There are many books based on the refugee crisis, and subsequent suffering brought about because of the Second World War. How people and families were destroyed, split apart, spread to the corners of the world like so much chaff in the wind. All nations suffered their losses, including the German nation as well. This book tells of one particular German family, but mainly it tells the story of a woman’s search to find out the truth behind her Grandmother’s attitude to others.

Svenja O’Donnell, the author of ‘Inge’s War’, is an award-winning correspondent for television and radio. She is of Irish, and German descent, born in Paris, and now lives in London. As she has grown up, she has visited, or has had visitors, from different factions of her vastly displaced family. Some she found are loving and friendly, whilst others, namely her Grandmother, Ingeborg Gertrud Wiegandt, have been distant, seemingly uncaring, and dismissive almost to the point of sheer rudeness. Svenja wanted to know more.

Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Ingeborg was then only 8 years old, but as time slipped by, she grew into a fun loving young woman, who fell in love with a young German lad, whose parentage was somewhat awkward for Ingeborg due to class differentials. Ingeborg fell pregnant with, who later turned out to be the authors mother Beatrice.

What was an idyllic existence in Konigsberg began to unravel as war took hold of the nation. Konigsberg in East Prussia was relatively safe from the savagery of the frontline until Germany invaded Russia. Things then began to go wrong for Hitler, and the German ‘Blitzkrieg’ was reversed, and Russia took the upper hand. Those in East Prussia began to fear the whirlwind of reprisals. This started the exodus of many of the people Westwards towards the Americans and the British by whatever means they could devise.

This book more than adequately tells the story in harrowing detail as best the author could find out. It tells us of the emotional struggles, and the bravery when confronted with seemingly insurmountable odds; then the terrible consequences of being a young female with a small child, whose father had been at Stalingrad.

I certainly engaged with the book, and rapidly became engrossed in its narrative. The entire story as it unfolds, is almost at the point of being incredulous, but I know that this entire story is true, sad, and wonderful all at the same time. Nothing was learnt from WW1, and it seems that little was altered after WW2 to that end, a shame that the protagonists do not read books like this one.

Review by Reg Seward

Published by Ebury Press (6 Aug. 2020)
Hardback, ISBN 978-1529105452