It is summer, 1940. As Hitler’s armies turn mainland Europe into a mass graveyard, his feared Luftwaffe rain bombs on England. Meanwhile, amid the green hills of the Cotswolds, a nest of “enemy aliens” has been discovered: the Bruderhof, a Christian community made up of German, Dutch, and Swiss refugees, and growing numbers of English pacifists. Having fled Nazi Germany to escape persecution, the Bruderhof had at first been welcomed in England. Now, at the height of the Battle of Britain, it is feared. Curfews and travel restrictions are imposed; nasty newspaper articles appear, and local patriots initiate a boycott. Determined to remain together as a witness for peace in a war-torn world, the little group of 300 – half of them babies and young children – looks for a new home. No country in Europe or North America will take them. And so they set off across the submarine-infested Atlantic for the jungles of Paraguay… In this gripping tale of faith tested by adversity, Emmy Barth lets us hear directly from the mothers, fathers, and children involved through their letters and diaries. Especially eloquent are the voices of the women as they faced both adventure and tragedy.
I thought this was a very interesting book from a historical perspective. I had never heard of the Bruderhof group before in all of my readings from this time period, so the story of their travels was eye opening for me.
Far and away my favorite part of this book were the many photographs. I found myself studying the faces of the brave people who traveled from Europe to England to South America searching for a place where they could raise their children and worship God in safety. It made the book more real to me and it was helpful in putting faces to the names of people in the book.
I also really enjoyed the descriptiveness of the book. I could easily imagine the difficulties in trying to keep young children clean amidst the boat ride only to arrive at their destination and be covered with swarming flies. Small details like that throughout the book gave me a great deal of respect for the families.
I would have liked to have read more detail about one or two families as opposed to an overview of the entire group. I understand that the book is the story of the Bruderhof as a whole, but I would have liked to gotten to know a couple of families more deeply, instead of a general sense of the community. It would have made the book even more real for me.
If you are unfamiliar with the Bruderhof, this is an excellent book to read to learn about the community. If you like to read about the WWII era, you will probably enjoy this book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Plough Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.