DROWNING: Growing Up in the Third Reich by Gerhard Durlacher

DROWNING: Growing Up in the Third Reich

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A subtly compelling, fast-paced memoir of the Nazis' coming to power, told from the point of view of a perceptive child. In this second book, a childhood memoir, Durlacher describes growing up in the German town of Baden-Baden from 1933 through 1936. He masterfully captures the eerie unreality of the initial years of Nazi rule with painful clarity. Before Hitler becomes chancellor, the boy recalls doing normal things, like being fitted for a sailor suit, lighting Chanukah candles, watching his parents dress elegantly for a New Year's ball. But later his neighbors cheer the demonic men wearing brown shirts and helmets who march through the streets under flags with swastikas. He looks on admiringly as his aunt defies the Brownshirts, scrubbing away the stars of David painted on the outside of the family furniture store. One feels the increasing aura of menace that alters this boy's world: The windows of the hotel of friends of his family are smashed; his mother's non-Jewish cleaning lady, whom he adores, stops coming to their house; his father loses his business clients; the family makes plans to move to Holland. (During the war, Durlacher was incarcerated in a Nazi concentration camp and later returned to Holland. Durlacher recounted his wartime experiences in Stripes in the Sky, not reviewed.) The imaginative young Durlacher sees the Brownshirts as ""devils stamp[ing] their hooves,"" led by a man on horseback who resembles ""the cruel knight"" in his book of fairy stories. Not just a moving recollection but a powerful indictment. Durlacher lays the blame for the destruction of Jewish families like his own at the feet of those ""countless Germans, indifferent or paralyzed by fear, [who] watched us drowning before their eyes.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
Page count: 108pp
Publisher: Serpent's Tail -- dist. by Consortium