A short story collection about German life during World War II.
Roegner introduces his collection in an academic manner, creating the notion that his book is an account of real-life details as experienced by ordinary Germans during WWII; “These people were not absorbed in ideology,” he writes. “This book is a collection of their stories…stories based on memoirs and actual people.” From this description the reader comes to expect anecdotes, but Roegner's reconstruction of the stories lessens their impact due to the author’s flat tone and lack of narrative flair. The text contains a significant amount of factual, historical content but presents this content without the aid of a strong authorial voice, frequently telling the reader of the characters’ experiences rather than dramatizing them within the various narratives and breathing life into history. Despite the drab presentation, however, Roegner’s book is useful in that it offers missing links of perspective; “These stories should help share with an English-speaking audience some of the output of recent, grass-roots efforts by German families and small town institutions to piece together the bits and pieces of their often silent past,” he writes. And the book certainly achieves that. It is a worthwhile read in as far as it contains points of information that give insight, especially to Americans of German descent searching for clues to their past. “Gerta [thought] back to her endless hours in the bakery or the bunker in her early teens,” Roegner writes during a dance club flirtation between a German and a Swede. Details like this open a window onto the era, and perspectives from those such as a lonely post-war secretary or an elderly survivor provoke the reader’s curiosity. Unfortunately, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the work would have read better as nonfiction, as Roegner’s style is dry and sedate.
Worth a look for those on a hunt for as much information on everyday WWII Germany as possible, but as a work of prose, the stories fall flat.