The year is 1938 and German Jews are losing their jobs; their children are being forced out of school and harassed on the street. But, 11-year-old Ziska wonders, why should this affect her? Her family converted to Protestantism two generations ago. If her mother loves her, why is she putting Ziska on a children’s train—a kindertransport—to live with strangers in England?
Life in England brings many surprises for Ziska. Her host family practices Orthodox Judaism, and Ziska becomes intrigued by their rituals. The family’s son welcomes her immediately, and she also finds friends in a fellow kindertransport passenger and an elderly professor. And although Ziska and her host mother get off to a rocky start, they soon begin to develop a bond that will prove to be tremendously meaningful for both of them.
As Ziska’s relationship with her host family develops, so does the war, including bombings and blackouts in London, further evacuations to the countryside and rumors of unspeakable horrors against Jews in German-occupied lands. By the time peace is declared in 1945, Ziska is 18 years old, and both her world and her perspective have changed in ways she could never have imagined.
Anne C. Voorhoeve’s historical novel, first published in Germany, raises many questions: What does it mean to be a friend, a daughter, a German or a Jew? Reflecting its wartime setting, the events in My Family for the War are at times harsh and unforgiving. But ultimately, Ziska’s story is about the persistent love of a family . . . and a generation’s hope for better times to come.