Category Archives: Holocaust

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.

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Review of ” Girl in the Blue Coat” by Monica Hesse

Powerful and poignant YA historical fiction.

Set in German occupied Holland the story is told through the eyes of Hanneke is a young teenage girl works on the black market. In the course of her work around Amsterdam she is asked to find a missing Jewish teenager.

Impeccably researched and at times very moving Girl in the Blue Coat is a very readable story about the frailty of human nature through love, hate, jealousy, and friendship.

Monica Hesse knew little of the period or the location, but through diligent research has recreated World War 2 Holland down to food and the language and interactions of the period.

Highly recommended for anyone who enjoyed The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.

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 ” Devastation Road” by Jason Hewitt

A lyrical and cinematic story of memory, redemption and the importance of belonging

Jason Hewitt’s latest book tells the tale of Owen who in Spring 1945 wakes in a field in a country he does not know injured and suffering memory loss. He sets out on a moving trek in search of his home, his past and himself.

Hewitt’s style makes you feel like you are watching a film. His language and imagery express deep personal emotion in a way rarely seen in writers and his writing is rightly compared with Pat Barker and Sebastian Faulks.

A book that will stay with you as it builds to a powerful finale.

One of the best novels I’ve read this year.

Review of ” The Incidental Spy” by Libby Fischer Hellmann

A fascinating fast paced historical thriller.

Set in the 1940s this short story (180 pages) portrays a strong woman beset by tragedy and circumstance and forced to spy on the atom bomb research project that she works for.

The lead character of Lena shines throughout and Libby FIscher Hellman appears has done her research well capturing the paranoia and claustrophobia of the period.

I really enjoyed this and will be looking out for further of this author’s books.

Review of ” The Book of Aron” by Jim Shepard

Powerful child’s-eye view of the hell that was the Warsaw Ghetto.

Jim Shepard has produced an oddly dispassionate child’s-eye view of the Warsaw Ghetto. I say oddly because the most shocking incidents are described in such a matter of fact way which both underlines the innocence of children, but also the normalcy that violence became in those times.

This short book packs a massive punch as Aron describes his descent into the hell of being Jewish under Nazi rule in Poland.

Not one for the faint hearted, but a worthy addition to the many books detailing this dark period of history.