The Women at Hitler’s Table by Rosella Postorino


This story is inspired by true events and the life of Margot Wolk. For whatever reason Margot chose to take her secrets and her story to her grave. I can imagine she perhaps felt guilt in some measure. She was the only one of the women to survive and they didn’t die of old age – her connections proved advantageous to her survival at the time. There was also possibly a feeling that she was one of the people keeping Hitler and his officers alive.

Rosa is picked by the SS to work in Hitlers Lair, as one of a group of women who taste the food before Hitler and his officers partake of the same meal. Make no mistake this wasn’t voluntary, and despite there being austerity and a lack of food due to the war, eating the food was no pleasure.

When a meal turns into a game of life or death each mouthful of food becomes a balancing act between culinary delight and painful death.

Postorino shows the eccentric and paranoid side of Hitler. The way he was consumed with fear, which in turn fuelled his hatred and anger. It has an element of Roman pomposity to it – taste my grapes peasant.

In a way I found it disappointing that the author didn’t actually speak to Wolk – this is actually the aspect of the story I felt was missing, because it lacks the authenticity of an eyewitness. There are moments that speak to the trauma, the ruthless methodology of the regime. Then there are others, which smack of gratuitous drama.

Don’t get me wrong, the read and the story that inspired the book, are absolutely compelling. Postorino gives life to one of the stories that vanish in the many folds of historical accounts.

Buy The Women at Hitler’s Table at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HarperCollins; pub date 14 Nov. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

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The End of Law: A Novel of Hitler’s Germany by Therese Down

end of lawDown does one thing really well in this story, she says it how it was. Regardless of the upsetting details, the horrific truth, the despicable depths humans were willing to go to just to get rid of unworthy humans.

Instead of the focus being on Karl and his crisis of faith, which is what I believe Down intended, the surrounding drama of domestic abuse drowned out that particular part of the story.

Aside from the personal family drama I think there could have been more focus on the struggle or indeed non-existent struggle of any of the perpetrators.

Guilt or lack of guilt, how do they or did they deal with their unimaginable cruelty, and the design and testing of their calculated killing machinery on a day to day basis?

The efficiency, the structure, the planning and the sheer scale of annihilation is still quite inconceivable, and yet it happened. Not only did it happen, but it took far too many years for other countries to intervene and stop it. Mass murder executed with the precision of a military siege. It’s what makes the Holocaust different from any other genocide or mass murder in history.

The research was sound and the details were remarkable, despite the gruesome and atrocious nature of said details. I especially enjoyed the trivia about a certain high ranking Nazi’s brother. Very interesting indeed.

Buy The End of Law at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

20555501My first experience with this book was via audio-book. When it was published I listened to this with my daughter over the period of a few weeks.

My children are trilingual, as am I, and German is the first language for my older children. So we both enjoyed the fact some of it was spoken in German, and most importantly it was spoken correctly with the right intonation.

The occasional Saukerl and Saumensch would make my daughter giggle, despite the seriousness of the premise. In its own way The Book Thief is quite witty even amidst all the tragic circumstances.

It tells the story of Nazi Germany from the perspective of a young girl. The reader experiences the world through her eyes,the emotions, the trials and tribulations. Simultaneously the book is narrated by the voice of Death. Obviously he is kept very busy during the Nazi regime. His pragmatic view and cold assessment of the situation. In his own way he is drawn to the story or life of this little girl, and follows her through the years via the death she is inevitably confronted with.

I completely identify with her book thief identity. Living in an era where it is a crime to read certain books and living in a regime that seeks to control all thoughts and actions. The books she acquires become her miniature universe, especially when she is taught to decipher the words and letters. Her anguish when she sees a mountain of books being burned and she endangers herself by saving one. Even the way Liesel establishes a relationship with Frau Hermann, by breaking in and stealing one book after the other from her library.

The other important aspect of this story is the way the family endangers themselves by hiding a young Jewish man in their basement.  Max and Liesel have a lot in common, especially the loss of their immediate families. Their relationship goes from mistrust, to wanting to keep him safe, to love. In the scene of ‘recognition’ it becomes clear just how strong their bond is, perhaps more so because he has become family. How important that is becomes clearer at the end.

It is a beautiful story. One that stays with you, and one you will probably come back to again, as I have.

Buy The Book Thief at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.