Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Third Reich Literature

I am currently reading Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Lost, but that will be a later review. However, reading this book, combined with my recent trip to Central Europe, has me thinking about other “Third Reich Literature.”

I recently came across this description. I have more commonly heard these books referred to as “Holocaust Literature,” but I feel hesitant to use the phrase (and felt disturbed using “Genocide Literature” in my recent research) because it seems to almost diminish the importance of the term. Yet, using Third Reich feels equally inappropriate.

That being said, Holocaust or Third Reich Literature is prolific. Because of my interest in Ukraine, which was occupied by the Nazis, I have read a lot of it. You cannot be interested in one topic without the other.

Here are a few books I would highly recommend on the topic:

  • The Book Thief: I reviewed this masterpiece (yes, masterpiece) a few weeks ago. You can read more about it here.
  • Behind the Secret Window: This memoir is a shorter and perhaps less upsetting read. Behind the Secret Window is Nelly Toll’s memoir of being a child in hiding during the German invasion.
  • Everything is Illuminated: I have referred to this novel by Jonathan Safran Foer several times. It is one of those books, though, that is so good it has stayed with me since I first read it in 2002. The book is told in two alternating parts. In one part, Jonathan Safran Foer (the fictionalized author) returns to Ukraine to visit his family’s shtetl. In the other section, Foer recounts the history of his grandfather. To be perfectly honest, I am not nearly as interested in the sections about the grandfather. The writing is very stylistic and the grandfather's exploits as a great lover do not interest me. But the parts about Jonathan, as narrated by his tour guide Alex, are so “premium” I could read them over and over again.
  • A Strange and Unexpected Love: A Teenage Girl’s Holocaust Memoirs: One of the difficulties of learning about genocides is trying to comprehend how people could and can act so viciously. Fanya Gottsfeld Heller’s memoir is a moving account of these atrocities. However, Heller also pays tribute to those few people who risk their lives to save hers. She reveals small glimpses of humanity in the most inhumane of circumstances.

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