MY FATHER'S KEEPER: Children of Nazi Leaders—An Intimate History of Damage and Denial

Norbert Lebert, Author, Stephan Lebert, Joint Author, Julian Evans, Translator
Norbert Lebert, Author, Stephan Lebert, Joint Author, Julian Evans, Translator , trans. from the German by Julian Evans. Little, Brown $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-51929-8
Reviewed on: 07/30/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
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In 1959, German journalist Norbert Lebert set out to interview the offspring of former Nazi leaders—young adults with surnames like Himmler and Hess, Bormann and Göring. Six years after Norbert's death in 1993, his son Stephan, a journalist, discovered the interviews among his father's papers and set out to re-interview the children, now senior citizens. Gudrun Himmler and Edda Göring refused. But Wolf-Rüdiger Hess, Martin Bormann Jr., Niklas and Norman Frank, and Klaus von Schirach were all willing. This is a powerful book, masterfully conceived, brilliant and devastating. The original interviews are interspersed between Stephan's conversations with (or in the case of Himmler and Göring, about) the former young adults who sat with his father. Other chapters explore the parent-child relationship and the nature of evil as they emerge from those conversations. The depth and complexity of the parent-child bond is evident throughout the book, whether the child in question has embraced (Burwitz, Hess) or rejected (Niklas Frank, Bormann) the values and beliefs of the father. Because he's viewing events from a greater distance, Stephan is able to raise a number of wide-ranging questions—exploring the reasons behind the national outrage when Niklas Frank published a brutal piece detailing the depth of his hatred toward his father, former governor-general of Poland, and musing on the country's collective denial of individual responsibility during the war. There is much more to be written about the psychology and emotional life of the generation of Germans that fought WWII. But the Leberts have done a remarkable job of breaking a trail through the morass of repression and denial obscuring issues that will continue to disquiet future generations. 20 b&w photos. (Sept. 17)

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