The German Trauma: Experiences And Reflections 1938-1999 (Allen Lane History)

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9780713994568: The German Trauma: Experiences And Reflections 1938-1999 (Allen Lane History)
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The German Trauma 1938 - 2000:

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For over 50 years Gitta Sereny has been a one-woman truth and reconciliation committee for post-war Germany, inserting her needle every so often to make sure that no one should forget the crimes of the Nazis and to measure the ambient climate of acceptance and regret. The German Trauma is a collection of these investigations, loosely tied together with an autobiographical thread. Few writers are better placed than Sereny to examine the German conscience and few do it as well. She attended a Nuremberg rally in 1934 at the age of 11 and has had her hooks into the pernicious influence of Nazism ever since. She is perhaps best known for her brushes with Albert Speer, whom she eventually persuaded to admit what he had previously denied: that he had known of the Final Solution. But there are other Nazi apologists and sympathisers here, too--David Irving, Kurt Waldheim, Leni Riefenstahl and John Demjanjuk--and none escapes the Sereny probe. For all that, Sereny is never less than scrupulously fair. She only wants her pound of flesh and takes no more. Those who admit their wrongdoings are blessed with some forgiveness; only the deniers are taken to the wire. The converse of this is that Sereny allows few grey areas into her analyses; there is merely good or bad, wrong or right. One could argue that Nazism permits no other approach, but humans are rarely that two-dimensional. For most of us, there is no one final leap into evil but rather a continuum of quantum collusive jumps. So when Sereny tells of those who stood up to Nazism, she intends to parade them as ordinary bastions of good with which to bash all those who failed to measure up to such ideals. A more telling way of looking at them might have been to give them a quasi-saintly status, and to view those who failed to measure up as mere fallible mortals. But then one is often left feeling with Sereny that she needs or rather is desperate to paint a picture of a Germany that stepped so far over the moral abyss that it can never be repeated. You can't quibble over the morality, but sadly you can over its abnormality. And there are signs towards the end of the book that Sereny has just begun to understand this. Nazism isn't a one-off; it is being acted out in variant forms in Serbia, Kosovo, Rwanda and Iraq. And with a desperate irony that would not be lost on Sereny, the Israelis can themselves no longer claim any moral high ground in their treatment of the Palestinians. Maybe that's where she will turn her attention next. --John Crace

About the Author:

Gitta Sereny had an enormous impact with her biography of Albert Speer, ALBERT SPEER: HIS BATTLE WITH THE TRUTH (1995: 37,000 hardbacks, 58,000 paperbacks) and her biography of Mary Bell, CRIES UNHEARD (1998: 18,000 hardbacks so far). She is also the author of INTO THAT DARKNESS (1972).

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Sereny, Gitta
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