Drowning: Growing Up in the Third Reich

Gerhard Durlacher, Author, Susan Massotty, Translator, G. L. Durlacher, Author Serpent's Tail $12.99 (106p) ISBN 978-1-85242-282-0
At a New Year's ball welcoming in 1933, Jewish women dressed in all their finery are tricked into eating poisoned chocolates; townspeople sporting Nazi armbands cheer as brown shirts vandalize a store owned by Durlacher's family; schoolchildren welcome their teacher with cries of ``Heil Hitler.'' In Durlacher's ( Stripes in the Sky ) autobiography of his childhood, Hitler's insidious rise to power is seen through the naive eyes of a young Jewish boy growing up in Baden-Baden in the early 1930s. The mundane chores of everyday life, holiday and birthday celebrations and family vacations become increasingly infused with violence and a sense of impending tragedy for Baden-Baden's Jewish population. Written exclusively from a child's viewpoint, the book succeeds in avoiding self-pity and melodrama, but the narrative, often jejeune and overburdened with cliches, is stripped of any real emotional pungency. Saying good-bye to his Christian nanny/housekeeper, Maria, who is ordered home by her father for fear of Gestapo recriminations, Durlacher writes, ``She smiles at me through her tears, and I wave and wave until she drowns in my sea of sorrows.'' Readers get a sense of what the book could have been from the epilogue, when Durlacher, now an adult living in Holland, returns to his hometown to visit the Germany he left behind. Here, the words burst with rage, engaging the reader in a way the rest of the book does not. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1994
Release date: 08/01/1994
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