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Richie’s Picks: BLUEBIRD by Sharon Cameron, Scholastic Press, October 2021, 464p., ISBN: 978-1-338-35596-3


“‘We didn’t know,’ said the Burgomeister

‘About the camps on the edge of town

It was Hitler and his crew

That tore the German nation down

We saw the cattle cars it’s true

And maybe they carried a Jew or two

They woke us up as they rattled through

But what did you expect me to do?’”

– Tom Paxton, “We Didn’t Know” (1965)


“Operation Paperclip

Operation Paperclip was a secret United States intelligence program in which more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians were taken from former Nazi Germany to the U.S. for government employment after the end of World War II in Europe, between 1945 and 1959. Conducted by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA), it was largely carried out by special agents of the U.S. Army’s Counterintelligence Corps (CIC). Many of these personnel were former members, and some were former leaders, of the Nazi Party.

The primary purpose for Operation Paperclip was U.S. military advantage in the Soviet-American Cold War, and the Space Race. In a comparable operation, the Soviet Union relocated more than 2,200 German specialists–a total of more than 6,000 people including family members–with Operation Osoaviakhim…”

– Wikipedia


“May 1945

Inge steps away from Rolf’s still body. From the blood running onto the floor. She picks up her pot with the beans and the dead girl’s purse, turns, and runs from the kitchen in her awkward shoes.

She does not look back.

Out of the factory, back under the canvas, and into the front seat of the car, throwing the purse and the pot onto her father’s scattered papers.

She breathes. And breathes. And looks down at her right hand. She still has the chunk of concrete. There’s a smear of blood on it. She throws it out the missing windshield, over Annemarie’s drying clothes, letting it dent the hood and roll away.

She hadn’t known she could kill someone.

Maybe they’ll hang her. Like the rest of the Nazis. Like a criminal, like Rolf said. Maybe they should. Only she can’t let that happen. Someone has to live. She has to make sure that Annemarie lives.

And then Inge looks over her shoulder and turns, flipping herself around onto her knees, grabbing the leather seat with both hands.

The back of the car is empty. The door is standing open.

Annemarie is gone.

‘Annemarie!’ Inge screams. She crawls over the seat and out the door. Out from beneath the canvas. ‘Annemarie!’”


As a student of history, it so often seems like the human race has a limitless wealth of brain power, but no soul, no heart. Where I find hope and comfort is in the ability of humans to write and read stories that permit us to venture beyond our own time and space in order to grasp what came before and where we might be going during and after our own time on the planet.


It startles me when I think about Hitler's reign having concluded a mere ten years before I was born. When I was young, WWII seemed like ancient history but, from my current perspective, a decade is a mere blink of an eye.


As we learn in the backmatter accompanying this moving piece of historical fiction for tweens and teens, Operation Bluebird was another secret, U.S. government, post-WWII operation. It “was more specifically targeted: to continue the human medical experimentation begun in Dachau and other concentration camps for the purpose of mind control.”


BLUEBIRD is a tense thriller of a tale involving the previously unwitting and dutiful daughter of a doctor engaged in mind control experiments at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. After Hitler’s death, and her father’s disappearance, Inge comes face-to-face with the results of her father’s unspeakable work. Meanwhile, her lifelong friend Annemarie more or less loses her mind after being gang-raped by invading Soviet soldiers. 


In 1946, the two friends immigrate together to New York City under assumed identities. The story alternates between Inge’s life in Germany as the war ends, and her life in New York as Eva with Annemarie (now Brigit). They obtain sanctuary in an AFS (American Friends Service Committee) settlement house, where much of the story is anchored. 


The U.S. government wants Inge’s father to work for them. Inge now wants to see him dead.


Inspired by a true story, BLUEBIRD is a breathtaking and captivating read. It transports the reader from an age of bombed-out rubble and concentration camp survivors to Big Apple jazz clubs and back-alley getaways. An outstanding piece of historical fiction, BLUEBIRD features vivid settings, memorable characters, and lots of real and accurate history. 


And remember:


“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.



Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com






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