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Written by Nicola Francisc
After the Germans invaded Poland, the vast majority hanged outside their houses a German flag or a Nazi flag. The Polish believed that the German flag will become a protection for them, symbolizing their support for the German regime and will keep hostile forces away from their homes. Based on this way of thinking, many Jewish families transformed their flags into German ones and then hanged them outside their homes.
A recurrent motif in the novel is Gerda’s positivity. No matter how bad things get, Gerda never cease to believe that things will turn for the better. Even when Arthur is taken away, she continue to hope that he will come home soon again and despite the rumors circulating about the camps and the executions taking place, she refuses to believe that something bad will happen to her brother.
The German population generally believed that everything connected with England was generally bad. When they saw someone being interested into the culture and language of that country, they immediately assumed that that person was against their country and belief system. Because of this, when Gerda is caught by two German officers coming from English lessons, she is told to stop because of them, a person trying to learn English is a person who opposes their beliefs and will eventually stand up against them.
Instead of focusing on how the camps transformed those inside and how those inside became inhuman, Gerda focuses on the acts of kindness she sees around her. This becomes a recurrent motif in the novel even before Gerda is sent to the working camps. For example, when she describes the encounter she had with two German soldiers, she focuses on how they treated her and how they were the opposite of what she expected them to be.
Instead of claiming that her survival was the result of her own efforts and cunningness, Gerda admits that a series of coincidences she is able to avoid death. The idea that a man’s life depends on chance as much as it depends on the individual efforts is one of the motifs that appears in the novel.
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They learn that the war is just beginning. The Germans have invaded Russia, and the former Russian-controlled parts of Poland, including Lwow, have been taken by Germany. Gerda worries for her family and especially Arthur.