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Götz and Meyer by David Albahari
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Götz and Meyer (1998)

by David Albahari

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David Albahari’s book, Götz and Meyer, which at first glance seemed like a book I wouldn’t even want to tackle, turned out to be one of the most fascinating, poetic reads of the year. Without paragraph or chapter divisions, the story tells of an aging literature teacher in Serbia remembering the methodical elimination of Jews from the city of Belgrade, Yugoslavia, by the Nazis in 1942. Götz and Meyer (or were they Meyer and Götz?) were the Nazi officers charged with transporting Jews from that city via truck to an undisclosed, but promising, destination. Their many truckloads of human cargo never reached their destination alive due to a clever Nazi plan to quickly and quietly eliminate Jews en mass.

During the story, the unnamed narrator becomes more and more depressed by contemplating and researching the missing leaves of his family tree. He thinks about the two Nazi officers who had no particular characteristics to distinguish one from the other and wonders how they could have so casually carried out their evil work. As a teacher, he is also charged with helping his present-day students understand this dark period of Serbian history.

This is fiction. It reads very quickly and easily despite its unusual written form. As a background for this story, David Albahari based what he wrote on historical facts gleaned from “archival material, encyclopedia entries, newspaper articles, books, and studies”. This book, with its vivid details, came so alive for me that I paused while reading it to dig through my family archives to see how the deaths of my own maternal grandparents, living in Yugoslavia in 1942, fit into the picture the author was presenting in this novel.

For those who are not put off by the despair of reading Holocaust literature, this is a must read. It humanizes one very geographically small area of death and destruction by the Nazis during World War II. I read these books in small doses. I do, however, have the need to continually explore fiction such as this mesmerizing novel from time to time as it puts human faces on a situation that can only be described as inhuman. ( )
11 vote SqueakyChu | Dec 3, 2010 |
During the Summer of 1942, the majority of Jews living in Serbia were executed in large trucks especially adapted to fill with carbon monoxide by order of the Nazi's. The narrator of this story is a descendent of that generation and most of his family were killed during that year, taken from a concentration camp in Belgrade in large trucks in the hope they were moving to a better place. All the narrator knows at the beginning of his journey is the names of the two German soldiers who drove the trucks, Gotz and Meyer.

This novel has a very strong narrative voice which alongside the absence of Chapters and paragraphs makes the book very difficult to put down; doing so feels like an interruption to the narrator who smoothly takes us from the past to the present, from inside the truck to his classroom, from the minds of Gotz and Meyer to his own.

Like all important novels dealing with the atrocities of War, Albahari meditates on the importance of not forgetting, the power of putting yourself in someone elses shoes, the weight of memories and the importance of language.

An excellent book everybody should read. ( )
2 vote dayends | Aug 21, 2009 |
168 pages, no paragraphs. The narrator is a teacher who is documenting & trying to comprehend his family's fate at a camp outside of Belgrade. The title characters are the SS men who drove a truck from the camp to a burial ground, over & over, with about 100 people in the back on each trip who were killed by CO2 along the way. The narrator imagines who the SS men were & what they were. At the end he tries to tell his students so they will remember.
  franoscar | Jan 5, 2008 |
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Gotz and Meyer. Having never seen them, I can only imagine them.
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But, in times of war, it is best, if you are not a direct participant, to know as little as possible, because this is at least a tiny victory over a reality that is the same for everyone, regardless of political conviction.
She compared history to a big crossword puzzle. For every little square you fill, there are three more empty, she said, and even if you manage to fill them, new ones open up immediately, even emptier. Knowledge can never catch up with the power of ignorance.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156031108, Paperback)

Götz and Meyer, two noncommissioned SS officers, are entrusted with an assignment, “not a big one,” but one that “requires efficiency.” Their task is to transport prisoners from a concentration camp near Belgrade in a hermetically sealed truck, in which they are asphyxiated. 

The nameless narrator of Götz and Meyer, a Jewish school­teacher, discovers Wilhelm Götz and Erwin Meyer while researching the deaths of his relatives. Overwhelmed by the horror of his discoveries as they become entangled with his own feverish imaginings, he organizes a class trip. The school bus becomes Götz and Meyer’s truck, and the teacher and his students merge with Belgrade’s lost souls in a sacred act of remembering.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:04 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Gotz and Meyer, two noncommissioned SS officers, are entrusted with an assignment, "not a big one," but one that "requires efficiency." Their task is to transport five thousand women, children, and elderly, one hundred at a time, from a concentration camp near Belgrade in a hermetically sealed truck, in which they are gassed. As Albahari's anonymous narrator, a teacher, obsessively pursues the truth of this systematic annihilation, he shares his finding with his students. Their school bus becomes that truck, and as the memory of Belgrade's lost Jewish souls is evoked, the students are bewildered. Their teacher, worn down as much by the task of making history come alive as by the toll his research has taken on him, is overwhelmed by the horror of his own imaginings."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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