Litany of horrors

Rachel Seiffert’s latest novel explores suffering under the Nazis, but sometimes leaves Jews as an afterthought.

August 10, 2017 20:32

Ukrinian forces welcome Nazi officers 1941. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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Who is entitled to write about the Holocaust? Should anyone be allowed? Is a German writer on her own quest to rid herself of the shame she carries from her own family’s horrific legacy the best candidate? Rachel Seiffert’s grandfather was in the Brownshirts and then served as a doctor for the Waffen SS. Her grandmother was an enthusiastic and active Nazi Party member. Seiffert, now middle-aged, grew up in Britain, where she remembers being bullied for being German: something she understood as being flawed and defective.

Her own mother remembers looking out the window as a small child and seeing people being rounded up and being scolded by her grandmother. Yet Seiffert remained close to her grandmother throughout her childhood, often returning to Hamburg to spend lengthy vacations with her. She would marvel at the watercolors on the walls of her grandmother’s home that were painted by her grandfather and listen to her grandmother talk about him with affection about his love of the German fatherland.


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