Rose Under Fire

By Elizabeth Wein

Book CoverShortly after Kinsey notified us all about the sequel to Code Name Verity, I checked out Rose Under Fire, with some trepidation, I have to admit. Code Name Verity was excellent, but also completely devastating in parts, and Rose Under Fire had the potential to be even worse. The majority of the book is set in a Nazi concentration camp for women, with extra focus given to the victims of the ‘medical’ experiments. I just wasn’t sure I could take it.

However, Elizabeth Wein is a genius and knows exactly how to tread the line. Most of the book is mercifully told in flashback, so readers can continually reassure themselves that at least these few characters have necessarily survived. This doesn’t mean it isn’t heartbreaking, of course; just not unbearably so. I would even say, all things considered, that overall it was more upbeat (not the right word at all) than Code Name Verity. (It also is not a direct sequel, per se; it has some shared characters, but features a newly introduced main character.)

Several weeks later, I followed this up with watching “Judgment at Nuremberg,” a 1961 film recounting one of the trials at Nuremberg, this one against four judges for crimes against humanity. Spenser Tracy stars as the retired American judge who agrees to oversee the tribunal for this trial, and wrestles with his own conscience in trying to reconcile the crimes that were committed in the past with the current devastation of the country.

The movie explores to what degree individuals are responsible for the actions of a government. Outside of the courtroom testimony, some of the more painful scenes are of regular citizens looking dazed and insisting they had no knowledge at all of the actions of the Nazi party. It inspires an unsettling mixture of pity and anger in both the judge and the viewer, and raises tough questions without easy answers. It was a good companion to “Rose Under Fire,” and now I’m ready to turn to some lighter books and movies.


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