Picks and Pans Review: Berlin Wild

updated 06/16/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/16/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Elly Welt

It seems a third of the novels published these days are about Nazis and World War II, so it is easy to groan when another comes along. The temptation is to skip it. In the case of Berlin Wild, that would be a mistake. The hero is Josef Bernhardt, a teenager in Berlin during Hitler's Third Reich. His father is a lawyer who might have had a successful career, but he is married to a Jew, a brilliant doctor. His mother's origins cause Josef to be kicked out of a prestigious Berlin prep school. His father gets the son a job in a lab where, like Josef, other people survive the war by doing research. The novel opens in the present, when Josef is a middle-aged anesthesiologist in a U.S. hospital. He "blanks out" during an operation and decides to quit. Most of the story is then told in flashbacks. Welt is convincing with the details of a boy growing into a scientist or recalling Josef and a friend finding a secret hiding place. It is one of the book's many ironies that the hero suffers during the war because he is half Jewish and then is not allowed into the U.S. for many years because he is half German. The ending, in which Josef begins to reconcile his present life to the past, is moving. After this novel, any others on the subject of Germans who suffered under the Nazis may seem superfluous. (Viking, $17.95)

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