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Berlin, December 1944. Helga is a child, and like all children worldwide, she’s living through the horrific reality of war. The city is under siege by Allied bombs, and those who can must seek refuge in basements. In Helga’s family, her father is away at war, her mother vanished years ago, and her stepmother, Ursula, openly dislikes her.However, on this December morning, Helga decides to run away because she refuses to meet him. Her grandfather always claims that he is evil and responsible for Germany’s suffering. Yet, she eventually returns home because she doesn’t know where else to go. Along with her brother Peter, she is selected to visit Adolf Hitler himself as part of a propaganda effort to boost the German people’s morale in the face of the virtually lost war.Fast forward to 1948. The war has ended, Helga’s father has returned, but Berlin lies in ruins. The family relocates to a small village in Austria. There, Helga believes she might finally find happiness. Amid new friendships and minor misunderstandings, she experiences a carefree summer that offers a semblance of normalcy at last.

Born in 1937 in Silesia, which was part of the Third Reich at the time, Schneider’s life is a novel itself. Abandoned by her mother in 1941, she finds out only three decades later that the woman was still alive and had left the family to work in the SS as a guardian in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Schneider told this story in her best-selling novel Lasciami andare, madre (Let me go), published in 2004 by Adelphi and translated into several languages. A biopic based on the book was released in 2017.