Category Archives: Germany

Review of The Wall Between by Jesper Bugge Kold

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A gripping and moving story of the former East Germany.

Andreas lives in Copenhagen and receives a letter informing him that his father who he has never met has been stabbed to death in Berlin, and that he has inherited his flat. Keen to understand more about the father that his mother wouldn’t speak of he travels to Berlin to discover more.

Jesper Bugge Kold combines multiple timelines and characters to produce a brilliant story of the GDR, the Stasi and relationships. This book reminded somewhat of the film “Life of Others” and anyone who liked the film or is interested to the former East Germany should read this.

It’s tautly written but with some almost cinematic descriptions of Berlin. I found it an absolute page turner and read it within a day which is unusual for me.

Highly recommended.

I received this book free from Netgalley and was not required to write a positive review.

Review of “Hitler’s Soldiers: The German Army in the Third Reich” by Ben H. Shepherd

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Fascinating revisionist history of the Wehrmacht

Ben Shephard pulls aside the curtain of respectability that many accounts of the German Army are cloaked in, demolishing the image of an honourable and decent fighting force compared to the SS.

In a detailed account he highlights countless occasions where the Wehrmacht are complicit in war crimes showing that many took part and a few notable exceptions complained. What some may find surprising is the early war conduct of some of July 21st conspirators.

However, the book is not purely about war crimes, but also about the combat performance of the Wehrmacht. Shephard shows how the early war effectiveness was eroded away once the gargantuan task of taking on the Soviets was clear and shows how the army still continued to retain its cohesion even when the outcome of the war was clear.

I’d recommend this for anyone who wants to read a more rounded view of the 3rd Reich and some insight into how ordinary men descend into barbarians.

I received this book free from Netgalley and was not required to write a positive review.

Review of ” The Cleaner” by Elisabeth Herrmann

I’m always wary of any title with “unputdownable thriller” in it , however this lives up to the billing.

Judith Kepler is an industrial cleaner. Got some serious stains?, she’s your woman. However one job results in her questioning her past and regenerating some uncomfortable memories.

This is a great thriller, with a strong female lead. The story keeps you guessing with the threads of Stasi, W German intelligence and cold war politics intertwining to provide with a very entertaining and stimulating read.

Highly recommended

Review of ” Stealing the Future: An East German Spy Thriller (East Berlin Series Book 1)” by Max Hertzberg

A fascinating alternative history of the two Germanys as well as a gripping thriller.

Max Hertzberg has come up with a fascinating alternative history of 1989 and after for Germany. It’s 1993, the Wall is open, however East Germany hasn’t been subsumed into West Germany. It has decided to stay independent and run the country via a grassroots participatory democracy, resulting in decentralising most decision making to neighbourhood committees in which everyone participates. However, all is not well in the new GDR as dark forces are trying to destabilise it.

The story revolves around Martin Grobe, a former dissident and now part of the Republicschutz, a post 9th Nov 1989 counter-espionage service which has responsibility for monitoring attempts to undermine the new East Germany. He is investigating the murder of prominent politician at a mine in West Silesia, a region looking to join West Germany.

The author certainly knows Berlin and East Germany well and captures the period in great detail even down to way the 1980s era S-Bahn train doors operate. However, what brings the story alive are the characters struggling to keep alive their dream of freedom, justice and equality in the face of corruption, West German pressure for unification and the dark forces that enforced the old regime.

Whilst some may see this book as some sort of left wing fairy tale I found the book stimulating and vastly different from standard spy thriller fare with its parallel exploration of political self-determination and de-centralisation of power.

Further books in the series are planned and I for one will be keen to follow how Grobe and the “new” East Germany fares further into the 1990s.

This book is currently free (as of Jan 2016) on Smashreads, link here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view…

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of “The End of Law: A Novel of Hitler’s Germany” by Therese Down

A powerful novel of moral choices in the Third Reich

The book revolves around the relationship of three people: Walter Gunter, a classic violent and sadistic SS Officer ; his wife, Hedda who is naive at first, but grows stronger as the book progresses; and conscience stricken SS officer, Karl Muller.

The Muller character is a fascinating one , an engineer and trainee doctor he is also part of T4, an SS managed program of euthanasia for the mentally ill and disabled. From a catholic upbringing he is repulsed by his work and decides to disrupt the program.

The character Muller is based on Kurt Gerstein a German SS officer who gave information to the Swedish diplomats as well as to members of the Roman Catholic Church with contacts to the Pope in an effort to inform the international public about the Holocaust.

The novel itself did seem slightly overlong, but did describe the moral dilemmas of cooperation and resistance to the Nazis effectively and powerfully through its characters. The tension builds well in the last third with the lead female character’s realisation of the complicity of her wider family in the T4 program.

It wasn’t until I reached the end of the book that I found out it was based on real people. Indeed I had initially thought the storyline a little far-fetched, however the end notes are particularly useful giving context and background to the non-military German resistance to the Nazis which are often overshadowed by the Stauffenberg Hitler assassination plot.

A powerful and well written novel.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of The First Nazi: The Life and Times of General Erich Ludendorff of Germany by William Brownell, Alex Rovt (With), Denise Drace-Brownell (With)

A powerful argument that Erich Ludendorff should be seen as one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century.

Brownell argues convincingly that Ludendorff’s World War 1 actions possibly added 2 years to that conflict and he was also directly responsible for the rise of Soviet Communism and Hitler.

Ludendorff believed that by sending Lenin is a sealed train to St Petersburg he would undermine Russia’s provisional post-tsar government and force a peace treaty. He was correct in that theory, but inadvertently fostered Stalin and the resulting 70 odd years of the Soviet Union.

Following the end of World War 1 Ludendorff propagated the “stab in the back” legend that became accepted as fact, in addition to a noxious cocktail of blame being placed on the Jews. Brownlee states that these two fictions directly created a climate that allowed the Nazis use these “stories” to seize power.

Where Brownell does struggle is with the paucity of information on Ludendorff’s family and home life. One wife ended up in an asylum and the other divulged very little in her lifetime. Much of his section on World War 1 appears to list the key moments of the war without any major insight into Ludendorff himself who remains somewhat of an enigma throughout the book.

Overall interesting and believable arguments as to why Ludendorff should be up there with Hitler and Stalin and questions what Europe might have been like without his influence.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Wow, what a book! Historical fiction at it’s very best.

Ruta Sepetys has put together a taut and gripping novel that has as it’s backdrop the harrowing exodus of German and Baltic civilians from the Red Army advance into East Prussia.

Told from the view point of its young characters this brilliant novel shines a light on one of the war’s most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff where by one estimate, 9,400 people died, which makes it the largest loss of life in a single ship sinking in history.

At first I did find the device Sepetys uses of switching between each characters narrative a little confusing, but you soon get to know them intimately as their secrets and back stories are revealed. The chapters are very short, but keep you wanting more. With a particularly poignant ending this is a book I will remember for some time.

As well as being a gripping story it is also extremely well researched with notes at the end showing where the reader can find further information on the historical background.

This is the first book that I have read by Ruta Sepetys but will definitely be looking out for further titles.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.