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The Dark Room - Rachel Seiffert
Member Name: duskmaiden
The Dark Room - Rachel Seiffert
Date: 18/06/07, updated on 19/06/07 (416 review reads)
Advantages: powerful, thought provoking
Disadvantages: not a beach read
"I murdered innocent people"
History can be a very difficult subject to study due too the cruelness of human beings. It is difficult to comprehend the need for power and the sheer disregard for human life when committing genocide and trying to eliminate a whole group of people. The Jewish pogroms, the Highland Clearances, the Russian Gulags, Pol Pot and the Khmir Rouge, and the ethnic cleansing in the former coroutines of Yugoslavia. The list is endless and unlikely to end as there will always be power mad dictators. Above them all there is Hitler's regime and the Holocaust. I have been to Auswitchz and read survivors testimonies but I still can not comprehend the sheer barbarity and the waste od human life due to the umber of people killed just because they did not fit into Hitler's twisted ideal of what an ideal German should be. Due to this it is difficult to see past the Nazis as cold blooded inhumane monsters. The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert challenges our perceptions of who the Nazis were.
This powerful, thought provoking book is less a novel more a collection of three seemingly unlinked novellas exploring German attitudes to the Second World Wat, the Nazi regime and the Holocaust.
The first story is set in Berlin before and during the Second World War. Helmut is born musing muscles in his chest and thus has a withered arm. Due to this he is not able to conscript in the German Army. Instead he becomes a photographer observing and documenting life in wartime Berlin.. I found this story the least emotionally involving as Helmut seems a little bit simple and although there are clues to the darker side of what was happening in Germany such as the exodus of people in trains and a snap shot of gypsies being herded up by soldiers Holocaust seems to affect him least out of the three main characters.
This is followed by Hanna lore''s story. Lore is twelve year old when Germany surrenders and is taken over by the Allied Forces. Her parents have some rank in the Nazi party and are taken prisoner. Hannalore and her younger siblings are left to make their own way across Germany to hamburg where their grandmother lives. During this journey Lore is confronted by the sceptre of pictures of skeleton people, half living, half dead just flung in pits. This story is a graphic account of a country left in chaos and in parts I found it difficult to read as these were innocent children coping with the deprivations of war. They ma have been children of Nazis but they were children all the same.
The third story is set in the present ad explores contemporary Germen attitudes to their very recent past. Micha is an ordinary German of my generation who has to face up to the possibilities his Opa (Grandfather) may have had a part in committing atrocities on the Eastern Front. It is interesting to note Micha's girlfriend Mina is of Turkish origin thus to a lesser extent exploring the changes in German society, Gast Arbetier, and multiculturalism in modern Germany. I found this story the most thought provoking as it is not just Micha's story but most German's s story now.
The book was made more powerful to me by the style it was written in. It is told in the third person using very stark and simple language. In Helmut's story there is almost no dialogge at all just his actions. I think the style was effective as flowery language would jar with the subject matter and dilute it. I think a first person narrative would have been unsuitable as the characters are not characters, more people representing the ordinary German in different periods of the twentieth century.
Rachel Seiffert is English born but is half German. The book was written as she wanted to explore the legacy of the Second World War due to her experiences at school where she was called a Nazi just because she has a German father. I found the book extremely thought provoking due to the implications and legacy of the Nazis on Germany. Yes it is unforgivable what the Nazis did. It sickens me just to think about it.Germany will never be able to forget its shameful past. However the Nazi party was made up of individuals and each of these individuals were someone's father, son, grandfather or husband. They were part of the war and committed atrocities but it is difficult for us to comprehend as we cannot understand what it was like living in a totalitarian state. We can not understand what it is like to live with those memories knowing you were a murderer or the possibility someone in your family could have been a murderer. World War Two only ended sixty two years ago thus there are still those who may have taken part in the atrociousness alongside the survivors of the concentration camps.r.
The Dark Room is a book I read for a book group however I probably would have picked it myself. I can not say I enjoyed or even liked reading Dark Room however I did not dislike it. It is a book I am glad I read but found it difficult in places due to the subject matter. It is definitely not a book for reading on the beach. However I would recommend Dark Room if you want a thought provoking read that challenges your idea of who the Nazis were.
I borrowed this from the library but you can get it on Amazon for £5.49
Summary: A powerful book about the legacy ofthe nazis