Canadian exchange student Kurt Schreiber spends a year in Germany, learning more than he bargained for about his grandfather's life in Hitler's army.
Kurt’s opa – grandfather – has never been willing to talk about his time as a German soldier, so Kurt has some deep concerns about what he might have done during the war. He's seen the movies, like Schindler’s List, and he hopes and prays his grandfather couldn’t have been involved in atrocities. Spending a year in Germany to do language training seems like a good chance to find out more, or at least to improve his German. One day, he visits the graveyard in the town he’s staying in, just outside Berlin. An old man speaks to him, calling him by his grandfather’s name, which was also Kurt Schreiber. It is Herr Brandt, the elder Schreiber's life-long friend. Kurt gets to know this man – the only one who can tell him all about his grandfather’s time in the war – because he was there. Kurt learns about his grandfather’s childhood in the Hitler Youth and his time in the German army, on the Eastern Front. Herr Brandt doesn’t try to minimize the horror of those times or to absolve himself of responsibility as a soldier. But through his story, Kurt comes to understand how as children, and later as young men, the two were drawn into participation in a war based on lies. This wonderfully written and carefully researched novel tells a story that illuminates history and fills in the texture and complexity that lie behind the bare facts.