One day, her father and brother were with them; the next the family was separated by a wall. A wall with guards and dogs and machine guns and death. Gerta is a young girl when her father and middle brother leave East Berlin to go check out the work situation and the possibility of moving to the West. Everyone is worried about the growing tensions between the West and East, and Gerta’s father has already run into trouble with the Russian police for worker uprisings he participated in.
What no one knows is that during the night that her father and brother are gone, the Russians decide to make it impossible for any others to leave and go West. Overnight they create a wall, a physical wall that cuts the city of Berlin in half. At first the wall is more a line of barbed wire, but soon, it becomes more permanent with guard towers and high bricks and a strip of land beyond the wall cleared of everything that locals call the Death Zone. Because if you are caught there, you are dead.
Four years go by, with Gerta, her oldest brother Fritz and their mother, all existing on the East side of the wall, while her father and middle brother are on the West. Gerta hates the restrictions placed on her in the East, while their mother tries to make the best of it and hopes each day the wall will come down.
One day, on the way to school, Gerta looks across the wall and sees her brother on the West side. The next day, she sees her father too, for the first time in four years. Strangely, he seems to be trying to send her a message. She believes her father is trying to get her to dig a tunnel to safety. The only problem is, Gerta knows this is beyond dangerous and she isn’t sure if she can keep such a big secret from her mother, brother Fritz or the Russian police. She knows if she is caught, she faces almost certain death for herself, and possibly the rest of her family.
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen gives readers a personal look at life behind the Wall, in East Berlin during the beginning of the Cold War. The sense of desperation and the loss of any feeling of control over your life comes through in this book.
Recommended for grades 6th and up.