(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Wartime Lies recounts the experiences of Maciek and his aunt Tania during World War II. Polish Jews, they elude capture by the Nazis by posing as Aryans, but in their journey through cities and villages, cellars and rented rooms, they witness horrific scenes of German brutality that scar Maciek for life.

Maciek, now a man in his fifties, recollects his childhood in Poland, beginning in 1933. Through his eyes, readers see everything. The only child of a Jewish physician in the small town of T., he leads a pampered life. His mother dies in childbirth, so his aunt Tania moves in to oversee his upbringing. Frail and nervous, he is also stubborn, but his beautiful nanny, Zosia, can coax good behavior from him. Even his grandfather helps by teaching him to drive a carriage and throw a jackknife. In 1941, the persecution by the Nazis begins. Jews are forced out of their homes, beaten, and deported or shot in the streets. Maciek and his family must move to an apartment, and Zosia must leave, too, for Aryans are not allowed to work for Jews. The retreating Russians take Maciek’s father to Russia for the duration of the war. Crowded into a single apartment with the grandparents and another family, Tania and Maciek share the same bed, as they will for the remainder of the war. Toilet facilities and running water vanish; curfews and armbands with yellow stars appear. At the German supply depot where she finds work, Tania meets Reinhard, a German who falls...

(The entire section is 600 words.)