Holocaust books written from the German point of view have become a growing genre recently. Some examples are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld and Jeffery M. Green. Another novel worth reading is Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. The themes of his page-turner about a mother and her daughter are shame and memory. The primary characters are Anna, the daughter of a Nazi lawyer, and her daughter Trudy. Anna grew up in Weimar, Germany and reached adulthood just as the Nazis came to power. Trudy came to the U.S. as a child and became a professor of German history at a university in Minnesota.
The story alternates between Anna’s horrendous experiences in Germany at the hands of a Nazi official and Trudy’s efforts to learn about Germans during the Holocaust for research purposes. Trudy’s strained relationship with her mother discouraged her from interviewing Anna. At the same time, Trudy’s self-image was colored by her belief that her father (whom she never knew) was the commandant of a concentration camp. Trudy’s embarrassment about her parentage and Anna’s haunting memories of this Nazi officer give this tragic story a tense and uneasy edge.
The book reveals that many Germans (but by no means all) disapproved of the Nazi regime and tried to resist the it. The story uncovers some of the suffering and trauma that ordinary Germans endured during and after the Nazi era and shows that one cannot paint all Germans with the same brush. The Holocaust changed relationships between family members, neighbors and acquaintances. It created a new dimension that changed friends into enemies and vice versa. Many well-meaning Germans were haunted by the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust and also by their own inability to save them. Those Who Save Us is recommended for academic, synagogue and public libraries.