As the granddaughter of Nazis, Jessica Shattuck tackles these questions with an earnest desire and clear moral compass to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the Germans while exposing the possibility that there are levels of blame and guilt. During the war, not all Germans were Nazis. Resistance fighters, rebel conspirators, informants, Nazi sympathizers, Nazi party members-all Germans. Some opposed the war, the Nuremberg laws, the anti-semitism. Others were enthusiastic Nazis who supported Hitler’s agenda.
More than any other art form, writing allows us to climb inside a character’s soul, to reveal her inner life to us, her thoughts and motives, desires and justifications. As we turn the pages, we find ourselves feeling empathy for a character we know has done bad things. Suddenly judgement becomes sympathy. Focusing on three women with different backgrounds and varying ties to the Nazi party, Shattuck unveils how their lives converge during the war with survival as the only shared goal, sisterhood taking on life or death significance. But in the post-war years, as their pasts catch up with them, the wartime survivors discover they cannot escape what they’ve done, discovering time and silence will not heal the results of morally blind decisions.
Time and distance can provide clarity and perspective but never forgiveness. Forgiveness must be offered and accepted, and some histories don’t allow for either—the women of the castle discover this truth firsthand.
This review originally posted on Jason’s website, jasonsquirefluck.com.