Summer of My German Soldier Summary
Summer of My German Soldier deals with an important period in American history, the armed conflict between Germany and America in World War II. Prisoner-of-war camps were established in many American towns to incarcerate captured German soldiers. Summer of My German Soldier describes how the citizens of an imaginary town react to the prisoner-of-war camps located in their community.
Patty Bergen, the twelve-year-old central character, finds growing up painful. Tension within her family compounds her anxiety and her low self-esteem. Abused and all but rejected by her callous parents, Patty befriends a peace-loving escaped German prisoner of war, Anton Reiker. Patty helps Anton hide from the authorities, and the two develop a caring, trusting relationship. What makes this relationship unusual is that Patty is Jewish and Anton is a former Nazi. Both, however, disregard these affiliations when they are together. Each seeks to escape from a violent, oppressive environment, and in each other, Patty and Anton find sources of warmth and comfort. A complex and emotionally wrenching novel, Summer of My German Soldier explores Patty's struggle for approval, affection, and identity.
The Arrival of the POWs
Patty's life changes when a group of German POWs arrives by train to be taken to the new prison camp just outside of town. She is struck by the fact that they look no different from anyone else. When the soldiers are brought into town to purchase hats to shield them from the "formidable Arkansas sun," Patty hurries to her parents' store to help out. There is one prisoner who speaks English, and he is singled out to make their purchases. After procuring hats for the men to wear while working in the fields, he approaches the stationery counter to buy writing supplies. Patty is at the counter, and he introduces himself to her. His name is Frederick Anton Reiker. Besides the stationery, he also buys a piece of costume jewelry, seemingly on a whim.
Anton Hides Out
News circulates that one of the prisoners has escaped. The men of the town form a mob, each being told to go home and gather firearms if they have not already brought them. A reporter named Charlene from the Memphis Commercial Appeal comes to Jenkinsville to get the story. Patty offers to guide her to the prison camp. She accepts the offer, and on the way to and from the camp Patty impresses Charlene with her intelligence.
One night, Patty hears a train approaching. She looks out the window of her room and sees someone hiding in the bushes, apparently about to jump onto the train. She goes outside and recognizes the shadowy figure as Anton. She offers to hide him in the family's garage apartment. He accepts, and confides that he used the costume jewelry he bought at the store to bribe a guard. Patty begins stealing food for him. Her father notices the food disappearing; he assumes that Ruth is stealing it. Patty tells him that she has been eating it. She and Anton become friends.
After being caught by her father for disobeying him, her father begins beating her with his belt and knocks her to the ground. She looks up to see Anton outside. He has left his sanctuary and is going to stop her father's abuse, despite what his discovery will mean for him. Patty screams "go away" several times. Luckily, her father thinks it is directed at him. Anton returns to his hiding place, but not before he is seen by Ruth. The next day, Ruth tells Patty that she will not reveal Anton to the authorities.
A pair of FBI agents comes to Jenkinsville to investigate Anton's escape. They question everyone, and Patty tells them that she waited on him at the store. Other than his hair color and appearance, the only thing Patty tells them is that he was very polite. When they question her more closely, her father intervenes, accusing them of bullying her.
Eventually, Anton tells Patty that he must leave town. He realizes that he cannot hide out in the garage forever. The family has missed the extra food, and both he...
(The entire section is 1,180 words.)