The Girl From the Train by Irma Joubert

Today I am reviewing The Girl From the Train by Irma Joubert.

Here is a brief synopsis:

Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Auschwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They mean to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people.

When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her home. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.



This is the story of Gretl Schmidt, a young Jewish girl – who’s the daughter of a Nazi soldier – providing a much different angle of the experiences a child goes through during a war.

The book was originally published in 2007, but was translated into English and is being re-released this year.

It begins in Southern Poland in 1944… as a young girl, on a train bound for Auschwitz, Gretl is told to jump from the train, along with her sister. They are rescued temporarily by a Polish family, but when Gretl’s sister dies, the family asks Jakób Kowalski to find her a home. Jakób eventually gains custody of her and their story begins…

The author is well versed in the history, particularly of Poland during the war. Now, that’s not really something I’m very interested in – but if you enjoy reading historical fiction, you should read The Girl From the Train.

God bless you!

Review © 2015 DJ Mynatt



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