The young Tomi was a already a visual artist; as an adult he became an illustrator and children's book author. This book consists of visual artifacts of the German occupation, both Tomi's drawings and the propaganda art of the period, along with adult reflections.
It is about a resilient people and place. Tomi's mother (his father died in the mid-1930s) kept the family together and alive with industry, pluck, and wit through prewar poverty and then Nazi occupation. They despised the German invaders, but quickly learned their language and played the part of newly rescued members of the Aryan national volk, delivering their required Hitler salutes in public.
The occupiers were determined to make the Alsatians into Germans. The consequences were often absurd:
Tomi insists that the German rulers never understood that Alsatians, "trained by adversities of history, were beyond manipulation and coercion."
The Ungerer family's most dangerous moments came during the actual liberation by converging French and US armies. The community had long dared minor acts of sabotage against the occupiers. Tomi's brother had been drafted by the Germans; he managed to surrender happily to the onrushing Yanks. At home there was fear.
The family house was blown to bits around them, but all survived and suddenly Alsatians were French again.
The aftermath had its own painful dislocations when Tomi returned to school:
Tomi carried a burden of bitterness until time and artistic success in three languages gave him some distance on this hard childhood. Though he settled part time in Ireland, he remained proud of his native Alsace.
Ungerer's anti-imperial posters as well as his erotica made him a pariah in the U.S. for many years; these days his art is the subject of his own museum in Strasbourg, Alsace.