WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, DADDY? by Sabine Reichel

WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, DADDY?

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An extended, angryj'accuse by German-born Reichel, whose despair at Hitler's legacy led her ultimately to take up residence in America. At times this is a beautifully evocative inward look at what most postwar German children must have gone through as they struggled with the guilt of their homeland's bloody heritage. But in Reichel's hands this introspection becomes flawed by an unrelenting churlishness towards everyone German--crippled ex-soldiers, parents, teachers, successful businessmen who rolled up their sleeves to create the Wirtschaftswunder of postwar recovery. Reichel seems infused with some sort of unforgiving rage, and never quite strays from the acerbic tone of her introduction: "You want to scream, hide, tear your genes out, burn your passport, be a Martian instead of being part of these terrible people. . ." Her father's generation, she cries, are "contemptible aliens whom I regarded as cripples" (yet one senses that Reichel's inability to forgive her father has more to do with his being an egomanical actor, insensitive to the needs of a growing daughter, rather than his being Nazi--which he wasn't). The author attempts to reconcile herself to the past by interviewing some of her "cripples," such as ex-Wehrmacht soldiers, but even these sections are too heavily laced with her own subjective hatred, and she finds them too defensive about their military life ("They refuse to feel betrayed, for it would make them look like fools and tools"). Even now, as she approaches middle age, Reichel's only nostalgia for her far-off homeland is to be "homesick for the language." A hairshirt memoir for those who believe in neither forgiving nor forgetting the sins of the fathers.

ISBN: 8090-9685-4
Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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