Show all

Threaten to Undo Us

(0 customer reviews)

by Rose Seiler Scott

Winner of the Word Guild’s 2016 Word Award for Historical Fiction

As Hitler’s Third Reich crumbles and Stalin’s Army advances, German civilians in the Eastern territories are forced to flee for their lives.

Leaving her dying mother, Liesel and her four young children hope they can make it from their home in Poland across the Oder River to safety. But all that awaits them is terror and uncertainty in a brutal new regime that threatens to tear Liesel’s family apart.

With her husband a prisoner of war in Russia and her children enslaved, Liesel’s desire for hearth and home is thwarted by opposing political forces, leaving her to wonder if they will ever be a family again.

Category: .
Reviews (0)


  1. Promontory Press

    This review is from: Threaten to Undo Us (Paperback)
    Threaten To Undo Us is the suspenseful story of a German family living in Poland during and after World War II. In this excellent book, Liesel and Ernst Hoffmann are raising four young children in a Polish village. But Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 has put citizens with German backgrounds in a dangerous situation and alliances are tested. Many of the men join the German forces, but others, like Liesel and Ernst, just want to live their lives in peace. Ernst is forced to enlist in the German army, however, and Liesel is left alone to manage. As Hitler’s regime collapses, Soviet forces enter with equal hostility and Liesel must do her best to keep her family safe, and together.

    Threaten To Undo Us focuses on the innocent German families in this region who are caught in an impossible conflict and tells how they are forced to flee their homes. Many families are separated and sent to Soviet labor camps, where they face harsh winters, disease and starvation. They must rely on faith and resolve to endure the brutal conditions, with little hope of being saved.

    Although there are many books of historical fiction set during World War II, I enjoyed this one because of its different angle. I especially liked seeing Liesel’s character develop and strengthen as she struggles to keep her family together. And while the story moves at an exciting pace, the reader can still feel how its characters must endure long periods of separation and suffering. But this is not just an action novel. Scott parallels the larger tragedies with Liesel’s family life and struggles, adding dimension to the story and her characters. She also includes the question of faith as characters depend on an inner strength to survive. Its title comes from the Lutheran hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” a theme that is frequently referred to as Liesel faces adversity.

    Flawless presentation and a great entertaining read!

    – Book Club Mom, Goodreads Reviewer

  2. Promontory Press

    “A mighty fortress is our God.” Martin Luther’s famous words run deep in Liesel’s consciousness, sustaining her through many “mortal ills.” She’s a key character in the historical novel Threaten to Undo Us by Rose Seiler Scott. Like many Germans, Liesel gets along well with her Polish neighbours in their mixed Polish-German area of Europe.

    Then World War II changes things. The map of Poland is redrawn. Germans in Polish territory, who are now regarded as aliens, must leave their homes. They are denied human rights and enslaved by the newly established Russian Communist regime.

    Threaten to Undo Us starts in 1945, the year Liesel and her children are driven from their beloved farm home. The story then returns to the year 1919, when we meet Liesel at age six. We see her grow up in a devout German Lutheran family, coexisting peacefully with the Polish Catholics around them. For example, young Liesel savours Polish words such as kapliczka, meaning statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Readers get the impression that, left to themselves, these two religiously and ethnically diverse peoples would continue to respect and cooperate with each other for many years to come.

    Unfortunately disruptive political and philosophical ideas are afoot. Scott personalizes them for us when one of the characters, Günther Hoffmann, joins Hitler Youth (part of the National Socialist, or Nazi, Party). Günther described the party’s aims like this: “Hitler is planning to Germanize Poland….The Slavs (including Poles) and the Jews are sub-human. The Aryan race is superior.”

    Liesel’s father protests: “We are all made in the image of God.” The tension between him and Günther, and indeed all Germans opposed to the Nazis’ aims and those in favor is a major theme in the novel.

    Liesel’s husband, Ernst, doesn’t want to join the German army. He isn’t interested in “fighting for the glory of the Fatherland” and doesn’t believe “religion is for the weak.” However, he eventuallys join the Self-Protection Unit, or Selbstschutz, because he wants to help prevent harm to his wife and family. When the Selbstschutz is absorbed into the unified armed forces of Germany, Ernst finds himself unwillingly in the military after all.

    In a heartbreaking scene, he returns home on leave. Some of his and Liesel’s children don’t know him. He has been away for too long. Ernst himself “had seen and done things he couldn’t explain to his wife and children.”

    As the war drags on, some German soldiers are forced to admit they were wrong. “It is all a big lie, you know. The Hitler youth….” The Fatherland’s visions of glory have shrunk to a desire for mere survival.

    The Russians imprison Liesel’s husband, Ernst. Meanwhile Liesel has to fend for herself and their children. One child, Heidi, is born as they flee from the Russians. Soon afterwards, she’s raped by Russian soldiers.

    Will the brave beleaguered Liesel see her husband again? Will he accept her, defiled as she is by rape? The author keeps us waiting to the end of the novel to find answers to these heart-rending questions.

    Another question: “What will become of Christianity in face of the materialistic and crushing onslaught of Nazism and Communism?” Rev. E. J. Way, a Canadian chaplain during World War II, posed that query. His answer, published in the BMA Blitz, ran like this: “Christianity may lose many of its children, weakened and worn down by the artful strategy and brute force of evil powers, but the good will be made better and the strong stronger in the face of adversity. Like gold they will be purified in the crucible of suffering and affliction.”

    Liesel’s faith doesn’t really flourish in the face of what she and her family suffer. Nevertheless it survives, a testament to her character and the power of God.

    The author, Rose Seiler Scott, is good at characterization and describing the life of the times. For example, here’s Liesel contrasting two of her sons: “Olaf…at butchering time scarcely to be found.” His older brother is “not at all bothered to wring a chicken’s neck or help pour the blood from a pig’s head.”

    Scott is also good at portraying action and suspense. Example: “At the whistle of the train Liesel stood up, watching to see if any coal would fall from the top of the freight cars. As the rumbling behemoth slowed, a young man dressed in rags hoisted himself up onto the train and scaled up the side ladder into the box. Showers of coal rained down onto the ground as he scooped the top of the pile.

    “His bulging rucksack landed on the ground with a thud in a cloud of coal dust before the owner scrambled down after it. As he stooped to pick it up, a uniformed guard appeared suddenly, his gun drawn. ‘Stop, or I will shoot.'”

    Occasionally the author is less good at conveying information about the politics of the times. Sometimes the characters explain in ways that seem forced. For example, here’s Liesel’s father speaking to his young children near the beginning of the book: “The Great War may be over, but the danger has not fully passed. There is still the border dispute and the Bolsheviks.” I doubt that children would get much out of such a general, wide-ranging explanation. Perhaps this information could have been given in another way.

    Despite this little drawback, Threaten to Undo Us is a good read for anyone interested in history, politics, faith, family, and especially relationships among ethnic groups.

    – Elma Shemnauer, Amazon Reviewer

  3. Promontory Press

    Historical fiction is my favorite genre. This book i a window into a part of WW2 history that is largely forgotten or ignored. But written in a hopeful inspiring matter. If you are interested in history, or the subject of human endurance, I’m sure you will find it a captivating read. I highly recommend.

    – Peter, Amazon Reviewer

  4. Promontory Press

    Threaten to Undo Us is an emotional and compelling family saga following the lives of a young German family making their home in Poland. Life is good as Ernst and Liesel work their farm and grow their family. But World War 2 threatens to undo the life that they have built for themselves and their love, faith and courage will be sorely tested.

    The book is based on true events in the author’s family background and this lent an authenticity to the story that I particularly enjoyed. This is a historical novel peopled with characters that are engaging and memorable. Though the novel is steeped in the political history of the time the action follows the family as they face separation and all the tragedy and horror that war brings.

    Threaten to Undo Us is a terrific debut novel and I for one am hoping for a continuation of the story in future books.

    – Shari Morehouse, Goodreads Reviewer

  5. Promontory Press

    Threaten to Undo Us is a gripping story of one woman’s commitment to family and faith under the cruellest of conditions. Written as historical fiction but based on a true story, the book unfolds before and during WW2, portraying the plight of ethnic Germans living in Poland as the Russian army advances. This well researched book provides an insight into a lesser known side of history.

    Threaten To Undo Us is an aptly chosen title as the family endure unimaginable hardships with Liesel and her children scattered to work camps and her husband deported to Siberia. The momentum of the story carries the reader forward with its suspense, intrigue and attention to historical detail. The story skilfully weaves the pastoral life of a hard working farm family, the atrocities of war and the determination of Liesel to keep her family alive.

    From the beginning to the end I was fully immersed in a story where the human spirit shines. An excellent read.

    – Elaine, Goodreads Reviewer

  6. Promontory Press

    Great job Rose! I enjoyed it from cover to cover! This book is a compelling read. It moves at the pace of a screenplay. Seeing Liesel and Ernst face the many difficult facets of WWII and hold fast to what they know to be Truth! Inspiring and encouraging. I look forward to seeing it on the big screen!

    – Ruth Harr Bahr, Goodreads Reviewer

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *