A Night in Distant Motion Summary
by Irina Korschunow

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A Night in Distant Motion Summary

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

A Night in Distant Motion discusses issues of good and evil, prejudice, and forgiveness in a suspense-filled manner that rivets the attention of the reader. The story takes place in Germany during the 1940s. At that time, the Nazi government, led by Adolph Hitler, ruled Germany under a totalitarian regime called the Third Reich. In a totalitarian government, the governmental leader has supreme authority over all subjects and can decide the legality of an issue based on his or her personal prejudices and whims. Hitler decided that only true Germans, or Aryans, could have rights in Germany. Aryans were idealized Germanic people who were tall, strong, intelligent, blond-haired, and blue-eyed men and women who would die for their country and their leader. Those not considered true Germans included all foreigners living in Germany, Jews, homosexuals, and any physically or emotionally disabled persons. These groups wore different symbols on their clothing—a yellow star or a letter to mark them apart from society. The government appropriated their property, encouraged attacks on them, and finally deported many to concentration camps where thousands died from enforced labor, hunger, disease, and murder.

Some Germans openly resisted the laws by hiding people or smuggling weapons to partisans, but many refused to comprehend the truth of what was happening around them or lived in fear of being taken away if they protested. It is in this environment of fear and deceit that the story's action occurs. Although some people blindly follow the Fuhrer—Regine's mother and Feldmann the air raid warden among them, others like Dr. Muhlhoff, Doris, and Gertrud endure and survive knowing the war will end and the evil recede. Regine discovers her prejudices hold no basis in fact. Although labeled "subhuman," Jan is a good, gentle person who exhorts Regine to "lay a path" toward the future. She finds Maurice, a French schoolteacher forced into military life, an intelligent, tender, and wise individual, and she sees the compassion and strength hidden by Gertrud's tough exterior. Korschunow conveys the idea that these qualities, rather than blind faith and trust, form the basis of a good future.