Polish teachers were replaced with Aryan teachers.
The only language to be used for official business became German.
And then there were the disappearances:
• of the Jews – like Lona, the one Jewish girl in Paul’s school class;
• of those forcefully conscripted for labour;
• of anyone suspected of opposing the Nazi policy.
What is perhaps most prominent in this recount is the mystery surrounding many of these events and the impact this had on the young Paul’s mind.
The necessity of coping with such tremendous alterations in life, as well as the particular dangers faced by Paul and his family during this fearful time, are further set in context by a description of the history of the Cieslar family.
The commitment of Pawel Cieslar senior, the author’s father, to the Seventh-day Adventist church was forged in spite of opposition from his own family. This commitment developed the values that were maintained with quiet determination by the family in spite of opposition from the Nazi party.
Paul’s recollection of the forced closure of their church by the Nazi party reminds us of the value of cultural and religious freedom.
His description of times when the SS unexpectedly came to call and how the family miraculously survived make for thrilling reading.
The narration of events during the governance of Poland’s Russian “liberators” makes your heart ache with the young Paul as he describes the loss of his first love, German Irena, suddenly deported without a trace.