Candlelight in a Storm: Born to be a Berliner
by Naveen Sridhar

"But, right now, this was a moment of leaving all that was dear to her, a moment to close the door. To move, to escape, to flee."

Renate was only three when the bombs began to drop in Berlin, shattering homes and lives as the Allies worked to bring Nazi Germany to its knees. Her mother, Erika, realizing that the time to leave had finally come, bundled up her two children and fled to the town of Apolda. This would be the first of many such significant moves in the young girl’s life. Eventually, World War II ended, but another more subtle war would soon begin between the capitalist West and its former ally to the East, a conflict that would help shape much of the young girl’s future.

Sridhar’s biography of his wife, Renate, is much more than the history of one individual; it is a window onto the struggles ordinary Germans faced during the Cold War years. Education, for example, was not a simple matter. Because her father had been a member of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party during World War II, Renate, now living in East Germany, was denied the right to go to school after the eighth grade. This led her to flee to West Berlin for her schooling, the start of an exodus that her whole family later made. But even in the West, life still had its challenges, as evidenced by her battle to remain with her Indian husband in her homeland in a time period when a woman’s rights were not as recognized as they are now.

As a biography, the author’s book is an excellent account of his wife and her many adventures. But as a chronicle of Cold War Germany, Sridhar’s well-written and informative narrative sheds new light on the often underreported trials of its citizens and foreign residents.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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