ONE LIFE

Tom Lampert, Author . Harcourt $24 (284p) ISBN 978-0-15-100716-5

The author, an American-born scholar living in Berlin, documents the Nazi era in Germany through eight largely unconnected stories of lesser-known figures—some perpetrators, some victims, one a vicious dog at Treblinka (or perhaps it's really about Konrad Lorenz, a former Nazi party member and later Nobelist who testifies on the dog's behalf). Despite Lampert's prodigious research, he is less than successful in meeting his intent "to alleviate some of the moralizing pressure... that make[s] it impossible to think concretely about... the Holocaust." He wants readers to see that not all perpetrators were evil, nor all victims innocent. Miriam P. is a young, criminally destructive Jewish psychopath executed by the Nazis in their roundup of mental patients. Erich B. is a ruthless SS executioner who loved his children and suffered greatly from physical ailments. The most nuanced and compelling chronicle is that of Karl L., who headed the Jewish police in Theresienstadt, obsessively pursuing stealing and corruption by prisoners; later, when accused of Nazi collaboration, he defended his actions as in the best interest of the inmates. But it's not news that some Nazis, like Wilhelm K. in the title piece, tried to save some Jews, or that some Jews may have collaborated with the Nazis. Does knowledge of this interfere with clear moral thinking about the Holocaust? Though his tales are fascinating, Lampert's purpose in telling them seems muddled. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
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Paperback - 300 pages - 978-0-15-603209-4
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