Reviewed by Ann Maie S.
The Shipwreck of a Nation by H. Peter Nennhaus depicts the life in war-time Germany through the author’s experiences during his childhood and youth. Nennhaus presents the version of events as they were felt and thought about by Germans throughout World War I, II and Adolf Hitler, and effectively combines historical facts with a young boy’s everyday life experiences.
Nennhaus notes that it did not matter what walks of life they came from, people still managed to live like civilized human beings. Many Germans – although they would never admit to it in public – felt that the Nazi party was becoming a menace to society. (The author referred to the Nazi era as the German Problem.) The German people grew weary, displeased and wanted a quick end to the war and the return of a peaceful life.
In reading Nennhaus’ writing, I felt the sense that I was actually walking in his shoes and seeing the world through his eyes. To truly understand how and why all the events took place is to live through them, and The Shipwreck of a Nation allowed me to do so. Nennhaus made a point that there is a lesson to be learned from these events and they should be used as a teaching tool to prevent devastation from happening time and again. This book is a reminder to be careful not to make the same mistakes twice. It makes evident that no good will ever come out of war.
The Shipwreck of a Nation shifted from feelings of happiness, to alarming terror, to hatred, to fear, to patriotism, to sorrow, to frustration, to hopelessness, and most of all, to redefining oneself. Overall, the book was very informative, but also tragic. Even as a young boy, Nennhaus was well aware of what was going on within and outside of Germany. (Surprisingly, according to Nennhaus, most Germans knew little to nothing of the Holocaust until the very end.) Despite experiencing hardship and tragedy as a youngster, his closeness to his family and his faith allowed him to believe that one day there will be peace.