Journalist Bruhns explores the life of her father, a German officer executed in 1944 for his complicity in the plot to assassinate Hitler.
To understand how Hans Georg Klamroth could have joined and then become disenchanted with the Nazis, the author, who was six at the time of his execution, has studied family letters, diaries, photographs and old home movies. She likens the prosperous Klamroths to Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrook clan. Her research showed that HG, as he was known, served in the Prussian dragoons during World War I, worked abroad in Curaçao and Denmark in the family business and enjoyed an upper-class life of parties, women and horses in a militarist, nationalist milieu. At first HG viewed the rise of the Nazis with concern, but he joined the party in 1933. Bruhns reports with distaste that he did not object to the Klamroth clan’s written assertion of Aryan purity, nor did he protest book burnings or punitive anti-Semitic laws. In World War II he served first in Poland and then with German counterintelligence in Denmark. The author speculates that he aided the Danish resistance while there, and that when he served in Russia he became disillusioned about Hitler’s management of the war after the disastrous siege of Stalingrad. In 1943 he was back in Berlin, tasked with “preventive nondisclosure protection of military research projects,” in the dense prose of translator Whiteside. Bruhns is not certain who confided in her father about the plot to kill Hitler (she doubts it was his son-in-law, as claimed during the trial), but as a member of military intelligence, “saying nothing ha[d] become second nature”; he did not report the conspiracy. After the assassination attempt failed, he was arrested, swiftly tried and convicted, then hanged with deliberate slowness, so it took 20 minutes for him to be strangled to death.
A disturbing portrait of one segment of German society in a time of national crisis.