THE ROAD WE TOOK
4 Days in Germany 1933 – The Harrowing Account of an American Boy Scout in Nazi Germany
By: Cathy A. Lewis
Publisher: Cathy A. Lewis
In 1933, before WWII had started, Hitler was building an army of young men in Germany. At this time, the author’s father was on an American Boy Scout six-week trip through Europe. The author’s father kept a journal of his trip including their final four days in Germany before returning to the United States. Even though many of the characters in this story are fictional, many of the events are based on the author’s research and observations included in her father’s journal.
Through alternating chapters, we learn about the main characters in this story including Wolfie, a German boy who joins the Boy Scouts on the final leg of their journey, his father, the boy scout leader and his son, and a young violinist and her instructor. These characters’ lives come together after a life-changing event as Wolfie is returned to his German home. Over just four days in Germany, the Boy Scouts will witness horrific events and face adversity with courage and grace.
It was amazing to me to realize that WWII hadn’t even started but concentration camps were already filling with Jewish citizens. The Hitler Youth were being indoctrinated and forced to follow Hitler’s plan or receive damaging repercussions. Their regular parades through the cities were reminders of Hitler’s growing leadership. Hitler’s speeches and events were attended by many and the Germans were in awe of his future plans. Sadly, we know how this turned out, but at this time the German citizens appeared to be enamored with and almost hallucinated by Hitler.
“For as long as I live, I will never forget the sound of their boots striking the pavement.”
The novel begins with a shocking event that has repercussions for the Boy Scout troop as they spend their final days in Germany. There is quite a bit of abuse and violence in this story. I honestly had to put the novel down several times as it was a bit too difficult for me to read while there were similar horrors happening in our world at the same time. But, I do feel like this is an important story to be told. I was amazed at how easy it was for the German people to take Hitler’s oath and spout the hatred for some of their own neighbors and friends who were suddenly considered to be added to a list of people to be removed from society.
Many of the characters in this story relied on their faith to get them through the most horrific of times. They never lost hope and found joy in the smallest moments of their days. Even in the midst of brutality, there was a smile or a prayer that kept them going, persevering through the pain and suffering. They are reminders to me to appreciate the small moments in my life to focus on the good parts of each day.
“You can stay stuck here in your anger, or you can give him a chance and hear what he has to say.”
Those who like historical fiction based on real people or events will find an appreciation for this story. I’m shocked that there really was a Boy Scout trip through Europe in the 1930s because it seems like such a huge undertaking even without the Hitler experience added to it. To have little to no communication with the group over the six weeks seems hard to imagine as a parent.
Lewis puts the reader in Hitler’s Germany and stirs up a lot of emotion as we follow these characters through some of the darkest moments in their lives. She doesn’t make everything neat and tidy at the end because unfortunately, life in Germany wasn’t neat and tidy for the people at that time. Be prepared for an emotional conclusion and one that will leave you thinking about these characters for a long time.
“I’d like you to never forget that good can happen. We must always pursue the good regardless of the circumstances.”
Cathy A. Lewis is a classically trained chef and graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York, and a culinary entrepreneur with over 40 years of experience in her industry. THE ROAD WE TOOK is Cathy’s first novel and partially conceived from her father’s journal of daily writings and documentations along with the narratives and tales he told Cathy as a young girl. When she is not working as a professional chef, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking for her family and special friends, taking photos of nature and food, gardening, watching open wheel racing, watching movie classics from the golden age of cinema on TCM, and chasing her two cats. Check out her website, HERE.