Employing a novel, gripping concept, German journalist Stephen Lebert re-interviews the children of prominent Nazis, and mixes the material with interviews conducted in 1959 by his journalist father, Norbert Lebert.
Stephen Lebert begins with a bizarre moment: a funeral in 1995 for Ilse Hess, widow of Hitler deputy Rudolf Hess. Conducting the service was Martin Bormann Jr. (once a priest), and among the handful gathered there was Heinrich Himmler’s daughter. Lebert moves to a general consideration of the lingering effects of the Reich: “Is there a single German institution anywhere,” he wonders, “without dark stains on the pages of its history?” Lebert then establishes his structure—alternating his father’s accounts of the Nazi children with his own interviews conducted some 40 years later with some of the same individuals. The effect is at once powerful and poignant; the innocence of little children is contrasted with the evil of their fathers, as the doting parent is revealed to be a human butcher on a scale that still tests the imagination, even as it ices the heart. Lebert begins with Wolf-Rüdiger Hess, who once declined to serve in the German military because his father remained in Allied custody in Spandau Prison. Today, the younger Hess (who is in his late 60s) contends that his father did not commit suicide in Spandau, but was instead murdered. In a creepy exchange, he reveals that he views his father as a hero, and that his own son has been setting up a Web site in Rudolf Hess’s honor. Martin Bormann Jr. also consented to a recent interview and recalls that Himmler’s secretary once showed him a copy of Mein Kampf bound with skin from the back of a human being. Not everyone spoke with the younger Lebert. Edda Göring refused, as did Gundrun Himmler (whose only interview of her life was with the elder Lebert), and Robert von Schirach (son of Hitler’s youth leader) died in a car crash.
Riveting portraits of the spawn of evil.