A riveting account of a German woman's experiences during World War II, and of a granddaughter's quest to uncover a family history kept hidden for sixty years

Growing up in Paris, the daughter of a German mother and an Irish father, Svenja O'Donnell knew little of her family's German past. All she knew was that her grandmother and her mother had fled their home city of Königsberg in the far east of Germany near the end of World War II, never to return. But everything changed when O'Donnell traveled to Königsberg--now known as Kaliningrad, and part of Russia--and called her grandmother, who uncharacteristically burst into tears. "I have so much to tell you," Inge said.

In this transporting and illuminating book, the award-winning journalist vividly reconstructs the story of Inge's life from the rise of the Nazis through the brutal postwar years, from falling in love with a man who was sent to the Eastern Front just after she became pregnant with his child, to spearheading her family's flight as the Red Army closed in, her young daughter in tow. Ultimately, O'Donnell uncovers the act of violence that finally parted Inge from the man she loved; a terrible secret she had been keeping for more than six decades.

In retracing her grandmother's footsteps, Svenja O'Donnell offers a rare window into a side of World War II we rarely see: a story not of heroes or villains, but of ordinary people, caught in the gears of history.
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