History Read-Along: Gunner’s Run, Chapters 7-10

Continuing along in the young adult historical fiction book Gunner’s Run by Rick Barry… It’s four chapters this week, and the story keeps moving along as Jim continues his attempt to escape from dangerous and slightly humorous situations.

(Remember the pickle barrel?)

Chapter 7 – Extra History

As Jim walks through the German countryside, he ponders Hitler’s demand for “Lebensraum.” What’s that?

Literal translation means “living space” and it was a concept developed by imperialistic German prior to World War I and then built upon by Hitler and the Nazi party.

Basically, it called for territorial expansion to gain living spaces for Germans. Hitler turned the phrase and concept into a brutal concept closely tied to racism and used it in war propaganda. The idea was a take over of other countries – particularly the eastern nations and the Soviet Union, ethnic cleansing, driving out the original inhabitants and resettling “racially pure” Germans in the new lands. Yikes!

Whether an airman like Jim would have known all of that seems unlikely, but he might have known the word and basic concept since Hitler had used it as justification for his annexations before World War II actually broke out in Europe.

Chapter 8 – Extra History

Although it seems more likely that Holocaust survivors hiding the forests occurred in Poland and other parts of eastern Europe rather than German, it is possible that it may have happened in Germany.

One Holocaust Survivor recalled his escape and experiences living in the forest and the fears of encountering strangers, soldiers, or partisan fighters.

Chapter 9 – Extra History

Part of Hitler’s quest for land involved taking food to feed his nation at war since German farms could not produce enough food for the armies and warring country. Ultimately, the Nazi leaders spent more time focusing on armament production rather than rural agriculture developments, leading to severe food shortages.

Russia used a scorched earth war policy, denying the Germans food to capture. On the homefront, no major successful programs were developed to increase food and crop production. Rationing was used, but not in one comprehensive plan.

On the farms of Germany, most of the young men who would have worked the land were in the military. Young people in the Hitler Youth programs were often transported to the country and ordered to work the farms as part of their contribution to the war effort. With a food shortage facing the Germans, it is historically accurate to see the food troubles encountered by Jim in the story.

Chapter 10 – Extra History

One of Jim’s concerns in this chapter is keeping clean and keeping his feet dry so he can keep moving.

Interestingly, this fictional character wasn’t the only one concerned about “healthy feet.” U.S. General George S. Patton actually issued orders that all his men would receive a clean pair of socks everyday and helped supply those socks with some of his own funds. If a soldier (or escaping airman) can’t walk, he just won’t get very far!

How It’s Written

Compared to the other chapters, this week’s section moves a little slower, but the author gives us time to get “better acquainted” with Jim as the journey progresses. We also get snippet hints at historical situations and facts without the story devolving into a history lesson. We’re reminded of the Holocaust victims and survivors and see examples of food shortages.

Dashes of humor give additional life to these chapters. From the troubles with American phrases and the day in the pickle barrel, we are introduced to the plight of the character, made to sympathize with him, and smile at the situations, too.

Do you write? Have you tried to use humor in a scene to relieve tension, build a character, or reveal a situation?

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

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