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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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


IN 1945, Germany underwent a radical political transformation, moving certainty and irreversibility from dictatorship to freedom under a model federal constitution. But despite this remarkable public success, and the economic revival that accompanied it, the experience of war remains current in the imagination of Germans. Indeed, so total was their defeat, so complete was their culpability, that Germany's obvious dynamism has coexisted with the always open wound of their history. The fact that this wound exists and has been felt so deeply for more than half a century, has altered what has usually been thought of as "the German character". This book gathers together the best of Gitta Sereny's writing on Germany from over sixty years. She writers about key individuals - Stangl, Speer, and the questions that their lives raise. She addresses the questions of war guilt, both among children of the high Nazis and more generally. She also deals fiercely with the Holocaust deniers.

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9780140292633: The German Trauma: Experiences and Reflections 1938-1999 (Allen Lane History)

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ISBN 10:  0140292632 ISBN 13:  9780140292633
Publisher: Penguin, 2001

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Published by Allen Lane (2000)
ISBN 10: 0713994568 ISBN 13: 9780713994568
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
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