PURGATORY OF FOOLS: A Memoir of the Aristocrats' War in Nazi Germany by Tatiana Metternich

PURGATORY OF FOOLS: A Memoir of the Aristocrats' War in Nazi Germany

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A young and beautiful Russian noble in French exile from the Bolsheviks, Tatiana was urged by her mother to study in Nazi Germany, and presently found a job among the duster of aristocrats in the Foreign Office. She also found a husband in cavalry officer Paul Metternich, who managed to spend most of the war looking after his estates in Czechoslovakia and the Rhineland. Not active members of the Resistance, the Metternichs nevertheless saw Nazism as a threat to ""our way of life,"" but as Tatiana explains, ""In international European families, events are treated as a climatic condition. . . you stayed to face the consequences."" When the Red Army approached, however, the family trekked 600 kilometers with their faithful retainers, and found assistance against Western suspicion from ""our Captain Mullen,"" an Allied officer. At book's end Tatiana has repossessed the vast, bombed-out Johannisberg estate and re-established ties with the British royal family and other friends and relatives. Metternich writes with girlish enthusiasm and self-confidence about her nannies and FabergÉ eggs and the pleasures of shopping in Prague during WW II; if anything, she may deliberately stretch her own ingenuousness and political simplicity, which become rather painful when she refers to ""the tidal wave of retribution. . . reaching the moral elite of Germany."" When she writes, ""one always knew the war had to be lost,"" she is more credible than when praising her friend Princess Sophie of Greece without mentioning the latter's Nazi activities. It's the kind of book that will find a wide readership, and it undoubtedly gives a very fresh if sometimes repellent portrait of one ""international European family.

Pub Date: May 18th, 1977
Publisher: Quadrangle/New York Times