Germany's War Children: Background information when reading Fatherland

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A Memoir of War, Conscience, and Family Secrets

by Burkhard Bilger

Fatherland by Burkhard Bilger X
Fatherland by Burkhard Bilger
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  • Published:
    May 2023, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Herschbach
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About this Book

Germany's War Children

This article relates to Fatherland

Black and white photo of children playing in rubble in Berlin in 1948In Fatherland, New Yorker staff writer Burkhard Bilger chronicles his quest to understand his maternal grandfather's Nazi past—a past shrouded in mystery despite the fact that Bilger's mother, born in 1935, was old enough at the time to have memories of World War II and her father's role in it.

She remembered her father wearing his brown uniform with a Nazi eagle on the cap and black swastika on the sleeve. She knew he had been tried and imprisoned for war crimes. Yet she had never asked him what he did during the war. Even when she went on to study the history of the era as an adult, writing her doctoral dissertation on the German occupation of France and the Vichy regime, Bilger's mother couldn't bring herself to investigate her own father's role in the war or even to talk about the little she already knew. "It must have been torment to her, trying to square what she learned about the war with her memories of her father," Bilger writes. "How could he have been both the man ...

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