Ten characters caught in the Nazi debacle

Nazi. Who says Nazi ?, asks a member of Hitler’s party, while looking for traitors of work or thought, in the long end of the war. A word with a derogatory accent, and in those final days, accusing. The Russians have entered, after a year of harassment, in East Prussia, a Soviet steamroller who arrives after winning the bloody battle of Stalingrad. and break the fences and genocides of Nazism. In the first war the Russians behaved well, those who live in that singular strip of territory benefited by the German regime during the occupations of the rest of Europe, and that Walter Kempowski chooses to portray in a short time, that of the days, try to console themselves. prior to the final offensive and the next immediate ones. ‘Todo en vain’, edited by Libros del Asteroide, is a choral novel that gathers the consciences of those immobilized by uncertainty, or terrified by the imprint of advancing enemies, or clinging to the power inherited from fanaticism.

The wife of a German army officer, her lonely eleven-year-old son who pretends sickness so as not to join the Hitler Youth, a mature maid torn from child misery to serve without pay in the noble house, an old school teacher and a resentful head of the Nazi party will be the protagonists settled near the miraculously untouched Königsberg, who will later explode completely. Ahead of them will be a stamp collector who knows what is to come and warns that “this time things are not going to be as civilized as in 1914 (…) the Germans are not innocent”; a violinist who enthuses badly wounded soldiers and shows her Aryan fanaticism; a painter who documents both the ravages and the sediments of the contest; an exhausted Jew in permanent flight; a pretentious baron who tries to take refuge while writing chronicles of the lost manor. Ten consciences.

Walter Kempowski / R. C.

A polyphony for times that are stained with blood, surrounded by secondary characters that, although flat, reinforce the plurality of the ensemble. A nobleman Von Globig who lives without straits in the rear barracks; a prudent mayor who goes mad and with whom the nobleman’s wife has had a slip; two young Ukrainian women who agreed to go as volunteer workers to the invading country; a Pole and a Czech condemned to serve the enemy, a Christian pastor who brings about a dramatic turn with his humanitarian cooperation, a good friend who disappears, deceiving relatives, swindlers, deserters, unforgiving SS, refugees. People all seeking their own survival in the midst of disaster, when it comes to suffering the damage that the regime, which in one way or another supported, has done before. In the hour of the feared revenge, the characters are caught in the hecatomb of Nazism, which does not let go, and only a privileged few with safe-conduct are authorized to flee.

Prisoner and writer

A few years older than the boy in the novel, Walter Kempowski (Rostock, 1929) experienced German defeat. His mother lived in the Soviet-occupied area, since. he was captured when he was 18 years old. Prosecuted for espionage, he served eight years in prison in Bautzen camp, and at 26 he returned to Federal Germany where he studied at the university and began to write. For 20 years she worked on the project ‘German Chronicles’, a great compilation of World War II.

Shortly before his death, Kempowski published this novel, which has its epicenter in an old mansion, symbol of the provincial aristocracy of Germanic Prussia. There is the decline of an heir who has sold the land and badly invested the capital gains. His mansion is surrounded by the development of industries and worker colonies, always linked to war. The noble enters the German army as an officer, and with what he loots from Ukraine, Russia or Italy he manages to create a bubble in the Georgenhof home. Italian red, chocolate, cigarettes. The mirage will last as long as the blitzkrieg. Faced with resistance from the countries of the east, which at home is embodied by their forced or enslaved servitude, the ambitious offensive will disrupt chaos.

In the outcome, after crossing a frozen lake, under the shrapnel and the bombs and surrounded by the frozen horses and carts that broke the ice with the weight, the boy Von Globig will meet the head of the Nazi party in his area, also in scattered. It will be on the coast, where the Germans exhaust their forces to leave the Russians behind. They fight each other to win one of the places in the vapors that must keep them away, but they are also sunk and protrude from the water “like the heads of horses in the ice of the lagoon”. Also the condemned survivors of the concentration camps and other last-minute prisoners will be in the same place as their executioners and will share an open ending.


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