The Kommandant's Girl
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In her luminous and groundbreaking debut, bestselling author Pam Jenoff shows the unimaginable sacrifices one woman must make in a time of war
Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into her native Poland. Within days Emma's husband, Jacob, is forced to disappear underground, leaving her imprisoned within the city's decrepit Jewish ghetto. But then, in the dead of night, the resistance smuggles her out. Taken to Krakow to live with Jacob's Catholic aunt, Krysia, Emma takes on a new identity as Anna Lipowski, a gentile.
Emma's already precarious situation is complicated by her introduction to Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official who hires her to work as his assistant. Urged by the resistance to use her position to access details of the Nazi occupation, Emma must compromise her safety—and her marriage vows—in order to help Jacob's cause. As the atrocities of war intensify, so does Emma's relationship with the Kommandant, building to a climax that will risk not only her double life, but also the lives of those she loves.
figure it out. It will be okay. I promise.” The child, Krysia told me, would arrive late that night as I had done the night before. By early evening, Krysia looked exhausted. “Why don’t you rest a bit?” I offered, but she shook her head. As the hands on the walnut grandfather clock in the hallway climbed well past midnight, she continued moving around the cottage without resting, cleaning and organizing dozens of little things. Krysia had turned the lights down low so that only the faintest glow
at the prospect of going up. We make our way to the center aisle and join the line as it shuffles forward, Lukasz coming with us, although, I suspect, he is too young for Communion. When we reach the front, Krysia goes first. I watch as she kneels and opens her mouth, allowing the priest to place a wafer there. Then she rises and turns, taking Lukasz’s hand from me. It is my turn. I step forward and kneel. “Body of Christ,” the priest says as he places the wafer on my tongue. I close my mouth
everything is fine and that I will do a good job. But she remains silent for several minutes, her brow furrowed and lips pursed. At last I am the one who speaks. “It will be okay, Krysia.” “It will be what it will be, darling. These are uncertain times, and there is no need to give an old woman false comfort. But I do know one thing.” Suddenly, her face relaxes. She takes my hand in hers, and I can see a light growing in her eyes. “The courage of young people such as yourself is the one thing
Even on the deserted road in the middle of the night, I know better than to attract attention. When my stomach has calmed, I stand up, wiping my mouth and breathing deeply. The street is empty, except for a single rat that pops up from the gutter and glares at me disdainfully. I had to do it, I explain silently. I had to make it look as though I really liked him and was enjoying the moment. The rat turns and runs away from me, not convinced. I smooth my hair and begin the long walk home. When I
am going to have to take them. Or at least a copy. Holding up the papers, I see that they have been typed on carbon paper. I lick my thumb and work at the corner of the first page. The back sheet, a thin carbon copy, separates from the main page. I hesitate. Do I dare take it? The chances of the Kommandant noticing the carbon copy missing are slim, but if I am caught with such a document it would cost my life, not to mention putting those around me in grave danger. Still, the opportunity is too