Discussion Guide for Tainted Amber

 For senior students and adult readers.

1.What is amber and where is it found? What does amber symbolize in the novel?

2.Find the Baltic Sea on a map. What contemporary countries border the Baltic? Compare a current map of the area to a map from the 1930s.

3.What books did Thomas Mann write? What do you know about his life and career? Why did the Nazis ban his writings?

4.Should people change their names to suit the political climate? Why or why not? Can you think of examples where people change their names today to fit in?

5.Does propaganda work? How was it used in the Third Reich? How has propaganda changed? Give examples of its use in our current world.

6.Find some examples of slogans that the Nazis liked to use. Why were they effective? 

7.What books, beside Thomas Mann’s, did the Nazis ban? Are books banned today? Why? Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, banned in Germany until 2016, is now available again as an annotated edition. Is this a good or bad idea?

8.The Third Reich was a country of uniforms. Have you ever worn a uniform? What are the pros and cons of wearing uniforms?

9.Why did the Third Reich force its young people to join the Hitler Youth?

10.The horses bred in Tainted Amber were unique to East Prussia. Did they survive the final battles of the Second World? If so, how? Are there any Trakehner horses left in the world today? If so, where are they?

11.What birds are mentioned in Tainted Amber? What is their significance to the story?

12.How is epilepsy treated today? Do you think people should be sterilized if they have the condition? Do you know any people with epilepsy? If so, how does it affect their daily life? Are there any famous people with epilepsy?

13.Nazi Germany was not the only country to apply eugenics on its vulnerable citizens. Where else has eugenics been practiced?  Consider the similarities between contemporary pre-natal screening and eugenics.

14.There were many laws passed by the Nazis in 1935, known as the Nuremberg Laws. Find some examples of these laws. Do you think that current governments could or would pass similar laws? Why or why not?

15.The Nazis embraced music. Songs like Erika and the Horst Wessel Lied were popular. Why did music play such an important role? How does modern music relate to our lives?

16.How do hairstyles reflect society? Why did the Nazis frown upon make-up?

17.This novel is set in East Prussia.  What happened to this German province?

18.The Lebensborn homes, places for unwed mothers, embraced Nazi ideals. What was their aim?

19.It is illegal to show a swastika in present-day Germany. What did the swastika represent before the Nazis usurped it? What did it symbolize for the Nazis? Do you think it’s lost its Nazi stigma?

20.The Nazis had incentives for women to have more children. Do we have similar programs?

21.Johanna Haarer was embraced as the Nazi’s child-raising expert. Have our attitudes to childcare changed? Where do we turn for advice when it comes to caring for children?

22.The Christkindlmarkt, or Christmas Market, is still an annual event in Germany. How is it the same and how is it different from the one Katya visits in 1937? 

23.How can we prevent a Nazi-like government in our world today?  Do you think that studying Third Reich history has any relevance to our understanding of our current world? Why or why not?

24.The Nazis had specific ideas for the role of women in their Reich. What are the differences with our current social norms for women?

25.Why do you think the German people embraced the Nazi vision and let Hitler become so powerful? Could it happen again? In Germany? In other countries? How do we prevent it?


Important Dates for Tainted Amber

1.When does Tainted Amber begin? 

2. When does Germany take control of Austria?

3. When are the Nuremberg Laws for Prevention of Diseased Offspring made official? 

4. When does the Second World War begin? 

5. When does Nazi Germany invade Poland? 

6. When does Nazi Germany decree the anti-Jewish race laws of Nuremberg? 

7. When does Hitler come into power? 

8. When is the first concentration camp opened? 

9. When was Kristallnacht? 

10. When was the Hitler Jugend formed? 

11. When is the BDM formed? 

12. When is the Wehrmacht formed? 

13.When did the First World War end? 

14.When does the Second World War (in Europe) end? 

15. When were Jews in Nazi-controlled areas required to wear a yellow star? 

16. When is Mein Kampf first published? 

17. When does Thomas Mann get the Nobel Prize for Literature? 

18. When are many books burned by the Nazis? 

19. When was Lebensborn home for unwed mothers created? 

20. When did East Prussia stop being a German province? 


1.June, 1937 2. March, 1938 3. July, 1933 4. September, 1939 5. September, 1939 6. September, 1935 7. March, 1933 8. March, 1933 9. November 9/10 1938 10. July, 1926 11. April 20, 1930 12. March, 1935 13. November 11, 1918 14. May 8, 1945 15. September, 1941 16. July, 1925 17. 1929 18. May 10, 1933 19. December, 1935 20. May, 1945


Name Changes

It might take some research to find the places of TA. History is written by the conquerors. Perhaps, after finding some of the changed place names of TA, you can find places in Canada that have been renamed.
1.What is Königsberg now called?
2.What is Wehlau now called?
3.What is Nidden now called?
4.What is Rauschen now called?
5.What is the Third Reich now called?

Try to find five other places in our world that have undergone name changes.
Here’s an example:
Turtle Island . . . North America


Vocabulary for Tainted Amber in 20 questions

1.Which author was Katya reading at the beach in Rauschen? 

2.What type of horses were the Richters breeding? 

3.On what sea is Rauschen located? 

4.What is fossilized pine resin? 

5.What country separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany in 1937? 

6.What was Katya’s father, as a landowner, called under Stalin? 

7.Which German actress does Katya compare Minna to? 

8.What is the popular term for NSDAP? 

9.In what town did Thomas Mann build a summer home? (German or current name) 

10.Where do Katya’s sisters hope to attend a rally after their BDM fundraising efforts? 

11.What liquor does Katya often serve to guests? 

12.Who did the Nazis sing about in their unofficial anthem and marching song? 

13.In what city is the Health Inheritance Court that David goes to? 

14.East Prussia today is divided amongst Russia, Poland and what other country? 

15.What, besides race, drives the need for sterilization according to the Nuremberg laws? 

16.What song do Helmut and his friends like to sing, especially after drinking? 

17.What bird does Katya hear as an omen of trouble? 

18.What Nazi symbol do Katya and Marthe spot at the Christkindlmarket used as a cookie cutter? 

19.What home does Gretchen go to as a single, pregnant Aryan woman? 

20.What kind of war does the Third Reich have with Austria? 

Answers: 1. Thomas Mann   2. Trakehner   3. Baltic   4. Amber   5. Poland   6. Kulak   7. Zarah Leanders   8. Nazi   9. Nidden   10. Nuremburg   11. Jägermeister   12. Horst Wessel   13. Königsberg   14. Lithuania   15. Genetics   16. Horst Wessel Lied   17. Cuckoo   18. Swastika  19. Lebensborn   20. Blumenkrieg

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