Almost a year ago I received a request to read this book, from the author. I’m ashamed that it had to wait that long to be read, but I don’t get paid to read, so sometimes gems like this just have to wait.
The Locksmith follows the story of Kurt Kann, from (Jewish) boyhood in Nazi Germany to adulthood in the US army, fighting with the allied forces during WWII. At the beginning of The Locksmith we meet Kurt, a 16-year old Jewish boy who is studying to become a locksmith. When it becomes apparent that bad things are underfoot, that the Nazi party are begining to make sweeping changes to the way Jewish citizens live, Kurt abandons his studies & makes his way back home to save his family.
He arrives back at the family home to discover that he’s potentially too late – his dad has been taken away to a concentration camp, his mother has been assaulted, their house destroyed & his little brother left a mere shell of the boy he used to be. Kurt sets out to get his Dad back & find a way to get his family out of Germany before it is too late. Flash forward a few years & the Kanns have gone from a family of wealth & influence, to penniless in the USA. Then the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbour. Kurt, much to his parents’ dismay, decides to enlist in the US army & eventually succeeds. He suffers through basic training, advanced training & gets promoted to Captain before his platoon is sent overseas.
Kurt is eventually deployed to the beaches of Normandy, where we get a vivid recounting of the sweeping of the beaches, the devastation of the injured, maimed & killed soldiers. “Bodies on stretchers, bodies wrapped in blankets, bodies in white body bags, bodies under cardboard boxes, bodies exposed to the sun. Men wrapped in bloody gauze, men missing limbs, men missing eyes, men blown apart, men ripped in two.” From France Kurt & his men march into Belgium, then on to Germany, meeting the advancing Soviet forces, liberating Jews & righting wrongs where he/they can. “I stood in the passenger seat of the jeep; the setting sun glinted off a high barbed wire fence. Inside, men rattled the fence and shouted to us. The jeep rumbled to a stop about 50 yards from the pen. I shouted in German, “Wer bist du?” “Juden!” ….”They’re Jews”, I said. “Maybe this is one of those camps”, said Levine.”
Kurt eventually makes his way to his home town, where he seeks his revenge for the way his family was treated both by the Nazi party & the “normal” German citizens who did nothing to stop it. The retelling is vivid & Kurt makes no apologies for what he did in seeking retribution.
I found The Locksmith a joy to read – I loved Kurt, his efforts & his outlook on life, I rooted for him to succeed. But, at the same time I found myself scared for Kurt, scared of where his temper & his need for revenge would take him & saddened by where his choices lead. I devoured The Locksmith & often found myself thinking about what a great movie Kurt’s story would make. I even envisioned who would play the parts of Kurt, his brother, mother, father & Army colleagues.
It wasn’t until after I finished reading The Locksmith, while reading the author’s notes, that I realised something I had known all along, but had forgotten before reading – that this is a memoire, that Kurt really exists. To me, that realisation made this story all the better!