A TIME FOR RAPE by Inga L. Chesney


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Some of the hordes that come are worse than others. Some of them are Mongolians with harelips and mean-looking slit eyes. . ."" recalls Mrs. Chesney, a 17 year-old witness to the Russian's capture of Berlin. Her household cringes in the basement during the siege, then flees to the suburbs. Looting, savagery, and rape are ubiquitous; two pro-Hitler boarders are shot by the Russians. The only good Russian is Paula, a Ukrainian captured by the Germans, who says she loves Germany and saves the group from Russian predations but is finally forced to return to the U.S.S.R. At last the genteel British arrive and Inga gets a job with the occupation forces. Interspersed in this chronology are memories of Jews with yellow stars and boarding school and the philosophy of Papa, a bureaucrat, who said as he joined the National Socialists, ""A political viewpoint does not feed the family -- a job does."" Inga expresses horror at the looting committed by Paula's countrymen but doesn't blink when Papa sends a gold watch home from German-occupied Denmark, nor does it occur to her that Paula herself was abducted. Beyond the Russians-are-beasts theme, the attempt to recreate first-person horrors runs aground on a monotonous naivete and simple-minded moralism that underestimates the complexities of adolescent sensibilities; this is compounded by a narrow focus on the family which tends to blunt the actual miseries and horrors of the situation. The Soviet capture of Berlin has often been described and since no attempt is made here to balance personal experience with historical judgment, the narrative has little abiding interest.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1972
Publisher: Prentice-Hall