4 04 2011

“Dieses Gefühl, daß etwas nicht stimmte”

A Feeling That Something Wasn’t Right

From the first pages of this book you find yourself in Berlin in the middle of the World War II, looking through the eyes of a child, and seeing things that don’t seem to have any logic in them.

You are five years old, and things are rough because your country is under an obsessive tyranny of a paranoid, mad and evil man of whom you know only what is allowed to be said in public. Your nation is suffering from a propaganda machine and you, as a little girl, do not escape the trauma. And yet, you also notice things that make you wonder what exactly is going on. You feel that something else is transpiring. Only, as a child, you can’t be told. And you know, somewhere in your heart, not to ask.

Ilka’s language is laconic and vividly descriptive. She gives names to things that the little girl experiences in the years from 1940 till 1948, things that do not make sense to her at all.

At times, she acts on innocent impulses. Once, on a bus, she sees an old couple. She doesn’t know they are Jewish, but she wants to have same big yellow stars that she sees on their sleeves. Her mother is there to gag her before she alarms other passengers. Her mother is terrified.

Juvenile bunker in the book is a place where German children were taken every once in a while at night, for their protection from regular bombardments. It very much reminds a boot camp.

Ilka and her family flee Berlin to the country, to her grandparents. There, the children are sheltered along with other refugees, but they also hear the war’s echo and live through poverty, disease, hunger, their mother’s near insanity and many dangers and losses.

If you ever wondered what it was like for German children and their families under the Nazi rule, this book is for you. In it you will find details that complete the picture and make you see that other side. These details, rendered through a child’s perception, will remind you of what you as an adult know about that war and often this reminder will be shocking. The little girl in the book is an insider witness to the war. Because of her innocence, her narration is not contaminated with pre-conceived ideas.

Ilka von Zeppelin made her professional career in psychology and wrote a number of books on the subject, and she waited 60 years to tell her own story. If you read in German or Dutch, this book is available under the following titles: Dieses Gefühl, daß etwas nicht stimmte (Ger.), Het gevoel dat er iets niet klopte (Ned.) and let us hope the English translation will follow soon, along with others. The memories in this book are worth being shared with the entire world.

 Copyright Camilla Stein ©2011. All rights reserved.

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