Review: Facing the Enemy: How a Nazi Youth Camp in America Tested a Friendship

Facing the Enemy: How a Nazi Youth Camp in America Tested a Friendship

by Barbara Krasner

Calkins Creek (imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers), 2023

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Merle Eisman Carrus

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Facing the Enemy is a book written in verse about a time in American history that should not be forgotten. Written in an easily readable poetic style, Krasner tells the story of two friends who are growing up near Newark, NJ during the rise in power of Adolf Hitler in Germany. It is the summer of 1937. Benjy is turning 14 this summer and looking forward to spending it with his best friend Thomas before they enter high school in the fall. Benjy is from a loving Jewish family, living with his mother and father. His father is a member of the Newark Minutemen, a group of former prize fighters who are working to dismantle the Nazi Bund growing around New Jersey.

Thomas lives with his timid mother and his frustrated father, who misses Germany and the life he left behind. Thomas is told he is being sent off to Camp Nordland this summer to learn the ways of German life. The camp director explains why Thomas and the other young men of New Jersey should go to Camp Nordland, “To be and remain worthy of our Germanic blood, our German Fatherland, and ancestral German blood.” Camp will be a place to bridge the old and new, bring together Germany and America.

The book shares the thoughts of Thomas and Benjy through poems side by side. Benjy, misses his best friend and wants to help the adults of the Newark Minutemen disband Camp Nordland and bring an end to the Bund in NJ. Thomas, becomes a member of the Nazi Youth and then realizes this is not how he really feels and wants to leave the movement.

This book does not really talk about Jewish religion directly, but shows how the community was impacted by the Bund. It is an excellent choice for learning about how Hitler was slowly able to bring people under his spell and make them want to be a part of his movement. It shows how far the Nazi indoctrination could reach. I think this is a terrific book for all young people to read to get a real feeling for the pull of the Nazi party on those who were vulnerable to the message. It is also shows how the Bund was a serious threat to the Jewish people living in the United States.

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Reviewer Merle Eisman Carrus resides in New Hampshire and writes book reviews for the NH Jewish Reporter newspaper and other publications. She is a graduate of Emerson College and received her Masters of Jewish Studies from Hebrew College. Merle is the National President of the Brandeis National Committee. She leads books discussion groups and author interviews. She blogs her book reviews at