Pennies for Hitler
A companion piece to the best-selling Hitler's Daughter, this is a story of war-torn Europe during WWII, as seen through the eyes of a young German boy, Georg, who loses his family and must forget his past, and who he is, in order to survive.
It's 1939, and for Georg, son of an English academic living in Germany, life is full of cream cakes and loving parents. It is also a time when his teacher measures the pupils' heads to see which of them are the most 'Aryan'-shaped. But when a university graduation ceremony turns into a pro-Nazi demonstration, Georg is smuggled out of Germany to war-torn London, and then across enemy seas to Australia...
Hatred is contagious, but Georg finds that kindness can be, too.
"Be very wary of anyone who tries to make you angry."
Sometimes many stories come together and become a book. More than ten years ago a story told in my childhood from a man – a kind man, who had once been a guard in a concentration camp – became the book Hitler’s Daughter.
But there were more stories of that time – the whispered memory of a friend’s father, who had watched his fellow students get thrown out of a high window at a graduation day by a band of Nazis; the oral history of a Jewish boy who was told he had the ’most Aryan head’ in the whole class; a neighbour who had escaped Nazi persecution in Germany as a small child but then became a German enemy in England, finally – unexpectedly – discovering love and happiness in Australia.
They are all in Pennies for Hitler, though they're all altered too. But mostly, Pennies For Hitler came from a letter by a 14-year-old boy.
He was in a class for the intellectually handicapped. Hitler’s Daughter was the first book he and his friends had ever read, maybe because they’d seen Monkey Baa’s Hitler’s Daughter: The Play, and so found the book easy to follow.
His letter said:
I had never realised that message was in Hitler’s Daughter, but perhaps it’s the most important one there is.
So this book is for James. It is about a boy who isn’t there, who can’t be anywhere, because wherever he goes he is the enemy. It is about how hatred is contagious, but it is also about how kindness and love and compassion are contagious too. In a world where there are still destroyers, like the Nazis, there are also loving people like the Peaslake family of Pennies for Hitler, and indomitable friends, like Mud.
You never know quite what you create when you let stories loose. Pennies for Hitler is an adventure – and a love story, in a strange way, too. But I suspect that readers will find more in it than I knew I’d written, just as with Hitler’s Daughter.
Dear Jackie French,
What I have learned from your book is to be very wary of anyone who tries to make you angry.