Cover Image: The Watchmaker of Dachau

The Watchmaker of Dachau

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

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.
Was this review helpful?
The Watchmaker of Dachau is another WWII based novel that adds to my love for Historical Fiction. I requested for a copy of this book from NetGalley and I am ever grateful to the publisher and author for getting approved to read it!

The story is told from different points of view but caries on from where the previous chapter leaves off. Initially, we are introduced to Isaac, a Jewish watchmaker who has been taken to the concentration camp at Dachau. Having arrived without any belongings, he immediately surprises the Officers who are checking the prisoners. The only things he has with him are his tiny tools for fixing and making watches. This creates an interest in him that leads to his working for Senior Officer Becher at his house a little way off from the camp. Through this, we meet Anna, who is brought from the camp everyday to work at the house as a maid. Thirdly, we meet the Becher's ever curious eleven year old son who does not understand why he was pulled away from school to come home and live in a confined manner.

With the ever growing horrors of the camp, Isaac and Anna try to find ways to cling to hope. The author focuses on the different perspectives to give us glimpses into how these characters think and react to their situations and surroundings. We observe the stark contrast between life in the camp and then at Officer Becher's house just outside. Isaac forms a few bonds with people around him but also with Anna and Friedrich. Anna on the other hand meets Nina, her constant companion and support at the camp. Having to constantly fix things, Isaac works diligently in the shed in the garden, trying to keep his head down and not be thrown out. Through this, we follow him as he discovers letters from someone detailing their life before and during their time in the concentration camp. This is a story of love for another, love for family and of hope. 

The beauty of this story lies in the hope of being saved and finding love in the midst of all the sadness and death. The story is heart wrenching and at times difficult to read, but it is definitely worth the read. The bonds formed and those which endure are amazing and borne out of shared experiences. These kinds of bonds do not break easily and in the end, the reader will be satisfied with the story. All the smaller story lines in the book come together in the end like a thread woven through fabric forming a tapestry of horrors lived and left behind. This is indeed a well-written tear-jerker of a book based on a true story that must be known to all! I highly recommend this read!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
Interesting and different story from World War Two. The characters are very well described and the atrocities of war by the Germans against the Jewish people made very clear. A good read.
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely adored this book. The storyline was absolutely heartbreaking and it had me gripped from start to finish. I can't wait to read more from the author in the future, after this brilliant read.
Was this review helpful?
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 <a href=” https://wp.me/p3OmRo-aRv  /” > <a> I am, Indeed </a>
Was this review helpful?
A brilliant and beautiful read, albeit a heartbreaking tale. I loved the characters and how despite the generational difference,  Isaac and Anna connected in a very special friendship offering mutual comfort and hope. Such a thought provoking book that will stay with me for a very long time.
Was this review helpful?
Carly Schabowski has written a beautiful heart-breaking story about the Holocaust.  The Watchmaker of Dachau, as in all Holocaust stories tell the horrors of war.  The difference between this story and others from the same subject matter is that this story centers on three main characters.  Two are prisoners of Dachau and the third a child of a high ranking Nazi official. 

The story rotates from the different point of view of each of these characters.  The story moves back and forth between these three characters.  There is Isaac and Anna who are prisoners of Dachau and Friedrich who is the son of the Nazi official. To give some perspective, the home of the Nazi official is within walking distant of Dachau.  As it is with most greedy, selfish individuals the Nazi official took prisoners from Dachau and put them to work at his house.  Anna helps with the cleaning and cooking.  Isaac is a watchmaker.  All the jewelry and watches taken from the prisoners that were broken were given to Isaac to fix so the Nazi official could hand them out as a reward to his underlings. Friedrich is lonely as his parents really don’t want anything to do with him and feel that he is just in the way. They keep him sequestered in their huge house.   In an order to feel connected to other people he slowly makes friends with Isaac and Anna.  He has no idea that they are prisoners of Dachau. Seeing the war through the eyes of Friedrich was heartbreaking.  The friendship that grows between him, Isaac and Anna was very touching.  This is the part where the story tugged at my heartstrings the most.    

It sounds contrary to say you enjoyed a book like this due to the nature of the story line but it is so well done.  Carly Schabowski’s writing is wonderful and skillful.  You can feel the cold, the hatred, the hunger, the loneliness, and love. You can easily envision the settings. If you love historical fiction, more so set around WW2, then you have got to read this book. Well Done.  I can’t wait to see what Carly Schabowski has in store for us next.

I would like to thank the author, bookoutour and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
Heartbreaking but this book is worth every minute of it. Words written based on true stories of the concentration camps and the two very different sides of them cannot be more heartfelt yet heartbreaking. I can only fathom at the courage Isaac and Anna must have had to show each and every day. The strength and the will of these victims should never be drawn into question. 

I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book provided by NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?
I thought this was a heartbreaking yet lovely  story, full of hope and love even when our main characters were surrounded by such unspeakable tragedy. 

The characters were wonderful, and I thought this was nicely tied up and the end - which is always a bonus for me. There was a romantic element that was floated that I didn’t particularly connect with, but in their situation I also found it understandable.
Was this review helpful?
I liked this book, but I’ve read better historical fiction about the Holocaust. It didn’t really blow me away. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy in exchange for review.

3,5/5
Was this review helpful?
Jewish watchmaker Isaac is captured by the Nazis and transported to Dachau. His skills single him out and he is forced to work directly and personally for Becher. He befriends Anna, another Jew in the household who is serving as a maid but lives in fear of drawing attention to herself. Isaac also begins an unlikely friendship with the Bechers' son Friedrich who is blissfuly ignorant of the Nazi Final Solution...
I read The Watchmaker of Dachau in a state of trepidation and dread. There are some Holocaust atrocities included which will make your stomach churn with revulsion. However, the author shows the insidious fear that shadowed each and every encounter.
Isaac and Anna's perspective contrasts wonderfully and terribly with Friedrich's desperately unhappy childhood. They have both known love and a caring family whilst Friedrich has been indoctrinated with Nazi rhetoric but is deeply unhappy with his parents. We see another perspective, again one of love as Isaac discovers beautifully tragic letters hidden in his work shed.
Kindness, love and hope remain constant despite the devastating reality faced by the Dachau inmates. The book felt very unique to have a child's viewpoint feature heavily and the juxtaposition of Friedrich's emotional prison was just as real as the tragedy within the camp. The motif of smelling lemons being indicative of death is tragic yet poignant.
The Watchmaker of Dachau is difficult to read at times due to its powerful topic but overall it is an uplifting book and a privilege to read. The plot weaves together beautifully and I loved how the epilogue brought the strands of the story together.
Was this review helpful?
‘Each watch told a story to Isaac as he mended them. The way they were worn, the way they broke, gave clues to him like a detective at a crime scene.’

At its heart, The Watchmaker of Dachau is a story about friendships in the midst of the Holocaust of  World War II.  Interestingly, the novel takes place towards the end of the war, where the hope that the Americans were soon to arrive - that an end to the suffering of so many would soon occur, provided this tale with an interesting aspect. 

This book is told from multiple perspectives - Isaac the older Jewish prisoner, Anna a young Jewish prisoner,  Frederich the son of the camp commandant and an anonymous narrator of discovered letters that are interspersed throughout the tale. The first three voices are clear and strong with good alternating stories. I struggled with the letters as it seemed to slow the story down somewhat. There are other interesting secondary characters - Commandant Herr Becher and his wife (Frederich’s parents) and Greta, their cook. Both Isaac and Anna work at the Becher house which is how they encounter Frederich. This is a book that most definitely is character driven rather than focused on the plot. 

The book provides a heartbreaking tale of the Holocaust but I did not find it as strong as other tales on this same topic - sad, interesting and realistic certainly, however, some things were tied up too neatly by the conclusion for my liking. That being said, there is a definite message of positivity throughout the book (I will never think of the aroma of lemons quite the same again) with the importance of finding joy in the everyday. There is a solid balance between the tale of the horrific Dachau experiences with the goodness of humanity shining through despite and inspite of those horrors. 

‘One thing I cannot understand is that the hum of bees, the singing of birds and the colours of flowers still exist. How can things carry on as if nothing so horrific is happening around us?’


This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
Was this review helpful?
During the later part of WW2, Isaac has been deported to Dachau.  Although he is already older, with a crippled leg, his skills as a watchmaker set him aside when the transport arrives at the camp.  Selected by Becher, the commandant, he is granted a job at his home to repair a grandfather clock.  Once successful, he is tasked with many other repair jobs--watches, toys for the commandant's son, even vehicles, 

While at the house, he meets Anna, a prisoner who works as a housekeeper and the commandant's young son, Friedrich. He and Anna discover a series of love letters hidden in a shed, while Friedrich tries to get to know both prisoners better, despite his parents' rules..  As the camp crumbles around them, the bonds are just what might save them.

For fans of WW2 fiction, it's a strong pick with a great story behind it.  The friendship between Isaac and Anna is one of the highlights, and more of a father-daughter role versus a typical romantic relationship as is normally found in this style of book.  It's definitely a page turner and one that will keep you up at night reading.
Was this review helpful?
This was such a wonderful historical fiction book! This was my second book from this author and it did not disappoint. I liked how it mostly covered a brief period of time of some people held at a concentration camp, rather than trying to encompass the entire war. It was hopeful and sad, and so important. I would definitely recommend this book. I recieved a free copy of the book from the publisher and netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
In The Watchmaker of Dachau, we meet several characters who are captured in Dachau concentration camp and other characters forced to work in one of the commander’s homes. These mix of characters form the base of a poignant and somber story which is fascinating from the start and is based on a real life story in an attempt to bring more awareness to some of the tragedies during WWII.

Isaac is taken in by Becher, one of the commanders, as soon as he is brought to Dachau concentration camp once the guards discover that he fixes objects. Some of the events that occurred on his way to the camp as well as once he arrived were tragic and I found some parts difficult to read. However, the friendship he forms with Anna, one of Becher’s housekeepers, brings an air of hope and positivity when they find a series of mysterious letters. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this friendship develop despite the bleak contrast of their surroundings.

The most curious character is most certainly Friedrich, Becher’s young son who doesn’t understand much including why his family have hired staff or the events happening at the Dachau camp. Although his character is originally portrayed as juvenile and naive, this brings about an element of positivity as he tries to form a connection with both Isaac and Anna in various ways despite often being scolded with his parents whenever they found out. This bond transforms into something even more beautiful in the epilogue which is ultimately a celebration of life and a bittersweet way to connect these characters and highlight their differences and similarities.

The writing in The Watchmaker of Dachau flows beautifully and the short chapters kept me invested in the storyline until the very end. I would have preferred if the book was more lengthy and descriptive as there were certain parts which skimmed years. However, the connection which this characters formed was a beautiful symbol for the struggles many faced during the war and the story a necessary one to be told.
Was this review helpful?
A quick and easy read that I found myself picking up after a long day to unwind. The characters are beautifully written and I came to love them within the first few pages and was rooting for them all the way to the end. At times I wanted to stop reading because I just wanted the experience to go on for longer. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
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
Was this review helpful?
My heart was just ripped out of my chest and crushed. I was so moved by this story and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys World War II Historical Fiction and specifically stories centered around the Holocaust. Much of the story takes place outside the Dachau camp and gives the reader a narrative about those that were chosen to serve Nazi commanders in their homes and outside the camp. This book was a 5 star read for me and is in my Best of 2021 list. I will definitely pick up a book by Ms. Schabowski again.
My reviews are posted on Amazon, Goodreads, my book club page on Instagram @The.Telltale.Book.Club, FB at The Telltale Book Club, and Twitter @TelltaleBookClb.
I would like to thank NetGalley and the publishing house, Bookouture, for providing an advanced e-copy for review.  All thoughts and opinions written in this review are my own.
Was this review helpful?