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Torn Apart by Hitler's Germany - an Editorial Review of "Choosing Sides"

Book Blurb:

Choosing Sides is the story of a family caught in the maelstrom of Nazi Germany and the difficult choice each family member must make:

  • to endorse the Party and work toward building a glorious Third Reich,

  • to stay quiet in the hope that Herr Hitler would soon be gone

  • to resist, even at the risk of imprisonment or death, or

  • to leave their beloved Fatherland behind.

It is a story of identity and place, personal belief and ethics, complacency and resolve.

This work of historical fiction tells the tale of a young man who grows up on both sides of the Atlantic just before World War II – and faces a painful choice when his two worlds collide. Having been born in Germany, but moved to America at age four, Karl-Heinz returns seven years later to a changed Deutschland. He meets der Führer personally and becomes active in the Hitler Youth. He idolizes Uncle Ernst, a rising Nazi official. His cousin Peter and his childhood sweetheart Annelies are both Party devotees. But Karl-Heinz also loves the peaceful life he experienced in America. His parents, Diech and Mimi, make their choice – and when he turns eighteen “Heinzie” must make his own.

Every day at school in the U.S. he had recited his “allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands.” Upon joining the Hitlerjugend, he had vowed: “In the presence of this blood banner, which represents our Führer, I swear to devote all my energies and my strength to the savior of our country, Adolf Hitler.” He now had to decide which pledge to stand by – and which to foreswear.

Which land is his home? Which country’s values does he share? Which side will he fight for?

Author Bio:

David K. Wessel is one of six children born to Karl-Heinz Wessel, the main character of “Choosing Sides”. David is a recently retired diplomat who served at embassies in Rome, Budapest, Podgorica (Montenegro) and Guatemala. When it comes to writing about the years leading up to World War II he relies not only on his family story, but fifty years of studying how the Weimar Republic shaped the lives of ‘ordinary Germans.’ At university, he majored in history with a focus on Germany between the wars and has continued his interest in the subject ever since. After leaving foreign service, he returned to those studies and dove into the specific research so well reflected in “Choosing Sides.”

In addition to writing Choosing Sides, David has developed four presentations that provide details on various historic elements of the novel. He is available to deliver talks at booksellers, libraries, colleges, historical societies, museums and other venues. Please see the Events link for details – or use the Contact button to inquire about more specifics.

Editorial Review:

And you are one of the lucky ones, I must say. The doctors have deemed you unfit to return to the front. You will be sent home tomorrow. So, I wish you goodbye, und viel Glück.”

Thank you. And good luck to you, as well.” Diech answered. “Auf Wiedersehen.” Then he drifted back off to sleep – this time with dreams of returning home, back to Ahrensflucht, to put all this behind him and pick up his life where he’d left off.

And never again will I let war interfere with my life. Not in any way. Not ever, he told himself.

Choosing Sides” by David K. Wessel begins in the middle of the first World War. Protagonist Diech and his fellow soldiers find themselves in battle after battle, fighting neck and neck and ferociously. However, in the middle of a battle, Diech is deemed unfit to continue further after being shot twice in the stomach. He is sent back to him homestead back to his family and simple life. The war finally came to an end soon thereafter, however, this was not the end of the deaths as Influenza cases spike up in their community. With this, Diech soon suffers the losses of both his father and mother.

Diech answered as he slapped his hand on the bar. “I do not see what we have to be afraid of. For years we have had conflicts between countries, wars between opposing factions, even now an international conflict – all led by men of the army and the government who wish to dominate not only their fellow countrymen, but also other countries. I’m open for change. Especially if it means more people, including women and ordinary folks like us, have a chance to be part of those changes.”

Well, then we must disagree on that, I think,” responded Ernst, earning a thumbs up sign of approval from Fish. “I’m afraid all these new parties will fight over one idea after another, and the communists will step in to disrupt everything. They are not afraid to use violence to get their way and could just overrun a weak, unsure democratic government. Especially those Gottverdammt communists. How I hate that gang of thugs.”

During the beginning of the Roaring Twenties, America was witnessing innovations and changes quicker than anyone could see. However, Diech and his family in Germany saw almost the opposite in these times. In fact, talks of their ways of life changing around them with talks of Germany becoming a Democratic Republic scares many of them. Deich however, finds interest in the changes and sees all of the possibilities that can be. With this, in 1927, Deich, Mimi and their now four-year-old son, Karl-Heinz set sail to America in the search of a new home.

For a few years, Deich and his family are able to live the lives they have wanted for years before their move from their homeland. However, everything changes once more with the start of the Second World War. With Hitler and his German Troops leading the way. Hate groups are popping up all around them, some for Hitler and his doings, others against. Anger is piled higher on the shoulders of the Germans as more people place their blame and hate on them. Deich finds himself having to make some hard, life-altering decisions.

I’ve had one fear before me”, it read. “It is that a wave of world revulsion might follow that will punish – NOT the Nazi Party and its leaders as exemplified by Hitler but the GERMAN PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. … And above all, I’m [frightened] it might take place here in our own country where we have no room for sectional, racial or religious hates. … We can’t afford to develop in this country the very tyrannical acts we scorn in other lands.”

Choosing Sides” by David K. Wessel is truly a thought – provoking and emotional piece. It depicts a family fighting each other as everything they know changes and begins to crumble around them as results of the back-to-back wars, sicknesses, and economical destruction. The years in which the story takes place were, by far, some of the hardest years for people to live in. Mr. Wessel does an extraordinary job showing these events exactly like they happened. The very words of the story lift off of the page and bring the reader in closer to almost experience the emotional rollercoaster that the characters feel through the situations that they face.

The only somewhat vexatious thing about “Choosing Sides” is that it frequently feels as if you are reading out of a history textbook or an article on the subject of the two Great Wars. While understanding that this is a historical fiction book, it is notable that this happens quite a few times. In this story particularly, there are some that are placed in the middle of “action scenes,” or faster paced times in the book. With this, it slows down the moment and it often leaves readers a tad temperamental with reading them. However, this is a person-to-person sort of thing, it will vary between readers.

On the other hand, the above brings in the sense of realness to the story. It makes the setting and the characters feel alive as they are reacting to everything happening around them. It is to be believed that these are the tales and recollections of Mr. Wessel’s actual family and bloodlines in this story, (as he shares the same name as his character) which makes the story and even more remarkable one.


Choosing Sides” by David K. Wessel is rated 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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