The Ticket Collector from Belarus by Mike Andersen & Neil Hanson (Simon & Schuster)
A Village in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd and Angelika Patel (Elliott & Thompson)
The School that Escaped the Nazis by Deborah Cadbury (Two Road)
In that way that seems to happen in my reading life I've recently read three books that connected in more ways than just the obvious WW2 setting.
The Ticket Collector from Belarus is an account on the only War Crimes Trial to ever take place in the UK and weaves a moving (and horrifying) tale of atrocities carried out by one Belarussian man on behalf of the Nazis. The details of the war period were supplied by Jewish survivors from the area, some of whom knew Sauwoniuk, and others who were directly affected by his actions.
I had no idea that there had only ever been on War Crimes Trial in the UK and the explanation of how it worked and the very precise legal wording and evidence that was admissible was as eye opening as the wartime stories.
The book also had added poignancy as thanks to border changes over the past 100 years the area in question is back in the news again as the current war in Ukraine is also taking place in this area.
A Village in the Third Reich also touches on some of the same themes as Ticket Collector. This is the biography of a rural village in Germany from roughly 1900-1950, and again a book I found fascinating as I read it, although slightly more controversial as I think about it afterwards.
Boyd attempts to be scrupulously fair in her account of the politics as they ebb and flow through the years and shows the insidious way Nazism did creep into every facet of life.
However in this attempt at fairness and balance I found that there was just a little too much excusing of people's behaviour and also the perpetuation of the idea that 'ordinary' Germans didn't know what was really happening. There was also a lot of justification of people with low party numbers not being the same as the 'bad' guys.
It was really interesting to focus on one village throughout the period rather than individuals but overall I'm left feeling that it was a bit bland and too safe - perhaps unsurprisingly as the author makes her home in the village.
The School that Escaped the Nazis also presented me with another strand of wartime history that I knew nothing about as it follows educator Anna Essinger who realised very early on into Hitler's reign that she needed to move her school out of the Third Reich and to provide a safe haven for her Jewish pupils, as well as those who's parents were marked as enemies of the Reich.
Against amazing odds she moves the school to England and builds a school that was far more like a family than place of education. She fought prejudice on all sides and was hugely instrumental in helping with the Kindertransport. Once war was declared there were more struggles for a German school in England, not least the internment of teachers and pupil and rationing.
After the war Essinger also took in survivors from Europe, whether they'd been in hiding or the Concentration Camps, as well as trying to trace any surviving relatives of her pupils and teachers.
The book is interspersed with personal stories from the children she saved, and in that circular way of books one of these stories also touches on the locations mentioned in Ticket Collector.
This book was always going to be more emotive as it is filled with first hand accounts but of the three connected books this was definitely the best (if you can use such a word for the topic) and it was also the most hopeful as we look at how history does seem to be repeating itself in 2022.
Thanks to Norfolk Libraries for ordering in Ticket Collector and Net Galley for the 2 other books