This is it, everyone. The Holocaust romance novel between a Jewish concentration camp prisoner and a Nazi officer that literally no one asked for. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Kate Breslin's For Such a Time.
(Trigger warnings for textual anti-Semitism, romanticization of Nazis, romanticization of the Holocaust, etc.)
In 1944, blonde and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide under the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric's secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz. Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric's compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy. Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp's prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?
There is so many things wrong with the book, aside from the fact that it's a romance between a Jewish woman and a friggin' Nazi officer in the Holocaust, but the way Jewish people and religion are portrayed. Kate Breslin is a Christian writer, and her lack of understanding of Judaism shows up throughout the book. Perhaps what's even worse is that this book was actually nominated for a RITA Award back in 2015. The attempts at humanizing a Nazi and trying to portray him as a romantic hero is appalling.
The fact that this is based off of the Book of Esther, a book in the Tanakh, or the Hebrew Bible. That told the story of a Hebrew woman in Persia who was born as Hadassah but known as Esther, and how she thwarts a genocide of her people by marrying the Persian king Ahasuerus. However, a Christian author tries to write the a retelling of this story, and even has the heroine convert to Christianity, which is a slap in the face to Jewish people everywhere. It's an insult to Jewish women, an insult to the six million Jewish people who died in the Holocaust, and an insult to Jewish Holocaust survivors and their relatives.
Breslin's portrayal of Jewish people and religion is incredibly inaccurate and reflects her own Christian beliefs, which further rubs the salt in the wound. As such, I have decided that I am going to spork this novel, and I will not be alone in this endeavour. Accompanying me will be four members of my crew from Eleanor & Park.
So far, the counts in this novel are as following:
LA BELLE JUIVE: This is French for 'The Beautiful Jewess' (which I must add is a disrespectful term to address a Jewish woman), an archetype most common in 19th-century romantic European literature. She was often portrayed as having long, dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin. Her personality could be portrayed either positively or negatively. The negative portrayal is sly, coquettish, and overly sexual. The so-called 'positive' portrayal was noble, pure, loyal, and exhibiting qualities similar to Christian martyrdom. Popular portrayals of this character include Rachel from Jacques Halévy's grand opera La Juive, Rebecca from Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, and Salome, the daughter of Herod II and Herodias.
A MATCH MADE IN THERESIENSTADT: Need I say more? The so-called 'romance' between Hadassah/Stella and Aric happens at the Theresienstadt concentration camp after he 'rescues' her from Dachau, and some can even call this a 'romance' rooted in Stockholm Syndrome. It's basically 'oppressor-falls-in-love-with-oppressed-and-learns-not-to-be-an-oppressor' kind of story.
NOT ALL NAZIS™: Yes, this book is basically trying to make us empathize with Nazis, portray a Nazi commandant as a good guy, and make us forget how the Nazis believed in the Master Race, how they sterilized and killed disabled people (as someone with autism, this seriously angers me), committed the Holocaust of the Jewish people, the Porajmos of the Romani people, raped Jewish women and girls, and experimented on humans, including gay people, Romani, Sinti, ethnic Poles, Soviet POWs, disabled Germans, and Jewish people. And that's only a few of their many crimes. Want to know more? Just look up the Nuremberg trials or 'nazi war crimes'.
YOUR CHRISTIANITY IS SHOWING: As mentioned before, Kate Breslin is Christian, and it shows in her attempts at writing a Jewish character. This ranges from not just major parts about Hadassah/Stella's beliefs, but minor things such as what she finds comforting and the like. Not to mention, conversion to Christianity is what ultimately saves the heroine, which completely disregards the plight that Jewish people went through in World War II.
And this is what I have so far. So, my fellow readers, be afraid. Be very, very afraid. I will see you in the first chapter.