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The Women in the Castle


A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the...
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Discuss The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck:
Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?

Created: 02/10/18

Replies: 10

Posted Feb. 10, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

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Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?

Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?


Posted Feb. 11, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
catherynez

Join Date: 01/27/18

Posts: 16

RE: Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?

I think she was like most Germans at the time. She didn't know what was going on at first and then later when she saw more she was scared. I think most were hesitant to stand up for what was right because they knew they would be killed for their beliefs. It's hard to have courage like that. I would think she would feel terrible later about her inactions and not standing up for what she knew was right.


Posted Feb. 12, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
alycet

Join Date: 04/23/12

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RE: Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?

I agree with catherynez except for the word "most". Silent majority until it is too late.


Posted Feb. 12, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Gloria

Join Date: 03/11/15

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RE: Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?

I wouldn't say like most. How do we really know what most Germans thought? Perhaps by the time most knew what was going on, they were terrified to say or do anything. I do think many, many people were ashamed afterwards. I would like to think I would have had the courage to speak out, but how do you know what you would do until you are put in that position.

The big lesson is to pay attention to what leaders are saying and doing. And seek the truth.


Posted Feb. 13, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
nancyn

Join Date: 05/12/16

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RE: Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?

I think many of the Germans, like Ania, were seduced by the desire for patriotism that the Nazi propaganda presented and were unaware of the evils it was producing. Ania's actions were to protect her children, but later did bring her remorse and guilt. lThe question is: does one put country or family first?


Posted Feb. 14, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 229

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RE: Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?

The novel was the author's attempt to answer this question based on her research including family stories, and I trust that the character of Ania is true to the experience of many, who were struggling to survive and gradually found themselves in situations where they were shocked to realize what was really going on. And shock can lead to denial: as Ania says, she "half knew," and tried to forget. Fear explains why some likewise would respond, once they knew, by looking the other way, and it seems the majority did that, but not everyone; there was a German resistance besides this plot to assassinate Hitler. I suspect Herr Muller is another example of response, by trying to avoid personal cruelty but lacking courage to challenge the system and ignore the fact that others would do what the conscientious objector would not, again out of fear. Perhaps others went along, as is implied by Benita in her youth, and members of her family, out of indifference or due to poverty, economic stress and ignorance that was easily and deliberately manipulated by Hitler. The author also suggests there were people who had a motive for ignoring the truth or not asking too many questions: people who benefited from "redistribution" of the goods of the "untermensch," whether clothes or houses...or from jobs or business with the Nazi regime. (That's equally true of American businesses, by the way.)

It's hard to know what lays behind passivity-- probably a different mix of reasons for each individual; we have no basis for knowing about "most," only those individuals who left testimony of some kind about their experience. But where we can see film footage and photographs of citizens in action, that's another matter: Did all of those crowds turn out to cheer Nazis, or turn on Jews during Kristellnacht, out of coercion and terror? What about the voters who put Hitler into power to begin with? Some ordinary citizens at least can be seen to visibly embrace what was going on.

I think Ania was right to be ashamed because she had direct evidence, like Herr Muller, and chose to run away with no attempt to challenge the situation. People should always be ashamed of not doing the right thing-- but that's not to say it wouldn't have taken extraordinary courage to do so in that situation. Some folks had it, obviously most did not. We would all like to think we'd have done the right thing, I'm sure, but how many of us can be sure of that? Some humility and forgiveness is in order. At least Germans today own up to their ugly history and don't bury it. America doesn't.


Posted Feb. 15, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianac

Join Date: 04/02/13

Posts: 38

RE: Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?

I do think Ania was very much like most Germans of the period. It is easy to say now what we would or would not have done, but it is not a fair determination since we know so much more now than the citizens of Germany did at that time. It's important to remember that most of us make choices in our lives thinking they are the best choices at the time. Judgement after the fact is never constructive, in my opinion.


Posted Feb. 17, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Marie De

Join Date: 03/14/17

Posts: 4

RE: Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?

As a young person, Ania let her friend take the blame when they were caught “running away.” It is also significant that her friend was Jewish. She then tried to believe her own lie. If that were the only time she avoided facing the truth, it might be considered simply as childish weakness. However, it was not. She is definitely a weak and flawed character who should not be interpreted as representing “most” Germans of that time.


Posted Feb. 18, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jillw

Join Date: 02/15/18

Posts: 6

RE: Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?

I don't think we can say what "most" Germans of the period were like. I think we can say that certainly there were some who found themselves in the same situation as Ania - going along at the start because it seemed the right thing to do and then being appalled once reality struck and wanting to escape. I also don't think we can say it was "right" for her to be ashamed, it was certainly to be expected as she realized the magnitude of her actions and what she was once accepting of -- I think it was appropriate for her to be ashamed and remorseful. I think people, at the time, take the actions they consider correct for their situation - only they can judge right or wrong in retrospect.


Posted Feb. 18, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Carol Rainer

Join Date: 09/03/15

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RE: Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?

Yes - in the beginning with being happily married to Rainer, she went along with him, not realizing till later on that this wasn't the right road to follow. As the story goes on and she becomes aware of what Rainer believes in, she realizes how wrong he is, how evil the man she married is and how ashamed she is of being part of this union.


Posted Mar. 11, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kdowney25

Join Date: 01/25/16

Posts: 75

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RE: Do you think Ania was like most ordinary Germans of the period? Do you think she was right, later in life, to be ashamed for her actions during the war? How do you think you would have reacted in her place?

It's easy for us to be judgmental 70 years later. The events in Germany at that time are still horrific to think about today. We think: How could these things have happened? How could people have let this happen? There was a line in the book (p. 337) that particularly stuck out to me that I think explains what Ania, and probably so many other Germans felt. "This is what Ania will pay for: not only her inaction but her self-deception, for narrating away evil while staring it in the face." I think very few people fully believed these heinous acts could even happen. After all, who would do such a thing? The turning point for Ania, I believe, was when she knew she was unable to save those two babies.


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