Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Think of the children and what they've been through

Book: My Father’s Keeper

Authors: Stephan and Norbert Lebert

Publication: 2000 (Little, Brown and Company)

Pages: 243

I never like to mention my interest in Third Reich Germany. Even just typing that makes me feel creepy. And I feel like it makes things worse when I explain that I’m interested in it because it’s part of my heritage.

But that’s true. My grandma—my Oma—on my mother’s side is German. (Almost fifty years over here and she’s still got a wonderfully thick accent.) She was a teenager over there during World War Two. She never talks about it. I don’t know how she feels or how she felt about any of it.

I told my favorite high school teacher this one time, and he asked the exact right question: “Does that make you more interested in it or less?” More. I want to know what it was like to be in such an explosive time of history.

That’s why I pick up books like My Father’s Keeper for prices like $2 at places like the Augusta/Richmond County Library friends of the library used book store. I can’t check any books out there because I can’t get a library card there because technically, I don’t live in that county. But that is beside the point.

Which brings me to the storytelling aspects of this. I really liked the concept: the author’s dad was a journalist who interviewed the offspring of high-ranking Nazis in 1959 about what it was like growing up in the very middle of the Third Reich. The author followed up his dad’s interviews in the late 1990s to see how the last forty years have affected these same people.

But I never got the human aspects I wanted to see. It sounded like there was a set list of questions the author went down asking in order, and then wrote the answers in a list-in-paragraph form instead of teasing out the unique bits of each person’s story. The thing is, he tried to do that, I could tell, but the stories started sounding the same anyway. Wives and sons and daughters detained for questioning, Hitler as a smiling godfather, either extreme guilt and attempted distancing or fierce protection of their fathers’ ideals—I would want to see these shared characteristics analyzed in one chapter, at the beginning, then a focus on individuals and their own details.

Also, this book was translated to English from its original German. I’m automatically wary of translations because language is a tricky bastard when you’re jumping from one to another.   

This book jacket makes me uncomfortable.


  1. Very interesting topic. Are you familiar with Sophie Scholl and the White Rose? I only learned about her a few months ago.

  2. Huh. No, I hadn't heard of her before your post. The 2009 book about her looks really interesting. How'd you find out about her?