BOOK CLUB: People Like Us

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[Total: 7 Average: 3.9]

Author: Louise Fein
ISBN: 9781789545005
Publisher: Head of Zeus

People Like Us also titled Daughter of the Reich is a beautiful, heart wrenching love story written by Louise Fein.


Set in Leipzig, Germany 1930’s pre-World War IIHetty Heinrich is a young girl living with her father Franz, a high ranked SS officer, mother Helene and older brother Karl who is in the German Air Force and a member of the BDM.  Hetty is heavily influenced by her family; being young Hitler wanted to create a generation of young Aryans who were physically fit and totally obedient through programmes such as Hitler Youth in which her family supported. Hitler believed the German race to be the superior race, and people could be separated into a hierarchy of different races, where some races were superior and others were inferior. He believed he was god-like, and Jews were filthy pigs, which made it hard for Hetty as her brother’s best friend Walter Keller is a Jew.  When Hetty was eight Walter saved her from drowning and she formed a crush on him.  Over time they lost touch and Karl turned his back on Walter for being a Jew. 

Years later Hetty is reunited with Walter and they fall in love.  Under the Nuremberg Laws it is prohibited for them dating or marrying, they keep their relationship a secret from all. Time spent with Walter who encourages her to see the discrimination and prosecution of Jews, Hetty begins to question her upbringing and all that she was taught to believe and stood by. 

Her family firmly believes she should marry a German but as Hetty falls deeper in love with Walter she realises she must sacrifice herself and her life by fighting against her family, brother and the Hitler ruling. Anyone against Hitler was either sent to prison or executed. Hitler wanted to take all actions necessary in order to make Germany prosper, and with Jews being sent to concentration camps and complete annihilation of the Jewish population Hetty is faced with the ultimate decision to try and save Walter at all costs.

If you enjoyed reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz you will definitely love this book filled with history, loss, secrets, heartbreak, loyalty, suffering, and sacrifice and most importantly love. 

Thank you Beauty & Lace and Head of Zeus for read and review.

A selection of our members have been reading this book with us. You can find out what they thought below, or add your own review!

15 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: People Like Us

  1. This book takes a different approach to the usual second world war scenario and focuses on the life of Hetty Heinrich, the daughter of a high ranking SS officer.

    Hetty is brainwashed into believing that Hilter is a saviour of the German people, but as she grows up she starts to see another side to the Hitler movement and the persecution of the Jewish people.

    When she falls in love with Walter, an old family friend who is Jewish, Hettys life takes her on a course of heartbreak and torment.

    Hettys character is so well constructed and she finds some wonderfully supportive friends who stand by her in such difficult circumstances.

    I really enjoyed this book and found it gripping from the onset.
    I would highly recommend it.

  2. People like us is different from the usual World War stories in that it’s seen from the point of view of a German family. It’s interesting to read how they dealt with things too.
    Hetty is a brave young girl who stands by her friends and goes against her family for her Jewish friends despite the dangers.
    I enjoyed this book very much and was pleased to be able to read it.

  3. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read this book but sadly I didn’t finish it. I tried on multiple occasions to read it but it just wasn’t something I could get into.

  4. While I have read a number of historical fiction novels set in Nazi Germany, People Like Us by Louise Fein, is different. Rather than taking a Jewish perspective, this thought provoking and evocative story describes those harrowing times from the perspective of a young, naive German teenage girl, whose family wholeheartedly subscribe to the Nazi propaganda.

    This is a true coming of age tale in which young Hetty Heinrich, the daughter of an influential SS officer, struggles with what those around her are saying is “right” and what she believes in her heart.

    Like many others, Hetty is at first completely mesmerized by Adolf Hitler. She idolises him like a pop star, hanging his portrait on her wall, and following his preachings with spellbound zeal. However, Hetty gradually starts to see the hatred and inhumanity that the Nazi regime inspires. Whisperings about her own family’s sudden good fortune, witnessing savage beatings and the disappearance of neighbours, starts Hetty wondering. Then when even her brother’s childhood best friend Walter – the boy who saved her life, is spurned, Hetty soon realises how unbelievably cruel and duplicitous even her own family can be.

    People Like Us is a beautifully written and powerfully evocative story that really delves into how extremist views were able to take hold of a seemingly civilised country like Germany, and why so many people were taken in by Nazi propaganda. It is also a timely reminder of how important it is for people to stand up for what is right and not to get unthinkingly swept up in waves of racism and hatred. I highly recommend this book.

  5. People like Us

    Hetty Heinrich is the daughter of an SS Nazi officer. She has been raised to be a good German girl and doesn’t question her life or her parents beliefs. Hitler looms large in her life and she has been brainwashed to believe that he will make Germany great again.

    Hetty falls in love with Walter, a Jewish boy who was her brothers best friend. Walter had saved Hetty from drowning when she was a young girl and the family had held him in high regard until the Nazi regime and their hatred of the Jewish population takes over Germany. Her brother Karl no longer associates with Walter. When Hetty meets up with Walter a few years later there is an instant attraction but as he is a Jew it is a forbidden relationship.
    Hetty slowly begins to realise that she does not agree with everything her father or Hitler stands for.

    The story is written from a German perspective of war which is a somewhat different take from what is usually written about in WWII historical fiction. It is a heartbreaking read but the journey of Hetty and Walter is so worth it. Such a powerful well written story. Highly recommend it 4/5

  6. I was fortunate to recive this ebook during the COVID home isolation. I havent had the chance to read much lately so it was a welcomed distraction. The book piqued my intrest as it’s a period of history I find fascinating although abhorrent.

    Set in Germany during Hitlers regime Hetty a young girl of a Nazi Officer becomes aware of the injustice sourounding her contunrty. A childhood friend of her brothers, Walter reenters her life when its impossible for them to be together. Love must conqure but at what cost?
    This story told from Hetty’s POV and takes us on a journey of the trials and tribulations of life and love during one of the most horrific times of war.

    I rate the book 3 stars, not because it isnt written well, or a story worth telling its just not that disimilar from other books ive read so I wasn’t as absorbed in the storyline as I anticipated.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace Book Club and Head of Zeus Publishers for the reading and reviewing opportunity.

  7. I was slow to warm to this book: at first the picture perfect image that Hetty portrayed was very difficult to read about, especially as all of her family seemed to be brainwashed as I guess some people were at that time
    I persevered and was so glad I did. People Like Us is a coming of age story. It tells us of Hetty growing up in Nazi Germany with her father a corrupt SS officer and a mother prepared to turn a long eye to keep up appearances
    Hetty is a free spirit and even though she has grown up indoctrinated into the Nazi way of thinking, starts to question things.
    She falls in love with Walter a childhood friend who is Jewish. This leads to her starting to question things.
    This is a very powerful novel. It tells of choices made and beliefs shattered. A love story that exemplifies the strength of humanity
    Despite the slow start, I thoroughly enjoyed this work by Louise Fein. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Head of Zeus for the opportunity to read and review this book that made me quite unsettled but in a good way

  8. People Like Us is a heart wrenching story that rings true with all the known/reported history of Hitler and the Third Reich’s program to eradicate the Jews, and their belief that Germans are a pure and superior race.
    Written from a German perspective is quite different from the usual books.
    Hetty is a young German girl who’s prominent family holds this belief and she is raised in a household where herself and her brother are raised not knowing any different.
    As a young girl, Hetty nearly drowns and her brothers best friend Walter is the one who rescues her.
    She develops a crush on him.
    When it is announced that her brothers best friend is Jewish, and as her brother has moved into another group of friends, who are more suitable and not Jewish, he is no longer permitted to visit.
    When Hetty reunites with her brothers friend, they fall in love and this brings about unforseen
    consequences that are far reaching.
    We follow the hopes and dreams of Hetty as a young girl who believes her love will overcome the Hitler movement, and watch as she becomes disillusioned with everything she has grown up believing.

    Reading about the way young people in Germany were brainwashed by the Hitler Movement made me angry, but I also think this is because I have read about the ‘Death Camps’and the thousands who perished in them.
    This book will not be to everyone’s liking, it is brilliantly written and fully researched
    I can see how Historical lovers will read this – I will not say enjoy,
    not completely, but there are parts that are good.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Head of Zeus for the opportunity to read this.

  9. This is the first e-book I have read on a computer, I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy the process of not holding an actual book, however the storyline dragged me in and I didn’t want to stop reading. I really enjoyed how the characters were portrayed as ordinary people that were changed by extraordinary times prior to the announcement of World War 2 in Nazi Germany. The main character Hetty had me frustrated at the start as she seemed so unaware of what was truly happening around her to past friends. When Hetty opens her eyes through her love of Walter, the world that she once knew is turned upside-down.
    I really wanted to see how their love could flourish but I also felt like I watching a train wreck about to happen, how, could their love survive amongst all the horror surrounding them. The ending was satisfactory although I could have wished for otherwise, to know that the authors own family so luckily escaped a similar fate of some of the characters made me feel very grateful to those who helped keep them safe.
    Thank you ‘Beauty & Lace Book Club’, for the opportunity to read and review Louise Fien’s e-book ‘People Like Us’.

  10. This fictional story based in the years leading up to World War 2 follows the life of a young German girl who falls in love with a Jewish boy. Herta has grown up in a strong Nazi family and doesn’t think any different until she finds out that the boy she has had a crush on for years is Jewish. Walter makes her rethink everything she has ever been told. She has her eyes opened to what is really transpiring in her city and the suffering faced by anyone who doesn’t follow the Nazi plan. What follows is a story of trust, love, learning and some heartache.

  11. I have read a lot of books lately set in WWII and this is another very different take on a book set in that era.
    Hetty is the daughter of a high ranking SS officer and has been brainwashed by all of the Nazi propaganda that was put out at that time.
    But Hetty is also in love with her brother’s childhood best friend, Walter who happens to be Jewish.
    Hetty must make some hard decisions on whether to follow Hitler and her families beliefs or to go against it all and risk her own safety trying to protect Walter.
    This is a great read that I really enjoyed.
    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Head of Zeus for the opportunity to read this book.

  12. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Head if Zeus publishing for the opportunity to read People Like us by Louise Fein.
    Louise Fein has drawn on her own family story to write this amazing book. Most Holocaust stories are told from the Jewish perspective…….but this story is cleverly told by a German girl which throws a wonderful twist on the presentation of historical events.

    We meet Hetty in 1929, she is 7. Her brother Karl’s friend Walter saves Hetty from drowning. Naturally Hetty’s family are grateful to Walter. She and her brother have a range of friends, she goes to a good school and dreams of becoming a Dr. Hetty doesn’t question the events around her.

    In 1933 She realises her father has power, he write Editorial for the Leipziger Paper and is in the SS. A news paper is a powerful weapon to further Hitler’s course.
    A good German girl never questions or complains, her duty is to serve the Fuhrer. She loves her Mum and Dad and takes on their views with out question.
    Hetty and Walter’s paths cross again. Walter is Jewish. Her Mother tells her ….you can only mix with people like us.

    Hetty is headstrong and as she grows older and witnesses events, she questions the blindness in which every one is following Hittler. On her rebellious outings we see the Germany of that time.

    This story is a love story culminating many years after the war in London.

    Louise Fein says…..and above all that I want to show that the lessons of the past must never be forgotten.
    That is achieved in this wonderful story, a great read.

  13. People like us is set in Germany through the period 1929 to 1939 as Adolf Hitler cements his place as leader of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (commonly known as the Nazi Party). Fein has chosen to write the story from the perspective of a child raised in a fervent Nazi Party household and the story is a fascinating, yet harrowing, mix of childhood innocence, the impact of propaganda, and the confusion between what you are taught to be truth and what you experience as truth.

    The tale begins in Leipzig in 1929; Herta Heinrich (Hetty) aged seven, is watching her older brother Karl and his best friend Walter Keller swimming in the lake when she topples from the end of the jetty and falls in. Not knowing how to swim she is in danger of drowning until Walter rescues her. This moment in time sears into Hetty’s brain that Walter is her hero, as her mother gratefully thanks Walter for being such a brave strong swimmer and saving Hetty’s life. That night to make her feel better, Karl givers her an early birthday present, a journal and fountain pen, for her to write and save all her secrets in.

    1933, brings many changes to Hetty’s life, now 11 she commenced at her new school in August, having scored well in the entrance examination. On the first day her teacher is chastised by the headmaster for teaching from book that was not written by a German. Later that day she takes her friend from her old school, Tomas, to see her new house. Her father is rising through the ranks of the Nazi party and has been issued a new home, the best home on the street, complete with all the furniture and artworks the previous owners left behind. With a child’s innocence she greets the elderly couple from across the street and asks if she may pat their dog, Flocke, then is horrified and confused as the elderly lady accuses her father of having had the previous occupants of her house forced out with lies and trumped up charges. When she questions her mother, she is told not to talk to the couple, they tell lies, they are Jews.

    February 1934, her brother Karl, now 15 is inducted into the Hitler Jugend, Hitler attends the ceremony and his speech impassions Hetty, Hitler has spoken to her, she is special, Hitler knows that she has a great part to play in this New Reich. That night in her journal she writes :My Hitler, I devote my life to you. Make your plan for me clear, because from now on, everything I do, it is for you and you alone. I will make you proud that I’m your child. Oh great, great Führer …” Later that night she is awakened and observes her father kiss his secretary through the window. When she tells Karl the next day he laughs and dismisses what she has seen as a bad dream, but then confuses her by refusing to see Walter when he comes to visit.

    April 1934, Hetty is horrified when he friend Tomas tells her that his father who has lost his job does not want to work for the Reich. She encourages him to provide information about his father’s communist tendencies and friends to her father. After doing so Tomas expresses concern that his father will be arrested, but Herr Heinrich assures him he won’t be, he’ll just be taken into protective custody for his own safety. As a reward for his bravery, Heinrich enables Tomas to become a standard bearer in the Jungvolk, which until now his parents have not let him join.

    September 1934, many of the teachers at Hetty’s school have been replaced with more “acceptable” teachers. Her new teacher begins with a lesson on Eugenics. To demonstrate his point he calls Freda Federmann, Jewess, to the front of the class as well as Walter. He then proceeds to use a set of callipers to point out all of Freda’s faults that prove she is inferior to the Aryan ideal. Hetty feels uncomfortable for Freda, but assumes that Walter with his blonde hair, blue eyes and good looks is there to demonstrate the clear superiority of the Aryan in the Eugenics hierarchy. As the realisation that Walter is not being held up as the ideal, but as a Jew, Hetty’s world comes crashing down. How can this boy, her hero, kind, handsome Walter be all the things they say about Jews? It makes no sense.

    1937, Hetty has rescued the dog Flocke after the elderly couple across the street left and abandoned him. Her Heinrich did not want a Jew’s dog in the house, but finally agreed to allow Hetty to keep him provided she changed his name. One day while walking the dog, now named Kuschi, she chances upon Walter. Despite her misgivings about being with a Jew, Hetty is unable to resist spending time with the person who stole a part of her heart years ago. The more she sees him the less she understands how this warm gentle young man can be guilty of the things the Jews are accused of.

    As Hetty falls deeper and deeper in love with Walter, her eyes become opened to the atrocities being committed by the Gestapo in the name of Hitler. If she and Walter are caught, she risks everything, her life included, but she can no longer stand by and watch the man she loves be destroyed by an accident of birth. In the end she will risk everything, but will it be enough.

    People Like Us is an amazing book, based on factual events Fein has created characters that can easily be empathised with. She writes without fear or favour, exposing the ease with which a country can be turned against a minority by the spreading of lies, and the punishment of any who refuse to believe the lies.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Head of Zeus publisher for enabling me to read and review this book, and special thanks to Louise Fein for writing a book that so clearly parallels what is happening in the world today with what happened in the thirties. May we always remember and stop history from repeating.

    Highly recommended, I give this book 5 stars.

  14. I found Louise Fein’s People Like Us a fascinating read with insights into Hitler’s Germany that I have rarely come across previously. The characters of Hettie and Walter were beautifully drawn and engaging. The storyline not always easy to read but unfailingly compelling. I prefer hard copy books for reading over the e-book format, however overall People Like Us is an exceptional historical romance drama and I would highly recommend!

  15. Wow – I loved this book. It’s a heavy topic but I was still able to read it while on a relaxing holiday – it gripped me from start to finish.
    Louise Fein’s, ‘People Like Us’ is set in 1930s Germany and told from the perspective of a German girl – Hetty, daughter of an SS officer. Reading a story from this perspective is unusual for books about WW2 but I really enjoyed seeing it from the other side. While Hetty believes in Hitler, her father and the views of a strong and pure Germany, she starts to see the world from other people’s perspectives. As Hetty begins to fall in love with a man who is against all she has been taught, she begins to fight against her country, her family and herself. It’s a book of love, betrayal, hardship, family and friendship. If you enjoyed books such as The Tattooist of Auschwitz then I think you will like this one too. I also liked the Author’s note at the end, explaining how it related to her own family.
    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Head of Zeus for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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