Friday, April 30, 2010

disaster tourism

I’m reading Every Man Dies Alone, a story set in Nazi Germany. It’s about a couple that launches a show of anonymous defiance after their son is killed in the war. I know many people who love WWII and holocaust stories. Because they’re so dramatic. Because they’re so good guy/bad guy. Because they’re so goddamned sad.

Still, my colleague F. says this book sounds depressing. Most Germans don’t like to read WWII books because they’ve had the moral lesson pounded into their brains at school. They prefer someone else’s disaster, like Vietnam, and here she tells me about the Vietnam vets who weren’t allowed to return to America because they were addicted to heroin. I said I didn’t know that, that seemed odd to me. But apparently her husband reads eagerly on this topic. So whether or not it’s true, I guess most people would rather not have to identify too closely with dishonor. Except Americans don’t avoid VN books, digrace or not, do they? The genre is lively and literary and Tim O’Brien is its King.

Germans are just weary of being the Nazi nation. They’d rather be something else now. I get that, but it doesn’t snuff the fascination. Sometimes when reading a WWII book in the UBahn I hide the cover because I feel I’m insulting everyone. And then I think, you know, you worry too much about this stuff and you’ll never have any fun.

Not that the lovely cover of Every Man Dies Alone gives away anything. When the book came out it was heralded as a literary event. Honestly, it reads more to me like a B-Movie, but not in a negative way. It’s very dramatic, and the good and bad guys are easy to identify.

As an end note, on this day in 1945, Hitler committed suicide. After all that, nothing like dying a coward.

song of the day: picnic


Kass said...

There is a certain beauty in horror.

Elisabeth said...

So Hitler committed suicide ten days after his birthday, which as I understand was on 20 April. There's a certain sad symmetry to that.

Thanks for these fascinating thoughts.

Kathleen said...

Coincidentally, I was inside the German U-Boat that serves as a war memorial at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on Friday, April 30, the day you posted this entry. American submarine veterans at the museum volunteer there and led our groups on tours, and then museum staff took us inside the u-boat. The U. S. veterans spoke of the German prisoners of war with great respect, I noticed, and were pleased that two returned to the U.S. and became American citizens. They also made a careful distinction: this was a German u-boat, not a Nazi u-boat, as casual speakers often say, who might forget that the country is not the political party, despite the behaviors of the time.

SarahJane said...

Wow! I've never been in a German UBoot. I imagine it wasn't easy for Germans in America after the war, but probably many wanted to get out of Germany.

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