Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Chocolate Cake With Hitler - Emma Craigie
Synopsis: This tells the story of the final days of Helga Goebbels living in the underground bunker with her family and Hitler in April 1945. At twelve years old, she is stuck in the double level bunker with no news but the stories the adults around her tell her to know what is happening in the outside world. As the gun fires draw nearer and slowly the bunker starts to empty, Helga is the only Goebbels child to wonder what is actually happening. Her father, the minister of propaganda (something that helped with Hitler lead in power) and Hitler's best friend, is never there and distracted when he is. Her mother won't look her in the eye. People want her and her 4 sisters and brother out of here. But why?
The Truth: On the 30th April 1945, a gun shot was heard from the upper bunker. In his sitting room, Hitler shot himself and his new wife, Eva Braun took a cynide tablet, having tested it on Hitler's dog and her puppies a few days earlier. The next day, on the 1st May 1945, after lunch without Uncle 'Leader' and Auntie Eva, Helga and her siblings were taken to their rooms for an early night for a trip to see the puppies in the gardens of Berlin the next day. But first she needs her injection for not catching any illnesses in the intense, cramp bunker. This was in fact morphine which sent the children to sleep and then they were forced to take a cynide tablet, killing them. Josef Goebbels and his wife later on went outside and while Goebbels shot himself, his wife took a cynide tablet, killing them too. Their grandmother could never figure out where her daughter and grandchildren had disappeared to.
Review: After studying this in History including Hitler's death, I knew what happened to the children which is sort of why I picked this up, interesting to see how the author would do it. This is a truly heart breaking, sad story of a child that never had a proper life in her 'golden' childhood for the cameras and their propaganda.
The story is broken up with the ten days in the bunker and with the years before from 1935. This makes it more interesting and shows the relationship with other characters before the war and then now at the end of the war. I found out a lot of things about the different people through this, more than I knew. It really does give you that image and the feelings of what it would have been like to be living in that bunker, everyone slowly leaving.
The nice thing was at the end, there was a Postscript describing what happened from 29th April - 1st May 1945 and why they died etc. They killed themselves because they knew they would lose the war with the Russians practically in Berlin anyway. They knew they'd have been executed anyway for war crimes. They wanted to die when everything hadn't fallen apart completely yet. Added after this postscript was a glossary of all the people mentioned with what happened to them after the war. This was so interesting to read while reading also the story which meant you kind of knew their fate. Some are really heart-breaking like when Miss Kempf failed to persuade Mrs Goebbels to send the children on a barge and learnt of their deaths, she spend the rest of her life working for disabled children. That made me smile. So much research has been put into this.
This isn't the type of book you read when you are sad and depressed or if you had history. This is the type of book for those that love History and is so interesting and really makes you visualise and almost feel through the dialogue what being in that bunker was like and the strained relationships and temperaments of Hitler's mind. I would definitely recommend it to anyone doing GCSE History or if they like this period of time. I know I have basically said the outcome and plot but well, it explains it too on the blurb. The story just ends. Suddenly. And I liked how it did. It made me feel so sad. Why kill the children, that next generation that they wanted? I don't know but who knows why the Nazi's existed and got away with it to easily? Well, that was mostly out of terror.
Anyway, this book is a must-read at only 180 pages. Read it. I promise you'll enjoy every minute of this book and leave you reflecting over life itself and how easily it can be thrown away.
I give it 5 out of 5
Author's Website: http://www.emmacraigie.co.uk/EmmaCraigie/Welcome.html
Publisher: Short Books
Challenges: British Book Challenge, Historical Fiction Challenge