White Rose, Black Forest by Eoin Dempsey

1943, Germany during World War II and the era of the führer. . .

Nestled near the border of the Black Forest and surrounded by the heavy winter snow lies a secluded summer cabin inhabited by Franka Gerber.  As she walks around the barren forest with thoughts of life and death, she chances upon an injured soldier, unconscious and freezing. Humanity, a rare attribute then,  awakens in her and she brings him back to the lonely cabin. Being a nurse by profession, it isn’t a big deal for her to apply first aid, except that she is low on resources and may be hiding an enemy of the State, for which she can be liable to execution by the Gestapo. In a Germany that knows no liberal thinking and free speech, where friends and family report trivial cases to the Gestapo in order to feature in their good books, and a land which has almost forgotten the meaning of humanity will Franka be able to help the man survive or will she succumb to the ideals of Nazi Germany? White Rose, Black Forest is a story of human strength, loyalty and yearning for freedom.

The readers get a glimpse of the lives of Franka and the injured soldier, who identifies himself as Werner Graff, through the non-linear narration of the novel interspersed with frequent flashbacks. Both Franka and Werner are constantly suspicious of each other and their real intentions. While she suspects that he is not revealing his true self, she decides to play along till he divulges his motives on his own.

Soon enough patience breaks, and they both narrate their true lives to each other.  Franka loses her mother to cancer, her father to an air raid, and her younger brother to the Gestapo’s. She herself has just been released from the prison for going against the ideals of the führer and offering her services to the group White Rose.  After careful contemplation, she is on a verge of committing suicide when she finds Werner Graff. Graff, of course is a soldier having an important role in shaping the future of the War. Coming from an affluent business family, he chooses to serve his nation and joins the armed forces.  He is on a mission to Germany, but as luck would have it, ends up with two broken legs in the middle of the Black Forest!

What is his mission? Is he able to fulfil it? Will Franka be unknowingly drawn towards his mission? What role does his mission play in shaping the war?  Will the Gestapo get a wind of their activities?  White Rose, Black Forest answers these and much more throughout the story which brings together two different individuals and binds them emotionally onto the path of humanity.  A tale told with minimal characters and yet complete,  rich in emotions, love, loyalty, betrayal, guilt, loss and devotion. It shows two distinct sides of patriotism and how one works for the good of the people while the other works for building an air of superiority devoid of the welfare of  the people.  

Dempsey’s remarkable symbolism through the title and the book cover says a great deal about his conceptualisation. There indeed is a world beyond the White and the Black with the existence of the Grey. White rose and black forest also stand for the distinct feminine and masculine projection of the two protagonists. White is seen as a symbol of peace and Dempsey quite subtly plays with the imagery to name a group which tries to usher in peace amidst violent philosophy. A highly recommended read if you are interested in the history of World War II , how it affected the various strata of the German society, and how sometimes individual  actions seem smaller in front of the goodwill of the mass.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

No. of Pages: 266

Available on Amazon / Flipkart

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