Django and fifteen-year-old Lilo are picked out of a lineup by Hitler's favorite filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, to work as extras in her new movie. The route to the filming location seems to lead away from the concentration camps being built in eastern Europe, but does it really offer anything more than bizarre detour?
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Finalist for National Jewish Book Award
Nominated for the Keystone to Reading Book Awards
Named a Must Read in Children’s/Young Adult Literature in the 2014 Massachusetts Book Awards.
Endorsed by Amnesty International
"Next stop Hollywood!” Django yelled as the bus transporting the Nazis' Gypsy prisoners turned west.
Lilo, her mother, and her new friend Django soon find themselves in the alternate reality of a film set. Amid glamorous surroundings, the Gypsy extras are barely fed, closely guarded, and kept locked in barn when they're not working. At the center of this strange world is Riefenstahl herself - beautiful, charming, but ultimately deadly. Faced with unanswerable questions about her own survival, Lilo takes matters into her own hands with remarkable bravery and strength.
My favorite thing about this book is that it tells a story that really fell between the cracks of history. There has been so much written about the holocaust and I think many people know that gypsies and homosexuals were targeted by the Nazis as well as Jews. But very few people know the story of the gypsies who were taken out of internment camps to become ‘film slaves’ for Leni Reifenstahl in her first directorial effort of a dramatic film, Tiefland.
The main character in my book is Lilo Friwald who is a composite of two real girls who were film slaves. One had worked as a stunt double for Leni in the horseback riding scenes and the other was an extra. Leni had the power to have people released from concentration camps as well as to arrange to have them sent there. Many of the gypsies that Leni chose to be films slaves tried to bargain with her. It rarely worked.
I had always said that I would never want to write a book with Hitler as the main character for I felt he was so evil that a writer might become vulnerable to making a caricature out of him. But Leni Reifenstahl was a different story. I was fascinated by her beauty juxtaposed against the ultimate evil face of Hitler with that little toothbrush mustache of his, and I began to realize through my research that sometimes the face of evil can be very beautiful—like a flip side.
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