FOREST OF THE DEAD by Ernst Wiechert


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This is a more significant piece of writing than his The Girl and the Ferryman (Pilot Press- P. 107- bulletin 2/15) -- a book that grew out of the bitterness of his own experience as a prisoner of the Nazis in Buchenwald. This is the story of a German poet, who in his integrity resisted the pressure of the Third Reich in 1938. As a political prisoner, he saw all freedom vanish, experienced all the infamies possible, and in Buchenwald, saw the cruelties suffered by the Jews. The perversions of a slave state, the mental tortures and lower depths, are feelingly depicted, as the poet, Johannes, realizes the terrible road to which his country and his people have committed themselves. The physical ruination by Nazi forced labor is grimly described, and with the complete collapse of his health, through the efforts of family and friends, he is released at the cost of silence. Following the author's own, personal experiences, this is virtually autobiography, but the third person technique provides a more objective telling of the story, a finer delineation of the despair, which is lightened, infrequently, by the unpredictable help, friendliness and wholesome beliefs of some of his companions in misery. Not in hatred, nor in the hot flame of anger, this constitutes an epitaph to the prelude to the last war.

Publisher: Greenberg