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Literature / Laughing Winds

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When Annika Straum is handed a violin and told to learn how to play, she knows she is about to die. In Dachau Concentration Camp, music means death. Prisoners are tasked with performing a concert before their own execution. Annika is not afraid to die. Annika has already lost everyone and everything she ever loved. The girl with the green eyes is also about to die. In the form of a stranger, Annika finds company. Annika finds a mystery. And though she is dying, Annika learns to live.

''In a wagon lies a calf tied up with rope. High in the sky a swallow soars joyously, flying back and forth. "The winds laugh in the cornfield! Laughing, laughing, laughing! The winds laugh all day; the winds laugh all night!"

A Young Adult Novel by Rose Christo.

Laughing Winds contains examples of:

  • All Germans Are Nazis: Averted in one conversation. Lukas mentions he was part of the German resistance before being caught and shipped off to the camp.
  • Anyone Can Die: The main characters are no less likely to die than anyone else at the deathcamp, and some of them do.
  • Apologises a Lot: Annika frequently apologises, which eventually leads to Laura pointing it out and asking her why she feels the need to say sorry so much.
  • Aroused by Their Voice: Annika, at one point, describes Laura's singing voice as unpolished but "alluring and richly dark".
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Annika is sweet, gentle, caring, and The Heart and peacemaker of the group. She also attacks one of the guards with a saw.
  • Broken Bird: Laura. she has been at the camp since she was 10 when her father, who was not Jewish, betrayed Laura, her twin sister Miriam, and their mother, to the Nazis. Her mother was killed shortly after entering the camp while she and Miriam were taken and experimented on until Miriam eventually died from complications (which to make things worse Laura got to witness). Then when they were done using her as a test subject Laura was finally dumped back into the main death camp badly scarred and having lost everyone close to her. The experience left her bitter, emotionally damaged, and reluctant to get close to anyone.
  • Brooding Girl, Gentle Girl: Laura is brooding and aloof, while Annika is caring and gentle.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Laura rarely shows any outward emotional reaction to even the most horrible acts of brutality the group suffer/witness, and even when she does, it's to a lesser degree than the others. Justified in that she has been at the camp a lot longer than the others, so she has been exposed to constant abuse and death from the age of 10.
    • Also possibly a slight subversion in that while she often appears indifferent, she doesn't like the situation, or the cruelty. She also doesn't want to die, or wish it on anyone else, but she has accepted the situation and resigned herself to the fact it's a death camp, she and those around her will be killed or die there sooner or later, and there is nothing she can do about it, and she has been exposed to the harshness of the death camp for so long she's become mostly numb to it.
  • Crapsack World: The story is set during the Holocaust. The main characters are trapped in a concentration camp where conditions are horrible and the prisoners are treated harshly and often abusively by the guards.
  • Cry into Chest: Jonah eventually has a total break down and does this to Annika.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Most of the main characters go or have gone through this. With Laura, it was the experiments she and her twin sister were put through and the subsequent death of her twin. With Lia, it was the loss of her son, who may or may not be dead, but either way was taken from her, while Jonah witnessed his parents and sister being ripped to pieces by the Nazis attack dogs.
  • Darkest Hour: Lukas death, not only because of the death itself which was sudden and pretty traumatic for all of them, but also because an object vital for their escape plan was discovered and there is no time for them to find an alternative or implement a new plan So not only are they grieving their friend and very shaken by what happened, but the whole group loses all hope of making it out of the camp alive.
  • Deadly Gas: In the Gas Chamber
  • Deadpan Snarker: Eleny can be this, most often (although not exclusively) during her arguments with Lukas.
  • Death of a Child: As the story takes place in a death camp children are usually among the first to be killed, especially if they are not old enough to work.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Laura. At first she is aloof, seemingly indifferent to everyone else, and emotionally closed off. She gradually becomes more willing to engage with the others as events progress, and even shows moments of being helpful towards them , especially Annika, but she still struggles with getting close to people and doesn't fully let her guard down for most of the book.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Lia has a delayed one over the loss of her son, and Jonah has a similar breakdown later due to the situation they are trapped in and him losing hope of ever being able to escape. Eleny also seems to go through this after Daavid dies.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Radka dies of hypothermia while hugging with Annika who is desperately trying to warm her up.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: The main characters (try to) maintain this attitude through most of the story. They work together to come up with and implement an escape plan and defy the guards as much as they dare, rather than submit and go passively to their deaths.
  • Driven to Suicide: One unnamed prisoner jumps out a window to his death.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: Several of the characters are noted to develop these at least once, even the otherwise stoic Eleny does as she begins to lose hope and the frequent deaths start getting to her.
  • Dying Alone: A double subversion with Annika, technically she is shut in the gas chamber with her three surviving friends...but she holds on to life longer than the others and comments on how alone and scared she feels after her friends have all died, then as she succumbs to the gas herself, she feels as if her friends are present again and have returned to comfort her in her dying moments, although she is not sure if this is real or only a trick of her mind, and can't see anything in the darkness
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Laura finally opens up to Annika as she is dying, resulting in this
  • Family-Unfriendly Death : Happens a lot at the death camp, from people being forced to dig their own graves before being shot to people being thrown alive and fully conscious into fire.
  • Faux Death: Annika is mistaken for dead after being shot for attacking the guard and passing out, it's partially what saves her from actual execution for the attack.
  • First Kiss: Laura kisses Annika after she realises that Annika is attracted to her, resulting in this for Annika.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The main characters are this. Most of them don't even know each other to begin with, it's the shared situation and danger they are in and their efforts to work together to escape that helps form such a strong camaraderie and friendship between them.
  • Fiery Redhead: Fits Lukas who is a redhead and has the fiery temper to match, but averted with Daavid who by contrast is very calm and patient.
  • Freudian Excuse: Laura, her cold indifference disturbs even Annika at first, but from the age of 10 when she arrived at the camp her whole life seems to have been one massive Trauma Conga Line, see Broken Bird entry above.
  • Friendship Moment: Eleny and Lukas have one during a discussion the group have about families
    Lukas: My father was a good-for-nothing. I wanted to be different.
    Eleny: You're different
    Lukas: (surprised silence).....Thank you.
  • Gayngst : Averted with Jurgen who has long since accepted his sexuality, and also with Laura who is equally accepting. Subverted and downplayed with Annika, she does worry about her orientation on a couple of occasions but still accepts her sexuality and attraction to Laura fairly quickly.
  • Gentle Giant: Jurgen, for all his size and strength he is very gentle and compassionate and quickly takes Annika under his wing, treating her almost like a daughter
  • Harmful to Minors: Harmful to everyone really, but Laura (who was 10 when first taken to the camp) Michal (9), and Jonah (14) certainly have witnessed & been through far more than any child should, causing low self esteem and anxiety for Jonah, severe emotional issues in Laura's case, and a lot of anger with Michal.
  • Hell Hole Prison: It takes place in a death camp where the prisoners are starved, overworked, mistreated, and frequently murdered (if they don't die from illness or cold first).
  • Holding Hands: Frequently as it seems to be the favoured form of showing support and/or affection for many of the characters. Annika's parents hold hands when they first enter the death camp until they are forced to separate, and when Annika sees them again just before their deaths they are also holding hands. Annika holds hands with her brother Shechem for mutual comfort on one occasion, and eventually initiates this with Laura too (who is slightly perplexed but doesn't protest). In a more romantic example Eleny and Daavid hold hands as well while sitting next to each other and playing on the piano together. In this case the hand holding is of the Intertwined Fingers variety
  • Hope Spot: The friends think they have a plausible plan to escape they secretly gather the necessary items, have just one day to go before they can implement the which point everything falls apart and one of their friends is brutally killed in front of them
  • I'm Not Here to Make Friends: Laura, she even says as much to both Eleny and Annika at different points. Being held prisoner at the camp for so long has seriously taken its toll on her.
  • I Miss Mom: Lia tearfully says that she wants her son, rather than misses him, but the sentiment is the same. Also Eleny says she misses "them" at one point but it's unclear whether she means her family, the friends she's lost at the death camp, or both. Jurgen also says out loud that he misses his ex lover despite being betrayed by him.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Jurgen has a violent coughing fit just before he dies
  • Innocence Lost: All the characters are affected negatively by what they see and experience at the camp to some degree, just some sooner and more severely than others. Radka is the only (arguable) subversion, and that's partially because the others shield and support her as far as they can, Eleny in particular. Jonah and Michal,the only children in the group, had their innocence destroyed on or shortly after entering the camp.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Annika is 16, Michal 9, and Jonah's age is never directly stated but he mentions he had his Bar Mitzvah the year before, implying he's 14, the rest are all aged between 17 and 28, with Lia having a child of her own.
  • It's All My Fault: Annika feels this way regarding the reason she and her family were caught since they were going to flee on a train to Poland before the Nazi's got to them, but Annika lost the train tickets. She also blames herself regarding Lukas's death
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lukas can be abrupt, brash, judgemental, rude, and has a fiery temper. He is also very protective of Annika, is genuinely concerned for all of them, tries repeatedly to come up with ways to get them out of the camp, and is willing to put himself at risk to do so.
  • Kick the Dog: Done to the main characters by the Nazis, for example Radka accidentally hits her thumb with a hammer at one point, cries out with pain, then gets thumped hard in the stomach with the butt of a gun for stopping working.
  • Kill It with Fire: The furnace is used as an especially sadistic method of murder by the camp guards as some people get forced/thrown into the flames alive.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Lukas and Annika, Lukas often acts like a protective big brother towards her especially when the Nazi's are close by, and Annika refers to Lukas as being like a brother to her on several occasions.
  • Longing Look: According to Laura, Annika giving these to her is what made her realise Annika had romantic feelings towards her
    "I've seen the way you look at me"
  • Losing the Team Spirit: After the incident with Lukas the whole group seems to suffer a severe Heroic BSoD
  • Love at First Sight: Implied. Annika certainly seems to have a strong attraction to Laura at first sight, although she is also unsure of her to begin with.
  • Manly Tears: Jurgen on a few occasions but especially when overhearing Annika's very clumsy and awkward but sincere It Has Been an Honor speech to Eleny near the end.
  • Master Race: The attitude of the Nazis who see their race as superior and relentlessly persecute almost anyone who isn't them.
  • Mirthless Laughter:, Annika wonders about Daavids ability to smile and even laugh given their situation, but realises later that its mostly nervous laughter. Laura occasionally invokes the ironic/bitter version as well.
  • Morality Pet: Annika becomes one to Laura. In fact Laura only tries to "come alive" again in the first place due to Annika's encouragement and pleading, and it's only through Annika that she finally warms up to and joins in with helping the others as well.
  • Music for Courage: Music is used frequently by the group in an attempt to calm themselves, provide some distraction from their situation, and generally try to raise their spirits, although Daavid and Jurgen are the only ones who already know how to play an instrument prior to being locked in the basement and told to learn (Jurgen can play the accordion and Daavid can play piano and some violin), the others just try to play as best they can.
  • Nice Guy: Daavid is patient, kind, courteous and mild mannered, and The Heart of the group alongside Annika
  • No Name Given: For awhile after meeting each other, the characters only know each other by their numbers. Finally Lia introduces herself because she doesn't want them to die as strangers. Most of the others quickly follow suit, but Laura refuses to give anyone her name. She does eventually tell Annika (after some persuasion), but it's long after the others have done so.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted at the beginning but played straight and justified later as the women are so starved they stop ovulating,
  • Not So Stoic: Eleny. Most of the time she's a model of self-control. Through most of the story she rarely visibly gets upset or panics, and is probably mentally the strongest of the group. The mask does slip slightly on occasion, such as after Radka's death, but she still stays reasonably composed. So she surprises everybody when she breaks down sobbing in relief after she and the others think they finally have a way to escape. She also becomes very upset and starts shaking after Lukas death, and screams in anguish and despair when Daavid dies.
  • Not So Above It All: The stoic and distant Laura is seen struggling not to smile at the others playing music and messing around during one rare moment of distraction (they are locked in the basement and are really supposed to be practising for the concert). Later she even jokes with them.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: May fit all of them as most or all of the characters are probably orphans given the circumstances, but Michal, Jonah, and Annika in particular fit this trope, all of them having lost their parents on entering the death camp.
  • Parental Betrayal: Laura's father is the reason she is at the deathcamp and her mother and sister are dead.
  • Playing with Syringes: Part of Laura's backstory she and her twin were experimented on by the Nazi's,
  • Prone to Tears: Radka is noted to be very sensitive and easily upset, especially at first. Annika believes she was very sheltered before being taken to the camp. Radka does get less tearful later, but still retains a very gentle, innocent and sweet personality.
  • Purple Prose: Annika specifically towards Laura. When Annika first meets and is describing the other characters, she is pretty terse in her descriptions for the most part, "fleckle faced boy" "Dark eyes, red hair" etc even with Eleny, who she admits is very beautiful, she doesn't describe her beauty much beyond stating that she is. Then she meets Laura, and although she starts off very factual in describing her as well, she quickly becomes increasingly poetic :
    "The girl is my age, perhaps a year younger. But she is short where I am tall, and dark where I am colourless and fair. Her hair falls very neatly around her chin, so neatly I am inclined believe she wore it short even before her arrival in this camp. Her features looked to me as though carved with a naiad in mind, small and otherworldly.In the moonlight her eyes are sea-green, and are the brightest thing about the night. The brightest thing about the camp. Yet there is a darkness in those eyes, which, I think, is not very kind. The girl with the sea eyes smiles, a lilting at the corners of her lips, it makes me feel very small, even though I am taller than her."
  • Quirky Curls: Shechem and Jonah both have hair like this before it's shaved off/when it starts to grow back.
  • Sanity Slippage: A mild example but Lia seems to lose her grip on reality slightly before mentally breaking down and becoming completely inconsolable. For example she starts talking and acting towards Jonah as if she believes he is her missing son, despite the fact Jonah is around 14 while her missing son is an infant who was taken away from her before she was sent to the camp and the only link between Jonah and her son is sharing the same first name. She certainly alarms the other characters who are concerned for her but have no idea how to help her.
  • Say My Name: Annika calls out for every single one of her friends and her family as she is dying
  • Shrinking Violet: Jonah has a very nervous disposition and to begin with he is withdrawn and shy to the extreme. He does get a little better once he gets used to and more comfortable with the group but remains very quiet most of the time.
  • Sleep Cute: Annika and her brother Shechem sleep curled up next to each other and holding hands during their first night at the camp. Once they become friends the entire group sleep huddled together a couple of times as well, mostly for warmth as its winter and they have little protection from the cold, but Annika at least also seems to find some comfort in doing so.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Laura spends most of the book keeping everyone at arms length, tells Annika she cannot be her friend at one point and another time claims that Annika doesn't really know her and never will. She warns Annika several times not to get attached to the others either because "they are only going to die". But her icy wall turns out to be mostly a defence. A couple of times after Annika tries to get through to her Laura's mask slips and she shows signs of conflict and distress, once to the point of crying, although she tries to hide it. When she finally opens up to Annika, the way she explains herself, admitting she only stood away from them because she was afraid of getting close and seeks reassurance from Annika is pretty heartbreaking.
  • Straight Gay: Jurgen is this, he does not fit the gay stereotype at all, later Annika and Laura are revealed to be this as well.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Laura appears to be cold, uncaring, and distant much of the time, but does gradually show a more considerate and kinder side as she starts to defrost.
  • Survivor Guilt : Laura admits to feeling this way over her sister's death.
  • Survival Mantra: Annika does this at times, alternating between "I am still alive" and "I'm not dead yet"
  • Tears of Blood: Happens to one of the main characters after being exposed to gas in the gas chamber
  • The Bear: Jurgen is gay and described as this. His thick beard and large build and strength are the first things Annika notices about him.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Annika sees a guard pulling a childs remains out of the furnace the same night her brother disappears The next day while she is working on the assembly line the same guard confronts her and she snaps.
  • The Nicknamer: Annika is this before learning the other characters real names.
  • The Prankster: It turns out Laura was quite playful and mischievous, and a practical joker before ending up at the death camp.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Annika attacks a guard with a heated saw, killing him , and spends a lot of time questioning herself and feeling guilty after.
  • The Stoic : Both Laura and Eleny, although they are otherwise very different personalities. Laura claims to genuinely feel numb most of the time, rarely shows emotion of any kind, and for a long time keeps very distant from the group, at first rarely even speaking to them unless directly addressed. Eleny is practical, analytical, and not prone to displaying her emotions either, but has a much more caring personality, for example she may not display much emotion herself, but she is very quick to comfort Radka when she gets upset.
  • Titled After the Song: The title of the book is a reference to a lyric in the song Donna Donna [1] , a variation of which is sung in the book. The lyrics are different, and it seems to be inspired both by Donna Donna, and also a song by Bojoura called "Swallow and the Calf" [2]. The characters themselves even refer to the song as "The Calf and the Swallow"
  • Together in Death: all the surviving characters are forced into a gas chamber at the end, so literally, but they enter into the spirit of this trope too, one of the characters makes the suggestion of breathing through the keyhole, but Annika points out they can't all do so, then Eleny says if they can't all survive, then she doesn't want too, and the others silently agree with her. None of them even attempt to follow the suggestion. Also Annika dies lying next to Laura and holding her hand.
  • Tongue Trauma: Happens to Lukas, who accidentally severs his own tongue. It Makes Sense in Context
  • Took a Level in Kindness : Laura goes from being very cold, selfish, and indifferent, to offering to help the others when she can, and at one point even pushes and drags Annika out of her despondency when she becomes overwhelmed with guilt and grief over Lukas death, even Annika is surprised by the sudden role reversal.
  • Traumatic Haircut: All prisoners who enter the camp are given one of these.
  • Troubled Child: Jonah, witnessing his little sister and parents being killed understandably caused him no small amount of angst and has left him very subdued and timid. Also Michal, although with her it shows as anger.
  • Unable to Cry: Annika for most of the book, even when she does get upset and feels she wants or needs to cry, she can't. It worries her as she fears there is something wrong with her and that she is becoming indifferent and numb to death and suffering.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Eleny and Lukas are this towards each other. They frequently argue, but are nevertheless friends beneath all the bickering and sarcasm.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Early on a little girl decides to make a run for it and is shot for trying to escape. Eleny also mentions that most children are killed shortly after entering the camp.
  • You Are Not Alone: Implied in places, and Lukas outright says it at one point to Daavid.