Yes I know it’s that time of year, but it’s not the furry one with the red nose, oh no.
For too long I’ve been marooned in Paraguay, having opened the intriguingly titled At The Tomb Of The Inflatable Pig, which tells us of John Gimlette’s travels in Paraguay. It’s one of his earlier works but more recently Gimlette’s gained some plaudits, and prizes, with his Wild Coast being the Dolman Travel Book of the Year in 2012.
It took me a while to get round Paraguay and at times I considered setting it aside for a while. But once he escaped the city and headed for the boondocks, he began to meet some interesting folk. For Paraguay has been an escape for generations. There are Aussies who now can’t speak English, and names redolent of the Scottish highlands whose ancestry is all but lost. And there are the Welsh; and the Germans.
It was when Gimlette found himself in a German enclave, and on the trail of Mengele and others who should have been shot, that I knew where I was going next.
Hanns & Rudolf has been on the shelf for a year or so now. It is a book that was subject of some discussion over at The Guardian’s weekly Tips, Links & Suggestions blog, a resource to be enjoyed and added to by all avid readers. And I remember some posts suggesting some inaccuracies, some dissatisfaction even, but the time was right and in I delved.
Rudolf is better known by his surname, Hoess (not to be confused with Hess), and I have read his own narrative, forced out of him when, as Commandant of Aushwitz, he was awaiting trial. Hanns was also a German, and a Jew.
The story is told by Thomas Harding, cousin of Hanns Alexander. He takes us from the early days of both parties, through WWI and into Berlin, into the 30s and a changing world. Hoess heads to Auschwitz, to create the vile cesspit it became; and Alexander saw his family broken apart and separated. His father sold his medical practice, at fire sale price, and managed to get to London after paying the appropriate exit price. Kristallnacht and Kindertransport join the world’s lexicon
Despite the reservations from contributors to The Guardian it is proving to be a good tale well told, and rips on at a pace. That said the worst of the horrors still lie in wait for me, but I’m intrigued as to how it develops with Hanns’ quest to track down Rudolf, and What Happnes Next.
I’ll be sure to let you know. But already I’m pretty certain this volume will find a place in the holocaust-related section. This is no misery memoir to be avoided.
And as it happens it is a timely piece hereabouts, having waited on the moment. For just the other day did not The Gamellawallah suggest a little trip, and Berlin as No 1 option. It may happen, and if so it will be good. There may be a tale to tell. But it is The Gamellawallah… I’d like to add another of those Meisler statues to the one from our last little jolly.
Meantime have a hugely enjoyable festive, and may your Bedside Table be groaning. I should have some new reads to discuss in the months ahead. If not there may be trouble…