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Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers' Favorite
The year was 1944 and twenty year old Rudolph Meier was a Nazi POW working in local cotton fields while he was held at Camp Papago Park near Phoenix, Arizona. He was serving as a radio operator on a German submarine stationed near the eastern coast of the United States. After it was bombed the survivors were taken captive. Rudolph, or Rudi, still believes in Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich of Germany; he was convinced that Hitler had put food on the Germans' tables, given them work, and made life better for them than it was under the Wiemar Republic and the injustice it brought Germany from the Treaty of Versailles. Rudi was a twelve year old boy when he became a willing member of the Hitler Youth, despite the unspoken caution of his grandparents with whom he lived. He even had a swastika tattooed on his right arm. As a POW, Rudi met Bob Feller and his mother and sickly father Vern who owned the cotton farm where he worked. Rudi was adamant in his beliefs that America is a country of mixed races with a foolish love of individual freedom. Then, he got to know the Fellers, who were Jewish, and watched the American guards at Papago Park. Will Rudolph Meier rethink his hardened beliefs and the intolerance of other people and their cultures?
"The Swastika Tattoo" by Geraldine Birch is a brilliant, extremely well-written book that demonstrates how a young German POW, indoctrinated by his school teachers and leaders came to question the intolerance of other people and cultures. The characters and dialogue are fine. Rudolph, Bob Feller and his mother, Ruth, Rudi's friends, his grandfather and grandmother and all the other characters are all believable and highly relevant in the story. The plot proceeds realistically to the story's end. The author's glossary of German words and their meaning is a terrific asset to readers. The essay questions help reinforce the message behind this book. This book is a potential classic, for it portrays the world so accurately.