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The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert
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The Dark Room (2001)

by Rachel Seiffert

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There are many books which were written about World War II and the effects of it on the second and third generation of survivors: from missing relatives to the secrets surrounding the families. "The Dark Room" written by Rachel Seiffert, a daughter of a German mother and an Austrian father, presents a new perspective. This book is composed of three novellas and introduces the reader to the effects of the Second World War on the Germans and their descendants. Particular emphasis placed on the murder of the Jews as part of the war - the Holocaust.

The book confronts the progeny and the reader with the question of the responsibility of the offspring for the actions of their parents. The book raises the question of how much the children and grandchildren of the Germans should bear responsibility and the consequences of actions they didn't commit themselves. The book exposes the reader to the guilt and confusion of those who discovered that their loved ones were involved in terrible deeds.

The "dark room" and the family photos presented during the three novellas and the book's construction play an essential role for the reader. These pictures displayed along a timeline: during the war, a little later and in our later days.

This is a fascinating and challenging book, the writing is beautiful and attractive, and despite its complex issue, it's difficult not to break away from the problematic context sometimes and sail in a terrible imagination as if it were a story that didn't happen.

***It's important to remember that the debate over intergenerational responsibility for actions that cannot have influence or responsibility can still take place in contemporary contexts. Bloody conflicts all over the world raise the question of whether those who were children during the war should pay for their parents' actions. ( )
  IVOLOKITA | Jan 9, 2019 |
2001 "novel", which I have to frankly say is not a novel. These are three independent stories, whose only commonality is their focus on individuals whose lives are largely determined by the disaster of Nazi Germany, whether immediately or, as in the third story, at a distance. The first entry, "Helmut" (45 pgs), centers on a boy, born with a mild but significant deformity, to a couple in Berlin. They see their affluence rise from harsh times in the early 1920s to relative security through the middle 30s, tellingly in lockstep with the Nazi rise. Helmut is denied army inscription, becomes a budding photographer under a kind mentor, and then war takes its horrible turn for Berliners. Not great for me as I couldn't find sympathy for Helmut. Next is "Lore" (107 pgs), a very good short novel set at the time of German surrender, in which Lore and her younger siblings are left alone after their Nazi parents (as is highly inferred) are captured in the western, American quadrant, with only the instruction from their mother, "take the children to Hamburg", to their grandmother's (Oma's) home. Tense and authentic-seeming adventure ensues. Lastly, "Micha" (119 pgs), brings us to modern day (late 90s) Germany, where an inquisitive college prof becomes enraptured by his effort to find out if his SS-Waffen grandfather was a ruthless killer during WWII in Belarus. I'll leave it there, but an affecting story, though I sense that it could have been pared down as a more effective short piece. Sieffert writes in a brisk manner, sometimes curtailing sentences and tending toward short dialogue exchanges. For me, "Lore" was easily the strongest here. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Apr 10, 2017 |
'How do you tell the difference? When he's Opa and when he's a Nazi?', 30 Dec. 2013
By
sally tarbox

This review is from: The Dark Room: World War 2 Fiction (Paperback)
Three utterly engrossing short stories, set in Germany and - unusually - looking at the War from a German perspective. In the first, a disabled young man lives a solitary life, working in a photography shop while his peers go off to fight... The middle story follows a young girl, shepherding her young siblings through post-war Germany to find her grandmother, when her Nazi parents are imprisoned...While the final, and perhaps most heart-rending, is set in the modern day, and concerns a young teacher trying to find out and come to terms with the truth about his grandfather, once a member of the SS stationed in Belorussia:
"Micha shuts the photo album, tells himself, he was a soldier, but in his head he inserts the photos from the museum. Thick pages; a whole album of atrocities between the honeymoon and the newborn boy." ( )
  starbox | Jul 9, 2016 |
I've read a couple of novels that lacked dialogue and they didn't work. The first chapter of this is proof that it can be done; it must just be very difficult. When the dialogue does come in the second chapter it's presented idiosyncraticly and made me relished how unnecessary speech marks and attribution are, in the right hands.

That first chapter is beautiful, like a series of silent snapshots. There's some very subtle and clever writing in the second chapter. Overall, I think there was something missing from the novel, and having read her later, and far superior, novel, Afterwards, I know it's a central character, a nexus, to bind the tricolon together. Still, she gets an extra star for tackling such a difficult subject. ( )
  Lukerik | Apr 1, 2016 |
(8.5) ( )
  HelenBaker | Jun 19, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 009928717X, Paperback)

The Dark Room tells the stories of three ordinary Germans: Helmut, a young photographer in Berlin in the 1930s who uses his craft to express his patriotic fervour; Lore, a twelve-year-old girl who in 1945 guides her young siblings across a devastated Germany after her Nazi parents are seized by the Allies; and, fifty years later, Micha, a young teacher obsessed with what his loving grandfather did in the war, struggling to deal with the past of his family and his country.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:00 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The Dark Room tells the stories of three ordinary Germans: Helmut, a young photographer in Berlin in the 1930s who uses his craft to express his patriotic fervour; Lore, a twelve-year-old girl who in 1945 guides her young siblings across a devastated Germany after her Nazi parents are seized by the Allies; and, fifty years later, Micha, a young teacher obsessed with what his loving grandfather did in the war, struggling to deal with the past of his family and his country.… (more)

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