Ten-year-old Ziska (Franziska Mangold) never dares to touch the bannisters as she goes upstairs to her flat in Berlin. You can never know. One Sunday you are sitting happily in the park with your parents. Then on Monday it is all of a sudden forbidden. The whole park: ‘No Jews or dogs’. She has learned that she is a Jew, although her parents are Protestants. Now she and her best friend Bekka (Rebecca Liebich) are hounded by the children who used to be their friends. Ziska is attacked. Rescued by a boy from her school, Ruben Seydenstücker, and taken to his home, she is amazed by the family – her first experience of orthodox Jews, so-called Ostjuden, their rituals, their extreme poverty, and their kindness.
Contained within this framework is a whole slice of prewar and wartime history, from Kristallnacht to Auschwitz, from the Kindertransport taking Jewish children to safety in England (hence the title ‘Liverpool Street’) to the varied fortunes of the young refugees, and from wartime sacrifices to deportations to the Isle of Man.
This stark, exciting and deeply moving novel portrays the growing up of a young girl amongst scenes of great tragedy. It is a magnificent effort, brave in every sense.
All recommendations from Spring 2008