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A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli
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A Meal in Winter

by Hubert Mingarelli

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1321391,104 (3.92)15
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Early one morning, in the dead of a Polish winter, in the middle of WWII, three German soldiers set out to hunt for Jews in hiding in the woods. They requested the task, having reached the point of being unable to continue with the shootings. They set out, on that cold morning and walk for some time. During the day they will encounter two men, one of whom will walk away. They will also share a meal with those two men.

This is a novella of surprising depth. It's a simple story, told straight-forwardly, but it leaves a lot to think about. ( )
1 vote RidgewayGirl | Nov 26, 2017 |
Short and compelling, A Meal in Winter tells the story of three German soldiers hunting for Jews in the winter Polish landscape. They find one hiding in a hole and take him into custody, but then they decide to rest in an abandoned hovel and pool their meager resources to make a meal. Everything becomes about the food and the meal until the little group is joined by a passing, anti-Semitic Pole who adds plenty of tension to the situation.

I'm not sure I can explain why this book is so compelling. On the one hand this spare story is beautiful and haunting, on the other hand it is devastating and, as one reviewer put it, unconsoling. It may end up my book of the year. ( )
1 vote avaland | Jul 7, 2017 |
A heartbreaking short novel by a French author. It rewards careful reading and made me think of Solzhenitsyn at times--his sense of the oppressive, constant pressure on those existing within a totalitarian regime. I have been reading many histories of WWII in Europe over the past ten months, and I have become aware that, sadly, antisemitism predated the Nazis; it was rampant in Europe for centuries, and remained very much alive in the 19th and 20th centuries. Also, the "average" German was commonly not against persecution and/or murder of Jews wherever they were found, as long as it could be done discreetly, without too much public bloodshed. One interesting book is "Hitler's Willing Executioners," which discusses both the Germans and the non-Jewish residents of occupied countries who willingly and often eagerly destroyed Jews. The Nazis did not initiate or create antisemitism, rather they harnessed it. One thing I remember is that there are documents showing that the Nazis typically did not force German troops and residents of occupied territories to work in execution squads against their will for the most part, and that they would find other work for those who objected to murdering Jews. Unfortunately, non-Jews had convinced themselves, against reason and against all the evidence to the contrary, that Jews were a problem in their communities and in their countries. This mindset made it so much easier for the Nazis to enact their pogroms and genocide. The brilliance of this short novel is that the author condenses the broad political and personal aspects of this murderous reality and exposes the humanity of both the persecutors and the persecuted. ( )
  eowynfaramir | Feb 2, 2017 |
This short novel is both insidious and devastating – but you have to read it. It is insidious, because it tries to get you to empathise with three members of one of the Nazi “einsatzgruppen” operating in Poland during the second world war; and it is devastating because it illustrates how one group of human beings can convince themselves, and maintain the conviction, that others are less than human. The novel describes a day in the lives of one of the death squads that went out hunting and murdering Jews hidden in the forests. Rather than describing them as the archetypal heartless Nazi killers that we have become all too familiar with, the author treats them as real people, each with their own individual needs and problems. I found myself fighting the temptation to sympathise with their concerns.

Hitler’s propaganda machine prepared the way for the Shoah by the relentless repetition of the message that Jews were “untermenschen”, sub-human. It was this that allowed regular Germans to participate in mass-murder or – at best – close their eyes to it; and this same tactic has since been used by the perpetrators of other genocidal projects, like the Serbs’ in Bosnia and the Hutus’ in Ruanda. The apparent empathy with which our author strives to get inside the hearts and minds of the three SS protagonists – in contrast to the way that the Jew in the story is treated purely as an object with no subjective presence - in the end serves to expose the lies and the excuses. No one was really taken in by the propaganda; it served their own interests to pretend to believe it; but it required conscious effort and awareness in order to maintain that pretense. ( )
1 vote maimonedes | Nov 20, 2016 |
In sparse, precise language, Mingarelli tells the tale of three Germans out hunting Polish Jews in order to avoid an activity which makes them sick--the mass shooting of Jews who have been brought into a camp. They are ordinary men doing truly terrible things. They know they are doing terrible things and it makes them sick. In the meantime, they worry about eating, and staying warm. They aren't hateful anti-semitics, but friends who care about each other and are just trying to get by the best they can in a horrible situation. However, when given the chance to do something humane, they choose to do what is easiest. It is a disturbing, but rather remarkable book. ( )
  eachurch | Aug 31, 2016 |
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One morning, in the dead of winter, three German soldiers are dispatched into the frozen Polish countryside. They have been charged by their commanders to track down and bring back for execution 'one of them' - a Jew. Having flushed out the young man hiding in the woods, they decide to rest in an abandoned house before continuing their journey back to the camp. As they prepare food, they are joined by a passing Pole whose outspoken anti-Semitism adds tension to an already charged atmosphere. Before long, the group's sympathies have splintered as they consider the moral implications of their murderous mission and confront their own consciences to ask themselves: should the Jew be offered food? And, having shared their meal, should he be taken back, or set free?… (more)

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