THE CAPTIVE DREAMER by Christian de la Maziere


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La Maziere, a Frenchman, volunteered for the Waffen S.S. in 1944, rejecting La Resistance. After undergoing a Spartan training, he was taken prisoner behind Soviet lines, was eventually returned to France as a collaborator, was tried and sentenced to five years. His book, spurred by The Sorrow and the Pity, is an attempt to come to grips with his past. It fails. His youthful dream of ""action and adventure"" and his predilection for purity -- ""They struck me as strong, courageous beings without weakness, who would never become corrupt"" -- explain his commitment to the S.S. only in part; we seek less obvious motives. Whatever those may be -- and La Maziere offers no suggestions -- the responsibility for becoming a part of the most execrable war machine in history lies squarely on the shoulders of anyone who chose the S.S. He hopes for exoneration: rather than admitting a monumental error in judgment, rather than confessing his complicity, he seeks to portray the thrills of the moment -- the excitement and agony of battle, the atrocities of the Russians and the horrors of French prison. It's just a war story -- even now La Maziere falls victim to La Grande Illusion -- followed by a prison story. His concern is events, not motivation or responsibility. He tries to grasp the larger issues: ""Death is a part of revolutionary action, which in itself is an act of love to which one is totally committed, and not one where one calculates consequences. Consequently, what rules are relevant? . . . There is man, and that is all; there are those I like and those I do not."" An evasive and disturbing book.

Pub Date: June 26th, 1974
Publisher: Saturday Review Press/Dutton