Imagine you are just fifteen years old. But fifteen, in 1944 Germany approaches adulthood. Like it or not, conscription awaits for you and your friends.
Anton apprentices in his late father’s trade as a watchmaker, even though he dreams of playing the violin. No time or money for violin lessons. Anton has responsibilities and promises to keep—to his mother, his younger siblings, his friends and their mothers. His father’s watch gives him hope, but even that might be of better use as a pawn in hopes of avoiding the burden of his fate.
When he turns sixteen, Anton’s receives orders to report for service to the Wehrmacht. Rumours of Hitler’s “Wonder Weapon” keep the army going, long after they have lost. Flames of defeat consume the landscape of a devastated country. Desperate and exhausted soldiers stumble westward through a charred landscape, away from the Russian army. Most, like Anton are still in their teens, dreaming of home, their girlfriends and possible future careers. Anton wants to see his family and Luise again. But those dreams are far away, when even a decent meal and a safe, warm bed is out of reach.
War history consists of individual stories. Much can be learned, even from accounts of those who fought for the Third Reich. As Anton’s father said, “if you want to get an accurate read on a situation, you can’t listen to just one side.” (p.35) When the War is Over, by Anja May is based on the author’s grandfather’s own experiences. An excellent and gripping read.