Summer of My German Soldier Summary & Study Guide

Bette Greene
This Study Guide consists of approximately 48 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Summer of My German Soldier.
This section contains 863 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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Summer of My German Soldier Summary & Study Guide Description

Summer of My German Soldier Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene.

In this classic story, set during the Second World War, an intelligent young Jewish girl named Patty Bergen lives with her family in Jenkinsville, Arkansas. Isolated from other children by religion, she is also isolated from her family. Her father, the owner of the town department store, is dismissive and abusive. Her mother is disapproving of Patty’s tomboy ways. Her parents dote, however, on Patty’s younger, prettier sister, Sharon. Patty’s only true friends are Ruth, her black maid, and a local boy named Tommy of whom her father disapproves, although Patty is not sure why.

Things begin to change when Jenkinsville is chosen as the site of a prisoner of war camp for captured Germans. When a group of POWs are brought into the store to purchase hats, one young man is called upon to translate. As the others are making their purchases, Patty waits on him. She finds him polite and friendly, as well as handsome. In her mind, he doesn’t seem to be anything like the Nazis she was warned against. He introduces himself as Frederick Anton Reiker, or Anton to his friends.

Patty has a secret hideout in an abandoned garage behind her parents’ house. Here she hides her most precious things, including the books she buys with money given to her on the sly by her grandmother. The hideout is her escape from her friendless world, where she spends her days reading and learning vocabulary words from the dictionary.

On the same day that several U-Boats are captured off the coast of the U.S., a prisoner escapes from the POW camp. The FBI becomes involved immediately, and a woman reporter from Memphis comes to write an article about the escape. She takes Patty with her to the camp, and finds Patty has the potential to become a writer. She encourages Patty to consider journalism, and offers a mentoring type of friendship to the lonely girl.

Anton has used a clever ruse to escape from the POW camp, seeking freedom rather than collusion with the Nazis. Patty finds him and hides him in her secret place. Although she momentarily considers turning him in (in an attempt to gain her parents’ approval and love), she doesn’t. Patty and Anton become friends, and although she doesn’t think it possible, he tells her he truly cares for her and finds her beautiful. He proves his devotion when he sees her father beating her, and momentarily runs out of hiding to attempt to stop it. He catches himself in time to prevent being seen by all but Ruth, the maid, who has compassion for him and aids Patty in helping him. After a serious discussion, however, Ruth and Anton agree he should move on in order to avoid putting Patty and her family in danger.

Before he leaves, Anton gives Patty a ring that belonged to his father. It is the most precious possession he has, and he tells her she is a special person. He then disappears out of her life.

For a while, she is happy and content, but as life begins to return to its former oppressive drabness, she seeks validation from others by showing her ring to a woman who works in her father’s store. She tells an elaborate story about how she came by the ring, and the woman calls Patty’s father’s attention to it. Patty’s father demands to know where she got the ring. She repeats her story, and her father takes the ring, accusing her of immoral behavior. When Ruth stands up for Patty, Mr. Bergen fires her.

The local Sherriff comes to talk to Patty and gives her back her ring; she tells him the same story she told Sister Parker and her father. Soon after, the FBI questions Patty, showing her Anton’s picture. They also show her a telegram stating Anton was shot and killed while resisting arrest.

Patty is arrested. Despondent, she tells the FBI everything, except for the fact that anyone else knew of her actions. Although encouraged to find local counsel, Patty’s father uses his money and influence to hire her a Jewish lawyer from Memphis, where Patty is staying with her grandparents. The Bergens find themselves pressured by the locals to leave Jenkinsville. At her trial, Patty is found guilty of lesser charges, and due to her age and naïveté, is sentenced to four to six months in a girls’ reform school.

In reform school, Patty is just as lonely as ever. She does not make friends easily, and is teased for being a “Nazi” and a “spy.” Ruth comes to visit Patty, bringing her news, food, and her ever-present wisdom. She warns Patty she may never gain her parents’ love and approval, but that does not mean she is not an important person. Patty tells Ruth about her correspondence with Charlene, and informs her the paper is considering publishing Patty’s article on conditions in the Reform school.

In the end, Patty is still left aimless, wondering if she will ever “make it” in life. However, she seems determined, somehow, to try.

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