A Night Divided
Written by Jennifer A. Nielsen
With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family divided overnight. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors, and friends are prisoners in their own city.
But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?
Primary Source Pairing:
Gerta and her family were split up when the Berlin Wall was built overnight on August 31, 1961, as were countless other families. Gerta her broth Fritz, and her mother are on the East side of the Berlin Wall and her father and brother Dominic are on the West side of the Wall. The story unfolds and the family works to be reunited with each other in any way possible. Use the primary source images and Berlin map in the front of the book as a starting place. For this primary source pairing, invite students to analyze and infographic about the Berlin Wall and connect what they see to what happens in the story.
Additionally, to hear a German recording of the song “The Farmer in March” that Gerta and her dad sing together, visit YouTube.
Questions for Discussion:
- What do you notice first?
- Find something small but interesting.
- What do you notice that you didn’t expect?
- What do you notice that you can’t explain?
- What can you learn from examining this?
- What do you still wonder about?
- How does the information in this infographic connect to what you read in A Night Divided?
Book Cover and Summary: Follett
The Berlin Wall Infographic: Reuters via Pinterest
Berlin Wall Photo Gallery: Spiegel Online