Hatred Happens Insidiously

Two books I read recently show how hatred towards a certain group of people can happen insidiously. In the case of both novels, aimed at a teen and young adult audience, it was the Jewish community that was the target of discrimination.

Gabriele Goldstone’s Tainted Amber is set in East Prussia in the late 1930s, during Hitler’s rise to power. Katya, the book’s heroine, is a servant girl on the Richter’s country estate, where they raise fine horses, some for use by the German army. Katya loves to write and pens regular letters to her good friend Minna, a Jewish maid who was once a valuable employee of the Richter family, but for some reason was summarily dismissed and moved to Vienna. It isn’t long before other changes take place. David, one of the Richter sons, who has a romantic interest in Katya, must change his name to Klaus because David sounds too Jewish.

On a train trip to visit her family in the capital city of Königsberg, Katya has to hide the copy of a novella she is reading by Nobel Prize-winning German author Thomas Mann. Mann, who has a Jewish wife is accused of using his writing to expose the dangers of dictatorship. While visiting her family Katya learns her two sisters and her cousin have become enthusiastic members of the BDM, Bund Deutscher Mädel, a female section of the Hitler Youth. Over cookies and tea in a restaurant, one sister confides her BDM leader has taught her that Jews are inferior.

Katya returns back to the Richter estate only to find they are now flying a Nazi flag.

Gabriele Goldstone author of Tainted Amber

Through the eyes of Katya and Gabriele Goldstone’s detailed descriptive writing which evokes such a marvelous sense of time and place, Tainted Amber gives the reader an inside look at how anti-Semitism gradually became an accepted part of society.

Shelly Sanders’ Rachel’s Secret is set in Kishinev, Russia in 1903 and is based on true events. Rachel, the book’s heroine, loves to write and dreams of being a journalist someday. Her life is turned upside down when she witnesses the murder of a young Ukrainian man named Mikhail by a member of the local police force. He had a romantic interest in Rachel.

Due to anti-Semitic sentiment fueled by the local newspaper, members of the Jewish community are seen as possible murder suspects by the local citizens. Rachel knows this isn’t true but doesn’t go to the police because she thinks they won’t believe her story.

The Jewish community flourished at one time in Kishinev. They ran many successful businesses and lived peacefully with their neighbors. But a rumor that Jews used the blood of Christians in a Passover ritual got wildly out of hand and after Mikhail’s murder led to a riot that resulted in the death of fifty Jews and the destruction of 1,500 of their homes. Rachel’s father is one of the people who is killed and her family’s home is leveled.

Shelly Sanders the author of Rachel’s Secret

Through the eyes of Rachel and Shelly Sanders’ exciting plot-driven novel, we are given an inside look at how anti-Semitism gradually changed the dynamics of society and eventually led to violence.

Rachel’s Secret and Tainted Amber are set in two different times and places and one thing I appreciated about both books is that they don’t place characters into black and white categories. In Tainted Amber many of the people who eventually affiliate themselves with Hitler are good and kind and Rachel’s Secret is told from the point of view of Rachel who is Jewish, but also from the perspective of Sergei a very fine young man who is part of Kishinev’s Christian community.

Both Rachel’s Secret and Tainted Amber were inspired by the experiences of the authors’ family members.

Other posts………

Taking Teens to Israel and Palestine

I Never Got Used to the Guns in Israel

Remembering Our Faults

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