The Willow Wren

A wartime coming of age novel In the tradition of The Book Thief and All The Light You Cannot See.

A Globe and Mail recommended read

Ludwig is an odd and introverted child, growing up in Hitler’s Germany. While Ludwig’s father, Wilhelm, is a senior Nazi and a true believer, Ludwig escapes the unfolding catastrophe by withdrawing into nature and books. Eventually, when the Allied bombing campaign intensifies, Ludwig is sent to a Hitler Youth camp, where his oddness makes him a target for bullying.

As the war turns against Germany, the Hitler Youth camp becomes ever more severe and militaristic, and the atmosphere spirals towards chaos. After the Nazis abandon the camp, Ludwig returns home, and his father is presumed dead. With Ludwig’s mother descending into depression, the 11-year-old bears increasing responsibility for the survival of the family as starvation sets in under Russian occupation. Soon, it will be impossible to leave the Russian zone, so Ludwig decides that he must rally his despondent mother and lead her and his three younger siblings in an escape attempt to the west.

Based on the true story of the author's father, The Willow Wren is a unique, touching exploration of extremism, resilience, and the triumph of the small.


"The Willow Wren is a novel to note. A blend of family memoirs and historical research, this is one of very few novels in English dealing with the often harrowing experiences of children on the losing side of the Second World War. The Willow Wren offers a compassionate reminder that there are human beings on either side of any conflict. Well done." - Winnipeg Free Press

"Written with sensitivity and narrative skill, Philipp Schott has gifted us a remarkable novel. Mr Schott pulls off the considerable feat of creating empathy for his characters without ever resorting to easy excuses for their sometimes indefensible choices. Overall, this is a fine, nuanced storytelling achievement." - Frederick Taylor, historian and bestselling author of Exorcising Hitler: The Occupation and Denazification of Germany  

"This beautifully-written tale is based on the early life of the author’s father. Throughout the story Schott alternates between displays of sardonic humour and setting some truly poignant and heart-wrenching scenes. Morally complex and nuanced, this book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand a difficult period in German history." - Dr. Perry Biddiscombe, historian and author of The Last Nazis: SS Werewolf Guerilla Resistance in Europe 1944-1947