Review: Under the Iron Bridge

Under the Iron Bridge

by Kathy Kacer

Second Story Press

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Sandy Wasserman

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In the months leading up to Kristallnacht (on Wednesday, November 9, 1938), we meet a class of German students: Jews and non-Jews, learning together at school in Dusseldorf. Boys are encouraged to join the Hitler Youth, and little by little it becomes clear to Paul what his beloved new German leadership is up to. He and his physically weaker friend, Harold, realize early on that they have to play the game as ‘good Germans’ but Paul also takes the risk of also joining a group of teenagers who meet to carry out counter tactics to sabotage Nazi efforts, under the shadows of the Iron Bridge. They are the Edelweiss Group, which after the war was honored for their efforts at Yad VaShem as Righteous Gentiles. Among their classmates is a Jewish friend, Analie, whom Paul saves by the end of the book.  Paul is the perfect example of a young person who is an upstander; he sees wrong, he cannot live with it, and he takes risks to right it. At first his parents do not know what he is doing, but he has learned from them that they are like-minded and agree with his heroism. 
Often the Holocaust is glossed over as a single historical event. Even if Kristallnacht is described as ‘the night of broken glass,’ the enormity is not described, nor the details. This book brings us right there, with teen experiences, teen friendships and loyalties. The readers smell the burning synagogue in their town, feel the smoke burning their eyes, see the horror of the degradation the Jewish citizens are put through, feel their hearts pound at the possibility of being caught and interrogated. This book is like a magnifying glass, zeroing in on just a few months, and a few teens, in one town. It helps the teen reader understand the true story of the Edelweiss group, known as the Edelweiss Pirates, acknowledged for their heroism as rebels in Jewish history. It is a strong contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

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Reviewer Sandy Wasserman is a retired teacher of Gifted and Talented students, and taught for 35 years in both public schools and at a Solomon Schechter Day School. She's a wife, mother of two adult daughters, and grandmother to two fantastic 'first readers' of her manuscripts. Her published book,
The Sun's Special Blessing [2009], was her first serendipitous and fun experience in the publishing world. She loves to read and swim, though not at the same time.