge in WWII
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)  
 
5.0
Learning Value 
 
5.0
Hitler's rise to power and his stranglehold on the German people is something that has been all too much in the forefront of many people's minds lately, and this book details a lot of what went on behind the scenes to try to remove him from office. There were many people who attempted to bring Hitler down, and a group of officers, organized by Claus von Stauffenberg, started planning a coup. They used Operation Valkyrie as a cover for this operation, and retooled it so they could use it to kill Hitler and overthrow his regime. There were many men involved with this, and many of them had families.

While it looked like the operation might well succeed, it did not. A bomb that Stauffenberg took to a meeting where Hitler was supposed to be went off, and even injured Hitler and killed four officers. However, Stauffenberg was identified, and many of his associates were located. After a very brief trial, many were executed and buried in a mass grave. Hitler was so outraged that he used his policy of Sippenhaft (or "family punishment") to round up family members of the conspirators. The the mothers and older offspring were interrogated and sent to labor camps, and the children were taken from their homes, cared for by nannies, and eventually sent to a youth retreat called Borntal. There, their names were changed, and while their basic needs were met, they suffered a great deal of psychological trauma.
Good Points
One of these children (dubbed ghost children by people in the nearby town) was Christa von Hofacker. She kept a journal of her wartime experiences which was eventually published in Germany. Bausum used this as a starting point for her research, but interviewed many survivors and consulted a vast array of sources to provide the background for this book.

It is hard to comprehend how devastating World War II was to the German citizens. Yes, many of them supported Hitler and his radical policies, but many were just trying to survive. I found the after note about how the history of the war was taught in German schools to be very interesting. It wasn't until much later that the people involved in the coup attempt were treated as heroes. Ensnared in the Wolf's Lair is an excellent book showing the personal cost that a group of conscientious citizens paid in trying to wrest their government back from the hands of extremists.
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