Friedrich is a notable book written by Hans Peter Richter who also wrote many books for children and young adults. The content of this book was used as study material for Literature classes back in my high school days. It was such a shame though, looking back at those days, not many of us kids were able to feel deeply for this book. All we knew was that Friedrich was a poor Jewish boy, discrimination is bad, and that’s about it.
I revisited this book a few years after graduating high school. Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, it felt a lot like I was reading it for the very first time. Details and emotions which I failed to capture when I was a lot younger all surfaced.
Even though it is a book about the Holocaust, it does not heavily portray any doctrines or politics. It is a very simple and straightforward book; the holocaust through the eyes of a child, rid of all abstract ideologies. Exactly because of its simplicity, it painfully illustrates the sufferings people went through; not just the Jews, but everybody living in that era, because a child would not know of the term ‘discrimination’ or ‘antisemitism’. All he knew was that parents were losing jobs, families often have not enough to feed everybody in the house, there were unreasonable bullying and violence, his friend Friedrich and some other kids were forced to drop out of the school they were studying in, and finally the escalation to war which nobody he knew of could have prevented.
I vividly remember the scene where poor Friedrich was denied entrance to the bomb shelter because the man knew he was Jewish. The helplessness is unimaginable, the despair effectively hits the reader. Friedrich and everyone else who were safely hiding in the shelter knew very well that it was impossible for Friedrich to survive if he was not allowed to take refuge in the shelter. They also knew that the man or anyone inside had every capacity to extend help and take Friedrich in. None of that happened. He had to witness all the cruelty to Friedrich, till the moment war took his final breath away.
I hope that people who read this book will not only feel deeply, but also learn something (if not more) about Judaism as a religion, and to respect and appreciate life as a substance.