Before Berlin by Leah Moyes

Of Great Courage & Resilience

Before Berlin by Leah Moyes is a heartbreaking and awe-inspiring historical novel that totally consumed me. It is the prequel to the Berlin Butterfly series.

The novel is set in the World War II years and up to 1947 as we follow the lead character, a teen from Lodz in Poland.

We see the courage it takes to survive and how one had to be adaptable. A good heart, full of compassion for many, is admirable in times of war. “We attended church enough for me to know God would not want me to hate my enemies. But where was God now?” It is easy to believe that God has abandoned us in the bad times, but we have to trust that God is there, helping us. And that He sees us. “The only logical explanation for my good fortune had to be the hand of God… Maybe He hadn’t completely turned His back on us.”

A character steps up to lead, declaring. “If not me… who?” This reminded me of in the Bible where God asks “Who shall I send?” and the reply is “Here I am, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8). We have to do what we can, when we can and trust God to do the rest.

Not all Germans were Nazis. “There is at least one good German in the world.” We had to be careful when trust was in short supply, but there were still good people out there.

We see the importance of our responses to situations. “Sometimes you can’t stop the bad things from happening.” Life happens and we cannot control it, but we can choose our attitudes and our actions.

The reader hears about the Lebensborn program and is horrified to see the selection process outside Germany.

Within the novel, the action is set in various places including Lodz, Dresden and Leipzig. My heart sank as we moved to Dresden as I knew just what was coming. Leah Moyes has perfectly captured the horrors of the bombing raids with her words.

The black American soldiers who fought and did their bit, still faced much prejudice, both from their fellow countrymen and the local German population. It was good to see a character respond to the heart that beats beneath the skin.

All the characters were well drawn, likable and realistic. Leah Moyes has described the horrors of war both within Germany and without. We see courage, strength of character and kind hearts that help where they can.

Before Berlin will educate you as you read. As a historian, passionate about World War II, I found it a unique and comprehensive account through the eyes of a Polish teen.

I thoroughly enjoyed Before Berlin and look forward to reading much more by Leah Moyes.

I received a free copy from the author. A favourable review was not required. All opinions are my own.


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