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February 17, 2021

Gerta by Kateřina Tučková, Véronique Firkusny (translator) ~ a Review

by Donna Huber


I love WWII stories but having read probably hundreds of them I look for unique perspectives - I want to learn something new about that time in history. Gerta is definitely different than other WWII stories that I have read. Thematically it is a difficult story to read, but at the same time I couldn't put it down.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Gerta
February 2021; Amazon Crossing; 978-1542043151
audio, ebook, print (441 pages); historical fiction
My WWII reading has expanded to what happened after the war. It is a bit of a black hole, at least in my historical education. I know about the economic devastation but not about the human toll of rebuilding lives and nations. Therefore, I was drawn to Gerta

First off, Gerta is translated fiction. Kateřina Tučková is Czech and the novel first published in Czech. I visited the Czech Republic in 2010 and even stayed a weekend in Brno, where the story is set. Véronique Firkusny is the translator of this edition and together they have brought this powerful story to life.

The title character Gerta was born to a German father and a Czech mother. Leading up to and throughout the war, theirs is a household divided. Their home life is like a tiny microcosm of what is happening within Czechoslovakia at the time.

At the end of the war, all German nationals were rounded up and expelled from Brno and surrounding areas. It didn't matter that you were apolitical. In the eyes of the Czechs, if you were German you were a Nazi and if not a Nazi, then a Nazi sympathizer, and if not that then at least you reaped the rewards of being German during the war (better rations, better wages, etc.). Thousands of Germans were expelled from Brno alone. Men and boys over the age of 14 were sent to labor camps and the women, children, and infirmed were marched to the Austrian border - a march that took at least 3 days, many died. The description of the conditions and treatment of these women, children, and elderly were similar to what I have read about the death marches Jews and other concentration camp prisoners were forced on by Germans. And it wasn't just recently arrived German nationalists. In the country-side where families had farmed the land for perhaps centuries, they were also forced from their lands.

Many of the chapters were difficult to read. It was definitely a period of "an eye for an eye" justice. Nothing is overly graphic. It is more the emotions and internal conflict the story envokes. Was taking everything from these German nationalists and treating them worse than livestock truly justice? The Czech nationals were not concerned with getting justice for the Czech Jews. There is a statement made that I found ironic. In the years when property was being stripped from the Germans and given to the Czechs it was said that the Germans had stolen it from the Jews. However, it wasn't the Jews who were being given the houses and farms and other items of worth. 

I liked that the story continued to follow Gerta's journey throughout her lifetime. It gives the reader a glimpse of what life behind the Iron Curtain was like. It makes history personal. This again, makes for a difficult read thematically as the reader has to struggle with what was right and wrong. 

I saw some parallels to today. Particularly here in the U.S. While not on the same level of tragedy and atrocities. we struggle with the same questions: What is justice for past injustices? Should generations pay for the crimes and sins of the past generations? How do you heal and move forward?

From a historical perspective, Gerta is an eye-opening story. It is thought-provoking and would make an excellent read for book clubs. On a personal level, seeing history through the lives of individuals, it is an emotional story. I grew teary-eyed in the last few pages.

Buy Gerta at Amazon
(The ebook is a free read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.)

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.
 

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