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‘Shadow Time Stories’ by Lilo Beil – stories from WWII Germany

‘Shadow Time Stories’ – stories from Nazi Germany

My review of Shadow Time Stories by Lilo Beil – fifteen short stories set in WWII Germany.

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Published by Amazon CreateSpace, 2016. Available exclusively from Amazon.

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Shadow Time Stories by Lilo Beil takes place in Germany during WWII. It consists of fifteen short stories relating to the Holocaust, that most terrible period in the history of Europe. These stories are very simply written and are almost all from the point of view of children. In most stories, somebody disappears. It is incomprehensible to the child protagonist that a friend, a piano teacher, a shop owner, or neighbours should simply go away. Nobody explains anything. Shop fronts are daubed with slogans, men wear brown uniforms and yellow stars, and sport moustaches like Herr Hitler. Adolescents join the Hitler Youth movement. Blond hair is beautiful.

The child understands nothing, till one day one of them, Margarete (The Twilight Hours), overhears the grown-ups talking about what happens to Jews.

“No-one can judge us. We would have been sent to a concentration camp ourselves if we had raised the slightest objection.” Margarete’s thoughts were spinning with all the new, frightening words. Had her parents been aware of something? What was it?

The Holocaust was Hitler’s programme of exterminating all Jews from Europe. Shadow Time Stories are not written from the point of view of Jewish people, but of young Germans in semi-rural communities who grew up during this period. They were personally affected by the extraordinary rise of the Hitler Youth movement, and by the indoctrination which turned them into young Nazis.

Lilo Beil

The author of Shadow Time Stories was born in 1947 in Klingenmünster and brought up in a parsonage in Winden. She collected material for the stories from anecdotes and personal memories. She is the Margarete of The Twilight Hour, quoted above. In her introduction to the book, she says “I consider that moment to be the end of my childhood innocence.”

Shadow Time Stories (Schattenzeit Geschichten) was first published in Germany by Edition Tintenfass. The English translator is Virginia Larson and the book has been published by the author via Amazon. The author says in her preface: “All of the stories in this book spring from my feelings of utter incomprehension, sadness and fury over what occurred in my country before my birth.”

At the end of the book she indicates the sources of all the stories. This photograph is of Lilo Beil during one of her many school readings of Shadow Time Stories.

Lilo Beil lives in Germany with her husband. They have three daughters and three grandchildren.

Lilo Beil reading from ‘Shadow Time Stories’ (‘Schattenzeit Geschichten’) on a school visit
Lilo Beil reading from ‘Shadow Time Stories’ (‘Schattenzeit Geschichten’) on a school visit

My thoughts on ‘Shadow Time Stories’

These stories, based on fact, are very simply told yet deeply moving. The book is accessible to all readers and I would highly recommend it for children over ten. Most children will have heard of the Holocaust, but few will have thought about what it must have been like for the children of Germany to live through that time. Readers will readily identify with the characters and their confused feelings. Though the author wrote them from a sense of horror and disbelief in the atrocities that were committed against Jews in the Hitler regime, she does not attempt to influence her readers. These are important and disturbing stories that children will never forget.

Some other books by Lilo Beil

Lilo Beil at Sissinghurst, sitting on Vita Sackville-West’s bench
Lilo Beil sitting on Vita Sackville-West’s bench in Sissinghurst, Kent

Lilo Beil is best known for her detective novels. She has written a series of three featuring Charlotte Rapp, and a further series of ten featuring Friedrich Gontard. The most recent of this Gontard series is Letzte Rosen (Last Roses, 2021) and if you are a German speaker you might like to visit her website and watch her reading an extract from it at a recent KrimiFestival. She has also written five short story collections and has contributed to many anthologies. Here she is sitting on Vita Sackville-West’s bench from Sissinghurst in Kent, where her novel Letzte Rosen is set.

Lilo Beil’s website (in German)

I also recently blogged about another WWII-related book – The Swallows’ Flight by Hilary McKay.

Over to you

I remember being really moved when I read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, but I can’t think of any other children’s books set in Nazi Germany. Can you?

Let me know in the comments box below.

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Berlie Doherty

Berlie Doherty is the author of the best-selling novel, Street Child, and over 60 more books for children, teenagers and adults, and has written many plays for radio, theatre and television. She has been translated into over twenty languages and has won many awards, including the Carnegie medal for both Granny Was a Buffer Girl and Dear Nobody, and the Writers’ Guild Award for both Daughter of the Sea and the theatre version of Dear Nobody. She has three children and seven grandchildren, and lives in the Derbyshire Peak District with Alan James Brown. Her new picture book The Seamaiden’s Odyssey, illustrated by Tamsin Rosewell, will be published by UCLan on 5 September 2024. See the About me page for more information.

This post has 4 comments

  1. I recommend the book “The Wave” by Morton Rhue. It isn’t set in Nazi Germany, but it is about Nazi Germany. It tells the story of a history teacher who experiments on his students by teaching them the Nazi ideology. He doesn’t tell them what he is doing and he documents the process.

    1. Thank you Hannah. I see that Martin Rhue also writes as Todd Strasser, and that The Wave has been made into a movie.

  2. I would recommend the book “The Boy at the Top of the Mountain” by John Boyne. It’s about a boy who lives in Adolf Hitler’s home in the German mountains.

    1. Thank you Thomas. That’s another excellent recommendation. John Boyne is also the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which I mentioned above.

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