Fifty firecrackers

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December 8, 2007 by Tracey S. Rosenberg

I’ve mentioned before that researching World War II can be pretty depressing. Here’s another example!

(Digression: This is a writing blog, so I’m trying to keep the entries relevant. Please feel free to wander over to Plattie‘s blog, where she talks about wearing knickers over her tights in the days when she wore a school uniform. Note to anyone who finds this entry through a Google search: I never wore a school uniform, and I do not write about knickers, so just click the link and save yourself any disappointment.)

Today’s quotation is from Gerald L. Posner’s Hitler’s Children, in which he interviews many children of Nazi leaders. Not the best example of this particular niche, but worth reading for the wide range of responses that children have to learning/coming to grips with the fact that their dad was the Butcher of Poland, or whoever. I suspect this is a microcosm of the post-war response, but don’t yet have enough info to draw those connections, so I’ll wait. Something to look forward to!

The following quotation is written about Niklas Frank, the youngest son of Hans Frank, Governor-General of Occupied Poland, who was tried at Nuremberg and executed in 1946 for war crimes and crimes against humanity:

As a youngster, encouraged by his aunt’s belief in reincarnation, Niklas once thought he found his father reincarnated as a neighbor’s dachshund. After two frustrating weeks of talking to him and getting no answer, Niklas tied fifty firecrackers around the dog and blew him up. “I guess it was how I was feeling about my father,” he says.

One of those passages I keep turning back to in horror. Why? Partly because of the details – not overloaded, but precisely used. Fifty firecrackers. Not a dog, but a dachshund. Bold statement that doesn’t try to be dramatic or force any emotions on you. And that final quotation, an adult man (who wrote a book excoriating his father) looking back at being a child so tormented that he not only yearned to believe that his father was a dog, but killed him.

One more point. The following is the paragraph that ends the chapter:

“But I must thank him [Norman, his older brother] for letting me get to the facts He allowed me to see the crimes of Germany and what our father had done. We share these thoughts, those of all the people killed. They are pictures in our brains, and we must both live with them to the end.”

‘Pictures in our brains’, ‘crimes of Germany’ – meh. What if Posner had turned things around and managed to end with the story about the dog?


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Photo credit: Rahima Subhan

Tiny bio

I live, work, and write in Edinburgh. I travel to other places as much as I can. To contact me, email writingmostly at gmail dot com.


CURRENTLY READING: The Ginseng Hunter by Jeff Talarigo.

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