His best friend thought Friedrich was lucky. His family had a good home and enough money, and in Germany in the early 1930s, many were unemployed. But when Hitler came to power, things began to change. Friedrich was expelled from school, and then his mother died and his father was deported. For Friedrich was Jewish.
Year by year, insult unto outrage, the cankerous reduction of Jewish life in Nazi Germany and the obliteration of one indestructible boy, Friedrich. As recalled in flashes by his downstairs neighbor and lifelong friend, laughter is tinged by what is to come: while his playmate chafes to get out in the snow too, four-year-old Friedrich and his mother stamp and slide and build a snowman. . . until the landlord bellows "Will you leave my roses in peace, you dirty little Jewboy you!" Friedrich's father is working, his friend's isn't and the first-day-of-school outing is Herr Schneider's treat, topped off with a larky photo of the two families astride an endless horse. Friedrich comes to a Jungvolk meeting, it is all glory to him, and hears a lecture on the despicable Jews; "my father" joins the Party and gets a job and, embarrassed, explains to Herr Schneider, who understands. Warned to leave Germany, he demurs: he has "Reasons"; "God has given us Jews a task. . . . We have always been persecuted - ever since we were exiled. . . . Perhaps we'll manage to put an end to our wandering by not seeking flight any more, by learning to suffer, by staying where we are." But there is no reason to "The Pogrom" when "I" too smashed glass or to "The Death" of Friedrich's mother on a pallet of rags in the wrecked apartment. Friedrich has a brief, lyrical encounter with an Aryan girl, a matter of "Benches" for Jew and gentile, before, denied refuge in the air-raid shelter, he dies in the shadow of the stoop. "His luck that he died this way," says the landlord. A chronology correlates events with the dates of the episodes; terse and graphic, bitterly or innocently funny, they are as undeniable as snapshots in an album. (Kirkus Reviews)