Return To Berlin by Ellen Feldman

Powerful, Horrifying & Thought Provoking

Return To Berlin by Ellen Feldman is a powerful, heartbreaking and horrifying historical novel that educates while we read.

This is a dual timeline story as we begin in postwar Berlin but also look backwards to pre-war Berlin and America.

Berlin is a complicated city. It had been the seat of Hitler’s power and contained the bunker where he ended his life. Pre-war Jewish life was eroded bit by bit. People ‘disappeared’ or were able to flee to America. Families were split up.

Post war Berlin was a place not only for Berliners but also for Americans, British and Soviets as the city was divided into zones. Whilst the population of Berlin did support the Nazis way of life – either by being complicit or through their silence – the women and girls suffered from much brutality when the Soviets rode into town.

This book throws up many conflicting emotions in the reader. Like the main character, I wanted to dislike the Berliners who stood idly by whist the atrocities were committed – but the treatment of women and girls by the Soviets horrified and disgusted me. Return To Berlin will definitely mess with your emotions.

We witness the survivor’s guilt that threatens to drown a character. She survived, others didn’t. She was safe in America as her family entered the gas chambers of Auschwitz. By her mouth, she condemned others. The guilt will not leave. She hates herself and she hates all German people until she gets a job in postwar Berlin. “The unwanted sympathy, her own… It was easy to hate from a distance.” How can you hate close up when you see the suffering of others?

The father within the novel fought for Germany during World War I. He received the Iron Cross. He was a proud, patriotic German but all the Nazis saw was a Jewish man.

The Jewish people were rounded up, sent to the camps and gassed and “the world didn’t care.” Why not? Why were people not angry? Horrified? Upset?

Return To Berlin shows the reader the landscape of Berlin before and after the war. We see the suffering. We have conflicting emotions.

This book is not a book that will leave you unchanged. It will challenge your thinking and your pre-conceived ideas. This book demands an emotional response.


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