When we first meet Pierrot Fischer, he is a sweet 7-year-old, small for his age, bullied by bigger boys, but certain in his friendship with Anshel. His father disappears and dies. When his mother dies, he moves in with Anshel’s family temporarily. Because pre-WWII France is not an easy place for Jews, Anshel’s mother finds a place for him in an orphanage, where he stays until he is claimed by his long-lost German aunt. When he joins her in Austria, Pierrot’s eyes are opened to a new world and we see him evolve into someone far less likable.
Publisher’s Summary: When Pierrot becomes an orphan, he must leave his home in Paris for a new life with his Aunt Beatrix, a servant in a wealthy household at the top of the German mountains. But this is no ordinary time, for it is 1935 and the Second World War is fast approaching; and this is no ordinary house, for this is the Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler.
Quickly, Pierrot is taken under Hitler’s wing, and is thrown into an increasingly dangerous new world: a world of terror, secrets and betrayal, from which he may never be able to escape.
What I, and his Aunt, found most terrifying is the ease with which Pierrot is turned from sweet boy to Nazi thug. She calls him on his behavior.
“Perhaps you shouldn’t spend so much time with the Führer from now on,” she said, finally turning around to look at her nephew.
“But why not?”
“He’s a very busy man.”
“He’s a very busy man who says he sees great potential in me,” said Pierrot proudly. “Besides we talk about interesting things. And he listens to me.”
“I listen to you, Pieter,” said Beatrix.
Pierrot gets caught up in the uniforms and the power he begins to feel, turning the small bullied boy into a bully. He does some terrible things. When the war ends, he claims that he was only a child and didn’t really understand, but Herta, a maid in the house, calls him out, claiming he knew what was going on.
“You have many years ahead of you to come to terms with your complicity in these matters.Just don;t ever tall yourself that you didn’t know.” She released him now from her grip. “That would be the worst crime of all.”
We see that the post war years are emotionally difficult for Pierrot but the ending brings some catharsis.
As with Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, the reader requires some background knowledge to truly understand what appears, on the surface, to be a simple book. But it is a book worth reading.