Martin Rubin reviews a book that is in my ever growing TBR pile: GOOD NEIGHBORS, BAD TIMES: ECHOES OF MY FATHER’S GERMAN VILLAGE By Mimi Schwartz. He notes that the author didn’t want to write just another Holocaust book:
Holocaust historians warned her not to rely on what people told her but to concentrate on records. “But as storyteller, not historian,” writes Ms. Schwartz, “I liked how one person’s memory bumped another, muddying the moral waters of easy judgment.”
The reader will indeed be glad that she did things her way, for the result is a fascinating picture, atypical of so much written on the subject. Blessed with good antennae and a skeptical mind, Ms. Schwartz is not an innocent abroad. Never gullible or credulous, but open to the evidence of her own eyes and ears, she is an ideal guide to her father’s lost world, which for so long she resisted.
Oddly enough, considering what a relatively benign spot her father’s hometown turned out to be, she has chosen to give it (and other associated places) fictional names. But perhaps the reason she found the people of Benheim (as she calls it) so forthcoming in talking to her was this sensitivity to their feelings.
“What will make your book different from other Holocaust books?” she is asked. “‘It’s not a holocaust book,’ I say as I do to everyone who calls it that . . . . I’m really more interested in how good people lived through and with Germany’s past.'”[. . .]
It is a measure of her nuanced approach and refusal to settle for pat, simplistic answers that her book finds and genuinely values a rare point of light in that darkest of times without ever exaggerating its overall significance.
Sound like a fascinating read. Not suprising coming from the folks at the University of Nebraska Press.