An adoring young woman encounters Adolph Hitler when her youth group sings for him. He demands her company in private, and she becomes pregnant, bearing his child but never being contacted by Hitler again. The plot follows her life as an outcast believed to be lying about the child’s parentage, and the life of her son told through her correspondence, diary entries, and from the point of view of a researcher who writes a generation later. Based on facts and documented history, author Ron Merten tells this tale with just enough creativity to make the story fascinating.
Jürek Becker (1937–97) is best known for his novel Jacob the Liar, which follows the life of a man, who, like Becker, lived in the Lódz ghetto during the German occupation of Poland in World War II. Throughout his career, Becker also wrote nonfiction, and the essays, lectures, and interviews collected in My Father, the Germans and I share a common thread in that they each speak to Becker’s interactions with and opinions on the social, political, and cultural conditions of twentieth-century Germany.
Becker, who had lived in both German states and in unified Germany, was passionately and humorously active in the political debates of his time. Becker never directly aligned himself with either the political ideology of East Germany or the capitalist market forces of West Germany. The remains of fascism in postwar Germany, and the demise of Socialism, as well as racism and xenophobic violence, were topics that perpetually interested Becker. However, his writings, as evidenced in this collection, were never pedantic, but always entertaining, retaining the sense of humor that made his novels so admired.
My Father, the Germans and I gives expression to an exceptional author’s perception of himself and the world and to his tireless attempt to bring his own unique tone of linguistic brevity, irony, and balance to German relations.
Viewing our past through the eyes of maturity can reveal insights that our younger selves could not see. Lessons that eluded us become apparent. Encounters that once felt like misfortunes now become understood as valued parts of who we are. We realize what we’ve learned and what we have to teach. And we’re encouraged to chart a future that is rich with purpose.
In A Round of Golf with My Father, William Damon introduces us to the “life review.” This is a process of looking with clarity and curiosity at the paths we’ve traveled, examining our pasts in a frank yet positive manner, and using what we’ve learned to write purposeful next chapters for our lives.
For Damon, that process began by uncovering the mysterious life of his father, whom he never met and never gave much thought to. What he discovered surprised him so greatly that he was moved to reassess the events of his own life, including the choices he made, the relationships he forged, and the career he pursued.
Early in his life, Damon was led to believe that his father had been killed in World War II. But the man survived and went on to live a second life abroad. He married a French ballerina, started a new family, and forged a significant Foreign Service career. He also was an excellent golfer, a bittersweet revelation for Damon, who wishes that his father had been around to teach him the game.
We follow Damon as he struggles to make sense of his father’s contradictions and how his father, even though living a world apart, influenced Damon’s own development in crucial ways. In his life review, Damon uses what he learned about his father to enhance his own newly emerging self-knowledge.
Readers of this book may come away inspired to conduct informal life reviews for themselves. By uncovering and assembling the often overlooked puzzle pieces of their pasts, readers can seek present-day contentment and look with growing optimism to the years ahead.
Traces of My Father
William Radice Northwestern University Press, 2002 Library of Congress PT2667.A77V3813 2002 | Dewey Decimal 833.914
I recall the long solo journeys when I would think about my father: the Oberfeldarzt (Retired), the Reichsamtsleiter in the SS, the adjutant to Heinrich Himmler, the author of New Foundations for Racial Research, the man described by the chief prosecutor in the Eichmann trial as a 'desk murderer,' the man I knew: my father.
In 1979 Sigfrid Gauch published the groundbreaking Vaterspuren, (Traces of My Father), the first of the so-called father books about the relationships of postwar Germans with their parents. It inspired a new genre in German literature. Ever since, such writings have contributed greatly to Germany's ongoing struggle to overcome its own past.
This autobiographical novel is Gauch's attempt to come to terms with his father, Hermann Gauch, a physician who had joined the National Socialists in the 1920s, wrote six books of "race research" as a member of the SS, and to his dying day remained an unrepentant Nazi. The story alternates between the images of the elder Gauch's death and burial and the author's memories of childhood and adolescence.
Unlike many of the father books, however, Traces of My Father is less a political attack than a personal journey. Gauch, though honest about his father's monstrous actions and ideas, does not shirk their shared emotional bond. The result is a poignant attempt by a son to relive his father's notorious life and in doing so free himself from the man's influence.
In the Gaza Strip, growing up on land owned by his family for centuries, eleven-year-old Yousef is preoccupied by video games, school pranks, and meeting his father’s impossibly high standards. Everything changes when the Second Intifada erupts and soldiers occupy the family home. Yousef’s father refuses to flee and risk losing the house forever, so the army keeps the family in a state of virtual imprisonment. Yousef struggles to understand how his father can be so committed to peaceful co-existence that he welcomes the occupying Israeli soldiers as ‘guests’, even in the face of unfair and humiliating treatment. Over time, Yousef learns how to endure his new life in captivity – but he can’t anticipate that a bullet is about to transform his future in an instant. Shot by an Israeli soldier at the age of fifteen, and taken to hospital in Tel Aviv, Yousef slowly and painstakingly confronts the paralysis of his lower body. Under the ceaseless care of Israeli medical professionals, he gains a new perspective on the value of co-existence. These transformative experiences set Yousef on a difficult new path that leads him to learn to embody his father’s philosophy, and spread a message of co-existence in a world of deep-set sectarianism. The Words of My Father is a moving coming-of-age story about survival, tolerance and hope.