Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali
Text, 2016. ISBN 9781922182852
(Age: 16+) Recommended. This book, first published in France, has won awards in Europe. It is well researched and covers a period in history marked with cruelty and evil.
Max is a product of the 'Lebensborn' (Fountains of Youth) program. This program was designed to produce perfect blonde, blue-eyed members of the Aryan race to regenerate the Reich. His story spans the years 1936 to 1945 and begins with Max in utero.
Max brings to life the ideals, thoughts and motivations of the Hitler Youth. He explains the atrocities and evil practices with a complacency and coldness that is at once confronting, brutal and illuminating.
At regular intervals the author calls to the attention of the reader the age of the narrator (foetus, 3 months old, or one year old). This at times interferes with the flow of the reading, jarring the reader, as the writing is infused with well researched historical information and adult perspectives.
The book is confronting as it portrays the complacency of some caught up in the holocaust, their moral choices and the battle waged by good over evil. The themes of friendship and identity are explored through the unlikely relationship that develops between Max and Lukas (a Polish boy). There is an adult insight into the moral dilemmas faced by everyday people as they grappled with a situation that was tumbling out of their control. There is a poignant section at the end of the book where Max is oblivious to an opportunity for love and redemption that will have adults reaching for the tissues.