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The Watchmaker of Dachau

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Snow falls and a woman prepares for a funeral she has long expected, yet hoped would never come. As she pats her hair and straightens her skirt, she tells herself this isn’t the first time she’s lost someone. Lifting a delicate, battered wristwatch from a little box on her dresser, she presses it to her cheek. Suddenly, she’s lost in memory…

January 1945, Dachau, Germany. As the train rattles through the bright, snowy Bavarian countryside, the still beauty outside the window hides the terrible scenes inside the train, where men and women are packed together, cold and terrified. Jewish watchmaker Isaac Schüller can’t understand how he came to be here, and is certain he won’t be leaving alive.

When the prisoners arrive at Dachau concentration camp, Isaac is unexpectedly pulled from the crowd and installed in the nearby household of Senior Officer Becher and his young, pretty, spoiled wife. With his talent for watchmaking, Isaac can be of use to Becher, but he knows his life is only worth something here as long as Becher needs his skills.

Anna Reznick waits table and washes linens for the Bechers, who dine and socialise and carry on as if they don’t constantly have death all around them. When she meets Isaac she knows she’s found a true friend, and maybe more. But Dachau is a dangerous place where you can never take love for granted, and when Isaac discovers a heartbreaking secret hidden in the depths of Becher’s workshop, it will put Anna and Issac in terrible danger…

249 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 20, 2021

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About the author

Carly Schabowski

9 books86 followers
Carly Schabowski worked as a journalist in both North Cyprus and Australia before returning to Oxford, where she studied for an MA and then a PhD in creative writing at Oxford Brookes University.

Carly now teaches at Oxford Brookes University as an associate lecturer in Creative Writing for first and second-year English literature students.

The Ringmaster’s Daughter is Carly’s debut novel and will be published by Bookouture in July 2020, with her second novel, The Watchmaker of Dachau coming out later that year. These texts are both true, epic, moving historical novels centred around survival, human suffering, and the finding of love within the backdrop of the desperate and uncertain times of 1940s Europe

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 246 reviews
Profile Image for Jessica.
324 reviews362 followers
January 22, 2021
The Watchmaker of Dachau by Carly Schabowski is an emotional World War II novel with multiple points of view.

I really enjoyed The Watchmaker of Dachau. This story is heartbreaking and hard to read at points, but this book is a great read. The Watchmaker of Dachau grabbed my attention from the first page. There were some parts that were so horrifying I had to take a break from reading. The worst part is that what is described in this story actually happened. One of my favorite parts of this book is the characters. All of the characters are hardworking and compassionate. The three main characters become friends. I liked that the story was told from the different viewpoints of the characters especially since they had vastly different experiences. Having the story told from two prisoners and the child of a Nazi was very interesting.

Thank you Bookouture and NetGalley for The Watchmaker of Dachau.

Full Review: https://justreadingjess.wordpress.com...
Profile Image for Marialyce (absltmom, yaya).
1,938 reviews722 followers
December 21, 2020
I am always drawn to stories that focus on the good that some people were able to find amongst the heinous acts of the Holocaust. Based on a true story, we meet two Jewish prisoners, Isaac Schüller, a watchmaker, and Anna Reznick, a young woman who serves and waits on Senior Officer Becher and his wife. They are saved from the gas chambers because of their skills but are witness to the awful acts purported on the prisoners. Both of these people live in fear knowing their lives depend on their usefulness and mean nothing to the Bechers. They find solace in one another eventually becoming friends and more.

They constantly walk a tightrope afraid to do any wrong. As Issac works in a cold wooden shack at the back of the Becher's palatial home, he discovers something hidden in the floor that could put both Issac and Anna in even more danger. He also develops a friendship with the Becher's son, Friedrich, who had been taught to fear and hate the Jews, a group of people that he had never met. He learns through Issac's kindness that what is being done by his parents and others of their ilk is ever so wrong, repulsive, and shocking.

This well written story based somewhat on fact, is a well done historical fiction that kept the reader focused on the two main characters and praying for their safety and eventual rescue. It's a story of kindness intermingled with the abominable acts of others.

Thank you to Carly Schabowski, Bookouture, and NetGalley for a copy of this story due out January 20,2021.
Profile Image for Karren  Sandercock .
738 reviews142 followers
June 23, 2021
Isaac Schüller a Jewish watchmaker ventures out on a cold January night in 1945 to visit his vacant shop and he’s caught on his way home. Suddenly he’s on a packed train, on his way to Dachau, after a nightmare of a trip and he arrives at infamous camp. On arrival everyone has to hand over their belongings, Isaac has none because he was picked up off the street and the guard doesn’t believe him, he searches him and finds his pouch containing his watch repair tools.

Isaac assumes he’s going to be in trouble and the next day he’s taken to the nearby house of the commander of the camp Herr Becher, who lives with his pampered selfish wife Liesl and young son Friedrich. Becher actually needs Isaac to fix a grandfather clock, plus watches and jewelry stolen from Jewish people and a train set of Friedrich’s that no one else could fix. He’s deposited with his precious tools into an old freezing abandoned garden shed and his first test is to fix the grandfather clock. While he’s useful Isaac has a chance of surviving Dachau, but he’s still at risk from freezing to death, starving and getting sick.

Anna Reznick works as a maid and laundress for the Becher's, she knows her survival also rests in their hands and they make her extremely nervous. Two very selfish, self-indulgent, greedy horrible people, who eat, drink and live in luxury not far from the infamous camp. She and Isaac meet at the commander’s house; they become friends, and each night they're marched back to camp by Herr Schmidt. Both Isaac and Anna received flack from other camp inmates because they had better jobs and as if they had any choice. They become really close; when Isaac discovers papers and letters hidden in the shed? He shares them with Anna, putting them both in danger and reading the letters gives them hope during the darkest times.

The Watchmaker Of Dachau is a story about finding kindness, loyalty, friendship and love in one of the most awful and cruel places. Some of characters in the story are wonderful, especially Isaac, Anna, and Nina, Greta and young Friedrich and I enjoyed reading about the relationships formed between them. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, thanks to NetGalley for my copy and four stars from me. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/
Profile Image for Rose.
260 reviews107 followers
January 24, 2021
I have just finished reading The Watchmaker of Dachau by Carly Schabowski

The Watchmaker of Dachau is a story about friendships, hardships, World War II , Holocaust, and the suffering that Jewish prisoners had to endure during those times.

I have read a great may books on this topic, and personally feel that we should all read as many of these stories as possible, to help us understand what occurred around this time, and to educate others so these horrors never ever happen again.

This story to me has wonderfully written characters and is about the strength and support that they offered to each other.

A wonderful book

I would like to thank NetGalley, Author Carly Schabowski and Bookouture for my advanced copy to read and review.

. #TheWatchmakerofDachau #NetGalley
Profile Image for Gary.
2,590 reviews362 followers
August 14, 2021
This is the second book I have read recently by author Carly Schabowski following ‘The Rainbow’. Both great stories inspired by true events and both beautifully written.

The book opens with a woman getting ready for a funeral and becoming lost in her thoughts as she holds a battered wristwatch to her cheek.

January 1945. Dachau, Germany men and women are packed tightly together on a train as it travels through the snowy Bavarian countryside. A Jewish watchmaker Isaac Schüller can’t understand how he came to be here, and is certain he won’t be leaving alive.

When Isaac and the other prisoners arrive at Dachau concentration camp, he is taken away and placed in the household of Senior Officer Becher. Because of Isaacs skills as a watchmaker Becher knows that he can prove valuable to him personally and his life will be less at risk while he remains of use to the officer.

Anna Reznick acts as a housemaid to the Bechers, who carry on oblivious to all the death and torture that surrounds the camp. Anna and Isaac form a friendship and maybe more, but Dachau is a dangerous place and love is not easy. When Isaac discovers some old letters under the shed floor where he works, it threatens to put Anna and Isaac in terrible danger.

The story is told from the viewpoints of Isaac, Anna and 11 year old Friedrich , son of Senior Officer Becher. Friedrich was taught by his parents to despise Jews but his mind is altered when he learns what is really going on beyond his garden wall at the Dachau camp. Friedrich becomes close to both Anna and Isaac, who offer him the attention and love he sadly misses from his parents.

Isaac works all day long fixing watches in the cold shed down in the garden. He finds some old letters under the floor which could spell trouble for him and Anna who he shares his discovery with.

An emotional read that is beautifully written.
Profile Image for Stina.
1,054 reviews1 follower
January 17, 2021
I am excited to be taking part in the #BooksOnTour #BlogTour for Carly Schabowski's latest heartwarming and heartbreaking novel THE WATCHMAKER OF DACHAU.

I love historical fiction and, despite it being one of the darkest times in history, and I am always drawn to wartime stories surrounding the Holocaust. It was such a sad and a particularly brutal time for, not only the Jews, but whoever was deemed different to the ideal of the perfect race...blonde haired blue eyed Aryans. It makes my blood boil and my heart break as I read some of what was inflicted on them. I mean, they were human beings just like everyone else and yet they were shunned according to the propaganda spouted by Hitler and his national socialist party. How anyone could be so cruel to another goes beyond all understanding.

And yet in saying that, THE WATCHMAKER OF DACHAU is a beautiful tale that is based on a true story and yet it is not bogged down by historical facts or events that make for heavy reading, often taking away the beauty behind the story. This is not the case with this book. Although we are given insight into some of the heinous acts committed by the Nazis in these camps, it simply provides background, as the story is itself is one of love and hope.

Cornwall, England, 1996: Beginning with a Prologue set in England as an elderly woman prepares for a funeral, silently reminiscing as she takes out a beautiful watch decorated with gemstones...serving as a reminder of darker times. Her identity is unknown, but it is assumed that she is the much older Anna.

Dachau, Germany, January 1945: On his way home one evening, Isaac Schüller is captured by Nazis and taken to a train bound for the Dachau Concentration Camp. There he meets Elijah who informs him he is one of the lucky ones to have a much shorter journey as he has been on the train for days whilst others have been for weeks. The beauty outside their windows of the snowy countryside hides the terrible scenes inside where men, women and children are packed together, cold and utterly terrified. When the train suddenly halts and everyone is herded out into the cold, the bodies of those who had not survived the journey are left behind...bound for the pyres.

The prisoners are marched to the camp where they are stripped, deloused and showered in a cold spray of water before being given thin blue striped garments that serve as their uniform, barely enough to shield them from the cold. But upon arrival, Isaac is unexpectedly pulled from the crowd of other prisoners and questioned as to why he had such intricate instruments on his person when he had claimed to have had nothing. He explained that he is a watchmaker and they are the tools of his trade. The senior officer appeared interested before pocketing the tools and leaving Isaac to be processed.

When the prisoners are being allocated their work detail, Isaac is left standing in the freezing cold when his number had not been called out. Unsure why he has been singled out, Isaac is even more surprised when a guard takes him out of the camp to a nearby house where he awaits further instructions. He is taken to the study of Senior Officer Becher, whom he recognises as the man who questioned him with regard to his tools which now lay on display on the officer's desk. It seems with his talent for watchmaking, Isaac can be of use to Becher and he is installed in the outdoor shed where his spoiled and rather hysterical wife cannot be upset by his presence. His first task is to fix the grandfather clock that had been a gift from the Führer but alas has never chimed.

Twenty nine year old Anna Reznick from the women's camp at Dachau waits on and keeps house for the Bechers, who dine and carry on as if death is not all around them just a few hundred yards away. Trying her best to please the Bechers, Anna is constantly nervous and often dropping things causing great distress, albeit rather dramatically, to Madam (Leisl) Becher. She is often yelled at and ridiculed for her in-capabilities and the fact that she is a "dirty Jew". Leisl does not like her in the house contaminating her lovely possessions so Anna tries to stay in the kitchen with Greta, the cook, who takes pity on the girl often giving her food that her employers would not miss. When Isaac began work in the shed for Becher, Greta would also have Anna sneak food and coffee to him to help keep his strength up. She may be a woman from the village but Greta sees the skeletal frames of Anna and Isaac and does not condone starving them, aware that they need food and drink to be able to continue their work for the Bechers.

When Anna meets the much older Isaac the two become friends, sharing their stories, their memories and their dreams. And when Isaac comes across some papers beneath a floorboard in the shed he soon discovers the words he is reading are the private thoughts of another prisoner installed at the house as a gardener...with the initials J.A.L. But Isaac has met the gardener, a cheerful young man named Levi who looks for sunshine and happiness in everything, despite their imprisonment. He begins reading the diary to Anna and the two share the hopes and dreams and memories of someone just like them.

Then in the midst of everything, the Becher's 11 year old son Freidrich returns home from school and is informed he will not be returning. Instead he is to be tutored at home and must occupy himself in the interim without disturbing his parents who clearly do not want him there. Freidrich is bereft at having left his best friend Otto and is clearly lonely as he wanders the house looking for something to do. His father tells him to play with his train set in his room but the engine has stopped working, so Becher has Isaac fix it. With his father often in Munich and his mother either in bed or shopping, Freidrich soon grows bored and attempts to amuse himself by striking up an unusual friendship with Isaac. Despite being told by his parents not to engage with the Jews, Freidrich has little left to occupy himself and sneakily does the opposite. He has no idea what takes place at Dachau nor what type of place it is. But his friendship with Isaac could prove dangerous should his parents discover his visits to the shed.

Both Isaac and Anna know that they are only of use to the Bechers for as long as they need them. Each morning they are taken to the house and each evening they are walked back to the camp where they are often ostracised by the other inmates who believe they have been singled out for special treatment whilst they all slave away with hard labour till they drop. Isaac has few friends apart from Elijah and Jan whilst Anna has Nina, with whom she shares the morsels of food Greta has secreted to her. Every night as they lay in their bunks, Nina ponders on the fate of her brother Kuba for whom she has been searching. Anna claims that she is sure he is still alive, if not just to placate her friend.

When the scent of lemons begins to envelop him, Isaac knows his time is running out. He writes a letter to Anna and to Fredrich enclosed with the diary of the unknown inmate J.A.L. and a watch he crafted especially for Anna. As much as he wanted to survive Dachau, he fears that he will not. Though at the same time he embraces the thought that he will see his beloved wife Hannah and young son Haim again. Grateful for the friendships he has forged in his short time at the house, Isaac pondered how Anna showed him how to love again whilst young Fredrich reminded him on his own long lost son.

As the tides begin to turn and whispers of the Americans coming to liberate them, there is unrest in the camp as the guards become lax in their duties or hurry to evacuate the remaining inmates before they can arrive. Those who are too sick to travel are left to die or thrown into the pyres that have been burning day and night. Can Anna and Isaac survive long enough to be liberated?

A story written of a time in history of which many would rather forget, THE WATCHMAKER OF DACHAU is both beautiful and heartbreaking. It pulls at the heartstrings and is as breathtaking in its beauty as it is in its horrors. Told through the various narratives primarily Issac, Anna and Freidrich, there is also the diary excerpts by J.A.L. that Isaac and Anna share...and whose identity is a mystery until the very end. And then everything falls into place.

THE WATCHMAKER OF DACHAU is not about the plight or the suffering of the Jews or the inferior as deemed by the Nazis. It is not about Hitler's cruel regime or his rise to power on the backs of those below him. It is not your typical tale of the Holocaust. It is about finding the strength to rise above their horrible circumstances. And of survival, of hope and of love.

Nothing I can say in my review can possibly do the justice this book deserves. I can only say to grab yourself a copy and experience it for yourself.

A definite 5 star read and recommended for fans of historical fiction with an interest in WW2 fiction surrounding the Holocaust.

I would like to thank #CarlySchabowski, #NetGalley, #Bookouture for an ARC of #TheWatchmakerOfDachau in exchange for an honest review.

This review appears on my blog at https://stinathebookaholic.blogspot.com/.
Profile Image for Emma Crowley.
833 reviews120 followers
January 20, 2021
The Watchmaker of Dachau is the second novel from Carly Schabowski and it takes us to the heart of the concentration camp Dachau, just outside Munich, where unspeakable atrocities occurred during World War Two. The story opens with the briefest of prologues which normally give us the merest of information to get our interest piqued. Not much at all was given away here except that in 1996 in Cornwall, a woman is waiting for someone or something and is finally facing up to something. To be honest, by the time I reached the very end I had completely forgotten that the prologue had ever taken place.

I found myself jolted back to the modern day having been completely immersed in the story that unfolded behind the walls of the camp much of what took place there having been kept secret from the world at large at the time. The ending did tie in nicely with the prologue but I found it to be rushed and would have liked even just a few more pages of exploration allowing me the time to soak in the consequences and developments I was reading of. But aside from that I found this book to be much better than the author’s debut. The chapters were short and intense which made me fly through the story and I read it more or less in two sittings. There is a story within a story taking place here, not dual timeline, more so they run alongside each other as the main characters endure suffering, brutality, loss and devastation.

The focus is on two people who come to be interred in the camp because of the simple fact of their religion. Isaac and Anna are very different in age, he being in his 60’s and Anna is in her late 20’s.Yet a friendship is forged through circumstance and it is one full of hope, love and strength as they try to sustain each other through harrowing times, danger and terror. Loyalty, sacrifice, kindness, hope and human connection are the main traits they find in each other and as they navigate the last year or so of the war in the camp they come to rely on each other for support, courage and stability. Theirs is not a love story and in a way I was glad of this, it’s been done before in books of this genre. Instead the focus is on simple human interaction and connection and through the supporting cast of characters they aim to make it to the bitter end to see freedom no matter what horrors, deprivation, starvation and traumas that are endlessly thrown in their direction. When all else is lost, hope and love stay strong.

Initially I did find the story jumped around a bit too much from character to character until it found its rhythm and pace and then settled down. The chapters go between Anna, Isaac and young Friedrich, the son of the camp commandant. Isaac had escaped capture for the majority of the war, he remained hidden away in his tiny village. His shop no longer open, yet he ventured there to look at the watches and all the things he has fixed in the past. His profession will see him through the tough times as he captured and sent to Dachau. We’ve all read the details of the various camps that existed at the time and here no detail was spared. To Isaac, it’s a minefield and he can’t comprehend that this has happened to him. He thanks God that his wife Hannah had long passed away and did not have to endure this torture and humiliation.

As a reader over time you can become hardened to the different descriptions of what the prisoners went through. They do not lose their shock or their impact but just when you think you have read it all, having read so many books in this genre, there was one scene which was just utterly horrific and barbaric. I cried out in shock as it was just so difficult to read and then with a turn of the page when I thought I couldn’t be shocked even more there was a description which just made my stomach churn. I had to stop for a moment or two before I could read on as it was so just so brutal and made me feel such sadness and anger for what went on.

Isaac’s story takes us to a different area of the camp few prisoners would have known about. The camp commandant Beecher confiscated the tools he uses for watch repairs. Beecher was an abusive, cruel, sadistic man who even his son lived in fear of. He had an ultimate plan for Issac and he finds himself working at the house on site where the Beecher family live. Confined to a shed doing any repairs Beecher asks of Isaac, he soon meets Anna. She too is a prisoner but has been tasked to work as a maid in the house. She brings food and water to Isaac and they strike up a friendship because they know that their life hangs by a thread. That at any moment on the whim of a guard or Beecher they could be gone and their light extinguished forever. They recollect their life stories to each other, the freedom they once took for granted, the love and support of their families and how they imagine freedom once more will be theirs. They are constantly on edge and who wouldn’t be given their situation. They try to do everything right but they never know if a certain day will be their last.

In the shed, underneath the floorboards, Issac discovers a hidden bundle of letters, drawings and diary entries. He decides to read these and soon learns they were written only the year before in that very shed. Every so often we have chapters in the form of letters and we have a new story emerging. One of true love as the author writes to the person he or she loves the most. It’s a beautifully written love story that gives Anna and Isaac comfort yet they are keen to know what happened to the author. I was hoping for a bit more of a search to uncover the answers behind the letters from Isaac and Anna but this couldn’t have happened as they hadn’t a lot to go on and really through weakness from lack of food and the panic and fear that existed daily for them this searching and uncovering a mystery couldn’t really happen.

I did think the aspect of the story with the letters when all was ultimately revealed was so bittersweet and heartbreaking and I had to re-read a page or two several times to make sure I was understanding the connections. This is where I thought things were rushed a hit and bit more fleshing out of the explanation was needed. Near the very end, I did think hold on had I read this before in that something happens and I could have sworn I read more or less the exact same thing in another book. I pushed this idea aside as I knew it was a new book but I thought it was strange that I had this real feeling of déjà vu from another book. The name of which I can’t recall at the moment.

Yes Anna and Isaac are strong and inspiring, and I don’t think I will look at lemons in the same way again, but for me who really was a stand out character was Friedrich. He returns home from school having been called back by his father. He has no clue why and has never been to this house occupied by his parents. No doubt about it there are very strong echoes of Bruno in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas when it comes to Friedrich. That��s what instantly sprang to mind when I first encountered him, the innocence of him as he has no clue what exists beyond the boundaries of his garden wall. He is not allowed to enter certain rooms or venture to certain places on the grounds. He knows Anna and Isaac are Jews and that he is meant to intensely dislike them but yet he hasn’t that within him to do. He sees them as normal people which they are and he has no idea of the camp or what goes on there.

Friedrich is lonely and longs for friendship and love because he gets none of this from his parents. I loved Friedrich as a character, he was the total anthesis of his parents and what he does for Anna and Isaac was just so beautiful and heartwrenching. The author did a brilliant job of showing how clueless Friedrich was to what was going on around him and how he saw the good in everything because he knew no different.

The Watchmaker of Dachau was a very good read and one I enjoyed immensely although enjoyed is the wrong word given the subject matter. It’s an important, memorable story that will linger with one long after the turn of the last page.
Profile Image for Deanne Patterson.
1,771 reviews126 followers
November 14, 2021
This book is heart-wrenching and believable. I absolutely could not put it down. Told from three points of view, the most emotional one is Friedrich, son of the camp leader who is mostly a nuisance to his parents. He just doesn't understand why he can't be friends with the Jews. If only too see through a child's eyes, right?
This is one of my favorite genres to read about and no matter how many I read they still get to me every time.
The writing was very creative and favorable, the author does a marvelous job of intertwining all three points of view into an amazing and memorable book.

Pub Date: 20 Jan 2021
I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you.
All opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Bev Walkling.
1,002 reviews40 followers
January 6, 2021

Many thanks to Carly Schabowski, Bookouture and #NetGalley for allowing me to read an advance reader copy of The Watchmaker of Dachau. The opinions expressed are my own.

Kudo’s to the author and publishers for choosing an incredibly evocative cover for this novel. The more I read, the more I realize that if the cover doesn’t appeal to me, I may never read the book. This cover drew my attention and led me to request an advance readers copy of the book for review.

I have read numerous books that tell stories of events that took place during the Second World War and stories that tell of the horrors of the Holocaust. I believe these books are an important reminder to society that we need to learn from them and make sure such events never happen again. Many such books focus on the most famous concentration camp – Auschwitz, but this one told a story set in lesser known Dachau. It was inspired by true events but the tale itself is fictional. Although the book begins and ends in present times, most of the story is set in the past and brings the time alive to those of us fortunate enough not to have lived there personally. What makes the story even sadder for me is that most of the events happened when the war was clearly on its way to an end. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like for those who managed to avoid the Nazi’s reach throughout most of the war only to be captured and imprisoned in it’s final months.

Isaac, was a well known watchmaker as was his father before him. A widower, he lived in a small town and managed to avoid the notice of the Germans until 1945 when he was captured and sent to Dachau. He had no time to go home and pack a suitcase. He was simply pulled off the streets and all he had at hand were the tools he used with his watches. Surprisingly, these tools kept him from immediate death and led to a job working at the home of Sturmbannfuhrer Becher. He was called on to fix just about anything that was broken. It didn’t matter if it was a watch or a car. As long as he could fix it his life seemed safe, if not pleasant. He was always hungry and even though it was winter he worked in a shed that offered little protection from the weather. When he returned to the main camp, other prisoners sometimes resented the “ease” of his job.

Anna Reznick is another inmate of Dachau who has been chosen to work at the home of Becher. Her job is as a maid, and although the housekeeper befriends her and does her best to provide extra food, Anna lives in terror of the ire of Becher’s vapid wife Liesl. She knows that she must remain useful in order to keep her job which helps keep her alive and also allows her to bring food back to Dachau to share with her friend Nina.

As the war situation has become more dire, Becher’s son Friedrich has been ordered home from boarding school, but neither parents is really pleased to see him or willing to pay him much attention. He has no idea what is going on at Dachau or what his father does and has not been molded into an upholder of Nazi ideology. His interactions with Isaac and Anna are kinder but very dangerous if his parents become aware of them.

These characters among others are the main focus of this story. While Isaac is working in his shed he finds a batch of letters hidden under some floorboards. He doesn’t know who wrote them but as he gradually reads them, they begin to offer hope as they tell of love in a place of darkness. The writer shares a sentiment that has been expressed by Viktor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor who wrote in his book A Man’s Search For Meaning, that no matter what the Germans did to him, they could never take away his power to choose how he would respond or what his attitude could be. That book had a powerful impact on my life from the time I read it as a teenager and this resonated with me once again as similar sentiments were expressed by the anonymous writer. Shabowski manages to tie these hidden papers into the fabric of the book in a very special way.

This book is not an easy read in the sense that everything ends with a happy ever after. It does cover some of the horror of life in a concentration camp (although not to the depth I have seen in various other stories) but the focus is more on the relationships between the characters and the impact that simple actions can have on their lives. It moved me deeply and I would definitely recommend it to others.

Profile Image for Rosh [busy month; will catch up soon!].
1,359 reviews1,201 followers
January 22, 2021
The blurb of this book says that it is based on a true story. I've not been able to find the person(s) whose life is depicted in these pages. But it does make for a very interesting attempt to tell an honest Holocaust story.

The book is told from multiple perspectives: an old Jewish man Isaac, a young Jewish woman Anne, a German boy Friedrich, and an anonymous Jewish man who narrates his version of the events unfolding around him through his letters. Each character has a unique voice and hence each of them revealed a different aspect of the war. I enjoyed the first three perspectives a lot. Isaac and Anne bring such realism to the horrors of the concentration camps, some of which were absolutely unbelievable to accept. Friedrich's pov is unique not just because of his age but because of his ethnicity too. Having a kind German voice in Holocaust fiction is a rarity. The fourth anonymous narrator does have an important role to play but a lot of his narration simply dragged and hence reduced the pace of the original story.

There are many other interesting characters in the book such as Greta the cook and Herr Becher the German commandant. This is a book that seems to be driven ahead entirely by its characters than the plot.

I did enjoy a major part of the book (except for the aforementioned 4th narrator) but found the ending a letdown. The picture-perfect movie ending spoilt the overall impact of the book for me. Don't get me wrong; the book is still a heartbreaking and seemingly realistic read all the Holocaust. But the end didn't impact me as much as the rest of the book did.

I received an advance review copy of the book from NetGalley, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Join me on the Facebook group, Readers Forever! , for more reviews, book-related discussions and fun.
Profile Image for Sarah.
2,574 reviews164 followers
January 10, 2021
No matter how hard reading about times during the war can be, there is something that always draws me to them.

Carly Schabowski has written a beautiful, yet heart-breaking story through the lives of three characters. The story flicks between them so we get to see things from their point of view. We meet Isaac, Anna and Friedrich. Isaac is the eldest of the characters and through his work of mending watches, gets work at the big house which is where Anna also helps out with cleaning. Anna is twenty nine but the war has made her a wise old soul. Friedrich's character had quite an impact on me. His father is the man in charge of the camp and seeing the war through the eyes of a child was so sad. His parents pretty much keep him locked in the house so he doesn't see what is going on, on the outside. His parents voices at times come out of him as why should what they say not be true? The friendship that builds up between him and Isaac and Anna was probably what touched me the most. It was so heart-warming.

The Watchmaker of Dachau is a story that definitely pulled on my heart strings. The horrors of the war, are very much felt through these main characters and the ending sent my emotions into overdrive. There is so much we can learn from history even if it's through fiction. It's hard to say you enjoy a book like this due to the nature of the story line but it is so well done. If you love historical fiction, more so set around WW2, then you have got to read this book. My review doesn't do it the justice it deserves, people really need to read it for themselves.
Profile Image for Sydney Long.
203 reviews19 followers
January 14, 2021
The Watchmaker of Dachau is a beautiful tale based on a true story. It’s captivating and hopeful yet tragic and devastating. It hooks you from the very first page and makes for a great weekend read as putting it down is something you won’t be able to do.

Written from multiple points of view, we meet Isaac, an older man swept off the street and taken to Dachau concentration camp. Upon searching him, the guards find a small tool kit and learn that he is a watchmaker who can fix things. He is then plucked from the barracks and taken to the commandants home on the outskirts of the camp where he is put to work fixing things from a grandfathers clock to a toy train. He’s allowed to work in the garden workshop and quickly finds a diary of sorts hidden under the floor boards. Along with Anna, another prisoner brought to the house to wait on the commandant and his family, they read the diary, allowing them to remember what it feels like to be in love and have hope.

I love the multiple points of view of this story and how it’s a story within a story. The characters are beautiful written and the background descriptions paint a very vivid picture of a horrible place and time in the worlds history. I highly recommend this story but have your tissues ready.

Thanks to NetGalley and Carly Schabowski for early access to this compelling novel.
Profile Image for Bookish.Midnight. and. black.
985 reviews49 followers
December 30, 2020

A beautiful historical fiction about events that happened during WW2.
In 1945 Isaac, an old watchmaker was on his way home when he was taken by the military and forced in a train, with destination Dachau. Because he was found useful, he was kept alive, and he lived in the camp, repairing things. He finds a friend in Anna, a 29 yo Jewish girl, also kept alive because she was useful. She became a maid and when she could she would sneak food for Isaac and they would talk.

I loved young Friedrich, the boy that was a nuisance for his own parents but found a friend in Isaac. Isaac told the boy to visit his shop when he will grow up, and he did that, in the memory of his old friend.
This is a beautiful story about humanity, ageless friendship, and about the innocence of children.

Thank you, Carly Schabowski and NetGallery for this book! #ARCreader #TheWatchmakerofDachau #NetGalley
Profile Image for Victoria Rodríguez.
592 reviews23 followers
February 18, 2021
An interesting book. This story takes place in 1945, the year in which Isaac Schüller arrived in Dachau. Isaac doesn't understand how he got there. He assumes that he won't make it out alive. He is with other prisoners on the train. Little by little, they begin to descend. Moments later, Isaac is separated from the crowd since Officer Becher has a job for him. Isaac is a watchmaker. He will now be in the service of Officer Becher. A challenging job, Isaac must do what it takes to stay alive. I liked this story for the detail of the events. Isaac is a character that intrigued me throughout the novel. Besides Isaac, there are other important characters that I liked. I felt curious about what would happen next. It's the first book I've read by Carly Schabowski. I am sure it won't be the last. I thank NetGalley and Bookouture for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
May 9, 2021
When I read true stories about WW2, it brings a lump to my throat to imagine people living in those inhuman conditions. The Watchmaker of Dachau is also a true story as mentioned in the blurb though I couldn't find a reference for it online.

Issac is a watchmaker who is taken into service in a German household. Anna, who works there as a maid, finds kinship with him. But there is the constant threat of death hovering around them - will they even be alive by the end of it all?

The voices of the characters were unique and heart-rending. The way they try to find happiness in little things tugs at the heartstrings. I also liked that the author wrote from the POV of a nice German boy which is usually missing from WW2 stories.

One of the better books on the Holocaust and its horrors.

4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
Profile Image for Hazel.
509 reviews53 followers
January 17, 2021

The book definitely pulls at your heartstrings. The story starts towards the end of WW2 and tells the story from 3 POVs Isaac and Anna who are in a concentration camp but have been chosen to work for the Commandant of the camp and Friedrich who is the son of the Commandant.

This story provides a glimpse into the lives of 2 Jewish adults and how they came to be at the camp and shares their memories and stories of happier times in their lives and the way in which they are treated by the Commandant and his wife. Friedrich’s POV shows a child growing up in a hostile home and learning from the secret friendships he makes with both Anna and Isaac as he questions the world around him at a time when it was most dangerous to do so.

All characters interact with Greta the housekeeper who is not Jewish and the kindness and courage she shows in small ways to help Isaac and Anna in the most horrendous of times.

There is a message of positivity throughout the book that the small things are important and that you should take joy in the things that you can when you can. Not to compare present day to the events of WW2 I felt this message was especially poignant reading this story in 2021 during a global pandemic when so many are suffering.

The story is well written and the characters are developed well, which made me a reader feel like i knew them which certainly triggers an emotional response from their story.

Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this book.

#NetGalley #TheWatchmakerofDachau
Profile Image for Wendy(Wendyreadsbooks) Robey.
886 reviews31 followers
January 17, 2021
This is such an emotional story. Carly Schabowski has a beautiful writing style, descriptive and emotive, and the multiple points of view really brought the story to life. It’s a story focusing on the good of people even in such horrific circumstances, and Isaac and Anna reinforce the acts of kindness necessary to remain human. Just beautiful.
Profile Image for Shirley McAllister.
974 reviews121 followers
January 4, 2021
The Scent of Lemons

A lonely widowed Jewish watchmaker , Isaac, now in his sixties, hides an engraved watch beneath the floorboards of his shop. On the way home the Gestapo catch him and send him to Dachau concentration camp. He works as a gardener at the commander's house.

In a basement a family is hiding from the Nazi's. As they watch their father passes away. They go with their uncle to bury him outside town. Their uncle leaves them to pray over their father and they are caught by the Germans and sent to Dachau camp. Nina and her brother Kuba.

Anna is an inmate of the Dachau concentration camp, she befriends Nina and they live in the same barracks. Anna works as a maid at the commander's house.

Friedrich was the camp commander's young son and Greta was the cook at the commander's house. Greta, Anna, Isaac. and Friedrich become friends. These people all were affected by the war and the Dachau camp. They saw and suffered loss of loved ones, and horrible acts of cruelty.

It is a story of survival and of death. A story of great cruelty visited upon innocent people just for being Jewish. It is also a story of suffering people, starving to death, working and freezing to death, but somehow finding the strength within to befriend each other and try to help each other in their most horrible circumstances.

Of the young son of the commander of the camp befriending the Jewish watchmaker. The cook Greta having mercy on the Jewish help Isaac and Anna. The young son Friedrich befriended the Jewish help and was punished because of it still he escaped from the house and went to spend time with Isaac.

It is a story written of a time in history of which we would all rather forget, but that must never be forgotten thus it be repeated.

Thanks to Carly Schabowski, Bookouture, and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Profile Image for Srivalli Rekha.
Author 18 books229 followers
January 10, 2021
4.5 Stars

The Watchmaker of Dachau is yet another story that deals with the horrors of WW II. The main story is set during 1945, the last few months, where people who could escape for years got captured and tortured. Many more lost lives while some continued to hope and survive, waiting to be rescued.
The prologue and epilogue are set in 1996, Cornwall, England. The past is divided into three POVs (though all are written in the third person). Issac, the watchmaker, Anna, the maid, and Friedrich, the son of Senior Officer Becher and his bratty wife, are the major three people who offer us viewpoints. We see another POV, one that is filled with love, pain, confusion, memories, and philosophy.
Characters like Greta, Jan, Nina, Elijah, Levi, and others add to the story. We see many thoughts and reactions from the characters, all of which seem as real as they can get. It is evident that the author did her research very well. She and her editor also made sure not to dump their research into the book.
The focus was on bringing the characters to life and making them appear human rather than using them as mere tools to share historical details. For me, that’s what made the book so effective. I love how Friedrich’s character was used throughout the book. It’s one of the highlights of the story.
The writing is both descriptive and concise. It’s not fast-paced but is not too slow to make the reader lose interest.
Right from the prologue, we see hints provided to the reader about what’s to come. This is no crime fiction, but it’s seemed like the author’s way of preparing the reader and allowing them to make their own conclusions. It is clever writing.
I was disappointed by the ending (not for what it is was, but well, I wished it to be a wee bit different). I don’t want to say more and reveal anything. That said, I did have an inkling that it would be on similar lines (ref: hints).
Overall, this is a sad yet beautiful book about love, hope, and rebuilding a new life after surviving the worst nightmare.
I received an ARC from NetGalley and Bookouture and am voluntarily leaving a review.
#TheWatchmakerofDachau #NetGalley
Profile Image for Daniel Munoz.
23 reviews
January 4, 2022
Another riveting WW2 novel centered around the Holocaust. The story is told from 3 points of view and will have you emotionally invested in each character. As is the case with most WW2 books, there are some parts that are very tough to read and will make you incredibly sad. The relationships formed between the main characters is the aspect of the story that is very heart-warming however, and is what mostly makes this book a very enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Nancy.
138 reviews9 followers
May 22, 2022
NOT A TRUE STORY! I took a tour of Dachau today. In preparation for my visit I thought I’d read this book which is “inspired by an incredible true story”. Here is what I learned: Dachau was a men’s camp. There were no female prisoners with the brief exception of a “brothel” for a few short months. There was no Friedrich or red train in a museum or Strumbannfuher Becher. I’m curious if Ms. Schabowski did ANY research for this book. She certainly didn’t visit the camp. I feel cheated and lied to. There is no evidence of a “incredible true story” and I would argue this isn’t even in the category of historical fiction. Please prove me wrong.
Profile Image for theliterateleprechaun.
1,124 reviews30 followers
December 7, 2020
Carly Schabowski’s powerful novel, ‘The Watchmaker of Dachau,’ is an epic, moving story based on a true account of World War Two. Due to be published January 20th, 2021, this novel is a must-have for anyone who loves historical fiction.

Isaac Schuller, 60, was on his way home from his watch repair shop one January night in 1945, when he was grabbed off the side of the road and placed on a train heading for Dachau. When he arrived, repair tools were found in his pocket, leading the receiving officer, Sturmbannfuhrer Becher, to believe that Isaac could be useful at his private residence. During the day, Isaac is holed up in a shed on Becher’s property, fixing things that need to be repaired. At night, he is walked back to the camp.

Anna Reznick is a 29-year-old Jewish girl who, like Schuller, fills a place of usefulness in the Becher home. She is a maid by day and returns to Dachau camp at night. When she meets Isaac, her days have more purpose and in return for this gift, she sneaks him food from the house.

Friedrich, Peter and Liesl Becher’s 11-year-old son, has been brought to their new home from his studies at a private school. He doesn’t understand why his parents brought him here. Not only have they forbidden his friend to visit, but they’ve also locked all the doors and given strict instructions that he’s not to talk to the help and only play in the side gardens. Worst of all, his parents make it obvious that he isn’t wanted and is a nuisance. One day, though, Friedrich wises up and learns how to use his mother’s sleeping pills to his advantage.

What an incredible novel of human kindness! How wonderful for people to find love and companionship amidst such suffering and in the uncertain times of 1940s Europe. Schabowski’s success is due to her meticulous research. So expertly woven into the story, readers get transported into another time and place. The best writers of historical fiction are able to make facts part of the story rather than stand out from the story. Schabowski has achieved this; I was more absorbed in the actions of her nuanced and realistic characters rather than becoming a learner of her history lesson. The thought-provoking issues she raises will stay with me forever as will the sweet little Friedrich whom I dearly wanted to hug. This is more than a story about the plight of Jewish people trying to survive Dachau. It’s about friendship, love and sacrifice and the ability of humans to rise above their shared circumstances to encourage each other. Not by any stretch comparable to what Anna and Isaac endured, but the pandemic, in our time, is bringing out the best in people as they find ways to support others around the globe and offer friendship and hope. May we always take our eyes off ourselves and look for ways to be useful. I identified with Isaac because my grandfather loved pocket watches and was always scouring antique shops to find pre-loved pieces he could fix. We’d always create a piece’s provenance and smile at our shared secret.

This five-star novel by a former journalist, now creative writing professor at Oxford University, is a must-read. You’ll find yourself grabbing tissues in this atmospheric tearjerker and wishing the last page was chapters and chapters away. I devoured it in one sitting and thought, as I turned the last page, that I must source out more of Schabowski’s novels. She’s a masterful painter of words!

Thank you to Carly Schabowski, Bookouture and NetGalley for this five-star advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Karen.
758 reviews79 followers
December 6, 2020

These Holocaust novels that are written to remember the suffering of so many of the Jewish ethnic race whose only crime they ever committed was to not be born Aryan White Germans are not written to be enjoyed but to make sure we never forget. This was an amazingly stunning book to add to the collection that are so often memorialized today in historical fiction. This one was sure hard to read at times to picture with graphic descriptions of the cruel and atrocious ways these people were treated at the hand's of the SS Officers and the Nazi regime.

This one was a real tearful read because of the crimes against humanity were so vividly rendered that I felt as if I was an eyewitness to these war crimes. I was also blown away with the everyday acts of kindnesses that these fellow prisoner's showed with their selfless acts for each other. So much compassion for the prisoners who were able to hold on to the parts of themselves that refused to let their smiles and jokes and the way they selflessly fed their ration of a lump of bread to a fellow prisoner who was sicker or hungrier than they were. There is much beauty to be found among these pages between the small acts of kindnesses that were offered to their fellow sufferers even though to do these acts of bravery could result in their getting beaten or instantly shot.

There was a Nazi Officer and his sadistic wife named Liesl who had prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp ordered to work in their nearby house. Gretta, was one such kind prisoner who always gave a young prisoner named Anna extra servings of bread and soup. Gretta was an indentured servant who was the cook who made sure that the young maid named Anna and an older gentleman named Isaac always got extra servings. Anna, oftentimes gave her extra piece of bread or her weak vegetable soup to a prisoner named Isaac whom was forced to tinker away outside in the brutal, freezing temperatures fixing watches in a rundown, dilapidated shed.

Anna discovers Isaac reading some stowed away diary pages in the form of letters to his lover found underneath a floorboard in a satchel. They are dated throughout 1944 and 1945 with the three initials J.A.L. Descriptions penned by J.A.L. of what he was forced to do to dead camp anonymous bodies is among the gut wrenching and heartbreaking part of the novel. Friedrich who is the young and innocent son of this Nazi's household is home from boarding school and he stole my heart. He had no idea that the servants/prisoners who are both kind and suffering forced to being a part of his household are being held against their will. Friedrich doesn't understand why they are working for his mother and father or where they came from. He is neglected and being lonely and bored he befriends Anna and Isaac but mostly Isaac. Whenever his parents are gone overnight he drugs the depraved overseer of the prisoners with his mother's sleeping pills so that he is free to visit Isaac and hear J.A.L.'s diary entries being read to him by Isaac.

This is one story that I will never forget for its stark beautifully rendered acts of kindness juxtaposed beside the cruelest acts that people were capable of bestowing on their fellow Human beings. I have always disliked epilogues as a writing device before reading this historical novel. The epilogue in this one particular narrative took my breath away. I would rate this emotive story 4.5 star's rounded up.
The one hope that these starving, brutally treated people whom make up for the most lovable character's with exception to the Nazi captor's and the mean overseer's who are also prisoners is the hope that the Americans are coming to free them. Will the Americans get there in time? Who will live and who will die in the meantime? Read this fast paced tale to find out and I promise that you will be moved by the collective selfless acts that some of these character's perform to help even though their situations are just as dire. The German boy Friedrich's acts of thoughtfulness and compassion to his parent's unexplained servants will steal your heart as well.
Publication Date: January 20, 2021

Thank you to Net Galley, the talented Carly Schabowski and Bookouture for providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Gaele.
4,079 reviews80 followers
February 27, 2021
Told in multiple perspectives including a child, two Jewish prisoners of the camp, a series of “found letters’ in the floorboards of an old shed, and the surprising moments when families and people are able to share information in the present day – the story has moments of hope, futility, horror and memories of happier and better times.

With Anna and Isaac, both occupants of the concentration camp, we see a gentle unfurling of both stories: from Anna who learns of Isaac, flourishes under the kindness of the cook she is meant to assist in the household of the Camp’s commander. With a young son just returned to the house, Anna is forced to manage the outbursts of the woman of the house, her fear of the master, and the apparently ever-present and curious young Fredrich. With a gardener and the new arrival in the shed of Isaac, a watchmaker who was deemed “useful’ her moments to ‘be’ just accepted and able to speak of ‘before’ have increased.

Isaac is elderly and still grieving the loss of his wife some years earlier. When he meets the gardener as he’s put in the garden shed to repair items that Becher, the officer who manages Dachau has deemed needed for him, his men or his own greed. Making things work is Isaac’s special talent, He’s able to repair, and honestly if gently answer the multitude of questions that young Fredrich poses, and is given a bit of a reprieve from the ‘harshness’ of the camp simply in the form of warm food, blankets and the kindness of the cook, directing Anna to provide him with ‘extra”.

What emerges from the story is the contrast between blind adherence and allegiance to policies that empower one group at the expense of another, and the simple questions of right versus wrong, the questions of children, particularly one who feels unwanted and unloved, as he sees that others can (and will) offer him friendship, diversion, and answers to the many questions and concerns he has. Starting and ending with a funeral in Cornwall during a snowy winter, the story is able to bring us full circle as memories, people and the bonds that were created nurtured and provided moments of.

hope and brightness in the darkest of times. A lovely and emotional read that brings moments and people to the forefront, rather than the ‘overall horrors”, and allows an entrée into the moments that should never be forgotten – no matter the circumstance.

I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

Review first appeared at I am, Indeed
Profile Image for Follow the Reader.
1,215 reviews10 followers
December 27, 2021
Chronique de Diana :


Lorsque je débute une lecture sur cette période, j’ai toujours très peur d’en sortir le cœur tellement lourd des horreurs de la guerre. Mais j’ai tout simplement adoré cette histoire et la beauté des mots de l’auteure.

La construction se fait par plusieurs points de vue, un chapitre, un personnage. Ça permet une vue d’ensemble des événements mais aussi des ressentis.

Le prologue commence en 1980, dans les Cornouailles mais très vite nous repartons en 1945 vers la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale.

Je n’ai pas vraiment envie de vous parler de l’intrigue en elle-même, parce qu’au final on connait tous les monstrueuses choses commises par les nazis. Mais les personnages sont juste magistralement construits, chacun apportant un regard sur les événements, chacun parlant avec son âme de la situation. C’est un merveilleux récit qui met en avant les survivants, ceux qui se sont accrochés à une miette d’espoir en attendant la fin de la guerre.

L’auteure vous touche en plein cœur, j’ai eu l’impression d’être avec eux à vouloir vivre à tout prix, à gérer la méchanceté humaine pour y trouver du positif et continuer d’avancer.

Ce roman est un coup de cœur, pas un petit, un de ceux qui me marquera encore des mois par sa justesse, sa sensibilité et ce qu’il m’a offert.

Je m’estime chanceuse de n’avoir pas eu à vivre une telle époque mais je suis reconnaissante de voir que la bonté, l’amour et l’humanité arrivent toujours à perdurer même dans les moments les plus sombres.

Un récit à lire absolument, il ne faut pas oublier et surtout garder à l’esprit que le moindre acte a son importance dans ces cas.
Profile Image for Vidhi.
152 reviews16 followers
March 3, 2021
The Watchmaker of Dachau follows multiple POVs during the second world war, showing the stories of those living in concentration camps and a young son of a Nazi party member.

I really enjoyed this story, Isaac’s story was heartwrenching and full of emotion whereas Anna’s showed a more fearful point of view yet they were both brave in their own ways. The way that the author incorporates J.A.L’s story was also very creative and I think that it is a side of these WW2 based that we don’t often get shown by authors. I thought the writing was really commanding but very readable and the moments that were intensely heavy or heartbreaking were conveyed in a way that didn’t diminsh their importance but didn’t detract from the overall plotline.

The relationship between the characters was also really lovely to read. I was worried when I noticed some more romantic themes coming through that it would be a bit cheesy and tonedeaf but I felt that it was quite well done. Friedrich’s character development was something I particularly enjoyed as well.

4/5 stars for this novel. Thank you to the author and Netgalley for the chance to review this book.
Profile Image for Leslie McKee.
Author 8 books57 followers
December 21, 2020
Books in this genre are some of my favorites, and this was no exception.

The story takes place in 1945 at Dachau, where the Nazis are working to eliminate the inmates through any means possible (including starvation and torture) before the Americans arrive.

It's obvious that the author put a lot of care and time into crafting the characters and storyline. The reader is made to feel a part of the story, watching it all unfold. Schabowski holds the reader captive, as no word or scene is wasted in this emotional, thought-provoking read. The author reminds the reader that what happened at Dachau happened to real people, who were more than just numbers ... a fact that should never be forgotten.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy, but I wasn't required to leave a positive review.
Profile Image for Janice.
308 reviews10 followers
February 9, 2021
It truly fascinates me (if you read my reviews, you’ll know I’ve said this before) that no matter how many Holocaust stories are written (many of them based on fact – yes, all of them find their basis in the facts of the Holocaust, but I mean that many are based on actual stories that have been passed down by survivors of people who they came across in the camps, and these are the ones that find their way in to these ‘fact-based novels’), they are all quite unique; each with their own nuances. And I’m always amazed to come across information that I’d never known before.

This one is a poignant story of Isaac, who manages to survive for most of the war but then in 1945 he is captured by the Nazi’s and taken to the Dachau Concentration Camp. On arrival it is discovered that he is in possession of a tiny tool kit and when he explains to Senior Officer Becher that these are the tools of his trade as a watchmaker, he immediately finds himself singled out and separated from the other new arrivals, but he isn’t told why.

He soon discovers the reason, when he is taken to Becher’s home and told that he is to fix a grandfather clock. After that he is given various other things to fix, and he’s kept busy which suits him – the work at the house is certainly easier than in the actual camp, but more importantly than that, it is here that he meets Anna.

Isaac and Anna quickly realise that they are both from ‘the camp’ down the road when each recognises that the other wears the same blue and white striped uniform and cap. But Isaac is too busy keeping his head down and out of sight of anyone in the house (like he’s been told to do), and Anna is occupied staying out of the way of Becher’s insufferable wife, Liesl’s quick temper, so they have very little time to exchange even a ‘hello’. Isaac just wants to try and stay alive even though he realises that by working in Becher’s house, he has earned the resentment and contempt of his fellow prisoners. To Anna, it’s vital to stay alive so that she can return to her friend Nina each night and share her rations with her.

The only time they manage to have a whispered, covert conversation is on their walks back to the camp each night, where they are closely watched by the Senior Officer’s cruel assistant, who is tasked with overseeing them. These whispered exchanges slowly extend to brief opportunities to talk during the day, aided by the kindly housekeeper Greta, who also goes out of her way to see that both Isaac and Anna receive daily cups of hot coffee and as much fresh food as she can smuggle their way without it being noticed!

But the atmosphere is noticeably changing and the Germans are becoming desperate. The Becher’s young son Friedrich has arrived from his boarding school, with no idea as to why he’s been dispatched to this place – which is certainly not the home he’s used to! He literally has no inkling of where he is or of what’s going on around him. He is nothing more than a nuisance to his parents, who refuse to answer any of his questions other than to tell him he is not to speak to Isaac or Anna under any circumstances because they are evil Jews! But he misses his best friend Otto, and he’s bored. He naturally gravitates to the garden shed where Isaac works, inquisitive to see what he’s doing, and a warm, beautiful friendship quickly develops. By extension, so too does his friendship with Anna.

As the days continue, and Isaac discovers what seems to be a diary hidden in his shed, he and Anna read through the pages, dated from 1944 to 1945, initialled J.A.L. They wonder who this mysterious person could be and assume that he must be dead by now. And as they pore over the pages, clearly written as if to a loved one, they learn of the true horror of what is happening in Dachau – the place they return to every night. They always heard of the nightmarish atrocities that were taking place around them, but now they have it in front of their very own eyes, written down by someone who has seen it for himself … and what has become of him? Will they ever know?

This is riveting, if heartbreaking, reading. The diary that Isaac discovers is like a story within a story and adds an extra dimension to an already well-written book. The plot is character driven and each person has stand-out features. But for me, my favourite had to be Friedrich – a child caught up on the wrong side of something that he had absolutely no understanding of, with the added dimension of nobody being willing to explain it to him until it really was too late. I found there were echoes of The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas here. He remains haunted and damaged throughout his life. I would say that he too is a Holocaust Survivor. The author also draws a constant parallel between the beauty of the surroundings and the countryside, compared to the dark ugliness of what was happening inside the gates of the concentration camp.

This is type of book that stays with you long after you’ve finished it, and I found myself wanted to know more about the characters it was based on – who were actual real-life individuals and who were pure fiction?

This is a 5-star read – but not for the faint-hearted as there are some very graphic descriptions of some particularly cruel atrocities performed by the Nazi’s. The worst part being not only that many were so willing to participate in these barbaric acts, but also the casual way in which many others just stood by and watched, and were then able to return home to wives and children – many of whom lived just outside the camp walls – as if they’d just spent a ‘normal’ day at work.

Many thanks to Bookouture for ensuring that stories like this are being shared. Even bigger thanks to the author, Carly Schabowski for writing stories like this so that people will read them and so that we can continue to have conversations about them!
Profile Image for Nic.
1,314 reviews140 followers
January 19, 2021
A powerful Historical World War Two novel.
An unforgettable novel of human kindness,
What a emotional read inspired by a true story. The Watchmaker of Dachau is truly a haunting,heart wrenching story. There is hope, friendships, despair, tears, sadness and suspense as well as inspirational moments.
In this terrible, atrocious time friendships were made along with the perseverance to survive.
Well written, well researched....highly recommend you pick up this book.
Thank you to NetGallery, Bookouture and author for the opportunity to read this book for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Susan P.
564 reviews7 followers
January 24, 2022
Told from multiple perspectives, The Watchmaker of Dachau is a well-written and moving novel set toward the end of WW II in 1945 Dachau concentration camp. The main characters are Isaac, a Jewish watchmaker who lives in the concentration camp and fixes things at the senior Nazi’s home during the day; and Anna, who lives in the concentration camp and performs housekeeping duties at the senior Nazi’s home during the day. The book is a good and quick read, and my only complaint would be that there were so many bit characters whose lives and stories were only touched upon.
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