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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
There Was a Garden in Nuremberg by Navina Michal Clemerson is a harrowing yet page-turning story that may well one day become a timeless classic. Twelve-year-old Max Mannheim who is spirited and observant has witnessed how the rise of Adolf Hitler as the new Chancellor of the Reich changes the attitudes of the people around him, especially his father, Walter. They live in a Jewish community in Nuremberg and anti-Semitic sentiments have intensified with the appointment of Hitler. According to the Nazis, a Jew can never be a German despite the thousand-year history of Jews in Germany. Max feels in his bones that the Mannheim lineage is German as evident in the previous generations in his family buried in Nuremberg’s Jewish cemetery. To avoid persecution, they must leave but his father, who believes that Hitler will not last, wants to stay due to his sense of duty to the Jewish community.
There Was a Garden in Nuremberg is a powerful illustration of the strength of the human spirit in the face of great adversity as the Mannheims’ ordeal demonstrates the human values of family, community, identity, and preservation. Navina Michal Clemerson has written an unfolding war drama of a family’s struggle during the progressive years of the Reich that mingles with the physical, psychological, and emotional dangers that the Jews experienced. Clemerson’s narrative rises continuously, delivering suspense. It is a well-constructed novel with a well-rounded plot that serves as a commentary on the nature of war and its societal impacts on those who live to tell the tale. You can feel the anguish behind the psychological mechanisms that the characters employ upon returning to their home and describing what they have witnessed. I highly recommend this to everyone as it offers a realistic perspective on the power of the human spirit.