Girl From Berlin
by Ronald H. Balson has readers experiencing the emotional
roller coaster ride of guilt, anger, fear, and redemption.
Chapters alternate between the 1930s/1940s and 2017. The connection
between the time periods is a manuscript that Ada Baumgarten
has written about her life under Nazi rule and the devastating
effect it had on Jews, particularly Ada's family.
Balson noted, “I got the idea for Gavi when visiting
my son who was studying abroad in Italy. We drove around Italy
and tried to visit as many wineries in Tuscany as we could
because they are so quaint and beautiful. We found out that
German corporations own some of them. I thought about the
German occupation of Italy from 1943 to 1945 where they brutally
seized Jewish property.
Ada came about from my long-time thoughts about Jewish artists
and musicians during the Nazi regime. During the Weimar Republic,
Germany's government, from 1919 to 1933, the period after
World War I until the rise of Nazi Germany, there was a cultural
explosion of art and science.”
Not only is this book a powerful historical novel but it also
has a riveting mystery of murder, deception, and greed. The
questions asked throughout the present-day chapters, how does
the accounting of a young Jewish girl’s life in the
1930s and 1940s relate to a deed for an Italian farm, and
what became of Ada?
It is almost like taking a time machine from present-day Italy
back to the 1930s during Hitler's regime in Germany. The story
opens with the recurring characters Catherine Lockhart and
Liam Taggart being asked by an old friend to travel to Tuscany
Italy to save the farm and priceless wine vineyards of his
aunt, Gabi Vincenzo. A powerful corporation claims they own
the deeds, even though she can produce her own set of deeds
to her land.
Catherine is an attorney and her husband Liam is a private
investigator they set forth to try to help the elderly woman.
Upon their arrival in Tuscany, Gabi tells Catherine and Liam
to read a memoir by a woman named Ada Baumgarten; a German
violinist forced to flee Berlin and settle in Bologna Italy
after the Nazis took power.
author also transplants readers back to the Nazi era where
Jews were unaware of the horrors awaiting them: first deprived
of careers/businesses, then property, basic rights, and ultimately,
for many of them, their lives. Even more disturbing is the
knowledge that while this was happening, many of the non-Jewish
German population either does nothing or actively assists.
Within these devastating events, the author allows readers
a reprise with the classical musical scenes and the various
descriptions of certain musical works.
wrote this book quote by Ada, “Perhaps the most hurtful
and inimical result of the campaign was the pervasive acceptance
of Nazi policies by German society...it became apparent that
they would no longer stand up for us. Those who uttered hateful
speech were sinful, but the greater sin was committed by those
who did not speak at all.” The Nazi policies were accepted.
Remember Germany had seen a serious depression. With the Nazis,
there started to be a booming economy. Since this population
was not Jewish they turned the other way. A good lesson to
take out of this book is that we as a society should not turn
our backs to those in need. I wanted to explore the Jewish
options open to escape from the Nazi barbarism. Many did leave
Germany and Austria before the war. Yet, many could not just
pick up and go someplace. Where would they go since the surrounding
countries of Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia were not
options? Anywhere someone went there were no job, no community,
and no money. These are formidable barriers. They tried to
convince themselves things were not so bad, especially since
events happened in increments. First Jews had to wear armbands,
then Jewish stores were painted, but the atrocities started
This novel puts a personal touch on the Holocaust where the
six million Jews who perished do not seem like numbers. Starting
with the first pages of the book, readers will be so mesmerized
there will be no turning back. Balson does a great job of
intertwining the music, the rise of the Nazi party to power
during its early years, its effect on Jewish lives, and the
comparison between Jewish treatment in Hitler’s Germany
and Mussolini’s Italy. It is a story of courage, survival,