The Little Liar Summary by Mitch Albom: Chapter by Chapter Synopsis

The Little Liar is a 2023 novel by Mitch Albom set during and after the Holocaust. It’s about truth and lies, good and evil and forgiveness. It’s an engaging and moving story and I recommend reading this summary of The Little Liar only as a supplement to reading the novel itself, rather than instead of it.

The Little Liar Summary

Part I


Almost a hundred people are crammed into a dark train wagon. They were told they’re headed north to be resettled. A boy they know on the platform confirmed this. A large man believes they’re going to be killed. He pushes through the crowd to a grate and manages to pull it off, but he can’t fit through.

A fourteen-year-old boy, Sebastian, volunteers a girl, Fannie, whom he loves. A bearded man wants her to tell the world what happened here. With tears in her eyes, the large man pushes her through the grate with instructions on how to land. They wait hopefully but then hear several gunshots. The train screeches to a halt. A German officer with a drawn gun opens the door.

Sebastian curses his younger brother, Nico, and swears to make him pay.

Let Me Tell You Who I Am

This story is trustworthy because it’s being narrated by Truth. A boy who tried to break Truth hid for years under different names during and after the Holocaust.

“Such a beautiful boy!”

In 1936, Nico Krispis plays in the streets of Salonika, Greece—Thessaloniki—an ancient city. Giorgio claims he tagged Nico before he reached the safe spot. Nico admits he was tagged and his teammates lament his unwavering honesty.

The story that follows might seem impossible, but we want to believe things like this.

Until he was eleven, Nico never told a lie. He learned this lesson from his grandfather, Lazarre. Nico has a talent for languages and drawing, and is attractive. Even strangers notice his good looks (with some remarking he doesn’t look Jewish) and honest face. People in his neighborhood call him Chioni, which means “snow”, because he’s pure.

The Rest of the Cast

There are three more significant people who recur in this narrative. The first is Nico’s brother, Sebastian, who is three years older, more serious, tells the usual lies people tell and envy’s his pampered brother. He’s devoted to his family. Sebastian is attracted to twelve-year-old Fannie, but she’s set on Nico. She’s another of the principals.

The train in 1943 is headed for a death camp. The German officer finds out who removed the grate by hitting an old man in the face with it and following a woman’s gaze toward the large man. He shoots him in the head. The officer tells a woman with a baby that she can go. He takes the baby but she falls down begging. He throws the baby through the grate. Only Sebastian makes eye contact with him.

This German officer is Udo Graf, another principal character.

A Parable

Before creating Man God asked the top angels opinions. Only the Angle of Truth said not to create Man because he would lie. God cast the Angel of Truth to the earth. That’s how this story can be told.

Three Moments

In 1938, Nico’s grandparent’s, Lazarre and Eva Krispis, have married off their last child, Bibi. Nico asks about her veil, which Lazarre explains connects them through tradition.

Walking along the esplanade at night with Fannie and her father, they see newspapers about what’s happening in Germany. Lazarre believes they’re safe in Salonika.

In 1941, Lev Krispis, Nico’s father, returns home. He volunteered six months ago to fight the Italian invasion. He’s gaunt and injured. Lazarre didn’t want him to go.

The fight went well at first, but then they ran out of resources and now it’s desperate. The other Jewish men they knew have all been killed. The family reassures Nico and he goes to bed.

It’s 1942, over a year since Lev returned home. The Germans invaded soon after and conditions are bad for the Jews. Nine thousand Jewish men are gathered in Salonika’s Liberty Square. German soldiers are forcing them to perform exhausting calisthenics; those who stop are beaten. Lev is determined to continue. He thinks of his kids—Elisabet, Anna, Sebastian and Nico.

Nico arrives at the edge of the square. Not recognizing Nico as a Jew, a guard picks him up so he can see what happens to them. Udo Graf arrives in a transport and winks at Nico.

How a Lie Grows

A boy born in 1889 has a bad childhood and becomes a loner. He fails as a painter and calls himself “Wolf”. He goes to war but his country loses. He vows to overthrow the leaders one day.

He rises politically and blames Germany’s problems on the Jews. He executes his enemies and consolidates his power. He uses euphemisms to hide his horrific policies.

Udo Graf, who also had a troubled life, is empowered by the “Wolf’s” message and rises to Nazi SS commander. He’s sent to Salonika to rid the city of every Jew.

A True and Loving Kindness

In the fall of 1942, Lazarre takes Sebastian, Nico and Fannie to his parents’ grave. Lazarre prays and cleans the tombstone. It’s a loving kindness to do something good that can never be repaid.

The children join in cleaning. Nico leads them in cleaning the other tombstones as well. Three months later the site is destroyed.

The Little Liar Summary, Cont’d

First, They Take Your Business . . .

In January 1943, Lev is in his smoke shop with Nico and Sebastian when two Greek men enter, one of whom he recognizes as a customer. They’re surprised to see him. They give Lev a writ that turns control of the business over to them. Lev protests but two Nazi officers pull up and Lev, Nico and Sebastian are put out of the shop for good.

. . . Next They Take Your Worship

On Saturday, Lazarre, Nico and Sebastian walk to synagogue as they do every week. Across the street, they see Fannie and her father headed the same way. Nico says that Sebastian wants to kiss Fannie. His grandfather tells him he shouldn’t reveal secrets.

Nico and Sebastian race ahead around the corner and see three German soldiers blocking the door of the synagogue. Others are carrying out boxes. The synagogue is closed. Noticing Nico’s looks, the officers make taunts about his mother liking Germans. Lazarre catches up and calls the boys away.

They meet up with Fannie and her father and go to the harbor where Lazarre leads them in prayers for the war to end and giving thanks for the good.

. . . Then They Take Your Home

Until age eleven, Nico lived in a well furnished two-story rowhouse with his immediate family and grandparents. It was near the city center where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived harmoniously for decades.

Everything owned by Jews has to be declared and many things have been taken. Men are sent into hard labor. The cemeteries are ransacked for gold teeth and building materials. On Sunday, February 28, 1943, children with sacks of books arrive at the Krispis house for study. The schools have been closed, so families take turns hosting sessions for the kids.

Nico is hiding in a crawl space under the stairs. Sebastian is getting ready because Fannie will be there. German soldiers burst in, accompanied by translator Yakki Pinto, and order everyone out in five minutes. The family panics as they decide what to take with them and try to find Nico.

They’re ousted with what they can carry. Other Jewish families are being put out as well. Sebastian spots Nico and Fannie in an upstairs window. Envious that Nico is protecting Fannie, he doesn’t say anything.

The Jewish families are marched to a run-down neighborhood that had been build for the homeless. The Germans have information on everyone. The Krispis family are put in a one-floor flat without amenities with two other families. Tanna, the mother, wants Lev to find Nico. Outside, Lev finds they’ve been closed in with walls and barbed wire. Anyone leaving will be shot.

Udo Finds a Place to Stay

Udo Graf claims the old Krispis place for himself. He finds the Jews pathetic for the way they gave in. He records his daily activities in a notebook. He remembers his habit of firing his gun at least once a day and shoots the family photograph. Hearing a noise, he finds the crawl space and sees Nico.


Yakki Pinto didn’t have many friends and wanted acceptance. He quickly joined the Judenrat, the Jewish Council, who would assist the German takeover. His fluency in German was useful to Udo Graf. He believes his cooperation will protect him.

With his help, Udo talks to Nico. He learns of his honesty and of Fannie, who left earlier. Udo offers to reunite Nico with his family if he helps him with something.

Earlier, Fannie had noticed Nico’s hiding spot and gone in with him. She wants to ask Nico if he likes her, but is interrupted by the German intrusion. They keep hiding while everyone is put out. Fannie cries and hold Nico’s hand. She asks her question and Nico says “yes”.

An hour later they emerge. Fannie kisses Nico goodbye before heading for her father’s shop.

She heads for her father’s apothecary covered up by a raincoat Nico had given her. She thinks about the kiss.

She sees the other Jewish families being marched away. Her father is outside his shop. He convinces a German soldier to let him get some medicine. Before he can go in another soldier shoots him in the back, killing him. Fannnie screams, faints, and is dragged in line with the others.

Sebastian is guilty over not telling his parents he saw Nico. In the morning, before he can come clean, Mrs. Paliti comes to their door with Fannie. Lev and Tanna learn about Nico and Fannie’s father. Sebastian wants to comfort her but doesn’t know how.

Nico Dreams of the White Tower

As Nico lies in bed the first night away from his family, he remembers when he, Sebastian, Fannie and his grandfather had gone to a Salonika landmark, the White Tower on his eight birthday. Lazarre got them inside, where they climbed to the top and experience the amazing view.

He told them the story of the place. It was a dirty, bloodstained prison. No one wanted to take on the difficult job of cleaning it up. A prisoner, Nathan Guidili, offered to paint the entire place white in exchange for forgiveness and freedom. It took him a year and he was released. The lesson is that a man will do anything for forgiveness.

Another Parable

The Angel of Truth tried to share a message with people but was constantly rebuffed. Parable came and explained the problem. Truth is naked and people are scared. Parable gives Truth one of his colorful robes and people now welcomed the message. So, parables teach what raw truth cannot.

The Little Liar Summary, Cont’d

The Lie of Resettlement

The Wolf knew that people could only be pushed so far and couldn’t know their situation was hopeless. In the summer of 1942 he decided to kill all the Jews. The death camps were already built, but he had to get everyone there.

On the second night in the ghetto, Lev hears of the rumor that they’re being resettled, possibly in Poland. Some of the men argue over it and the rumor spreads to everyone.

Udo Needed a Ruse

Udo needs to get the Jews onto the trains without any rebellions that would displease the Wolf. He believes Nico can help him with this.

Two weeks removed from his family, Nico is taken to a train station by Udo and Pinto. Nico, with his facility for languages, is already picking up some German.

Udo explains what will be happening tomorrow. The station will be full of people, some of whom might be scared. Nico is to assure them they’re going north to be resettled and reunited with their families and get jobs. He heard an important German say so (after all, Udo has said it), which Udo convinces him is the truth. Nico practices yelling out his assurances.

Truth weeps as Nico is deceived into the first lie of his life.

One Very Large Wedding

The Jews are told they’ll leave in the morning. A rumor spreads that married couples will be given priority for their own flats. Families hastily arrange marriages. Among them is Sebastian, who’s only fifteen.

His family convinces him to marry Rivka, a sixteen-year old. He protests because he’s set on Fannie, who he’s been spending some time with the past weeks. He goes through with it, hoping she’ll never know.

Three Betrayals

On August 10, 1943, three betrayals take place on the train station platform.

The previous transports have gone smoothly over the months, thanks to Udo’s deceptions. He’s impressed with himself for bringing Nico in on the plan. Nico’s performed very well, assuring everyone they were safe.

They’ve been spending time together at the house. Udo is surprised by Nico’s innocence. Their association doesn’t soften his attitude.

It’s the day of the final train. Among the last passengers are the Krispis family, Fannie, Mrs. Paliti, and Rivka and her family.

Pinto is hopeful that he will be able to escape to Athens soon. He’s getting worn down by the defeated faces.

At 10:30 A.M., the crowd starts filling the station and Nico goes to work. Udo Graf looks forward to returning to Germany and meeting with the Wolf. Unexpectedly, he receives written instructions to board the train to Auschwitz where he will be given further orders. He’s stunned and realizes someone is out to get him. The first betrayal.

Udo angrily sends soldiers to retrieve his things from the house. He orders Pinto into the train as well. He protests but his protection has ended. The second betrayal.

While proclaiming his message of safety to the crowd, Nico sees Mrs. Paliti who’s pushed on by the crowd. He then sees Fannie but he loses sight of her too after a large man picks him up and drops him, telling him to stop lying.

Nico is confused by the large man’s words. He wants to ask Udo but can’t find him. Nico hears his mother calling out and starts running to his family. Guards step in front of them and usher them into the train. Nico is grabbed by Udo, who knows he should send Nico away now. He decides not too, in light of his superior’s betrayal. He reveals that Nico has been lying to everyone, which crushes the boy.

Udo boards the transport which pulls out. Nico chases the train until it’s out of sight. He collapses crying. The betrayal kills the name of Nico Krispis.

The Little Liar Summary, Cont’d

Part II

The Pivots

After falling from the train, Fannie is dazed and wounded. Far in the distance, she hears it screech to a halt and then gunshots. She runs on and off for hours, ending up at a river where she drinks and cleans her wounds. She falls asleep.

When she wakes, she wonders why Sebastian sent her away. She didn’t want to go. A Hungarian woman finds Fannie and identifies her as a Jew by her yellow star.

The train reaches its destination after eight days. Everyone is starving, thirsty and filthy, and many have died.

Sebastian exits with his family. The German soldiers roughly separate the men and women. They also send away the older and weaker ones.

Hours after the train left, Nico is still on the tracks. He reaches the Gallikos river and falls asleep. He’s awakened by a Nazi soldier. Using his German and an air of authority he picked up from Udo, Nico says he works for Udo and learns the train was in fact headed to a death camp. He breaks down crying.

Not wanting to shoot Nico in case he does really work for Udo, the soldier gives him some money and tells him to inform Udo that Erich Alman helped him.

After dark, Nico walks back to his old house in Salonika. In the morning, he finds Udo’s bag in his crawl space. It has money, documents and Nazi badges. Nico puts on clean clothes and pins a badge to his shirt. He takes money and what supplies he can carry.

He goes to the train station and buys a ticket heading north. He tells the ticket seller his name is Erich Alman.

A World of Light and Dark

Fannnie was not turned in by the Hungarian woman. Sebatian didn’t die his first night in Auschwitz. Nico rides the train for days, learning how to act. He says he’s going to see his family.

Twelve Months Later

At a guard’s order, Sebastian, who’s sixteen now, whips a man who’s collapsed. This identifies people who’ve died and will be sent to the crematorium.

Sebastian has had several jobs during the past year, many of them dealing with the dead. The whipped man is alive and the guard orders him up. He doesn’t respond and is carried away to the crematorium.

Sebastian doesn’t join Lev and Lazarre in prayers that night. His grandmother, Eva, was gassed on the first day. His younger sisters, Elisabet and Anna, were taken for experiments. Bibi and Tedros died in the winter. His mother, Tanna, was sent to the crematorium after five months because she had typhus.

Sebastian believes it won’t end until they die. He believes Nico was working for the Nazis. Lazarre and Lev believe he was tricked and urge forgiveness.

They urge him to pray for something good, so he prays to see Fannie one more time.

Nights of Hay

The Hungarian woman who found Fannie, Gizella, is a widow whose husband died in the war. She burns Fannie’s dress with the yellow star and tells her she must stay inside. She prepares a place for her to sleep in the chicken coop. They don’t understand each others languages.

Over the months they develop a basic routine of preparing meals and learn to communicate a little. Gizella says Fannie can’t trust anyone. Fannie wonders how she’ll find her family after the war.

It’s the winter of 1944 and supplies are scarce. Gizella takes on extra sewing and works through the night. Fannie learns to help. Gizella tells her when the war ends she can stay if she wants. Fannie feels she belongs.

The next day, wanting to help more, Fannie sneaks into the house to sew. At one point, she encounters a gray-haired woman who demands to know who she is. Flustered, Fannie runs out into the woods.

In the evening, at the usual time she goes back in. No strangers have come and she doesn’t tell Gizella what happened. Gizella gives Fannie a Jaquirity bead from her rosary, poisonous if ingested. She explains that if she’s captured and it’s hopeless she might want to die by her own hand rather than suffer.

Five uneventful months pass and Fannie doesn’t think of the gray-haired woman.

Hungary is invaded by the Nazis and, assisted by the Arrow Cross (a Hungarian group), they start rounding up all the Jews. On a tip from the gray-haired woman, they find Fannie and take her away.

The Little Liar Summary, Cont’d

Fannie ends up in a ghetto in Budapest. In November 1944, she and many others are marched to the Danube River in the snow. They’re tied in groups of four. A soldier shoots one of the men and the group falls in the freezing river and are swept away.

Fannie is ready to die. She remembers the bearded man’s urging to tell the world what happened here and knows she won’t be able to. Suddenly she hears her name and sees a taller version of Nico in a Nazi uniform. She faints.

Nico, from Lie to Lie

Nico is almost fourteen, six inches taller and twenty pounds heavier. He’s been lying profusely since the day on the train tracks.

In Udo’s bag was the passport of a deceased soldier, Hans Degler. Nico decided to use it but he needed to replace the picture. He got off the train in Edessa, looking for someone with a camera. He eventually gets one taken at a barbershop. It won’t be ready for two days. The barber notices Nico’s money.

In the meantime, he sleeps in the train station. When he returns he’s tackled by two teenagers and the barber goes through his bag. The barber recognizes the Salonika accent. He’s surprised by Nico’s desire to get into a German camp. He tells the teens to take Nico to their grandfather.

The barber, Zafi Mantis, is Romani and also hiding from the Nazis. He and his sons take Nico to a secret building on the outskirts of town. A bearded man wants a German message read. It’s a list of people who’ll be arrested and taken away in two days.

The Wolf hated the Romani like the Jews and they were also exterminated. Mantis and his family now know, thanks to Nico, that they must leave the city. The grandfather, Papo, wants to copy the passport.

The Mantis family are forgers, providing false documents to Romani. Nico wants to learn what Papo does and says he’ll go with them.

Udo Gets a New Job

After arriving at Auschwitz, Udo is led to a villa at the far end. The camp Kommandant arrives and informs Udo he will be assisting at the camp. He hasn’t been betrayed after all. Kill the old and weak and put the rest to work.

Udo oversees the arrival of the trains and does his work efficiently. He continues to keep detailed notes in his book. Prior to this, he hadn’t personally killed many Jews. Now, to motivate the guards, he kills one a day and two on Saturdays. He never learns anyone’s name, except one.

He recognizes Sebastian Krispis as Nico’s brother and remembers him from the train when he stared at him. He orders that Sebastian be given only the most gruesome jobs at the camp to kill his spirit.

Sebastian Grows Weaker, Gets Stronger

Sebastian matures quickly and learns to survive in the camp, grabbing extra food where he can and making connections for information. Lev is proud of Sebastian’s strength, but all that matters now is survival.

In late summer of 1944 Allied Forces bomb around the camp. The Germans hide in the shelters while the prisoners lie in a muddy field.

Lazarre catches a virus and gets very weak. A “selection” day is approaching, where the weakest prisoners are identified for execution. The prisoners are stripped and hold a card with their ID number. In turn, each prisoner runs across the yard, hands his card to the guard and is quickly inspected.

Lev and Sebastian can see that it’s hopeless—Lazarre is too sick. Lev switches their cards for the inspection, sacrificing himself to save his father.


Fannie lives in the basement of an apartment building in Budapest with twenty-two other children. She fainted at the Danube River, but the others say they were rescued by a Hungarian actress who bribed and used her influence to take all the children with her. Fannie asks the cook about a boy named Nico, but no one knows that name.

Nico hid out with the Romani refugees in the high woods. He learned forgery from Papo; his talent for drawing made him a natural. He has three passports.

He feels like he’s with family but eventually he has to go after his real family. Papo gives him some supplies, warns him against going to the camps, and tells him some lies are easier to believe than truth.

Nico makes his way by various means toward Poland, using various names and cover stories. One night in Hungary he manages to steal a Nazi coat and hat from a soldier who takes them off to beat some Jews.

He learns some Hungarian while working as a dishwasher. One night while walking in his uniform, he sees a crowd around famous actress Katalin Karady at the cinema. He sneaks in and watches the movie. SS officers burst in and break it up.

They put Katalin in the back of a transport. Nico manages to blend in with the officers, and is ordered to watch her during a fight with the patrons. He lets her run off to her own car. While fleeing to the train station, Nico is picked up by her car.

The Little Liar Summary, Cont’d

Katalin is anti-German and her projects have been banned. She takes Nico to her apartment. She can tell he isn’t really German. She knows they’ll come for her again.

Two days later, she’s arrested and put in prison for months where she’s beaten and tortured. When she’s released, her apartment has been gutted. Nico goes to see her. She says they’ve taken everything, but Nico disagrees.

The Words of a Blessing

On the third morning after the “selection”, Lev is revealed to be one of those chosen. He has a tearful goodbye with Sebastian and is taken away. Lazarre prays, but Sebastian vows never to pray again. Lev is shot and thrown into a grave Sebastian helped dig the day before.

Four Days of Snow

The end of the war took months, not ending at the same time for everyone. It’s Saturday, January 27, 1945.

The Nazis march the Jews hundreds of miles without food or water back to the motherland. Fannie and the other children in hiding were discovered by the Arrow Cross and eventually forced into the “death march”.

Fannie walks, never stopping or looking back. She considers taking the poisonous bead from Gizella but remembers the bearded stranger’s admonition to tell people the world what happened here. She eats snow to survive.

After stopping for a rest, a boy she was helping is killed when he doesn’t get up.

On the same day, Fannie hears they’re headed for Austria. She knows it will be hopeless if she enters. When their march intersects with a group of Hungarian refugees, she sees her chance. She joins the other group. A man puts his raincoat over her and she walks off with them unnoticed. The war is over for her.

On the same day, Udo is wearing civilian clothing. In the last few days, he’s been destroying the evidence of the camp and his role in it. He has Polish papers and a plan to get back to Germany. He takes his pistol and departs.

As Udo leaves the camp the Russian army approaches. He can’t run so he keeps walking, trusting his farmer’s clothing to get him out. He’s being passed unnoticed until a voice from inside the camp yells out to stop him—it’s Sebastian.

Sebastian decided he wasn’t going on the march. Lazarre was too sick to make it, but his grandfather convinces him he must survive. During the confusion leading up to this day, Sebastian managed to cover a crate with snow. He planned to hid in it during the evacuation. He was in there for two days when tens of thousands were marched out.

When he comes out, severely weakened, he joins the infirm prisoners who were left behind. He sees Udo leaving and yells out.

Sebastian is yelling in Ladino and the Russians don’t understand. Udo keeps walking. Sebastian starts yelling “Nazi” and Udo is ordered to stop. Instead of staying calm and presenting his papers, he pull out his pistol and shoots Sebastian in a rage. He’s shot in the leg by the Russians and subdued. Sebastian falls bleeding. The war ends for Udo and Sebastian.

A half mile away, Nico hears the two shots. He’s on a Soviet transport posing as a Polish Red Cross worker.

Nico had hidden some of Katalin’s valuables before the raid. She used those items as a bribe to get the children, including Fannnie. Nico had to flee as word of the rescue spread quickly.

He traded for a Red Cross arm badge in Slovakia and made his way to a team. From there he used his knowledge of German to join Russian soldiers headed for Auschwitz.

They enter the camp on the side opposite where Sebastian was just shot. Nico runs in looking at everyone. He and the Russians are stunned by the amount of death.

Nico searches the infirmary looking for someone who speaks Greek. He finds his grandfather, who’s sick and blind. He’s devastated to learn everyone’s dead except Sebastian. In his guilt, Nico doesn’t reveal his identity. He’s Filip Gorka, with the Red Cross. The war ends for Nico.

The Little Liar Summary, Cont’d

Part III


Less than two thousand Jews are in Salonika—those who had managed to hide in the mountains and those who returned from the camps.

Sebastian has been in the hospital and a displaced persons camp. He heard Lazarre died in the infirmary. He searches other camps for Nico and Fannie. Now, back home, he has to sleep outside.

Sebastian goes to his old house and informs the “owner” that it’s actually his, but he’s rebuffed. Overcome with emotion, he chokes the man.

The next day, Fannnie stands outside her father’s old apothecary. She was in a displacement camp, finally making her way back with another survivor who sewed for the Nazis. They live in a synagogue with some who came back from the mountains.

The others have a hard time believing how bad the camps were. One man accuses them of being collaborators for surviving.

The next morning, Fannie walks through the deteriorated city. The White Tower has been painted camouflage. She tears up, defeated and feeling alone.

Sebastian approaches, looking like he’s been in a fight. He asks her to marry him. She feels validated by his interest. They talk and walk. Sebastian repeats his proposal and Fannie accepts.

In an Italian monastery, Udo Graf prepares to leave. The Russians put him in a hospital, so his contacts were able to get him out. He was hidden by sympathizers in Austria and Italy.

Now, with his papers and some money, he can go to America where he’ll continue to fight the enemy.

Part IV

What Came Next

Nico became a pathological liar. In 1946, he forged a passport for a German in exchange for getting in on a plan to get rich. The man, Gunther, was one of the guards who hid some stolen Jewish goods headed for Germany.

Three months later, Gunther and Nico go to an abandoned church. They find four crates and load them into a truck.

When they finish, Gunther is shot dead by a ten year old boy. His father was the night watchman, killed by Gunther and the other deceased guard. The boy doesn’t want anything from the crates.

Nico uses the money to pursue education, particularly in business and making money, and perfects his English. He poses as a Hungarian who’s family was killed. He’s popular with women. After graduating, he changes his name to Nathan Guidili (the freed prisoner who painted the White Tower) and heads for Hollywood.

Fannie and Sebastian marry three weeks after they reunite, at sixteen and eighteen. They move to the island of Crete where, after over a year, Sebastian finishes building them a house. They soon have a baby girl, Tia. Fannie is full of love and contentment. Sebastian is haunted by his memories. He finds work with a cigarette importer.

Sebastian is still angry with Nico for his actions on the platform. He’s also jealous of the time Fannie was hiding with Nico.

Sebastian hears of a man in Vienna, the “Nazi Hunter”, who’s been bringing escaped Nazis to justice. He writes the man a long letter, detailing his recollections of the war with a focus on Udo Graf. He receives an invitation to meet in Vienna and help with the efforts.

After many months, Sebastian reveals his correspondence to Fannie. He wants to go but she’s upset and wants to leave those things behind. Fannie suspects Sebastian wants to find Nico, which is true. He claims it’s all about Udo Graf, but he also wants revenge against Nico.

The Little Liar Summary, Cont’d

Udo Visits an Amusement Park

As the war neared its end, America quickly identified Russia as the next big threat. Many escaped SS officers were invited to America for their experience fighting the Russians, in exchange for protection.

From Buenos Aires, Udo eventually receives an offer and ends up in Maryland, as George Mecklen, a Belgian. He feigns ignorance of the atrocities at Auschwitz, claiming he was a defense advisor who only visited. He condemns the atrocities committed by his countrymen.

Udo ingratiates himself to the American agent Ben Carter, becomes an unofficial spy and is set up with a regular life. He listens to wiretaps and makes up much of the information. He associates with his workmates, even going to an amusement park. He marries a typical American woman from the lab, Pamela.

Eventually, he reads of the Nazi Hunter from Vienna. Udo realizes he needs power to stop this man.

Agent Ben Carter had gone into politics and was running for the Senate in 1964. A woman he had done some diamond smuggling with is going to expose him, ruining his career. Udo kills her and earns himself a position on Carter’s staff.

The Envied Eccentric

Nico, now in California, breaks into the movie business as an extra and then decides to finance movies instead. His first project is a success. He continues to pick winners and becomes very valuable to the studio.

He’s haunted by his memories and guilt and has trouble keeping a normal schedule, but it’s overlooked. A reporter finds out that no Nathan Guidili (his assumed name) ever graduated from The London School of Economics. Nico covers with another lie and the studio kills the article. The next movie is a big success and Nico starts his own company.

The Heart, and What It Yearns

Sebastian moves the family to Austria. Fannie hates it there and won’t integrate with anything German. She focuses on raising Tia.

Sebastian is a security guard at night and works with the Nazi Hunter during the day. He advances at the agency and speaks with foreign governments. He becomes more distant with his family. When he misses Tia’s high school graduation, the rift is irreparable.

Tia leaves for university in Israel. Fannie leaves on a “trip”, but she and Sebastian know she’s not coming back.

Fannie has wondered about Gizella for twenty-five years. She goes to Hungary and finds her house, which is large and modern now. A nurse answers the door. Gizella is in a wheelchair and blind in one eye.

The Arrow Cross had beaten and interrogated her for three weeks. She was left blind in one eye and needing a cane. They have an emotional reunion and share some of their stories.

Gizella can afford the house and nurse because shortly after the war, a boy with red hair gave her a bag of money. He’s been coming every year with more on August 10.

That was the day Fannie’s train left for the camp. She calls Sebastian at the agency to see if he has anything to do with it, but he doesn’t.

Fannie goes to the Danube River. She talks to a man saying the kaddish for his daughter, who died there as Fannie nearly did. He tells her about Katalin Karady, whom he believes has a hat shop in New York.

Fannie goes to his office where he gives her money for the trip to New York. He feels like he’s helping his own daughter. He wants her to tell the world what happened here.

Three weeks later, Fannie is in New York.

The Little Liar Summary, Cont’d

Part V

She Laughs, She Lies

In the Bible, Sarah secretly laughed when an angel told her husband Abraham that they would have a son in their nineties. The angel called out her lie without revealing she thought her husband was too old. An act of deceit can also be an act of love.

Postcards from the Past

Fannie enters a hat shop and finds Katalin. She’s suspicious at first. They talk about the night at the river. Katalin has a list of the twenty-three children she took that night. With Fannie, fifteen of them are accounted for and alive. She doesn’t know any Nico.

Every year, those on the list get money on August 10. Katalin gives Fannie a stack of postcards she’s received announcing movie premieres. She says whoever made those movies is the boy she’s looking for.

Vienna, 1978

Sebastian works full-time with the agency. He goes weeks without speaking to his family. He hears of a planned Nazi march in Skokie, Illinois, which has a large Jewish population. Thinking former SS officers might attend, he goes to get pictures and observe.

Udo hears of the march and is proud. He has risen in the agency and is “special adviser” to the senator. He’s in his early sixties but has taken care of himself with regular exercise and good food and looks very similar. When the rally is moved to Chicago, Udo feels he can blend in safely enough to attend.

Udo was expecting an impressive Nazi military display. He finds a mob of anti-Nazi protesters. Those in Nazi uniforms are unimpressive and outnumbered. Furious at the indignity, Udo approaches and rebukes them.

Sebastian recognizes him and starts yelling his name. Udo walks off in the crowd, sending police officers Sebastian’s way. He gets on a bus and leaves.

Meanwhile, Sebastian loses sight of Udo and is cut off by the police and crowd. He was able to take many pictures of Udo.

He calls the Hunter who urges caution in pursuing Udo—the Americans might be forced to admit they harbored Nazis. He also calls the last number he has for his ex-wife, in California.

Hollywood, 1980

For the third time, Nico’s private projectionist plays a movie for him about a clown who was used to get children to board the death trains. In his guilt, the clown enters the gas chamber with a child.

Nico is one of the most powerful movie financers in Hollywood. He disappears a lot.

Did Fannie ever find Nico?

In 1968, she returned to Europe, not having money for more travel. In 1969, she visited Gizella for August 10. The man who delivered the money wouldn’t say anything. In 1970, she visited her daughter in Israel. In 1971, she assists Gizella. She confronts the delivery man again but gets nothing. In 1972, she visits her daughter and husband again and sees her new grandson. In 1973, she visits a Holocaust memorial. It brings back memories she can’t talk about yet. In 1974, she stays with Gizella whose health is failing. In 1975, Gizella dies.

In 1976, Fannie meets the redheaded delivery man with a gun. He’s the boy who shot the Nazi who came for the crates years ago. His description of the other man reminds her of Nico.

In 1977, Fannie goes to Los Angeles. She improves her English and learns about the movies. In 1978, she learns the movies were made by Guidili. She goes to his studio every week for eight months looking for a job. In 1979, she finally gets a low level job. She finds no one has access to Guidili and is rarely seen. In 1980, she becomes Guidili’s private projectionist.

Four Confrontations

Sebastian spends months building his case against Udo. He finally arranges a meeting with a Jewish US Senator.

Udo is on alert after his escape from Sebastian. He uses his contacts to keep tabs on him. One day in 1980, walking into Senator Carter’s building, he sees Sebastian in the lobby.

After her promotion, Fannie stays late and follows Guidili to an apartment in a poor neighborhood. She visits the place several times. One morning, he drives to a Jewish cemetery and wipes the tombstones. Fannie remembers when they did this as children, and she knows it’s Nico.

Nico has maintained distance with his subordinates. He associates regularly with no and tells endless pointless lies.

After viewing the movie, Nico asks his new projectionist why she said it was heartbreaking. He recognizes the young Fannie in this woman but doesn’t let on. He doesn’t ask her name.

The Little Liar Summary, Cont’d

Part VI

The Start of the Finish

A commemorative event is planned for March 15, 1983, in Salonika to mark the 40th anniversary of the first death train. It was Sebastian’s idea. He invites Fannie and Tia to come to it.

Sebastian had always envied Nico, and now, in his mid fifties, he’s still upset that everyone else had made excuses for Nico and worried about him.

Fannie sees Nico once a week in the projection room. They talk a little afterward but never acknowledge each other’s true identities. Fannie can see Nico needs to keep up his pretense of lies. She hopes eventually he will give in. One day she reveals she had hid with a Hungarian woman during the war, but Nico doesn’t open up.

Fannie follows Nico at times and sees his lonely life. She likes that he keeps the war buried.

One night after work, while Nico walks Fannie to her car in the rain, she trips. While she puts her shoe back on, they embrace and she kisses him again. He runs off.

Nico hears about the march in Salonika through a director who’s been in contact with Sebastian and wants to make a movie about the Nazi Hunter.

Nico has a sleepless night. He waits outside Fannie’s apartment in the morning. He tells her he has to go away.

Nico isn’t upset by the possible movie project. He’s been funding the Nazi Hunter for years. He’s worried about something that Fannie could not know. He kisses her and she stops their charade, saying both their names.

Udo has been in Italy for three years. Senator Carter told him he had to leave the country when incriminating pictures of Udo started circulating. He plans to be at the Salonika event with a disguise and a gun. He’s going to kill the Hunter and Sebastian for ruining his life.

Let Me Count the Ways

On March 15, a large crowd gathers in Salonika’s Liberty Square. Sebastian gives a speech about the horrors suffered by his people. The Hunter speaks as well. Everyone starts walking to the train station.

Fannie and Tia are among the marchers. Nico disappeared after their last morning together. She searched his office after he left, finding files of Jewish names, including hers. She wept, knowing Nico was never coming back. She didn’t know the truth from the lies.

Udo is also marching. He’s going to kill them at the station where he’ll have a better shot. He sometimes wonders what happened to Nico.

At the station, fifty yards up the track, there’s an original cattle car used to transport the prisoners. On the platform, relatives of the Jewish victims take turns saying their names and leaving a flower. The Hunter and Sebastian will come up last. Udo will shoot them then. He moves to find the best angle.

The Tracks Remember

Fannie and Tia are proud of Sebastian. He goes to the podium. Udo is forty feet away ready to draw his gun.

As Sebastian starts, a different man’s voice is projected through the loudspeakers. He admits to lying to everyone on this platform because he had been lied to and believed it was true.

He names Udo Graf as the worst perpetrator of horror against the people of Salonika. He claims Udo died a coward at the hands of a brave Jew. Furious at this slander, Udo tears off his hat and wig, contradicts the voice, and pulls out his gun.

Sebastian is tackled to the ground as the shots are fired. In the crowd, Udo is tackled and disarmed.

Nico had to draw out Udo; he turns him over to Sebastian to get justice. Nico says he thought his lies on the platform were true. Sebastian’s feelings soften and he forgives Nico.

Nico’s voice is weak. He has documents on him to incriminate Udo. Nico rolls back. He’s been hit and is bleeding badly. Fannie and Sebastian are with him as he fades.

The old boxcar stats to move and pulls into the station and the doors open. Nico looks and smiles as if everyone he loved is taking him home. Nico dies.

The Little Liar Summary, Cont’d

And Let Us Say . . .

A letter names Fannie as the one to close out Nico’s affairs at the studio. In the basement, there are rolls of film of Nico through the decades. Fannie and Sebastian watch as he tells his story from the war on. His money is to continue to go to the families of survivors on his list.

He thanks Fannie for making him feel loved. He explains to Sebastian that he was always trying to get back to the family. He stayed with Lazarre during his final days, posing as a doctor. He buried him away from the camp on land he purchased.

The fingerprint documents Nico provided against Udo, which he forged, force him to admit his identity. Through corrupt means, his lawyers secure a trial in his own country. Udo is looking forward to finally being back in Germany.

On the train to Frankfurt, he accepts a glass of wine from an attendant with white gloves and a necklace of rosary beads. Just outside Germany, Udo Graf dies from poisoning, just like Nico said, at the hands of a brave Jew.

. . . Amen

Truth needed a specific voice to tell this story that knew all the principal characters thoroughly. That narrative voice was Fannie—wife of Sebastian, lover of Nico and killer of Udo. She was twice asked to tell the world what happened; now she’s relieved of this burden.

I hope this summary of The Little Liar by Mitch Albom was helpful.