About The Book
“An Orange in Winter” is an historical work of fiction about Walter Less, a Jewish boy, growing up in Germany in the early 1930s. Walter’s daughter, Margaret McQuillan, has written this book to provide a personalized context for events leading to the Holocaust. She contrasts her father’s experiences by creating a fictional friend, Hans, who later becomes a “Hitler Junge”. Enhanced by a detailed timeline, authentic documents, photograhps, and a glossary, “An Orange in Winter” recreates this historical period using Walter’s autobiography as a basis.
Walter is a son of the prominent Jewish merchant, Leopold Less and his wife, Anna, whose store is in Lueneburg, Germany. He has two siblings and grows up in a comfortable home. Hans is the son of a warehouseman who works for Herr Less. Hans’ parents are poor and suffer greatly under the worldwide economical crisis as a result of World War I.
After January 1933, when the Nazis take control of Germany, the lives and viewpoints of the two friends change radically. Walter is expelled from high school; Hans becomes a proud member of the Hitler Youth. The story describes Hitler Youth training, the expulsion of Jews from public schools, the horrors of “Reichskristallnacht”, the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, and the many obstacles Jews faced while attempting to flee their country. What happens to Walter’s family and Hans’ growing disillusionment with Nazi rule personalizes how and why such horrific historical events evolved.
“An Orange in Winter” may be read independently and/or as part of a German or U.S. school curriculum unit in literature, social studies, or history. Discussion questions are included. The book’s short length and simple language make it eminently readable by students 10 years and older and by adults. Walter and Hans are appealing, empathetic children. The plot, dialogue, and settings draw readers into the moral dilemmas, challenges the characters face and the decisions they must make.