Renata Zerner's Dance on the Volcano is a memoir written for readers who
are interested in what it was like living in Germany during the Third Reich and
World War II. She writes about her life when she was a young woman in an anti-
Nazi German family living in Berlin. Her story focuses on the last two years of
World War II when events began to escalate that brought the downfall of Hitler's
Germany. Interspersed are flashbacks to prewar times.
Zerner grew up in cosmopolitan Berlin, where a constant stream of underground
rumors and inside stories about the horrors of the Nazis circulated through the city
and reached her family. She gained a broad awareness of the oppressive Hitler
regime and witnessed disturbing Nazi violence against Jews.
After a devastating air raid on Berlin, Zerner leaves her home with her mother
for a small spa in Western Germany to escape the increasing carpet bombings.
Separated from her childhood home she feels uprooted, and she worries about the
safety of her father who remains in Berlin.
She describes in detail the attitudes of young people and adults, including ethnic
Germans influenced by the Nazi “religion,” and how they dealt emotionally with
the destruction around them, and the tension between the Nazi propaganda and
the reality they had to face at the end of the war. Though she was not subjected
to Nazi persecutions, she was old enough to grasp the horrific events during the
Hitler regime that had a deep emotional impact on all Germans.
She conveys a sense of her fears and dark forebodings during this disastrous war,
her horror over the loss of lives at the fronts and in the concentration camps, and
her despair over her father’s death in an air raid.
Zerner's memoir characterizes life in a society without freedom. She was a witness
who knew, saw, and experienced those times. Her account has a place as part of
our recorded history.
Click here to read an excerpt of
Dance on the Volcano
Renata Zerner is a painter and print-maker. She was born in Berlin, Germany, and immigrated to the United States in 1951. She lives in California.