- Used Books
- Staff Picks
- Gifts & Gift Cards
- Sell Books
- Stores & Events
- Let's Talk Books
Special Offers see all
More at Powell's
Recently Viewed clear list
Currently out of stock.
available for shipping or prepaid pickup only
This title in other editions
Good-Bye to the Mermaids: A Childhood Lost in Hitler's Berlinby Karin Finell
Synopses & Reviews
Good-bye to the Mermaids conveys the horrors of war as seen through the innocent eyes of a child. It is the story of World War II as it affected three generations of middle-class German women: Karin, six years old when the war began, who was taken in by Hitler’s lies; her mother, Astrid, a rebellious artist who occasionally spoke out against the Nazis; and her grandmother Oma, a generous and strong-willed woman who, having spent her own childhood in America, brought a different perspective to the events of the time. It tells of a convoluted world where children were torn between fear and hope, between total incomprehension of events and the need to simply deal with reality.
In one of the relatively few recollections of the war from a German woman’s perspective, Finell relates what was for her a normal part of growing up: participating in activities of the Hitler Youth, observing Nazi customs at Christmas, and once being close enough to the Führer at a rally to make eye contact with him. She tells of how she first became aware of the yellow star that Jews were forced to wear, and of being asked to identify corpses from a bombed apartment house. She also depicts the lives of people tainted by Hitler’s influence: her half-Jewish relatives who gave in to the strain of trying to remain unnoticed; a favorite aunt who was gassed because she was old and had broken her hip; and a friend of the family who was involved in the abortive putsch against Hitler and hanged as a traitor.
When American and British forces intensified air raids on Berlin in 1943, Finell observed the stoical valor of women during the bombings, firestorms, and mass evacuations. Not yet a teenager, she witnessed the battle for Berlin and the mass rapes perpetrated by conquering Russian and Mongolian troops. Order was restored after the American and British troops arrived. The Marshall Plan jump-started an economic recovery for West Germany, provoking the Russians to blockade Berlin. From 1948 to 1949 the Americans and British kept Berlin’s residents alive with the airlift. But even though food was flown in, the people of Berlin continued to go hungry. Deprivation forced Berliners to look inward and face their collective guilt as they withstood the threat of Soviet occupation during these postwar years.
This eloquent and touching story tells how a decent people were perverted by Hitler and how a young girl ultimately came to recognize the father figure Hitler for the monster he was. From a time of innocence, Karin Finell takes readers along a nightmarish journey in which fantasies are clung to, set aside, and at last set free. Good-bye to the Mermaids presents us with the revelation that human beings can survive such times with their souls intact.
"At the opening of this rich, descriptive memoir of WWII Berlin, Finell writes of the mermaids whose souls, according to legend, are the foam of the ocean she loved. Thus, the title evokes the childhood that was lost to the war, and equally the childlike desire to believe, as the author did, in what Hitler was selling. Most of Finell's family failed to share her belief — her divorced mother, an artist, did not, and her half-Jewish relatives certainly did not. Finell, who was six when the war began, lived through many of the quintessential German wartime situations. She participated in the Hitler Youth and fled her home during the bombing campaign, but much of this territory has been mined by previous writers (like Irmgard Hunt in On Hitler's Mountain). More compelling here are Finell's descriptions of the war's end and the immediate postwar years, as she deftly depicts the chaos, poverty and hope that coexisted. She also shows how the truth about the Nazis and their actions slowly seeped into her consciousness. This gracefully written memoir adds to our growing understanding of the German experience of the war. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Conveying the horrors of war as seen through the innocent eyes of a child, this touching story tells how decent people were perverted by Hitler and how a young girl ultimately came to recognize him for the monster he was.
About the Author
“I found Good-bye to the Mermaids to be a wonderfully detailed and moving account of a time no one wants to have experienced firsthand—but a time everyone should understand and remember. I applaud Karin Finell for working through these memories and bringing them to us.”—Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Pay It Forward
“Finell’s absorbing, dramatic tale of growing up during the Third Reich and World War Two puts the reader in the front row. An invaluable ground-level view of history and the textured human experience of war’s insanity.”—Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander
"This is an immensely appealing memoir of the child, Karin, as she takes the reader on a journey deep into the heart of war. It is a poignant story of childhood lost, of bombings, separation, hunger, betrayal, and trying to survive daily life amid chaos and tragedies. . . . I highly recommend it."—Eleanor Ramrath Garner, author of Eleanor's Story: An American Girl in Hitler's Germany
“Good-bye to the Mermaids is at once horrendous and touching—wonderfully told by someone who lost her childhood to Hitler’s bombed Berlin. No matter how many World War II stories we’ve read, we’ve not read one like this till now.”—Barnaby Conrad, author of Matador
“In this memoir of a young girl’s life in wartime Germany, Karin Finell has given us an unforgettable coming-of-age portrayal unfolding within one of history’s most terrible eras. Good-bye to the Mermaids is eloquent, candid, penetrating; it is sad, very often funny; it is valiant, poetic, horrifying; it is reality in all its forms, evoked with sureness, brilliance, and depth. It is one of those rare works that remains with you long after you have put it down.”
—Ella Leffland, author of Rumors of Peace
“This book is one of the most moving I have read. . . . Readers will receive this book as a gift—a little girl with an indomitable soul and will leads them through a man-made hell, and comes out caring and loving. Her story rings true in every respect.”—Jurgen Herbst, author of Requiem for a German Past: A Boyhood among the Nazis
What Our Readers Are Saying
Biography » General