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Why ‘Anna’s Story’ Will Wring Hearts

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Anna’s Story

A true story of a young girl’s will to survive in the arftermath of World War II

By: Steven Kautner

Date Published: July 2022

Genre: Non-Fiction – Biography/Memoir/WWII

Via: Reedsy/Discovery

Pages: 148

Note: We received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“How could I not write this story?” asks author Steven Kautner in this gripping and harrowing account about what happened to his mother, Anna Friedrich, and her family of ethnic Germans after World War II. The follow-on is, “How can anyone not read this story?” Because Anna’s Story is absolutely astonishing. Eye-opening. And jaw-dropping. It’ll blow you away.

The Untold Story

Anna’s Story is the untold true story of what happened to the ethnic Germans of Eastern Central Europe in the aftermath of WWII. This intensely personal account chronicles a time when “the cruel and inhumane treatment of the ethnic German people was unprecedented.”

Told to the author by his mother, “who actually lived the journey of this book,” Anna’s Story recounts how the brutal retribution and revenge against the ethnic German people for Nazi war crimes went unchecked from 1944 to 1949, when Anna Friedrich escaped. What emerges is a spellbinding and shattering story of unimaginable horrors inflicted upon ethnic Germans after the war simply because they were German.

The story follows Anna Friedrich’s life from 1939, when she was five years old, until 1984, when she is fifty-one and living in the United States. Anna was born and raised in Serbia, then part of Yugoslavia, by ethnic German parents. The first quarter or so of this book is devoted to an in-depth look at Anna’s life as a young child: Anna’s schooling, home and family life, food, work, culture and traditions.


This portion of the book may seem a bit plodding to some readers. But it’s important back story, providing a broader context and sharp contrast for the horrors that are to come.


Caught between the Nazis and the advancing Russian Army in late 1944, some of the townspeople in Anna’s village flee to Germany. Those who can’t or won’t leave have no idea what’s coming. In taut, tense prose, the author narrates how his then-eleven year-old mother, Anna, and her family are soon caught in a firefight between the Russian Red Army and retreating German forces. Then the Serbs take over. Looting, pillaging, mayhem, murder and worse ensue in this startling and stunning narrative.


In vivid detail, Anna recalls how communist partisan soldiers “took everything we had, even our animals.” The family is rounded up, loaded on cattle cars, and transported to concentration death camps in northern Serbia. Here, the author details Anna’s fight for survival in place where “the smell of death hung everywhere.” Where disease, starvation and cruelty dog every step. Where children fight over discarded potato peels. Where typhus, dysentery, vermin, despair, and bitter cold without heat result in people dying faster than they can be buried. In the camps, disease kills one out of every four people. There’s no soap, no bathing, and no washed clothes for over a year. Here, Anna becomes “a walking dead person.” She’s thirteen years old and half her family is dead.


But Anna’s mother is indomitable. Suffering from disease and malnutrition herself, Anna’s mother is still a force of nature. She eventually orchestrates an escape from the camps to Hungary. The tattered remnants of Anna’s family continues to Austria, crossing the border on foot. Anna later emigrates to the United States, where she eventually becomes a proud U.S. citizen. (Names and faces come to life in a section of family photos.)


This true story is astonishing. Appalling. Disturbing. It’s also riveting. Eye-opening and jaw-dropping. Tip: Don’t start this book late at night. If you do, you’ll be turning pages into the wee hours until the very end (don’t ask how I know that). I couldn’t put it down!

Anna’s Story isn’t a light read. But it’s an important one and deserves a wide audience. It’s also a towering achievement, especially for a first-time author.

Finally, this eloquent and articulate account of a little-known piece of human history will grip your heart and wring it dry on its way to a high rating. Don’t miss it!


Our Rating: 4.5

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