Author: Hugh Rosen
The following review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN: Editor of Bookpleasures. CLICK TO VIEW Norm Goldman's Reviews
To read Norm's Interview with Hugh Rosen, CLICK HERE
Hugh Rosen has created an emotionally charged read with his debut novel Silent Battlefields. At the heart of the novel and the central peg on which Rosen hangs his carefully crafted novel is a narrative involving two families that are woven together in a provocative and complex exploration of the evilness of the holocaust, its lasting effects on its victims and perpetrators, and the morality pertaining to Nazi avengers.
The novel slips easily from one character's consciousness to another, as Rosen fills us in on their stories with many strong moments and powerful scenes. We first are told about twelve year old Selig Kruger, who in 1939 is forced to join Hitler's youth movement, prior to his eventual entry into the German army. It is in the youth movement where he is taught to recognize the supreme virtue of Nazi ideology. Once indoctrinated into this belief system, he finds no difficulty in following orders until one day as a German soldier he becomes part of a mission with two other comrades to search for and kill any Jews in hiding along with the family members who have helped them.
Upon entering a farm home of a pastor and his family in Haranburg, a village many miles from Warsaw, he discovers a couple hidden in the attic and when he opens a closet door he notices their young daughter. He puts his index finger to his lips in order to signal to the young girl to remain silent and he then closes the door. However, he marches the child's parents down the stairs where they, along with the pastor and his family, are shot to death by one of the soldiers. Selig runs out of the house and while he is being pursued by his comrades he kills them. Eventually, Selig finds his way after the war to Philadelphia where he marries the daughter of a rich German industrialist, becomes an eminent surgeon and fathers a son, Thomas.
Eva, the little girl whose life was spared, discovers the horrendous death of her parents and the family that was hiding them. She manages to escape and is saved by a gentile man, who brings her home, even though his wife is appalled at taking in a Jewish girl to live with them. After the war Eva likewise finds her way to Philadelphia, where she marries Professor Nathan Eisenstadt, becomes a psychoanalyst and bears a son, Mathew.
A series of incredulous coincidences, perhaps a stretch to believe, bring Selig and Eva's families together and their respective destinies become intertwined, leaving us with a riveting and compelling narrative.
Rosen can clearly write, as his characters are skillfully crafted, fraught with flaws and internal conflicts. His characterization of Selig and Eva is solid and deft and his storytelling is not only genuinely surprising at times but also insightful. Rosen effectively interprets the events he describes and delves beyond the surface of the various characters he has brought to the page.
When I interviewed Rosen and asked him “what do you hope readers will take away after reading Silent Battlefields?” His reply was: “I hope that reading Silent Battlefields will enlarge the reader’s perspective on the resolving of ethical dilemmas and the complexities of life’s realities. Perhaps she or he will also be confronted with some provocative thinking, raising such significant questions as: “What would I have done in that situation?” Did he succeed? The answer is a resounding yes and I look forward to reading more from Hugh Rosen.