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Hellen

Hellen

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Och i Wienerwald står träden kvar

Och i Wienerwald står träden kvar - Elisabeth Åsbrink A sad and capturing true story based on letters Otto received from his parents before and during WWII.

Otto is a 13-year old Austrian boy that comes to Sweden in the years that Hitler is gaining power right before WWII. Many Jewish families try to immigrate at this point, but only few succeed. Some manage to get their children out of the country, with the plan to follow them soon. Otto is one of the hundred children that get chosen by the church to temporarily live in Sweden after conversion to Christianity.

The story between the letters are filled out by the author, based on interviews and research. While the letters only show one side of the story (the letters from Otto's parents to Otto), with the exception of one letter from Otto that for some reason got returned, reading the letters is an impressive experience. You know what is going on in the background of these letters, even though the parents don't want Otto to know what's really going on and barely write about it. Together the letters form a dark silhouette of what was really happening to Otto's family.

The bit about Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA's founder) at the end was a bit of a shame, I found it didn't add much to the story of Otto's family. The thing that does make this book so worthwile is the subtle display of what it meant for countries (I'm sure this doesn't only go for Sweden) to be "neutral" during WWII. Countries closed their borders for Jews long before the war started and antisemitism wasn't exclusively present just in the German countries.

Germans from younger generations often get confronted with their country's history and get asked how they could've let this happen. Perhaps the rest of the neighbouring world wasn't so innocent either.