Auslander by Paul Dowswell

Auslander by Paul Dowswell cover
Piotr is very aware of his nakedness, even among all the equally naked boys. He doesn't know where his eyes should look, or can look, especially with all the soldiers and their rifles watching them closely.
Then it's his turn to enter the Race and Settlement Main Office. All sorts of strange medical instruments lie scattered on the table, waiting to measure him, to deliver their judgment. However, the two white-coated men only takes a quick measure of his ear and sends him away. "We hardly need to bother...he looks just like that boy in the Hitler-Jugend poster".
I don't like historical fiction. I especially don't like historical fiction about wars, so Auslander is way out of my comfort zone, but Dowswell's meticulous details and well-paced narrative draws me in and keeps me in his haunting world. I read that the author has also written several non-fiction on World War II, and you can tell he knows his stuff.
The gripping first chapters, which describes the screening process to see if Piotr is "racially valuable" and worthy of reclamation, reads like the beginning of a dystopian novel, but better, because this is not mere fiction.  The exploration of the whole "racial hygiene" and "racial science" beliefs is frightening and fascinating at the same time, and it adds another level to the story.  Piotr, renamed "Peter", the German version of his name, moves from Warsaw to Berlin and is recommended for adoption into a prestigious German family. Despite his seemingly successful  assimilation into his new family and his new world, he is an "Auslander", a foreigner, and will remain so, as he gradually and painfully realizes.  His aspiration to be a Luftwaffe pilot and to serve the Fuhrer is slowly replaced by his horrors at the "one hundred percenters" who will do and believe anything the Nazis dictate. Even though you think the author will probably let Peter live at the end of the book, his life is in danger right till the last chapter on the very last page. It's intense.
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