Helga was not to see her mother, Traudi, for another thirty years. In fact, Traudi had been a fanatical servant of the Fuhrer. During this meeting, Traudi showed complete indifference to her grandchild.
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Her chief interest was in proudly displaying her SS uniform to her daughter. She offered Helga a handful of heavy gold jewellery, stolen from Jews it might come in handy one day and revealed that she had participated in the exterminations at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is actually an account of the final, two-hour meeting she and her cousin Eva had with Traudi in , twenty-seven years later. She had been behaving in increasingly bizarre ways: purging recently purchased items from her apartment, cleaning obsessively—floors flooded with pail upon pail of water, attempting to order coffins for her dead children, and regularly getting lost in the city.
She was now in a home for the aged and likely had little time left. If Helga wanted to see her. Helga made the journey.
Her book details the intense, emotional confrontation she had with her mother, a true believer if there ever was one. I know of no other written text that details the kind of encounter Helga Schneider had with Traudi. I wish that the author had documented how she initially managed to find her mother at all and that she had also provided more information about her childhood, adolescence, and her life after the meeting. View all 10 comments. At times it was difficult to continue reading this book.
I stayed with it because of the mother-daughter connection. It would be hard not to feel revulsion toward oneself, knowing you were spawned by such a despicable creature. It sickens me just to think I'm a member of the same species as Helga Schneider's mother. We're not really the same species, though.
I am homo sapiens and she was homo monsterus horribilis. It's bad enough that a woman would abandon her two small children without At times it was difficult to continue reading this book. It's bad enough that a woman would abandon her two small children without hesitation or sorrow.
Worse that she would do it to serve pure evil. Helga's mother left them so she could join the SS and be a guard at Birkenau. There she selected people to be murdered, and participated in unspeakable acts of torture. She later worked at Ravensbruck, helping the "doctors" with their brutal experiments on Jewish prisoners. Many years later, when Helga confronted her mother about those WWII atrocities, the old woman had not one twinge of regret or remorse.
With glee and pride, yes, PRIDE, she recounted the crimes she committed against thousands of innocent people. May 30, Michelle rated it it was amazing. This is a deeply compelling and disturbing chronicle of a daughter's final visit with the mother who abandoned her decades before in order to become a prison guard at Auschwitz. The author wrestles deeply during the visit as she seeks to understood what possibly could have motivated her mother to make the choices she did.
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She weaves in her personal history as she attempts to relate to and reconcile with the senile stranger she hasn't seen more than a handful of times in 30 years. She probes her This is a deeply compelling and disturbing chronicle of a daughter's final visit with the mother who abandoned her decades before in order to become a prison guard at Auschwitz. She probes her frail mother in the lucid moments as she seeks answers to questions that have haunted her since childhood.
How far will the author push her mother and how much manipulation from a still unrepentant woman will Schneider tolerate in the hope of hearing remorse from a woman who personally herded prisoners into the gas chambers? It's an emotionally exhausting test of wills that examines where an individual draws her own boundaries, where she is willing to compromise, and the outcome of such deeply personal choices.
This is an intense read but well worth it. Feb 19, Denis rated it really liked it. An important, emotionally intense and difficult book, which should be requisite reading for anyone trying to understand what happened in Germany during the Nazi era. It is, basically, the portrait that a daughter makes of her own mother, an unrepentant and ferocious jewish-hater Nazi who, decades after the fall of the regime, still hangs on to her despicable beliefs.
The frankness and discomfort of the author are heartbreaking. She tries to reach out to her mother when the latest is gravely ill, An important, emotionally intense and difficult book, which should be requisite reading for anyone trying to understand what happened in Germany during the Nazi era. She tries to reach out to her mother when the latest is gravely ill, despite the fact that she despises her, and also tries to come to terms with her own guilt.
She partly fails, of course, because it is impossible to come to terms with pure evil - although one can imagine that writing this book has been a necessary cathartic experience for her. It is a courageous book: writing about your own parent like this is not easy. It also illuminates one of the most troubling aspect of the Nazi era - which is actually universal: how evil lies in the most ordinary people, and how anyone, really, can become a monster.
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It is chilling and horrifying - some gruesome revelations are even shocking. Schneider's writing is simple and direct, as it should be with such a subject. It's the kind of book that haunts you for a long time. Sep 12, Kelsey Hanson rated it really liked it Shelves: biographies-autobiographies-memoirs , nonfiction. This is a short, but incredibly intense book about the author's attempt to connect with her former SS mother before she dies. My heart goes out to the author.
This book was hard to get through at times, I can't imagine living it. The author's mother is completely unrepentant about her actions during WW II and a complete believer devoted to Hitler's ideologies. The author struggles to deal with both the abandonment of her mother in an especially challenging time period as well as coming terms to This is a short, but incredibly intense book about the author's attempt to connect with her former SS mother before she dies. The author struggles to deal with both the abandonment of her mother in an especially challenging time period as well as coming terms to the terrible things her mother did in the concentration camps without any sign of remorse.
I consider myself fairly well versed when it comes to WW II, but I was surprised to learn about the dehumanization training that SS guards had to go through to more or less make them immune to their victims' sufferings. As far as Holocaust stories go, the descriptions are not especially graphic, but oddly disturbing in their stark medical language. Hearing it from a woman who was proud of her SS career and the vile things she did is quite haunting.
Though this does give me an idea of how deeply brainwashed some members of the party must have been. What a strange read. I felt conflicted most of the time when reading this account. The style of writing is nothing special, but the content is quite haunting, though not in a good way.
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This is the account of an obviously confused and troubled daughter who has been abandoned by her mother when a small child so that the mother could serve Hitler in the SS. Helga the daughter, and writer , though in her 50s now, has understandably been tormented by imaginings of what her mother did and saw as a What a strange read. Helga the daughter, and writer , though in her 50s now, has understandably been tormented by imaginings of what her mother did and saw as a guard at Birkenau, and also by her own resentments about the personal impacts of the loss of her mother on her adolescence.
This is the record of her apparently final visit to her mother in a nursing home, and the conversations that took place in that two and a half hours or so. Its hard to know if I'm being unreasonable in considering Helga to possibly be mentally ill - I suppose it would be difficult for her to be otherwise.
It's one of those situations in which we all are at our worst - seeing our mothers whom we have never forgiven and trying to pick the scabs of our old wounds and fears, whilst being revolted at what we are bringing to the light of day. I'm sure Helga is quite capable of behaving normally in everyday life - and frankly I too regress back into childhood much to my regret when my mother visits, so this resonates quite well with me I have to say my mum is a pussycat compared to this lady!
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It feels uncomfortable to visit Helga's mother with her, and to see not just the cold calculation of the SS guard that she was, but also the almost perverted curiosity of Helga about issues such as whether the Jews from the gas chambers were ever cremated whilst still alive, especially when they cut back on the quantity of crystals used to kill them, or her more understandable questions of how her mother managed to reconcile her conscience with the gassing of tiny children.
I feel like a peeping tom, dragged into uncomfortably close examination of the shocking dirty unresolved washing of this relationship. It is an interesting examination, at the end of the day, of the damage done to Helga, and although there are some interesting insights into the rationalisations of those serving the Fuhrer, there are few surprises in her mother.
Helga sends us back through flashbacks into episodes from her childhood which have some bearing on the stories her mother tells, some of which are guilty secrets of the influence of the regime on German children to hate Jewish people. But overall, this is a bit like a flirtation with insanity and the obscene, and I'm not altogether glad that I have read it, as much for the unflattering truths that are revealed about Helga, as for those of her mother.
Nov 22, David rated it really liked it. This is a gripping and heart-wrenching memoir, that "spoke" to me on several levels. The author was born in Poland in , and grew up in Berlin. When she was only 4, her mother abandoned the family to join the Nazi SS cause. She worked in the concentration camps, assisting in the work of genocide. Her daughter learns the terrible truth years later and spends decades of her life with no contact with the mother, until learning that she is becoming senile and weakening in a nursing home.
She This is a gripping and heart-wrenching memoir, that "spoke" to me on several levels. She reluctantly goes to visit for a final conversation; most of this book documents the revelations of that day. It's a complicated investigation of emotions, motivations, relationships, conscience, confession, and self-understanding. How does a person accept a mother who participated willingly and gladly in the most horrific acts possible? How does a mother repair the wounds of abandoning her own daughter?
How do you see through senility to find the true heart of a person? How does anyone understand the cruelty and bigotry that were at the heart of the Nazi atrocities? In some ways, listening to this book was a draining experience; but it was also fascinating and thought-provoking. The narrator of the audiobook is fantastic, especially in her portrayal of the old mother. A rather unsettling book. It kept me the whole time balancing between sympathizing and detesting the MC. Possibly the awful facts that it gives testimony of and the figure of the mother cruel and senile; manipulative and longing for love makes it a hard book to digest.
Simply brutal. I listened to it on CD and had to stop listening several times. First, there's the reality. The mother was an SS guard at birkenau concentration camp. The book includes details of atrocities to Jewish men, women and children that are very difficult to hear. I listened because I never want to forget. Unfortunately, more difficult to hear was the daughter's voice.