THE GIRL FROM THE TRAIN

Irma Joubert

Set during the harrowing, final moments of World War II, Polish resistance fighter Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks intending to destroy a German troop transport, but six-year-old Gretl Schmidt’s unscheduled train bound for Auschwitz reaches the bomb first. Gretl is the only survivor.

Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself now lost in a hostile country. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and compassion prompt him to hide and protect Gretl in his home concealed from his Catholic family. For years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from the world.

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Set during the harrowing, final moments of World War II, Polish resistance fighter Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks intending to destroy a German troop transport, but six-year-old Gretl Schmidt’s unscheduled train bound for Auschwitz reaches the bomb first. Gretl is the only survivor.

Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself now lost in a hostile country. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and compassion prompt him to hide and protect Gretl in his home concealed from his Catholic family. For years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from the world. But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób makes the difficult choice to send Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered. Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief in the human spirit forge an unbreakable bond of love.

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  • Thomas Nelson
  • Paperback
  • November 2015
  • 384 Pages
  • 9780529102379

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$15.99

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About Irma Joubert

Irma Joubert, international bestselling author, was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She’s the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa.

Author Website

Praise

“Readers will adore intrepid Gretl and strong Jakób in this story of war, redemption, and love.”Publishers Weekly

“Joubert masterfully crafts every scene with tenderness and hauntingly accurate detail. It’s a stunning coming-of-age novel that packs emotion in a delicate weave of hope, faith—and the very best of love.”Kristy Cambron, author of The Butterfly and the Violin

Discussion Questions

1. How does Gretl experience a conflicted identity when we meet her in the opening chapters of the novel, and how does this conflict of identity resolve throughout the course of the story?

2. How does Jakób’s own journey mirror Gretl’s, and in what way are their journeys different?

3. What did you learn about the political situation in WWII and post-WWII Poland that you didn’t know before reading this book? What did you learn about the political situation in WWII and post-WWII South Africa that you didn’t know before reading this book?

4. Discuss the role of Grandpa John in the story. How does he serve as a bridge for Gretl between her past history and her present life? Why is their relationship unique and special?