I read a lot of World War II and Holocaust young adult books. So you’d think I’d have a pretty good handle on the topic, even if it there are countless novels, movies, and shows on it.
But then I read Unlikely Warrior by Georg Rauch and saw another side of World War II that I’d never read before. Rauch is drafted into Germany’s military even after he produces evidence that he is one-quarter Jew. No one seems to know what to do with this admission, so he is sent off for military training and spends almost three years working as a telegraphist for Hitler’s troops.
Rauch tells his story through first-person accounts and the many letters that his mother kept from his tours. His story is amazing because of how much sheer luck he had that allowed him to be in the right places at the right times to survive such horrible conditions. Rauch doesn’t sugar coat his war experience and it is, to put it mildly, gruesome. From the beginning he lets readers know that he would much rather be back at home in Austria helping his mother hid Jews in her attic than fighting in a war he doesn’t believe in.
A lot of YA books about World War II are told from the Allied side or from the point of view of Jews living through the nightmare, but Unlikely Warrior by Georg Rauch gives readers a different perspective. It’s chilling to read what is was like for Hitler’s troops (who are different than Nazis, I didn’t realize this at the beginning) and how dire things got before they were finally defeated. There are a few slow spots in the middle, but truck through them because the end is worth it.