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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
A Lightness in My Soul: Inspired by a True Story is a historical fiction novel written by Annette Oppenlander. The author’s story is taken from an account her friend heard while waiting in an automotive mechanic’s shop in Germany. An older man was waiting there also, and he told her his story. He was 15 years old when the war finally ended. Several years before that, Arthur’s mom had agreed to have him participate in KLV, an evacuation program where children were taken out of the cities and sent to “camps” where they would be safe from bombing raids. Judging from Arthur’s experiences in the Bavarian school he was sent to, it was more an indoctrination program for young German children. Arthur’s camp was run by the Hitler Youth and when the Allies liberated it, the students were considered as guilty as the guards in charge of the nearby concentration camps. Arthur and his fellow students never knew if they would survive the challenges they faced or be executed by the Americans, who were now trying their best to undo the damage done by the Nazis -- damage the students had been ignorant of but were still considered very much to blame for.
Annette Oppenlander’s A Lightness in My Soul is a stunning account of one man’s experiences as a young German boy during and after WWII. I have long been a student of World War II and have read scores of historical accounts and memoirs written by Holocaust survivors. Arthur’s story is one I’ve not heard before, but I’ve no doubt at all in my mind that his account is true, and it is incredibly moving. I could see myself as one of those young boys, first torn from their families and indoctrinated into youth camps and then treated as the enemy by the Allied soldiers. Arthur’s accounts of working in the field hospital are especially powerful as he first came to terms with the conditions under which the medics were working, who had to cope with having little or no supplies, and then began to form relationships with the patients under his care and the soldiers guarding the camp. This well-written and harrowing account is especially important in fleshing out what happened during World War II and ensuring that it never happens again. A Lightness in My Soul: Inspired by a True Story is most highly recommended.